|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia. (August 2012)|
In the Victorian vernacular, a gentleman thief or lady thief (called phantom thief in the East) is a particularly well-behaving and apparently well bred thief. A "gentleman or lady" is usually, but not always, a person with an inherited title of nobility and inherited wealth, who need not work for a living. Such a person steals not in order to gain material wealth, but for adventure; they act without malice. These thieves rarely bother with anonymity or force, preferring to rely on their charisma, physical attractiveness, and clever misdirection to steal the most unobtainable objects — sometimes for their own support, but mostly for the thrill of the act itself.
Notable gentlemen thieves (and lady thieves) in popular culture include the following:
All are superb at stealing while maintaining a sophisticated front and/or a thief's code of honor: Raffles steals mostly when he is especially in need of money; Lupin steals more from the rich who don't appreciate art or their treasures and redistributes it (not unlike a modern Robin Hood); Saint Tail steals back what was stolen or taken dishonestly, or rights the wrongs done to the innocent by implicating the real criminals.
Christophe Rocancourt is a modern-day, real-life example of the gentleman thief.
Charles Bolles, a.k.a. Black Bart, outlaw of the American West, was known as a gentleman thief in the 1870s and 1880s.
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