If a man is a bundle of habits, a gentleman is a bundle of manners. As in the Middle ages in Europe the highest glory of man was to call himself a Christian, so in the twentieth century the highest tribute that could be paid to a man is to call him a gentleman.
A man of good manners is an ornament, but a rude man is a plague to society. Manners are the ornament of an action; as there is a way of speaking a kind word or speaking a kind thing, which greatly enhances their value. Good manners have always been the hall-mark of noble souls. Christ washed the feet of his disciples. Lord Krishna washed the feet of his Brahmin guest. George Washington took his hat off to a negro who saluted him. A friend of his reprimanded him for showing so much regard to a Negro as to take off his hat to him but he replied that he could not allow a Negro to surpass him in good manners.
Good manners are indispensable to all. They are a better possession than wealth, beauty or talent. Civility of speech and action is the only thing required of man. A French woman went to the length of saying that she could not tolerate a breach of good manner though she could never be put out by insults. Thus civility and courtesy are of greatest value to man. A merchant who is not courteous soon loses his customers. A public officer who is uncourteous becomes unpopular soon. If a lawyer wishes to succeed at the bar, he must be courteous to his clients. If a professor likes to be popular he must deal with the students in a courteous manner. If a principal wishes to manage his staff satisfactorily he must not forget to be courteous to them. A salesman requires it most to dispose of his goods. A student requires it if he requires to be respected by his class-fellow; and a master needs it if he wants his servants to work for him and hold him in high esteem.
A man who does not possess good manners cannot become a well bred man. It was very clearly expressed by Dr. Johnson when he said that the difference between a well-bred and ill-bred man is that one immediately attracts one’s liking, the other one’s aversion. “You love the one”, he observes, “till you find reasons to hate him; you hate the other till you find reason to love him.” It is true that, “manners make a man and want of it a fellow.”
Good manners lend charm to persons. They enhance the nobility of one’s nature and beauty of one’s soul. A man may be very noble; but if he is not mannerly in his conduct and behaviour he is liable to be misunderstood because be cannot be agreeable to those with whom he comes in contact. On the other hand, a treacherous man passes off for a gentleman and
wins the love and affection of his fellowmen if he is courteous in his behaviour and is of amicable and sweet disposition. Such is the magical influence of good manners.