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[This periodical was issued by Steele from March to October, 1713, appearing six times a week; Steele himself wrote some 82 of the papers. Unlike the Tatler and the Spectator, the Guardian dealt in part with political subjects, and was concerned in controversy with the Tory Examiner. Swift attacked it in his famous The Importance of the Guardian Considered.]
No. 34. MONDAY, APRIL 20, 1713
Mores multorum vidit. HOR.
It is a most vexatious thing to an old man, who endeavors to square his notions by reason, and to talk from reflection and experience, to fall in with a circle of young ladies at their afternoon tea-table. This happened very lately to be my fate. The conversation, for the first half-hour, was so very rambling that it is hard to say what was talked of, or who spoke least to the purpose. The various motions of the fan, the tossings of the head, intermixed with all the pretty kinds of laughter, made up the greatest part of the discourse. At last this modish way of shining and being witty settled into something like conversation, and the talk ran upon fine gentlemen. From the several characters that were given, and the exceptions that were made, as this or that gentleman happened to be named, I found that a lady is not difficult to be pleased, and that the town swarms with fine gentlemen. A nimble pair of heels, a smooth complexion, a full-bottom wig, a laced shirt, an embroidered suit, a pair of fringed gloves, a hat and feather, any one or more of these and the like accomplishments ennobles a man, and raises him above the vulgar, in a female imagination. On the contrary, a modest, serious behavior, a plain dress, a thick pair of shoes, a leathern belt, a waistcoat not lined with silk, and such like imperfections, degrade a man, and are so many blots in his escutcheon. I could not forbear smiling at one of the prettiest and liveliest of this gay assembly, who excepted to the gentility of Sir William Hearty, because he wore a frieze coat, and breakfasted upon toast and ale. I pretended to admire the fineness of her taste, and to strike in with her in ridiculing those awkward healthy gentlemen that seem
to make nourishment the chief end of eating. I gave her an account of an honest Yorkshire gentleman, who (when I was a traveler) used to invite his acquaintance at Paris to break their fast with him upon cold roast beef and mum. There was, I remember, a little French marquis, who was often pleased to rally him unmercifully upon beef and pudding, of which our countryman would despatch a pound or two with great alacrity, while this antagonist was piddling at a mushroom or the haunch of a frog. I could perceive the lady was pleased with what I said, and we parted very good friends, by virtue of a maxim I always observe, Never to contradict or reason with a sprightly female. I went home, however, full of a great many serious reflections upon what had passed, and though, in complaisance, I disguised my sentiments, to keep up the good humor of my fair companions, and to avoid being looked upon as a testy old fellow, yet out of the good-will I bear to the sex, and to prevent for the future their being imposed upon by counterfeits, I shall give them the distinguishing marks of a true fine gentleman.
When a good artist would express any remarkable character in sculpture, he endeavors to work up his figure into all the perfections his imagination can form, and to imitate not so much what is, as what may or ought to be. I shall follow their example, in the idea I am going to trace out of a fine gentleman, by assembling together such qualifications as seem requisite to make the character complete. In order to this I shall premise, in general, that by a fine gentleman I mean a man completely qualified as well for the service and good as for the ornament and delight of society. When I consider the frame of mind peculiar to a gentleman, I suppose it graced with all the dignity and elevation of spirit that human nature is capable of. To this I would have joined a clear understanding, a reason free from prejudice, a steady judgment, and an extensive knowledge. When I think of the heart of a gentleman, I imagine it firm and intrepid, void of all inordinate passions, and full of tenderness, compassion, and benevolence. When I view the fine gentleman with regard to his manners, methinks I see him modest without bashfulness, frank and affable without impertinence, obliging and complaisant without servility,
cheerful and in good humor without noise. These amiable qualities are not easily obtained; neither are there many men that have a genius to excel this way. A finished gentleman is perhaps the most uncommon of all the great characters in life. Besides the natural endowments with which this distinguished man is to be born, he must run through a long series of education. Before he makes his appearance and shines in the world, he must be principled in religion, instructed in all the moral virtues, and led through the whole course of the polite arts and sciences. He should be no stranger to courts and to camps; he must travel to open his mind, to enlarge his views, to learn the policies and interests of foreign states, as well as to fashion and polish himself, and to get clear of national prejudices, of which every country has its share. To all these more essential improvements he must not forget to add the fashionable ornaments of life, such as are the languages and the bodily exercises most in vogue; neither would I have him think even dress itself beneath his notice.
It is no very uncommon thing in the world to meet with men of probity; there are likewise a great many men of honor to be found. Men of courage, men of sense, and men of letters are frequent; but a true fine gentleman is what one seldom sees. He is properly a compound of the various good qualities that embellish mankind. As the great poet animates all the different parts of learning by the force of his genius, and irradiates all the compass of his knowledge by the lustre and brightness of his imagination, so all the great and solid perfections of life appear in the finished gentleman, with a beautiful gloss and varnish. Everything he says or does is accompanied with a manner, or rather a charm, that draws the admiration and good-will of every beholder.
for the Benefit of my Female Readers
N. B. The gilt chariot, the diamond ring, the gold snuff-box, and brocade sword-knot, are no essential parts of a fine gentleman, but may be used by him, provided he casts his eye upon them but once a day.
MR. STEELE'S APOLOGY FOR HIMSELF
AND HIS WRITINGS, OCCASIONED BY HIS EXPULSION FROM THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
[Steele was expelled from the House of Commons on March 18, 1714, having been accused of uttering seditious libels, after the publication of some of his most vigorous political pamphlets. In reply to the majority party, and in self-defense, he issued the Apology, which is now chiefly remembered for the summary of his literary career included in the following extract.]
I FLATTER myself that I shall convince all my fellowsubjects of my innocence from the following circumstances, allowed to be of weight in all trials of this nature: from the general character of the offender, the motive to his offense, and the character of the persons who appear for him, opposed to those who are against him. There are some points to be allowed which bear hard against the prisoner at the bar, and we must grant this by way of confessing and avoiding, and give it up, that the defendant has been as great a libertine as a confessor. We will suppose, then, a witness giving an account of him, who, if he spoke true, would say as follows:
"I have been long acquainted with Mr. Steele, who is accused as a malicious writer, and can give an account of him (from what he used to confess to us his private friends), what was the chief motive of his first appearing in print. Besides this, I have read everything he has writ or published. He first became an author when an ensign of the Guards, a way of life exposed to much irregularity, and, being thoroughly convinced of many things of which he often repented and which he more often repeated, he writ, for his own private use, a little book called The Christian Hero, with a design principally to fix upon his own mind a strong impression of virtue and religion, in opposition to a stronger propensity toward unwarrantable pleasures. This secret admonition was too weak; he therefore printed the book with his name, in hopes that a standing testimony against himself, and the eyes of the world (that is to say, of his acquaintance) upon him in a new light, might curb his desires, and make him ashamed of understand
ing and seeming to feel what was virtuous, and living so quite contrary a life. This had no other good effect but that, from being thought no undelightful companion, he was soon reckoned a disagreeable fellow. One or two of his acquaintance thought fit to misuse him, and try their valor upon him, and everybody he knew measured the least levity in his words and actions with the character of a Christian hero. Thus he found himself slighted, instead of being encouraged, for his declarations as to religion, and it was now incumbent upon him to enliven his character; for which reason he writ the comedy called The Funeral, in which (though full of incidents that move laughter) virtue and vice appear just as they ought to do. Nothing can make the town so fond of a man as a successful play, and this, with some particulars enlarged upon to his advantage (for princes never hear good or evil in the manner others do), obtained him the notice of the king, and his name, to be provided for, was in the last table-book ever worn by the glorious and immortal William the Third.
"His next appearance as a writer was in the quality of the lowest minister of state, to wit, in the office of Gazetteer, where he worked faithfully according to order, without ever erring against the rule observed by all ministries, to keep that paper very innocent and very insipid.
"It is believed it was to the reproaches he heard every Gazette-day against the writer of it, that the defendant owes the fortitude of being remarkably negligent of what people say, which he does not deserve, except in so great cases as that now before us. His next productions were still plays, then the Tatler, then the Spectator, then the Guardian, then the Englishman. And now, though he has published and scribbled so very much, he may defy any man to find one leaf in all these writings which is not, in point, a defense against this imputation; to find a leaf which does not mediately or immediately tend to the honor of the Queen or the service of the nobility and gentry, or which is not particularly respectful to the universities. Farther this witness sayeth not."