bear leader


A bear-leader was formerly a man who led bears about the country. In the Middle Ages and Tudor times these animals were chiefly used in the brutal sport of bear-baiting and were led from village to village. Performing bears were also common; their keepers were generally Frenchmen or Italians.

In Victorian times a bear-leader was a colloquialism for a man who escorted young men of rank or wealth on their travels, such as young gentlemen on the Grand Tour. The role of bear-leader blended elements of tutor, guardian, chaperon and companion. A late example in literature can be seen in the ambitious Oxford tutor hired to keep an increasingly alcoholic young man out of harm's way -- and out of the way -- in Brideshead Revisited.


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