19th Century Laws of Etiquette for a True Gentleman

Nowadays, it seems that chivalry is dead. Although you might have seen your grandfather hold the door for a woman, it is unlikely that you actually do that.
A true “gentleman” is hard to find, partly due to women’s emancipation and the sexual revolution of the 60’s; and partly due to young people thinking chivalry is outdated.

But what is a “gentleman” ?

Victoriana, Resources for Victorian Living

To be a “gentleman” implies a certain superior standard of moral conduct, an intellectual refinement which manifest itself  in unrestrained yet delicate manners.

A gentleman is cordial, intelligent, masters the art of conversation; knows how the world around him revolves, has basic understanding of science, mathematics, literature and art.

A gentleman should know how to differentiate a Picasso from a Renoir, but should never employ bad manners on those who don’t, or show exasperation when others aren’t comfortable with the subject.

A gentleman should be confident about his own knowledge, but also humble enough to admit he lacks some; he must learn something new everyday.

A gentleman should read newspapers and magazines in a thoughtful way, for he must be have a formed opinion on any issue. A gentleman should never be caught off guard in any subject.

He must be comfortable discussing politics, religion and other difficult topics, but he must have the sensibility to understand in which situations these topics are inappropriate.

Being a gentleman also means treating others, especially women, respectfully.

This is a list of laws of etiquette any gentleman should obey. They were originally published in 1880 in a book called Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms.

  • Never exaggerate.
  • Never point at another.
  • Never betray a confidence.
  • Never laugh at the misfortunes of others.
  • Never give a promise that you do not fulfill.

  • Never send a present, hoping for one in return.
  • Never speak much of your own performances.
  • Never fail to be punctual at the time appointed.
  • Never make yourself the hero of your own story.
  • Never pick the teeth or clean the nails in company.
  • Never fail to give a polite answer to a civil question.
  • Never read letters which you may find addressed to others.
  • Never fail, if a gentleman, of being civil and polite to ladies.

  • Never refer to a gift you have made, or favor you have rendered.
  • Never associate with bad company. Have good company, or none.
  • Never look over the shoulder of another who is reading or writing.
  • Never appear to notice a scar, deformity, or defect of anyone present.
  • Never arrest the attention of an acquaintance by touch. Speak to him.
  • Never punish your child for a fault to which you are addicted yourself.
  • Never answer questions in general company that have been put to others.
  • Never call a new acquaintance by their first name unless requested.

  • Never attempt to draw the attention of the company constantly upon yourself.
  • Never exhibit anger, impatience or excitement, when an accident happens.
  • Never pass between two persons who are talking together, without an apology.
  • Never enter a room noisily; never fail to close the door after you, and never slam it.
  • Never will a gentleman allude to conquests which he may have made with ladies.
  • Never fail to offer the easiest and best seat in the room to an invalid, an elderly person, or a lady.

  • Never send your guest, who is accustomed to a warm room, off into  a cold, damp, spare bed, to sleep.
  • Never enter a room filled with people, without a slight bow to the general company when first entering.
  • Never fail to answer an invitation, either personally or by letter, within a week after the invitation is received.
  • Never accept of favors and hospitality without rendering an exchange of civilities when opportunity offers.
  • Never borrow money and neglect to pay. If you do, you will soon be known as a person of no business integrity.

  • Never, when walking arm in arm with a lady, be continually changing and going to the other side, because of change of corners. It shows too much attention to form.
  • Never fail to speak kindly. If in any position where you exercise authority, you show yourself to be a gentleman by your pleasant mode of address.
  • Never attempt to convey the impression that you are a genius, by imitating the faults of distinguished men.
  • Never give all your pleasant words and smile to strangers. The kindest words and the sweetest smiles should be reserved for home. Home should be our heaven.

Source: The Art of Manliness


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