Notes for a Young Gentleman

Toby Litt

We’ve heard a lot from the women for this online edition of Granta 115: The F-Word, with feminist bibles, feminist sacrifices, feminist revolutions and feminism in pictures.

Now, we’re briefly crossing the gender divide to bring you Toby Litt’s step-by-step guide to how to be a proper, young gentleman. And if you think Toby’s left anything off the list, tweet us @grantamag and tell us what you think makes a proper \#gent. Top hats at your indiscretion.


A gentleman should arrive at his destination, after however arduous a journey, quite as if he had just taken a turn around the rose garden.

A gentleman should never acknowledge a mere fact.

A gentleman should behave no differently in a prison than in a palace – to be affected by place shows lack of character.

A gentleman should never confuse superiority with nobility.

A gentleman – English – should reassure foreigners of his bona fides by appearing to be nothing more than a parody of an English gentleman; this is particularly important with the French.

A gentleman should never be heard to say anything other gentlemen have not said before.

A gentleman should greet physical agony much as if he were greeting his old Latin master.

A gentleman should never pass comment on his latest meal, no more than he would upon his latest evacuation.

A gentleman should smoke, if not for pleasure then to set his companions at their ease.

A gentleman should never condescend to condescend.

A gentleman should, when he is in the country, kill something larger than a squirrel at least once a day.

A gentleman should never evince surprise, except whilst opening Christmas presents from his children.

A gentleman should seem to lack nothing.

A gentleman should never appear utterly entranced by anything other than a horse or his fiancee on the day their engagement is announced.

A gentleman should greet with genuine warmth only the following persons – his sister’s daughters, his maternal aunts and his mortal enemies.

A gentleman should never be seen to handle money, except in a brothel or a casino.

A gentleman should have as deep a familiarity with the great religious texts of the world as is commensurable with not having read them.

A gentleman should never keep a diary – to pay attention to one’s own affairs suggests one may wish to profit thereby.

A gentleman should take domestic politics slightly less seriously than backgammon.

A gentleman should never go beneath ground-level except when, once a year, inspecting the wine cellars.

A gentleman should be as fluent in the little language of love as in le passé composé.

A gentleman should never run, except towards certain death.

A gentleman should walk as if he were being carried and – if ever the circumstance arises – be carried as if he were walking.

A gentleman should quote no one but his nanny, and then only back at her, with fondness, just before she dies.

A gentleman himself should die with an air of mild curiosity.

A gentleman, having once departed, should never return. ?

Photo by Albert Bridge


Also on The F Word Online:

Elizabeth Bishop and Sacrificial Feminism: a look at women-only poetry anthologies.

‘The Old Fuel’: A new poem by Emily Berry, and an interview with her.

‘Your world doesn’t exist anymore’: Four women and one revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

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