Part One--As a Single Man

by Michelle J. Hoppe 

I have heard it said that a title does not make a gentleman, but rather his manners. Truthfully, any titled male is a gentleman, but that does not necessarily means he acts appropriately. And there are those of the lowest birth who are the truest of gentlemen.

So what exactly is a gentleman?

A true gentleman is true to himself, is of moral strength and is thoughtful of others. He regards the rights and feelings of others, sometimes at his own expense. So how does this translate into manners? Let's start at the beginning....


Parents set the first examples for their children. Children learn what they observe at home. Therefore, a house filled with humor and contentment will raise a happy child. A house filled with slander and fault-finding will negate any lessons in etiquette the parent is trying to teach.

Courtesy and politeness form a solid basis for a future gentleman, and should be practiced as well as taught.

These manners, if learned properly, are carried into the school years. It is in school that boys begin to also learn the spirit of sportsmanship. A gentleman loses with grace, does not complain, and does not cheat.



An introduction is regarded as a social endorsement, and must be mutually agreeable between the parties being introduced. A gentleman never introduces himself to a lady. Only after she has granted permission can a mutual friend introduce them. The proper form of introduction is to present the gentleman to the lady. The person doing the introduction bows to the lady and says, "Miss Jones, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Smith." They both bow slightly and the gentleman opens conversation. A gentleman is careful about the character of any person he introduces to friends.

In the Street

A gentleman's duty is always to his lady. He keeps to the curb side of the walk to protect her from the street, and steps aside for any other ladies who may approach them. In crowds, he may guide her with a hand to the shoulder, but never to the waist.

In meeting an acquaintance, the gentleman nods for a male friend, but tips his hat for a man of higher distinction. He always raises his hat for a lady. The right of acknowledgement rests with the lady, however, and a gentleman waits for the lady to make the first move. The well-mannered man never puts out his hand in greeting unless the lady extends hers. Again, he defers to the lady to act first.

Whistling and singing are considered in poor taste on city streets, although allowed on the quiet country road. A gentleman never walks with his hands in his pockets.


A good education is a sound basis for carrying on conversation. A gentleman should be able to talk on a variety of subjects, although he should never use vulgarisms in speech. Simplicity and terseness are the characteristics of a highly-cultivated person. A gentleman should also be a good listener, even if the talker is prolific. A gentleman conceals his dislikes and disgusts.

Compliments are encouraged, but only if they are sincere. Flattery should be avoided at all costs. Slang is considered vulgar, and should never be used. Scandal is the least excusable of all conversational vulgarities. Interruption of speech is also a sin against good breeding. To show interest in the concerns of others is very complimentary, and should be practiced in conversation. Finally, a gentleman never mentions private matters in public or mixed assembly.

Dinner Parties and Receptions

A gentleman is obliged to accept any invitation he receives, unless previously engaged. If he can not attend a function, he should inform the hostess as soon as possible. It is in poor manners to decline once an invitation has been accepted, especially the day of the event. A gentleman must not wear gloves to a dinner party. He has a grace of fifteen minutes past the invited time to arrive, although arriving too early is more pardonable than arriving too late.

The servant who admits him takes his overcoat and hat. Should a lady be with him, he accompanies her upstairs and she enters the room slightly in front of him. The first person a gentleman greets upon entering the drawing room is the hostess. She introduces him to anyone in the party he does not know. She will then assign him a lady to escort into dinner, and he must make small talk with her until dinner is announced.

A gentleman offers his lady the arm that will place her on the wall side of the staircase, if there is one. If not, he offers his right arm to his lady. Once in the dining room, he assists the lady into her seat, which is to his right. He must maintain conversation throughout the dinner, no matter how hungry he is. The wineglass is never drained at a draught in a party, nor is it polite to eat too quickly or noisily. Thanking the servers may be done in moderation.

Once dinner is over, the gentleman nearest the door opens it for the ladies and stands by it until they have departed the room. The gentlemen leave the dining room together after conversation, unless the host grants a man the permission to join the ladies by himself. The gentleman of highest distinction leaves first, and the host last. Once tea is passed around in the drawing room, the gentlemen take the empty cups from the ladies and place them in a safe spot. If a lady rises to sing or play the piano, the gentleman nearest the piano escorts her and arranges her music.

The elders of the party make the first departure, unless a younger gentleman has a pressing engagement, like escorting a young lady to a ball. A guest never leaves a party without saying good-night to his host and hostess.

In A Carriage

A man offers his right hand to the senior member of the party and walks her to the carriage, then opens the door with his left hand. He offers his arm to each lady in turn, protecting them from the elements as necessary. If he is not joining them, he closes the door and gives the orders to the footman or coachman. He then raises his hat as they drive away. If he joins them, he always takes the backward facing seat, unless he is invited to share the seat facing the horses. He should never raise or lower the windows unless invited to do so.

On Horseback

If a gentleman is riding alone, he must not gallop noisily past a lady, so as not to startle her horse. In accompanying a lady, a gentleman keeps to her right, whether in town or on country roads. In a meet of hounds, a gentleman, when approaching ladies in a carriage, should not linger on a fidgety horse, as he may override the hounds. When a gentleman assists a lady onto horseback, he takes her left foot in his right hand, and when she springs, he helps her to the saddle. He then adjusts her left foot in the stirrup and arranges her habit for her.

This is just a sampling of the strict code of behavior a man must follow in order to be considered a true gentleman. This only touches on the surface, and covers behavior in general social situations. But what happens when the gentleman wants to seriously court a lady? Stay tuned for part two. 


See also: Manners For Men--Part Two--Courtship and Marriage


Manners for Men by Mrs. Humphry, a facsimile reproduction of an 1897 publication. Reprinted by Pryor Publications, Kent, England,1993.

Etiquette: Rules & Usages of the Best Society, reprinted by the Promotional Reprint Company, Ltd., Leicester, 1995.

Similar books are available for purchase in our on-line bookstore in the non-fiction section.

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