Saturday, May 28, 2011

Attributes of a Gentleman

Mr. Darcy's rules of engagement.
Thus, right at the start, the gentleman is one who is willing and able to judge well. He is discriminating in his judgments and does not shy away from making hard distinctions even when they cause him discomfort and even when he is forced to stand alone. And while admitting the social differences between our day and Jane Austen’s, I think it is possible to glean from her work several key attributes of the gentleman, attributes that are as applicable today as they were in her time. Austen’s gentleman par excellence is Mr. Darcy and it is his example that is foremost in my mind. However, as readers of Pride and Prejudice know, Mr. Darcy himself has lessons to learn and room to improve—as have we all.

First, the gentleman has a firm sense of propriety. Propriety is a word that has fallen out of fashion, but that is unfortunate. A person possessing a sense of propriety knows what is appropriate for every situation. This requires wide-ranging experience in various social settings. It furthermore requires the ability to distinguish between timeless principle and cultural practices that can vary from place to place. A sense of propriety, when properly formed and not merely a sense of personal dignity, requires an awareness of other people. A person with a well-developed sense of propriety makes other people feel at ease. This may at times even require the violation of a cultural norm in the service of a fundamental principle. (Read entire article.)

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