The Character of a Gentleman

It is almost the definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never gives pain. ... He carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast, all clashing of opinion or collision of feeling, all restraint or suspicion or gloom or resentment, his great object being to make every one at ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company. He is tender toward the bashful, gentle toward the distant, and merciful toward the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unreasonable allusions or topice that may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation and never wearisome. He makes light of favors while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by mere retort. He has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets everything for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes an unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out. ... He has too much sense to be affronted at insult. He is too busy to remember injuries and too indolent to bear malice. ... If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blundering discourtesy of better though less educated minds, who, like blunt weapons, tear and hack instead of cutting clean. He may be right or wrong in his opinion, but he is too clear headed to be unjust. He is as simple as he is forcible, and as brief as he is decisive. Nowhere shall we find greater candor, consideration, and indulgence. He throws himself into the minds of his opponents, he accounts for their mistakes. He knows the weakness of human nature as well as its strength, its province, and its limits.

John Henry Newman.

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The Lectures
May 30, 1901

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