Rules for How to be a Gentleman

Published in the Epoch Times from an 1875 Guidebook.

Rules for How to Be a ‘Gentleman’ From an 1875 Guidebook, the Final Chapter: Miscellaneous

An illustration designed by The Epoch Times using imagery from Shutterstock. (alexblacksea/Leyasw/Blake Alan/Shutterstock)

Here is an excerpt from “The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness” by Cecil B. Hartley, published by Locke & Bubier in 1875. 


WHEN you are walking with a lady who has your arm, be careful to keep step with her, and do not force her to take long, unladylike steps, or trot beside you with two steps to one of yours, by keeping your usual manly stride.

Never allow a lady, with whom you are walking, to carry a bundle, shawl, or bag, unless both your hands are already occupied in her service.

When you attend a wedding or bridal reception, it is the bridegroom whom you are to congratulate, offering to the bride your wishes for her future happiness, but not congratulation. If you you are acquainted with the bridegroom, but not with the bride, speak to him first, and he will introduce you to his bride, but in any other case, you must speak first to the bride, then to the bridegroom, then the bridesmaids, if you have any previous acquaintance with them, then to the parents and family of the bride, and after all this you are at liberty to seck your other friends among the guests. If you are personally a stranger to the newly married couple, but have received a card from being a friend of one of the families or from any other reason, it is the first groomsman’s place to introduce you, and you should give him your card, or mention your name, before he leads you to the bride.

Always remove a chair or stool that stands in the way of a lady passing, even though she is an entire stranger to you.

You may hand a chair to a strange lady, in a hotel, or upon a boat; you may hand her water, if you see her rise to obtain it, and at a hotel table you may pass her the dishes near you, with perfect propriety.

In this country where every other man uses tobacco, it may not be amiss to say a few words on smoking.

Dr. Prout says, “Tobacco is confessedly one of the most virulent poisons in nature. Yet such is the fascinating influence of this noxious weed, that mankind resort to it in every form they can devise, to ensure its stupifying and pernicious agency. Tobacco disorders the assimilating functions in general, but particularly, as I believe, the assimilation of the saccharine principle. I have never, indeed, been able to trace the development of oxalic acid to the use of tobacco; but that some analogous, and equally poisonous principle (probably of an acid nature), is generated in certain individuals by its abuse, is evident from their cachetic looks, and from the dark, and often greenish yellow tint of the blood. The severe and peculiar dyspeptic symptoms sometimes produced by inveterate snuff-taking are well known; and I have more than once seen such cases terminate fatally with malignant disease of the stomach and liver. Great smokers, also, especially those who employ short pipes and cigars, are said to be liable to cancerous affections of the lips.”

Nothing is in worse taste in society than to repeat the witticisms or remarks of another person as if they were your own. If you are discovered in the larceny of another’s ideas, you may originate a thousand brilliant ones afterwards, but you will not gain the credit of one. If you quote your friend’s remarks, give them as quotations.

Be cautious in the use of your tongue. Wise men say, that a man may repent when he has spoken, but he will not repent if he keeps silence.

If you wish to retain a good position in society, be careful to return all the visits which are paid to you, promptly, and do not neglect your calls upon ladies, invalids, and men older than yourself.

GUARD AGAINST VULGAR LANGUAGE. There is as much connection between the words and the thoughts as there is between the thoughts and the words; the latter are not only the expression of the former, but they have a power to re-act upon the soul and leave the stains of their corruption there. A young man who allows himself to use one profane or vulgar word, has not only shown that there is a foul spot on his mind, but by the utterance of that word he extends that spot and inflames it, till, by indulgence, it will soon pollute and ruin the whole soul. Be careful of your words as well as your thoughts. If you can control the tongue, that no improper words are pronounced by it, you will soon be able to control the mind and save it from corruption. You extinguish the fire by smothering it, or by preventing bad thoughts bursting out in language. Never utter a word anywhere, which you would be ashamed to speak in the presence of the most religious man. Try this practice a little, and you will soon have command of yourself.

Do not be known as an egotist. No man is more dreaded in society, or accounted a greater “bore” than he whose every other word is “I,” “me,” or “my.” Show an interest in all that others say of themselves, but speak but little of your own affairs.

It is quite as bad to be a mere relater of scandal or the affairs of your neighbors. A female gossip is detestable, but a male gossip is not only detestable but utterly despicable.

A celebrated English lawyer gives the following directions for young men entering into business. IIe says:

“SELECT THE KIND OF BUSINESS THAT SUITS YOUR NATURAL INCLINATIONS AND TEMPERAMENT.—Some men are naturally mechanics; others have a strong aversion to anything like machinery, and so on; one man has a natural taste for one occupation in life, and another for another.

“I never could succeed as a merchant. I have tried it, unsuccessfully, several times. I never could be content with a fixed salery, for mine is a purely speculative disposition, while others are just the reverse; and therefore all should be careful to select those occupations that suit them best.

“LET YOUR PLEDGED WORD EVER BE SACRED.—Never promise to do a thing without performing it with the most rigid promptness. Nothing is more valuable to a man in business than the name of always doing as he agrees, and that to the moment. A strict adherence to this rule gives a man the command of half the spare funds within the range of his acquaintance, and encircles him with a host of friends, who may be depended upon in any emergency.

“WHATEVER YOU DO, DO WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT.—Work at it, if necessary, early and late, in season and out of season, not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring for a single hour that which can just as well be done now. The old proverb is full of truth and meaning “Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.” Many a man acquires a fortune by doing his business thoroughly, while his neighbor remains poor for life, because he only half does his business. Ambition, energy, industry, and perseverance, are indispensable requisites for success in business.

“SOBRIETY. USE NO DESCRIPTION OF INTOXICATING DRINKS.—As no man can succeed in business unless he has a brain to enable him to lay his plans, and reason to guide him in their execution, so, no matter how bountifully a man may be blessed with intelligence, if his brain is muddled, and his judgment warped by intoxicating drinks, it is impossible for him to carry on business successfully. How many good opportunities have passed never to return, while a man was sipping a ‘social glass’ with a friend! How many a foolish bargain has been made under the influence of the wine-cup, which temporarily makes his victim so rich! How many important chances have been put off until to-morrow, and thence for ever, because indulgence has thrown the system into a state of lassitude, neutralizing the energies so essential to success in business. The use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage is as much an infatuation as is the smoking of opium by the Chinese, and the former is quite as destructive to the success of the business man as the latter.

“LET HOPE PREDOMINATE, BUT BE NOT TOO VISIONARY.—Many persons are always kept poor because they are too visionary. Every project looks to them like certain success, and, therefore, they keep changing from one business to another, always in hot water, and always ‘under the harrow.’ The plan of ‘counting the chickens before they are hatched,’ is an error of ancient date, but it does not seem to improve by age.”

By Radiopatriot

Retired Talk Radio Host, Retired TV reporter/anchor, Retired Aerospace Public Relations Mgr, Retired Newspaper Columnist, Political Activist * Telegram/Radiopatriot * Telegram/Andrea Shea King Gettr/radiopatriot * TRUTHsocial/Radiopatriot


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