What does it mean to be a gentleman in the 21st Century? Whether it’s dating, friendship or social etiquette, the rules of good behaviour are constantly, subtly changing and it takes an attentive man to stay up to speed. Some things, however, do remain constant as the best ‘rules of being a gentleman’ quotes from the worlds of literature, film and life show…
“The only infallible rule we know is, that the man who is always talking about being a gentleman never is one.”
This quote by Robert Smith Surtees, English journalist, comic novelist and sports writer, demonstrates that the art of being a gentleman is more than skin deep – and being boastful isn’t part of it. A well-known society man in his own right, Smith Surtees is best known for creating the Cockney huntsman Jorrocks, which inspired Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers.
“A gentleman is someone who does not what he wants to do, but what he should do.”
Being a gentleman is a global pursuit, as this quote from best-selling Japanese writer Haruki Murakami shows. This quote is taken from his 1987 novel Norwegian Wood and elegantly describes how a great man puts his morals and the wellbeing of others before himself.
“Anyone can be heroic from time to time, but a gentleman is something you have to be all the time.”
This quote comes from Luigi Pirandello, acclaimed Italian dramatist, novelist, poet and writer who won the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature. He succinctly summarises how being a gentleman is not a half-hearted pursuit and is something one must embody from dawn until dusk.
“The word of a gentleman is as good as his bond; and sometimes better.”
Throughout his long and illustrious career as a literary giant, Charles Dickens, created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and explored all sides of human life in his enormous body of work. He was also a much-beloved English gentleman and poured his beliefs into his work.
“Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.”
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, was a man who knew about keeping his cool under pressure. This surprisingly soft-edged quote from a man who’s considered to be one of the hardest to have ever lived shows that everyday politeness is as important a quality as any considered more traditionally manly.
“A gentleman doesn’t have one set of manners for the house of a poor man and another for the house of someone with an income incomparable to his own.”
William Maxwell was a writer, editor and mentor to many of the most prominent authors of his day. This quote, taken from his 1979 novel So Long, See You Tomorrow, is indicative of one of the core pillars of being a gentleman: treat everyone fairly and equally regardless of their age, race, gender, ethnicity or social standing.
“A gentleman is a man who can disagree without being disagreeable.”
We don’t really know who came up with this quote but it’s a compelling one, and we definitely agree with the sentiment behind it. A gentleman should be able to communicate his beliefs, even if they do not match those of his companions, without a conversation descending into argument or bitterness.
“A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.”
George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright, critic and polemicist, had a massive influence on Western theatre, culture and politics. If there was ever a quote to easily sum up the lifetime goal of being a gentleman, this is it – commit it to memory.
“A true gentleman is one who is never unintentionally rude.”
Oscar Wilde, legendary Irish writer and one of the world’s most popular playwrights ever, was voted greatest British wit in 2007 – with quotes like this, it’s not hard to see why. It’s also a little ironic, given that Wilde was famous for acerbic asides.
“This is the first test of a gentleman: his respect for those who can be of no possible value to him”
This great quote comes from William Lyon Phelps, American author, critic and scholar, and was included in the 1001 Smartest Things Ever Said compilation by Steven D. Price. Deservedly so – showing respect for everyone, not just those who stand to benefit you, is a mark of true class.
Looking for more advice? Here’s the A-Z of being a gentleman…
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