THE DECLINE OF THE GENTLEMAN by Simon Raven

THE DECLINE OF THE GENTLEMAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A not altogether clearly ordered or decisively argued thesis is designed to prove that, while the gentleman is not a cad, still, the ""self-effacing canons of gentility"" have submitted to the pressures of the age, notably envy and materialism. Raven's rationale is both an attack and a defense of the gentleman (a certain admitted amour propre here, he was not born one) and his rightful background (which Raven shared at Charterhouse, Cambridge and in a select regiment). In the first half, he traces the historical antecedents of the gentleman and the components of his code, from Greek and Roman times through the feudal era until, in 1900, his prestige was impaired and the gentlemanly ethic betrayed. To be a gentleman is both an honor and an obligation-he ""must always seek to deserve his position"", rather than exploit it. In the second half, a ""potted autobiography"", Raven frankly writes of his own experiences in three institutions where he disgraced himself; at Charterhouse he was sacked for homosexuality; at King's College he piled up debts, and again later for debts he was dismissed from King's Shropshire Light Infantry. These activities, along with the case history- romanticized- of a Sir Matthew Tench and other acquaintances, and a very entertaining incident in a chapter called ""Morals a la Mode"" will amuse the reader even if they will not always prove a point. In any case, Mr. Raven is a dapper writer and can polish a phrase.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster