17 October 2007

Not A Gentleman

"I myself am not a gentleman. If I were, I would almost certainly not be writing this book, for one of the marks of a gentleman is that he seldom mentions the question of gentility, whether in application to others or to himself. There are a number of reasons why I am not a gentleman, some of which will become abundantly plain in the pages of this book; but chief among them is that I have no sense of obligation. I am happy to enjoy privilege: I am also prone to evade or even totally to ignore its implicit commitments. This defect would not necessarily disqualify me from being "upper class", but it does mean that I can never be a gentleman, which is a very different thing."

Simon Raven, The English Gentleman (1961)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Enjoyable quote...

Jacobite said...

Quite so. One is much more likely to encounter gentlemanly behaviour in country squires and their latter day equivalents, who often were called upon to act as justices of the peace, rather than in barons and earls and even less so amongst dukes or princes.

Gregory Clark even goes so far in A Farewell To Alms to lay as a primary cause of the Industrial Revolution the fecundity of the rich farmers who begat a penchant for industry, intelligence, and courtesy in their numerous descendants, as opposed to the proclivity for licentiousness and the dubious glories of combat (and fewer children) seen for centuries among the formal aristocracy.

See also War and the Breed by David Starr Jordan.