Do You Intend to Be A Gentleman?
by the American Sunday-School Union
(A QUESTION FOR BOYS.)
As I sat at the table a few evenings since, a gentleman
called. He was invited to take a seat with us.
As he had already supped, he declined. This person
is a man of talent and education, but as I turned
to look at him, in the course of conversation, I observed
a habit which so disgusted me, that it was
with an effort I could finish my tea.
This circumstance impressed on my mind the importance
of forming correct habits in boyhood.
"The child is father of the man," Wordsworth says
in one of his poems. The habits and character you
form now will, in all probability, be the habits and
character you will retain when you are a man. I
suppose the individual to whom I have alluded was
entirely unconscious of doing any thing disagreeable.
If not, perhaps he did not consider it of much
consequence. He may have grown up with the
opinion that little things are of small importance.
Now, that this is not always so, you may easily see
if you drop a spark of fire in a pile of shavings:
the whole will be immediately in flames, and will
do as much injury as if it had been kindled by
a large coal.
Our happiness depends quite as much on little
things as on great. Small trials are as difficult to
bear as any. People often lose their patience when
a dress is torn, or a pitcher broken, who would be
quiet and calm if some serious misfortune had befallen
I hope, boys, you intend to be gentlemen. I do
not mean fops and dandies, but true gentlemen.
You have perhaps seen the remark made, that
"dress does not make the man, but after he is
made, he looks better dressed up." Neither do
gentlemanly habits and manners make the man, but
they certainly improve him after he is made, and
render him agreeable and prepossessing.
A farmer, or a cabinet-maker, or a blacksmith,
are no less gentlemen because they are engaged in
these useful and honourable employments, than are
judges, or merchants, or ministers. To be a gentleman
is to be a man of gentle manners; and who
would not desire to be distinguished for such
If you intend to be gentlemen, you must begin
now, by always conducting, under all circumstances,
just as well as you know how. Some of you, I
suppose, have better advantages of society, and more
careful instruction at home, than others; but no boy
of intelligence need fail to be a gentleman if he
A true gentleman is always courteous. He answers
respectfully when spoken to—no matter by
whom. Do you remember the anecdote of General
Washington, who raised his hat and bowed politely
to a coloured man he met, who had previously
saluted him with the usual civility of the race? A
friend with him expressed surprise. "Do you
think," said he, "I would be less polite than a
negro?" I hope, when you are tempted to be uncivil
to those whom you consider beneath you, you
will not forget the good example of the Father of
his Country. I suppose the secret of Washington's
politeness and greatness was, as his mother proudly
said of him, that "George was always a good boy!"
He was a gentleman—such a gentleman as I
should be glad to believe every boy who reads this
book will one day be. If you would be polite to
all, you must cultivate kind feelings towards all.
A gentleman is not a rough man. He may have
great energy and power of character, as had Washington,
but still he is a gentle-man.