A Gentleman’s Index Poem

Taken from the book The English Gentleman: The Rise and Fall of an Ideal, by Philip Mason.

 

1 Reading List

 

Book of Snobs, The

Book of Courtiers, The

Description of England

Edwardians, The

Idea of a University, The

Ideal of a Gentleman, The

Knight on Wheels, A

Legend of Good Women, The

Way of the World, The

 

2 Qualities

 

Courtesy

Gentillesse

Gravitas

Intellectual attributes

Manners

Moral qualities

Musical ability

Physical attributes

Ruling class

Scholarship

Snobs

Sportsmen

Squire

Statesmanship

Stoicism

Troubadours

Women, attitudes to

I have been thinking about masculinity and femininity and this book uses both history and literature to examine the English idea of the “gentleman” and how it evolved from the time of the Norman Conquest through about World War I. He draws examples from Geoffrey Chaucer, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and others, all of whom as an English major I read in college, which means I absorbed this very English-ruling-class idea of masculinity without realizing it.

But I find it fascinating that Mason says in a footnote, “More than one critic who saw an early draft of this book wanted me to include some comments on the Japanese samurai. But I know nothing of Japanese culture, and I think it would take a year’s work to fit myself to write even half a page of useful comment on the samurai” (Mason 235, n. 23). This is interesting to me because I think I have also absorbed a lot of what I think it means to be a good me (masculine and/or feminine or other) from studying (primarily Japanese) martial arts for more than half my life. And although contemporary Japanese culture does make some strong distinctions between masculine and feminine, they are not always in ways Westerners would recognize, so I will have to think more about this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s