Acquiring the social virtues

In the first of his ‘university sketches’ Newman identifies some of the social virtues which contribute to forming the gentleman: ‘the carriage, gait, address, gestures, voice; the ease, the self-possession, the courtesy, the power of conversing, the talent of not offending; the lofty principle, the delicacy of thought, the happiness of expression, the taste and propriety, the generosity and forbearance, the candour and consideration, the openness of hand’.

Some were natural endowments, some were found at all levels of society, some were a direct precept of Christianity; but certainly ‘the full assemblage of them, bound up in the unity of an individual character’, could not be learned from books. They were to be acquired where they were found: in highly civilized society.

It was only reasonable that ‘you cannot learn to converse till you have the world to converse with; you cannot unlearn your natural bashfulness, or awkwardness, or stiffness, or other besetting deformity, till you serve your time in some school of manners’ (Rise and progress of universities).

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