Recently I plowed through a great book entitled “The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man’s Guide To Chivalry.” It was written in 2004 by Brad Miner, and I was planning to post about it here, since its subject is something I believe many of here would be interested in. Turned out I was able to get an interview with the author greenlighted for Real Clear Life, where I’ve started writing on topics related to being a better man, and the piece came out a couple of weeks ago. And so I’ll share it here as part of our new category called Level Up for those aspiring seize the day and be slightly better than you were yesterday.
As my gym closes in an hour, that’s all I can write for now…
… OK, back at my desk. So I’d hoped that Mr. Miner would make for a lively interview, as so much has changed — at least on the surface — since his book came out. Would he believe more firmly in promoting the cause of chivalry? Or would he concede that the concept has become hopelessly archaic and incompatible with current mainstream values? Alas like a true conservative, Miner hadn’t changed one bit in his views, and if the interview is slightly lacking in sparkling fireworks it could be because on the day the piece posted he revealed on his own website that he has cancer. God speed in his battle with the big C.
Although Miner is an arch-traditionalist, he stresses throughout the book that gentlemanliness has no political affiliation.
Head over to this page at Real Clear Life to read “Chivalry Is Dead, Long Live Chivalry.” — CC
Here are some aphoristic lines from “The Compleat Gentleman,” including some sartorial passages:
No man behaves as a compleat gentleman all the time, but the best men never cease yearning to.
To be a compleat gentleman is to be one of a remnant. There aren’t many others, and there is not club.
This is what we want in a knight: a man commanded by duty to fearlessly seek and decorously achieve the highest ideals.
Practically from the institution of chivalry, a knight was expected to be a man of culture and poise as well as of honor and prowess.
… what any student of the subject comes to understand: that even in 1500 a man’ interest in chivalry was at least partly nostalgic.
For [William] Marshal clothes were the outward symbols of power and authority, whereas for modern men being well dressed is more a reflection of good taste and self-respect, but the gentleman has always been well turned out, albeit in a restrained style. As Trollope, wh knew a thing or two about gentlemen, put it: “I hold that gentleman to be the best-dressed whose dress no one observes.”
A debonair man who is not also dangerous cannot be chivalrous.
To say that the compleat gentleman is strong is to suggest two things: it is to evoke the ancient chivalric principle of prowess and to invoke the indispensability of self-discipline. Among all the things a chivalrous man must be, this quality will probably be the most difficult for many to accept.
Heroism awakens in cultures that dream of it.
… It is a more recent development that so man y believe that conflict itself is inherently wrong. A man cannot be a compleat gentleman who is either a coward or a conciliator.
A man who is not roused to combat evil is no gentleman.
A true gentleman — a chivalrous man — is just a bit more savage than most people imagine. The refinements associated with “gentleman” — such things as adroit banter, superb manners, elegant clothes, and the ability to make a decent dry martini — are wonderful qualities in a man, but any cad may master them.
Most gentlemen today are as Matthew Arnold described his friends at Oxford: believers in “lost causes and forsaken beliefs.” … the necessity of holding fast to the permanent things the modern world no longer values.
Why are news commentators and university lecturers such a lot of weasels?
As Cardinal Newman somewhere says, to live is to change: to enter the kingdom of heaven is to have changed often.
I support his assertions as to the necessity of taking a stand, physically if possible in defence of what is right and proper. I also appreciate his archaicisms and references to chivalric ideals as a consummate ammature student of European history and culture. The artice is quite entertaining! Thanks a tonne Christian for bringing this forward!
*physically of required.
No need to unnecessarily seek out strife even if we shouldn’t shirk it when its called for.
Jordan Peterson and Harvey Mansfield with a dollop of The Crusades. Meh.
In an age when wearing a simple sports jacket or blazer and tie makes a man stand out from the crowd, a related question occurs to me. Since so much of what Miner discusses is now so unusual, how DOES one avoid standing out in attitude, behavior, and dress? I’ve pondered this question a number of times and have yet to arrive at a good answer.
Below is the SAE Creed, “The True Gentleman”
The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe. ~ John Walter Wayland
Thanks for the post, Christian.
Ordered the hardcover and look forward to reading it.
To Mr. Miner — good luck in your fight against cancer. Bring to it the combativeness and assertiveness you suggest is the essence of gentlemanly comport and cancer will run from you.
Many good points. I especially like the emphasis on humility in the SAE Creed BC quoted. Humility, reticence, kindness towards others, civility, honor and other quiet virtues are required along with courage and steadfastness. I’m not very good at it, but am glad that the goal of gentlemanliness is still being talked about. I pray that Mr. Miner will come through this nasty fight to continue the good work of encouraging us to aspire to the goal.
I can make a lord,
But only God can make a gentleman.
–King James I
BC- As an SAE pledge in 1969, I was required to memorize The True Gentleman. Almost fifty years later I find myself reciting portions of it from time to time as a reminder of how to conduct myself. Phi Alpha indeed!
On an entirely different note; I just received written confirmation from Brooks Brothers’ customer service department that they would be discontinuing their Golf Collared dress shirt, AKA the club collared shirt as an off the rack item for the foreseeable future due to the “low demand” for the product. If you want a BB Golf Collar shirt now, its M2M or nothing. Sad day. That or we should all write in asking them to bring them back, and while they’re at it, rear collar buttons. Hahahaa!
Reading this article made me realize something about my grandfather. He had a strong sense of doing things that mattered in this world. Of making a difference for the good and yielding oneself to the greater benefit of both community and mankind. I knew he was, in part, preparing his children and grandchildren to be good people, but I see now that he was also, by the definitions of this article, preparing us to be gentlemen and ladies. I hope that I have, in some way, lived up to these expectations.
And for what it’s worth, the last admonition to be less self-absorbed is, ahem, exactly what I was talking about in What We’re Losing. 🙂
@BC I think that sums it up nicely
It’s my humility that makes me so wonderful.
Those were the days.
SC Gent . . . . Gone With the Wind . . . .