To be a gentleman in the 21st century is a joyful thing to aspire to. After all, a gentleman embodies all the very best qualities a man can strive to possess: courtesy, respect, kindness, a firm handshake and a great many other traits. We have the highest admiration for true gentlemen; but we know it can be tricky to know how exactly to emulate this exemplary status. Enter: the gentleman quotes.
That’s right: we’ve rounded up a selection of our favourite gentleman quotes from the very best. These gentlemanly icons are bursting with wisdom on how to be a true gentleman: in every sense, at all times. Follow their advice, and you won’t go far wrong in your pursuit of the ultimate gentleman status.
“A gentleman would be ashamed should his deeds not match his words”
As gentleman quotes go, this is by far one of the best. It was brought to us by the philosopher Confucius; arguably one of the greatest minds to have ever lived. We certainly think so; this quote emphasises the ultimate importance of actions over words. It’s all very well saying you’re a good guy; but you’ve got to embody that goodness in every action in order to be a true gentleman. Actions speak louder than words.
“The only infallible rule we know is, that the man who is always talking about being a gentleman never is one.”
One of our favourites of all the gentleman quotes out there, this quote from Robert Smith Surtees, English journalist, comic novelist and sports writer, points out that the art of being a gentleman is more than skin deep — and that being boastful really isn’t part of it. Best known for creating the Cockney huntsman Jorrocks, which inspired Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, Smith Surtees certainly knew the dangers of blowing one’s own trumpet, and of keeping one’s gentlemanly qualities modestly to oneself. No one likes a show-off.
“A gentleman is someone who does not what he wants to do, but what he should do.”
Gentleman quotes can be found in a variety of places: this particular gentleman quote is from Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s 1987 novel, Norwegian Wood; and it elegantly describes how a great man puts his morals and the wellbeing of others before himself. The gentlemanly option may not always be the preferred option; but a true gentleman would never let that stand in the way of doing the right thing, as Murakami knew well.
“Anyone can be heroic from time to time, but a gentleman is something you have to be all the time.”
This is undoubtedly one for the ‘Hall of Gentleman Quotes Fame’. It comes to us courtesy of Luigi Pirandello: acclaimed Italian dramatist, novelist, poet and writer — and winner of the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature. Here, he succinctly summarises why being a gentleman is not a half-hearted pursuit. Rather, it’s something one must embody from dawn until dusk: whether people are watching, or not.
“The word of a gentleman is as good as his bond; and sometimes better.”
Charles Dickens knew his stuff: and never more so than when it came to gentleman quotes. Throughout his long and illustrious career as a literary giant, Dickens created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and explored all facets of the human condition in his enormous body of work. He knew that a gentleman’s promise is worth its weight in gold; so don’t take those gentlemanly qualities lightly, lads.
“Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.”
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, lends his historic voice to the gentleman quotes dictionary with this surprisingly soft-edged quote; all the more surprising, given that it’s from a man considered to be one of the hardest to have ever lived. It demonstrates that common courtesy and everyday politeness is just as crucial for a gentleman as any great show of bravery.
“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.”
A gentleman doesn’t pick and choose who benefits from his gentlemanly manners. There is nothing less gentlemanly (or, indeed, abhorrent) than treating those who have less money than you with less respect than you would those on an equal monetary footing. William Maxwell, writer, editor and mentor to many of the most prominent authors of his day, knew this all too well: and, taken from his 1979 novel So Long, See You Tomorrow, this quote is one of the most foundational gentleman quotes.
“A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.”
Of all the gentleman quotes to epitomise the lifelong goal that every gentleman should strive for, let it be this. George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright, critic and polemicist, had a phenomenal influence on Western theatre, culture and politics; and he has some indubitable gentlemanly wisdom on hand, too. Gentlemen should be thinking, all the time, not about what they can get: but about how they can help.
“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 gentleman quotes like this, it’s not hard to see why. (It’s also a little ironic, given that Wilde was famous for acerbic asides.) Unintentional rudeness implies a lack of engagement and interest in one’s surroundings: don’t let that be you, gents. (We’re not fans of intentional rudeness, either — just to clarify.)
“This is the first test of a gentleman: his respect for those who can be of no possible value to him”
And rounding off our gentleman quotes, we’ve got this iconic quote from William Lyon Phelps: American author, critic and scholar. The quote was included in the 1001 Smartest Things Ever Said compilation by Steven D. Price, and deservedly so. Demonstrating respect for everyone, regardless of who can benefit you personally, is a mark of decency, dignity and true class.
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