Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

To The Manner Reborn

I love lists. Gatsby had one dated September 12, 1906 written on the fly leaf of a ragged copy of Hopalong Cassidy. His read:

Rise from bed……………………………………………… 6.00 A.M.
Dumbell exercise and wall-scaling…………………….. 6.15-6.30 ”
Study electricity, etc……………………………………… 7.15-8.15 ”
Work………………………………………………………… 8.30-4.30 P.M.
Baseball and sports……………………………………….. 4.30-5.00 ”
Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it…………. 5.00-6.00 ”
Study needed inventions…………………………………. 7.00-9.00 ”


No wasting time at Shafters or [a name, indecipherable]
No smoking or chewing
Bath every other day
Read one improving book or magazine per week
Save $5.00 [crossed out] $3.00 per week
Be better to parents

Here’s a rather more useful one that I ran across in my recent reading.

“To Be a Gentleman – A Real and True Gentleman — A Man Should Be:

1. Of outstanding character.

2. Never late.

3. Always discreet.

4. Never arrogant.

5. Of impeccable manners.

6. Well spoken.

7. Immaculately dressed at all times.

8. Possessed of good social skills.

9. Possessed of genuine concern for others.

10. Forthright enough never to make excuses.”

(From the book: “How to Live Like a Gentleman: Lessons in Life, Manners and Style” by Sam Martin, The Lyons Press 2008. Excerpt used without permission, and will be removed at the request of author or publisher.)

Although Gatsby’s may be the more poignant of the two, both show the importance of vigilance in your quest for an everyday elegance. It is what a whole industry calls “goal-setting.”

Far too often we are sidetracked in our efforts; modern day life almost demands it, we are continuously assaulted with demands and information.

Which is why you should take a few minutes a day to reflect, revise and imagine.

One small change (“I will buy nothing new until I clean out my closet and then only that which is perfectly suited to me.” “I will set the table for dinner every weeknight for two weeks.” “I will exercise for 20 minutes a day, regardless.” Etc.), pursued relentlessly for several weeks can and will make a difference.

Thus endeth the Pollyanna pep talk.

How will you reinvent yourself? With what good habit will you reacquaint yourself? What do you resolve to do and what will be your first step?

13 thoughts on “To The Manner Reborn

  1. I’m a list queen. It sorta goes hand in hand with other librarian tendencies.
    Anyway, since my husband and I dieted with some success earlier this month, we are trying to continue to be really smart with our food choices. I don’t mean we are still counting calories but just to think before we succumb to that “I’m hungry” feeling. I’ve come to understand that most of my cravings come from boredom. We’re just middle class people that go to work every day, sit at a desk, and work around the house most weekends, so food is really the easiest crutch to ease the ennui of ‘life as usual.” Now, I can’t jet off to an island whenever I crave excitement but I’m trying to psychologically realize that I don’t need to grab a bar of chocolate or a cookie either (necessarily!).
    Really, I don’t mind aging (so far) but this metabolism-slowing thing is very irritating!

  2. For a while I had been trying to deal with the mail everyday and not let any of it pile up on the hall bannister. Also to leave the kitchen counters spotless with nothing on them before I went to bed.

    The idea being that dealing with those things daily means you start each day organized and able to use your mind and energy for other things — like setting a nice table.

    I’ve fallen down on the job again so time to remind myself how nice it felt to have those tasks always crossed off the list. Priceless, as they say.

  3. Great minds think alike! I just purchased and read Mr. Martin’s book. I especially liked the illustrations that proceeded each chapter–I’m a sucker for old & elegant art.

    I have a lot to work on, unfortunately. I’m a natural slob, and having just moved, am trying to start anew. And I’m a horrible procrastinator–“don’t do today what you can put off indefinitely” is my way of life. Recently, though, this laissez-faire attitude has ended up costing (for me, anyway) a great bit of money, and I am kicking myself mercilessly this morning over it.

  4. First, let me say I ticked every box on the list for my darling husband – lucky indeed. My list is always the same.

    1) Everything in its place. (rarely achieved)
    2) Tend your own garden. (I’m getting better)
    3) Be still. (Signs of improvement)

  5. I love the idea of reading books which will make me a better person, wife or mother. While I’ve resolved to read one per month, I have just begun the (good) habit of using an index card—or several—as a bookmark in which I can write special gems gleaned from each one. I can then add the best ones to my journal.

    Speaking of books, have you read The Compleat Gentleman by Brad Miner? If so, what did you think of it?

  6. I resolve to get my own copy of that book I once gave a teenager at his Bar Mitzvah, a reprint of George Washington’s guidelines for proper manners. Obviously, some observations were quaint (no spitting on floors), but most were timeless and from an impeccable source.

  7. the whole point of the Great Gatsby is that Gatsby got caught up in a false American dream. This list illustrates the dangers of ambition, while highlighting what an amazing person Gatsby was. If anything, Fitzgerald would point at the list and say it was an early sign of his inevitable downfall.

    So you gotta appreciate the irony of praising this list.

  8. Hello George and welcome. As I mentioned, I find it a poignant list. But a good example of someone reinventing himself, as did Cary Grant, for example. Of course Gatsby was destined to fail. His was a house of cards, self-deception at its best. But a little bit of self-deception is necessary — at least for me. It keeps me from abandoning dreams in the face of often overwhelming uncertainty and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Call it smudging the monocle. Great insight and thanks again for the comment.

  9. Good Day Chris,

    I just stumbled across this post and I could not agree with you more. There is a suprem lacking of these traits among Gent of my cohort today. Here is my take of the traits that make a true Gent.

    Integrity-This is the foundation that holds it all together, without it nothing else matters. This is the sole moral
    guiding compass that defines ones character and makes or breaks ones reputation.

    Excellence- Practicing excellence in all that one does should be the aim.

    Practice Thrift:Spending ones monetary means is not the way to keep it. Develop a plan, hold yourself
    accountable and stick to it.

    Be Timely-Always be on time 3-4 minutes early is best.

    Hard Work-Even if one doesn’t need the money it builds character and does wonders for ones reputation.

    Never Procrastinate-Whatever it is, do it, get it done, & out of the way. ” Johann Wolfgang von
    Goethe was once quotes as saying-“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius,
    power, and magic in it.

    Plan Ahead-You never know what is in store.

    First Impressions- It is true; they really are everything so make it count. This is the chance where one can set themselves apart from the oceans of others.

    Rise Early-Not just something that happens on the weekdays, make it a habit. Remember what B. Franklin said about early slumber & early rising-it still holds true today. Go for a run, read the paper, catch up on current events, visit the gym, whatever your morning routine consists of

    Thank You Notes (Hand Written)-This speaks volumes of an individual’s ability to follow up. It does not have to be over the top.It will make a world of a difference, even if it is not in the best penmanship.

    Get Involved: Don’t just give with your pocketbook, give of your time as well. Speaking from personal experiences (HFH, local soup kitchens, & presently two hospitals-multiple times a week-on top of an already jam packed schedule) the latter is much more rewarding.

    Again, these list of traits are always open for additions but never deductions.

    Thank you for such an exceptional post.

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