Do you know any gentlemen? Perhaps you do - perhaps you are even a member of that apparently dwindling band? For we chaps it's not an easy question is it - am I a gentleman?
In my case the answer is a reluctant "no". It may not even be a practical proposition in the modern world yet I have a sneaking suspicion that those with no wish to be a gentleman probably aren't.
I may as well add here that I prefer not to pose a similar question our lady readers. If I may I'll stick to the gentlemen - to coin a phrase.
NOUN (plural gentlemen)
1 A chivalrous, courteous, or honourable man: he behaved throughout like a perfect gentleman
Historically a gentleman has been many things and chivalrous might be a tad tricky in most areas of modern life, but courteous and honourable shouldn't be too difficult surely? Our leaders could easily set the trend - leading by example in fact...
...oh dear. I see this line of reasoning might compel me to say something ungentlemanly about our leaders. Which is something I usually enjoy but for the moment I'd better say nothing and move on to a less unsavoury subject.
In fifty years there will be nothing in Europe but Presidents of Republics, not one King left. And with those four letters K-I-N-G, go the priests and the gentlemen. I can see nothing but candidates paying court to draggletailed majorities.
Stendhal - Le Rouge et le Noir (1830)
When Stendhal wrote these words, the use of the term gentleman already seems to have begun its apparently terminal decline although there has been an uptick in recent years. Not exactly a hockey stick though and I'm sure the meaning has shifted anyway.
Not that we should put too much weight on gentlemanly shoulders because at least some were mountebanks, seducers of virgin innocence and even bankers. Dickens created a few, such as the ghastly Pecksniff who certainly posed as a gentleman, albeit not one of independent means.
So coming back to our less than illustrious leaders as I suppose we must in these troubled times, how about our current crop? Are they gentlemen? Mr Putin? Mr Cameron? Mr Obama?
Would it help if they were - or have we been seduced by the myths of realpolitik?
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