When I think of the modern man and the connotations of the word ‘Gentleman’, I can’t help but wonder if we are light years away from the word’s original meaning. The Gentlemen of yesteryear, surely would look on the shenanigans of modern society in disgust, wouldn’t they…? Well if “The Gentleman’s Companion” is anything to go by, then perhaps not.
The gentlemen at A Continuous Lean brought our attention to this ‘handbook’ written in 1870 as guide to New York’s visitors; not a guide as to the whereabouts of Central Park or Knox the Hatter, but rather insights into the “doings of people whose deeds are carefully screened from the public view”. The premise is that they will help you to avoid such places. Quite.
“All strangers in our city would do well to keep a bright lookout for this class of girls. They are in our public streets what sharks are on the ocean.”
The descriptions, language and subtle humour of the handbook give the reader an insight into the personality of the Gentlemen in those times and their nonchalance; it describes Harry Hill’s on Houston as a place where
‘An hour cannot be spent more pleasantly’.
It’d be interesting to find a modern equivalent guide and make a direct comparison; maybe we’re not so bad after all. Viva New York.