To be a gentleman

A friend gave me an old leather-bound book before I left for Taiwan. Said he’d found it in a rummage sale and thought of me. The Joy Of Words it’s called. The book contains “selections of literature expressing beauty, history, humor, inspiration or wisdom… which are a joy to read and read again.” I picked it up this morning and began perusing. Stumbled unto the following passage by a —Hare (No first name. Google Books tells me it written by Julius and Augustus Hare and included in a book titled Guesses at Truth by Two Brothers).

“A gentleman, in the vulgar, superficial way of understanding the word, is the devil’s christian. But to throw aside these polished and too current counterfeits for something valuable and sterling, the real gentleman should be gentle in everything, at least in everything that depends on himself; in carriage, temper, constructions, aims, desires. He ought, therefore, to be mild, calm, quiet, even temperate; not hasty in judgment, not exorbitant in ambition, not overbearing, not proud, not rapacious, not oppressive; for these things are contrary to gentleness Many such gentlemen, I trust, are to be found; and many more would be were the true meaning of the name borne in mind, and duly inculcated.”

To be a gentleman, according to the Hare brothers, I must be gentle—in everything. Do I wish to be a gentleman? In this day and age? The word carries baggage. In any event, this blogger can’t characterize his overall disposition as gentle. Though I can be quiet, I am rarely calm. And I admit, I can be a tad intemperate as well as “hasty in judgment.” I’m not too proud. Not at all rapacious. Nor oppressive. Though there are times when I have been overbearing (Dahlia will testify to that). I am ambitious, in a sense. But exorbitantly so? I was once gainfully employed in a stable career. I gave it up to pursue writing. Does this show a degree of ambition exceeding appropriate limits? No. Maybe. Hmm… In any event I like this list of qualities. What kind of world would it be, if men, women, all genders endeavored to be gentle?

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