BY ANNA BOWEN
You may or may not have read Country Life‘s article; a guide to being a modern day gentleman. The list of attributes includes things like being able to ride a horse and sail a boat, alongside other examples of what that magazine deems chivalrous behaviour.
My father took two lessons from school; the ability to polish shoes (thanks cadets) and a brief knowledge of Great Expectations, which I think is the only novel he has actually read.
In his school days the boys read that piece of Dickens, and were asked by the teacher to state which character was a true gentleman. The boys looked up from their daydreams of buxom matron, stodgy puddings and cold showers and came up with a few characters; Pip, the guy who gave him the money, that friend of his.
My father suggested Joe, and the teacher beamed because (by their definition of a gentleman) my father was right.
Joe is a gentleman, not because he is well-born, well-dressed or wealthy, but because he extols the basic human act of kindness.
So what makes for a gentleman in 2016? Is Gentlemanliness even attainable these days?
Here I have focused on the Country Gentleman. On the Country Squire.
(I’ve restricted this list of gentlemanly qualities to ten points and for me the most important mark of a gentleman has always been kindness, regardless of the social position of the receiver.)
- Correspondence. A gentleman always writes thank you letters, and RSVPs promptly in an appropriate manner.
- A gentleman always keeps himself as clean as possible. Especially if he’s planning to take a lady to the bedchamber…
- Let’s get the smut out of the way and say that a gentleman should do his best to ensure that women come first, know what I’m saying?
- On the hunting field he shares his hip flask and apologises for cutting other riders up. He holds gates open wherever possible.
- It is gentlemanly to treat other people with respect, regardless of their social status.
- A gentleman does not troll others online, no matter how irritating they are.
- He does not steal birds out shooting, and if he is sharing a peg he is not selfish about the best drives.
- He can cook at least one meal without getting Mummy to help.
- Equally, he can iron a shirt.
- He does not wear a pre-tied bow tie apart from in the direst need (for example, when a bow tie is required for a themed event and only pre-tied options are available).
I could go on but I believe these ten qualities are tantamount to Gentlemanliness in a modern, civilised man.
Country Gentlemen do still exist, I believe!