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Thursday, 6 September 2012

On Gentlemen-are they an extinct type?

No, this is not a Peter Wimsey fan club site. I just wanted to create an ambiance of gentlemanly behavior here.

I know a few gentlemen. All but one is a Catholic.

There are not many Catholic Gentlemen, or even gentlemen left in the world.

In this month's issue of Standpoint, Andrew Gimson reviews in his article the question of the vanishing class of real gentlemen. What happened?

One of the references Gimson includes is from Philip Mason's The English Gentleman, which reveals that gentlemanly behaviour was for 100 years or so a second religion, but a national characteristic from the Middle Ages. Of course, one cannot write an article on being a gentlemen, without referring to Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman's famous essay, which I have quoted on this blog before. For Dr. Arnold, with whom the article begins and with Venerable Newman, Christianity is key to being a gentlemen. I would have liked to have know Venerable Newman. There are not many priests who are gentlemen, either. It is not a quality of manhood which is stressed in the silly emphasis in seminaries on "wounded healers".

So, what are some of the characteristics of a gentlemen as seen through the eyes of all these great men of the past? Well, moral leadership is a key virtue of a gentleman. That phrase contains two ideas-one, morality and two, leadership. Those of us who for whatever reason have read Dr. Arnold's famous sermon on "Christian Education" recollect some of the ideals put forth. His son, Matthew Arnold, the poet, is quoted in this article as well, hearkening back to his father and the lost, receding generations of real gentlemen. They were passing away quickly.

And, if you, like me, have read all of the above, you have probably read Evelyn Waugh's gripping Decline and Fall, here mentioned by Gimson, the rot was setting in after World War II, with the emergence of the "lost generation".  But the sting is in the present generation who may have been raised as Anglican gentlemen, but have tried very, very hard to break with that tradition. David Cameron seems to be running as hard as he can from this category. As Gimson states, it is considered "snobbish and out of date". Too bad, so sad.

Western culture has been enamored with classlessness and with mediocrity for several generations and I am bored to death of both. Part of the "cult" of the gentleman in 19th century and the first half of the 20th century England was that the man was supposed to impose morality and character on the culture. The culture woefully has lost the input of such behaviour. In both England and America, the Predator has taken over from the Protector.

Gimson states sorrowfully that we have lost the gentleman without replacing him. This is a tragedy and will forever change England.  As Gimson writes, "...to have an elevated standard of conduct increases the chances that some people will live up to it..."

Gimson refers to "barren utilitarianism". Well, those of us from across the pond knows what that does to an education system and a culture. Mediocrity and then brutishness becomes the rule of the day. I even heard a priest state that Jesus Christ was not a gentleman. Good grief.

Here is what Gimson states we need, and I agree, "...an ideal which includes modesty, magnanimity and the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of others, especially those who are weaker."


And, I have lost count of all the ladies I know who are single, each one a lady who wishes she could meet a gentleman with or without the top hat. Are they extinct?

6 comments:

buckyinky said...

Are they extinct?

You mean ladies or gentlemen? You make some good observations in this post, but let's be realistic here, marriageable ladies are about as numerous as marriageable gentlemen.

WeLoveGentlemen said...

Supertradmum, what is the name of Cardinal Newman's essay?

Supertradmum said...

I shall post it for you.

Supertradmum said...

A young person who did not want to give his name wrote this---any suggestions readers?

"I want to be a gentleman, and I try. But there are so few examples to model myself on.."

WeLoveGentlemen said...

To the young man who wants to be a gentleman: I recommend reading my favourite novel, the Sword of Honour trilogy by Evelyn Waugh (the original trilogy if you can find it, there's also a later condensed version still in print, I believe. IIRC I have not read the entire condensed version but the beginning lost some of the charm of the admittedly rambling first part of the original. But I digress.)

Enjoy, and then imitate Guy Crouchback and/or his father (excluding sins, of course).

ColdStanding said...

I should think a great number, enough needed to sustain the culture, of English, French, and German gentlemen were mowed down on the Western Front, circa 1915.

Many of my Canadian countrymen were, too, but Canada never really had a caste of gentlemen. Good, solid, God fearing, and hardworking husbands to be sure, but that isn't the same thing as a gentleman.

Alas, we've lost mostly even what little we had.