Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
The True Gentleman
By George Henry Calvert (1803–1889)
 
[Born in Baltimore, Md., 1803. Died at Newport, R. I., 1889. The Gentleman. 1863.]

THE GENTLEMAN is never unduly familiar; takes no liberties; is chary of questions; is neither artificial nor affected; is as little obtrusive upon the mind or feelings of others as on their persons; bears himself tenderly toward the weak and unprotected; is not arrogant, cannot be supercilious; can be self-denying without struggle; is not vain of his advantages, extrinsic or personal; habitually subordinates his lower to his higher self; is, in his best condition, electric with truth, buoyant with veracity.
  1
  Gentlemanhood is not compassed by imitation, because inward life is not imitable; nor is it purchasable, because refinement cannot be bought; nor but partially inheritable, because nature discountenances monopolies. It is not superficial, its externals being the tokens of internal needs, its embellishments part and parcel of its substance….  2
  The gentleman makes manliness attractive by seemliness: he exemplifies, in the words of Sidney, “high thoughts seated in a heart of courtesy.”  3
  In all intercourse no armor is so becoming and so protective as a gentlemanly demeanor; and when we think, how intimate, diversified, unavoidable, indispensable, how daily and hourly are our relations with our fellow-men, we cannot but become aware how much it concerns us, for our pleasure and our profit, and for a deeper satisfaction, to be affable and gentlemanly, and arm ourselves with a bearing that shall be the expression of self-respect, purified by respect for others.  4
  Stripped of all that is adventitious and conventional, there is in the word gentleman a lofty ideal, which may be, and is, more or less realized in the conduct and carriage of individuals; and which finds expression, not through mere shallow civility and verbal politeness, but through a gentle, kindly bearing in all intercourse, the outward mark of inward fellow-feeling. From this cordial sentiment spring blossoms and flowers of spiritual beauty, that are captivating ornaments to the person, and exhale an atmosphere of refinement and tenderness, wherein the harsher self is soothed into disinterestedness and devotion.  5
  At the root of gentlemanhood, in a soil of deep, moral inwardness, lies a high self-respect,—not the pert spoiled child of individual self-estimation,—but a growth from the consciousness of illimitable claims as an independent, infinite soul. The gentleman is a Christian product.  6
  His high exemplar is He, who delivered the precept, as fresh as, since him, we know it to be vast and deep and true,—whosoever would reign, let him serve,—proving its sublime force, by establishing, through such service as has never elsewhere been seen, a reign, to which the sway of all the kings that have been crowned on the earth is empty and theatrical; who from the deeps of one heart poured a love so warm and divine, that it became for mankind a consecration; who up to his resplendent solitary summit, far above all thrones and principalities, carried a humility so noble, a sympathy so fraternal, that he looked down upon no man, not even a malefactor; who rebuked the arrogant and upraised the lowly; by the spiritual splendor of whose being the ages are lighted upward forever; who in his manly tenderness, his celestial justice, stretched forth a hand that lifted woman to her equal place; who to his disciples, and by them through all time to all other men that shall be truly his disciples, gave his peace, that peace which the world cannot give; in whose look and word and action were supreme dignity and beauty and charity, and infinite consolation; of whom “old honest Decker” says—
                     “The best of men
That e’er wore earth about him was a sufferer,
A soft, meek, patient, humble, tranquil spirit,
The first true gentleman that ever breathed.”
  7
 
 
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