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of pathetic labour, tasks patiently fulfilled through slow hours! But yet I am sure that a great deal of joy went to the making of them, the joy of the old scholar who settled down soberly among his papers, and heard the silvery bell above him tell out the dear hours that, perhaps, he would have delayed if he could. Yes, the old books are a tender-hearted and a joyful company; the day slips past, the sunlight moves round the court, and steals warmly for an hour or two into the deserted room. Life delightful life - spins merrily past; the perennial stream of youth flows on; and perhaps the best that the old books can do for us is to bid us cast back a wistful and loving thought into the past - a little gift of love for the old labourers who wrote so diligently in the forgotten hours, till the weary, failing hand laid down the familiar pen, and soon lay silent in the dust.
SAMUEL McCHORD CROTHERS
THE EVOLUTION OF THE GENTLEMAN
“What is your favorite character, Gentle Reader?" “I like to read about gentlemen,” he answers; "it's a taste I have inherited, and I find it growing upon me.”
And yet it is not easy to define a gentleman, as the multitudes who have made the attempt can testify. It is one of the cases in which the dictionary does not help one. Perhaps, after all, definitions are to be looked upon as luxuries, not as necessities. When Alice told her name to Humpty Dumpty, that intolerable pedant asked, “ 'What does it mean?'
‘Must a name mean something?' Alice asked doubtfully.
“ 'Of course it must,' Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh. ‘My name means the shape I am, and a good handsome shape it is, too.'
I suppose that almost any man, if he were asked what a gentleman is, would answer with Humpty Dumpty, "It is the shape I am.” I judge this because, though the average man would not feel insulted if you were to say, “You are no saint,” it would not be safe to say, “You are no gentleman.'
And yet the average man has his misgivings. For all his confident talk, he is very humble minded. The astral body of the gentleman that he is endeavoring to project at his neighbors is not sufficiently materialized for his own imperfect vision. The worú
“gentleman” represents an ideal. Above whatever coarseness and sordidness there may be in actual life, there rises the ideal of a finer kind of man, with gentler manners and truer speech and braver action.
In every age we shall find the true gentleman — that is, the man who represents the best ideal of his own time, and we shall find the mimicry of him the would-be gentleman who copies the form while ignorant of the substance. These two characters furnish the material, on the one hand for the romancer, and on the other for the satirist. If there had been no real gentlemen, the epics, the solemn tragedies, and the stirring tales of chivalry would have remained unwritten; and if there had been no pretended gentlemen, the humorist would have lost many a pleasure. Always the contrasted characters are on the stage together; simple dignity is followed by strutting pomposity, and after the hero the braggart swaggers and storms. So ridicule and admiration bear rule by turns.
The idea of the gentleman involves the sense of personal dignity and worth. He is not a means to an end; he is an end in itself. How early this sense arose we may not know. Professor Huxley made merry over the sentimentalists who picture the simple dignity of primitive man. He had no admiration to throw away on “the dignified and unclothed savage sitting in solitary meditation under trees.” And yet I am inclined to think that the gentleman must have appeared even before the advent of tailors. The peasants who followed Wat Tyler 1 Sang,
*"When Adam delved and Eve span Who was then the gentleman?"
But a writer in the age of Queen Elizabeth published a book in which he argued that Adam himself was a perfect gentleman. He had the advantage dear to the theological mind, that though affirmative proof might be lacking, it was equally difficult to prove the negative.
As civilization advances and literature catches its changing features, the outlines of the gentleman grow distinct.
In the Book of Genesis we see Abraham sitting at his tent door. Three strangers appear. When he sees them, he goes to meet them, and bows, and says to the foremost, "My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant. Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on.'
There may have been giants in those days, and churls, and all manner of barbarians, but as we watch the strangers resting under the oak we say, "There were also gentlemen in those days." How simple it all is! It is like a single palm tree outlined against the desert and the sky.
We turn to the Analects of Confucius and we see the Chinese gentleman. Everything with him is exact. The disciples of Confucius are careful to tell us how he adjusted the skirts of his robe before and behind, how he insisted that his mince-meat should be cut quite small and should have exactly the right proportion of rice, and that his mat must be laid straight before he would sit on it. Such details of deportment were thought very important. But we forget the
mats and the mince-meat when we read: “Three things the master had not, - he had no prejudices,
, he had no obstinacy, he had no egotism."
And we forget the fantastic garb and the stiff Chinese genuflections, and come to the conclusion that the true gentleman is as simple-hearted amid the etiquette of the court as in the tent in the desert, when we hear the master saying: “Sincerity is the way of Heaven; the wise are the unassuming. It is said of Virtue that over her embroidered robe she puts a plain single garment.
When we wish to see a masculine virtue which has no need of an embroidered garment we go to Plutarch's ? portrait gallery of antique gentlemen. What a breed of men they were! They were no holiday gentlemen. With the same lofty dignity they faced life and death. How superior they were to their fortunes. No wonder that men who had learned to conquer themselves conquered the world.
Most of Plutarch's worthies were gentlemen, though there were exceptions. There was, for example, Cato the Censor, who bullied the Roman youth into virtue, and got a statue erected to himself as the restorer of the good old manners. Poor Plutarch, who likes to do well by his heroes, is put to his wits' end to know what to do with testy, patriotic, honest, fearless, parsimonious Cato. Cato was undoubtedly a great man and a good citizen; but when we are told how he sold his old slaves, at a bargain, and how he left his war-horse in Spain to save the cost of transportation, Plutarch adds, “Whether such things be an evidence of greatness or littleness of soul let the reader judge for himself." The judicious reader will conclude that it is possible