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.
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.