I realise that if one needs to struggle to be a gentleman…one isn’t.
Well, that might apply to a number of states of being. If you struggle to be kind or brave or reliable – all attributes of a gentleman – you are acknowledging the fact that you may not be yet, but that you wish to be. A gentlemanly thought.
Confusing isn’t it?
I think that the status of being a gentleman is my highest ambition. I have passed though other desires in my life and achieved them – being a dentist, being a husband, being a father. I have conceived of other desires and failed miserably at them – being a military officer, for instance, or an airplane pilot, or a famous artist. Fortunately I realise that the former bits were better than the latter bits for me and my family.
Of course that still doesn’t answer the question of becoming a gentleman. When I dig into the classical English definition of the status I probably just squeak into the financial section as I do not need to work down t’ mines for daily lump of grey soggy bread. I have enough saved to afford grey soggy bread. Dripping is another thing – I would need to become a racetrack tout to afford dripping. It is doing all the other gentleman business that is hard:
1. Possessing a learned and noble mind is one thing. Latin, Greek, French…That dentistry career was certainly somewhat learned but it is hard to be noble with someone else’s spit on your fingers all day. Likewise my employment after that – dealing with people’s greed over a shop counter all week – tends to wear the armour of the gentleman very thin in spots. I have been an avid reader for years and I think that this has supplied a little of what formal study did not. Still no Latin or Greek, though.
2. Fine gentlemanly clothes. Well, I do have a basic wardrobe of these – three suits and a half dozen good shirts. They are snuggled next to the flannelette and khaki and denim old clothes in the closet. At least they will last – they get a run about twice a year. And they have the advantage that they have been chosen with classical care – the styles are undefinable and timeless.
3. Kindliness and noble nature. Well, I did not hit the cat with a hammer these last three weeks when it was confined yowling inside the house whilst recovering from an abscess. It survived to run free in the end. Does that count?
4. Bravery. Heaven only knows if I would ever be brave and I don’t want to find out. I prefer dramas to be kept on television rather than confront them in real life. And I don’t watch television…
5. Generosity and modesty. Well you can’t comment on one without destroying the other. Suffice it to say I never pass by a person who is begging for money to buy drugs without assaulting them. They wish to get their kicks and I merely cut out the middle man.
6. Reverence for religion. Ah, yes. Well at least I do score well here. I treat all religions with equal reverence. Indeed I treat many other things in the same way – fulminate of mercury, electricity, taipan snakes, political questions. I never ask and I never tell.
The scorecard is looking far from promising. I do not see myself qualifying for White’s or Bootle’s anytime soon, much less for a living in a comfortable parish. I doubt a commission from the sovereign will come my way, nor an honorary degree from any institution of worth. My old university promises fellowship at some sort of gathering but I think it is ploy to get my bank details. I’ve half a mind to give them the information just to see their disappointment when they try to clean out the account…