January 26, 2012
The question for today.
Oscar Wilde said:
“A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally.”
Luigi Pirandello put it this way:
"A gentleman is simply a patient wolf."
The dictionary says a gentleman, from 13th century Middle English of gentle and man, is a man of independent means who does not need to have a wage-paying job.
And we do know a gentleman would not challenge men of "lower status" to a duel.
Clearly we need help.
I unearthed this 1839 Virginia Military Institute nugget (a gentleman does not reveal his sources) that I hope clarifies the situation:
"Without a strict observance of the fundamental Code of Honor [cf., that a gentleman does not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do], no man, no matter how ‘polished’, can be considered a gentleman.
The honor of a gentleman demands the inviolability of his word, and the incorruptibility of his principles. He is the descendant of the knight, the crusader; he is the defender of the defenseless and the champion of justice… or he is not a Gentleman.
…Does not discuss his family affairs in public or with acquaintances.
…Does not speak more than casually about his girlfriend.
…Does not go to a lady’s house if he is affected by alcohol. He is temperate in the use of alcohol.
…Does not lose his temper; nor exhibit anger, fear, hate, embarrassment, ardor, or hilarity in public.
…Does not hail a lady from a club window.
A gentleman never discusses the merits or demerits of a lady.
…Does not mention names exactly as he avoids the mention of what things cost.
…Does not borrow money from a friend, except in dire need. Money borrowed is a debt of honor, and must be repaid as promptly as possible.
Debts incurred by a deceased parent, brother, sister or grown child are assumed by honorable men as a debt of honor.
…Does not display his wealth, money, or possessions.
…Does not put his manners on and off, whether in the club or in a ballroom. He treats people with courtesy, no matter what their social position may be.
…Does not slap strangers on the back nor so much as lay a finger on a lady.
…Does not ‘lick the boots of those above’ nor ‘kick the face of those below’ him on the social ladder.
…Does not take advantage of another’s helplessness or ignorance and assumes that no gentleman will take advantage of him.
A Gentleman respects the reserves of others, but demands that others respect those which are his.
A Gentleman can become what he wills to be…"
Perhaps our ladies and gentlemen out there might have their own definition.