It is a question which has entertained Britain many times over many years, of course, but Country Life kicked off a rerun of the debate in its May issue by announcing its Gentleman of the Year Awards, in association with Cordings, a posh Piccadilly tailor.
Reporters Rupert Uloth and Emma Hughes offered 10 Commandments of Gentlemanliness …
1) A gentleman is at ease in any situation- and puts others at their ease.
2) A gentleman is always on time.
3) A gentleman dresses to suit the occasion.
4) A gentleman will eat anything that’s put in front of him.
5) A gentleman makes love on his elbows.
6) A gentleman will occasionally be drunk-but never disorderly.
7) A gentleman doesn’t flash his cash and is mindful of others’ financial circumstances when choosing a restaurant or booking group holidays.
8) A gentleman is more interested in finding out how you are than in telling you about himself.
9) A gentleman’s word is his bond.
10) A gentleman can talk to anyone.
More controversially, they added that a gent never …
* Drinks Malibu
* Buys fuchsia trousers
* Puts products in his hair
* Wears Lycra
* Writes with a Biro
* Forgets his wristwatch
* Plants gladioli
* Walks out on a play
* Owns a cat
* Finishes his food before everyone else
* Has a speedboat
Philip Hensher gratefully picked up the offer of the angle in the Guardian on April 26 and started a run of readers’ letters including …
Leslie Kant of Norwich:
“In our family a gentleman was someone who always put the seat back after use.”
Geraldine Blake of Worthing:
“I read somewhere that a gentleman is someone who can play the bagpipes, but doesn’t.”
Bridget John of Oxford:
“I was always told that a gentleman was someone who got out of the bath to pee in the basin.”
John Cranston of Norwich:
“It’s been said that a gentleman uses a butter knife even when dining alone.”