Cardinal Newman’s ‘Definition of a Gentleman’ in one Handy List

Cardinal John Henry Newman was a prolific writer and philosopher from the 19th century. While teaching at Catholic University of Ireland, he presented a series of lectures in 1852 and part of that is what is now known as ‘The Definition of a Gentleman‘. Catholic men might find it useful to read this dissertation suggesting how a gentleman acts in the public square, especially in a time when common manners and general politeness have dissolved only for snark, selfishness, and chest thumping self-affirmation to fill the void. The American Catholic recently posted about how this Definition can be applied to bloggers and turned this famous piece into list form which I really enjoy outside of the context they used it in. I wanted to share the list for easy reference.

1.    His great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd.

2.    He never defends himself by a mere retort.

3.    He has no ears for slander or gossip.

4.    He is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets every thing for the best.

5.    He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out.

6.    From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend.

7.    He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults.

8.    He is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice.

9.    He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles.

10.   If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blundering discourtesy of better, perhaps, but less educated minds; who, like blunt weapons, tear and hack instead of cutting clean, who mistake the point in argument, waste their strength on trifles, misconceive their adversary, and leave the question more involved than they find it.

11.   He may be right or wrong in his opinion, but he is too clear-headed to be unjust.

12.  He is as simple as he is forcible, and as brief as he is decisive.

13.  He throws himself into the minds of his opponents, he accounts for their mistakes.

14.  He knows the weakness of human reason as well as its strength, its province and its limits.

15.  He will be too profound and large-minded to ridicule religion or to act against it.

16.  He respects piety and devotion; he even supports institutions as venerable, beautiful, or useful, to which he does not assent.

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