When you have found a man, you have not far to go to find a gentleman. You cannot make a
gold ring out of brass. You cannot change a Cape May crystal to a diamond. You cannot make
a gentleman till you first find a man.
To be a gentleman it is not sufficient to have had a grandfather. To be a gentleman does not
depend on the tailor or the toilet. Blood will degenerate. Good clothes are not good habits.
A gentleman is a man who is gentle. Titles, graceful accomplishments, superior culture,
princely wealth, great talents, genius, do not constitute a man with all the attributes needed to
make him a gentleman. He may be awkward, angular, homely, or poor, and yet belong to the
uncrowned aristocracy. His face may be bronzed at the forge or bleached in the mill, his hand
huge and hard, his patched vest, like Joseph's coat of many colors, and he may still be a true
gentleman. The dandy is a dry goods sign and not a gentleman, for he depends upon dress and
not upon his honor and virtue, for his passport to the best circles of society. "The man who has
no money is poor, he who has nothing but money is poorer than he," and is not a gentleman.
Some of the most distinguished men in the world of letters, in the world of art, have been
unamiable, gross, vulgar, ungentle, consequently not gentlemen.
The union of gentleness of manners with firmness of mind are noticeable in the true gentleman.
When in authority, and having a right to command, his commands are delivered with mildness
and gentleness, and willingly obeyed. Good breeding is the great objet of his thoughts and
actions, and he observes carefully the behavior and manners of those who are thus
It is a wrong notion which many have, that nothing more is due form them to their neighbors
than what results from a principle of honesty, which commands us to pay our debts, and
forbids us to do injuries; whereas a gentleman gains the esteem of all by a thousand little
civilities, complacencies, and endeavors to give others pleasure.
He is careful to have thoughts and sentiments worthy of him as virtue raises the dignity of man,
while vice degrades him. True greatness lies in the heart; it must be elevated by aspiring to
great things; and by daring to think himself worthy of them. Others may attract us through the
splendor of some special faculty, or the eminency of some special virtue, but in his case it is the
whole individual we admire and love, and the faculty takes its peculiar character, the virtue
acquires its subtle charm, because considered as an outgrowth of the beautiful, beneficent, and
bounteous nature in which it had its root. He insults not the poor with condescension, nor
courts the rich with servility, but takes his place on an easy equality and fraternity with all,
without the pretense of being inferior of any.
There is true dignity in labor, and no true dignity without it. He who looks down scornfully on
labor is like the man who had a mouth and no hands, and yet made faces at those who fed him -
mocking the fingers that brought bread to his lips. He who writes a book, or builds a house, or
tills a farm, or follows any useful employment, lives to some purpose, and contributes
something to the fund of human happiness.
Garibaldi, the greatest hero of the age, is a working man. Daniel Webster knit his iron frame
into strength by working on his father's farm when young.
A gentleman is a human being, combining a woman's tenderness with a man's courage. He is
just a gentleman: no more, no less; a diamond polished that was first a diamond in the rough.
A gentleman is gentle. A gentleman is modest. A gentleman is courteous. A gentleman is slow
to take offense, as being one who never gives it. A gentleman is slow to surmise evil, as being
one who never thinks it. A gentleman subjects his appetites. A gentleman refines his taste. A
gentleman subdues his feelings. A gentleman controls his speech. A gentleman deems every
other better than himself.
Sir Philip Sydney was never so much of a gentleman - mirror though he was of English
knighthood - as when, upon the field of Zutphen, as he lay in his own blood, he waived the
draught of cool spring water that was to quench his dying thirst, in favor of a dying soldier.
St. Paul describes a gentleman when he exhorted the Philippian Christians: "Whatsoever
things are true, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things
are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think of these things."
And Dr. Isaac Barlow, in his admirable sermon on the callings of a gentleman, pointedly says:
"He should labor and study to be a leader unto virtue, and a notable promoter thereof:
directing and exciting men thereto by his exemplary conversation; encouraging them by his
countenance and authority; rewarding the goodness of meaner people by his bounty and favor;
he should be such a gentleman as Noah, who preached righteousness by his words and works
before a profane world."
One very frequently hears the remark made, that such and such a man "can be a gentleman
when he pleases." Now when our reader next hears this expression made use of, let him call to
mind the following: He who "can be a gentleman when he pleases," never pleases to be
anything else. A gentleman, like porcelain ware, must be painted before he is glazed. There can
be no change after the burning in.
The sword of the best-tempered metal is the most flexible. So the truly generous are the most
pliant and courteous in their behavior to their inferiors.
The true gentleman is one whose nature has been fashioned after the highest models. His
qualities depend not upon fashion or manners, but upon moral worth - not on personal
possessions, but on personal qualities. The psalmist briefly describes him as one "that walketh
uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart."
The gentleman is eminently distinguished by his self-respect. He values his character - not so
much of it only as can be seen by other, but as he sees it himself, having regard for the
approval of his inward monitor. And, as he respects himself, so, by the same law, does hi
respect others. Humanity is sacred in his eyes, and thence proceed politeness and forbearance,
kindness and charity.
The true gentleman has a keen sense of honor - scrupulously avoiding mean actions. His
standard of probity in word and action is high. He does not shuffle nor prevaricate, dodge nor
skulk; but is honest, upright, and straitforward. His law is rectitude - action in right lines.
When he says yes, it is a law; and he dares to say the valiant no at the fitting season. The
gentleman will not be bribed; only the low-minded and unprincipled will sell themselves to
those who are interested in buying them.
Riches and rank have no necessary connection with genuine gentlemanly qualities. The poor
man may be a true gentleman - in spirit and in daily life. He may be honest, truthful, upright,
polite, temperate, courageous, self-respecting and self-helping - that is, be a true gentleman.
The poor man with a rich spirit is in all ways superior to the rich man with a poor spirit. To
borrow St. Paul's words, the former is as "having nothing, yet possessing all things," while the
other, though possessing all things, has nothing. The first hopes everything and fears nothing;
the last hopes nothing and fears everything. Only the poor in spirit are really poor. He who
has lost all, but retains his courage, cheerfulness, hope, virtue and self-respect, is a true
The True Gentleman
The Royal Path of Life - Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness - 1882 by T.L. Haines & L.W. Yaggy