Quotations about   gentleman

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The gentleman admires rightness above all. A gentleman who possessed courage but lacked a sense of rightness would create political disorder, while a common person who possessed courage but lacked a sense of rightness would become a bandit.

[君子義以爲上、君子有勇而無義、爲亂、小人有勇而無義、爲盜]
[君子义以为上君子有勇而无义为乱小人有勇而无义为盗]

Confucius (c. 551- c. 479 BC) Chinese philosopher, sage, politician [孔夫子 (Kǒng Fūzǐ, K'ung Fu-tzu, K'ung Fu Tse), 孔子 (Kǒngzǐ, Chungni), 孔丘 (Kǒng Qiū, K'ung Ch'iu)]
The Analects [論語, 论语, Lúnyǔ], Book 17, verse 23 (17.23) (6th C. BC – AD 3rd C.) [tr. Slingerland (2003)]
    (Source)

When asked if a gentleman (junzi) values valor. Annping Chin's notes suggest that the two uses of junzi are different: the first, speaking in general of a moral person, the second of a person of high status (vs the person of low status, xiaoren) following).

(Source (Chinese) 1, 2). Alternate translations:

The superior man holds righteousness to be of highest importance. A man in a superior situation, having valour without righteousness, will be guilty of insubordination; one of the lower people having valour without righteousness, will commit robbery.
[tr. Legge (1861)]

Righteousness he counts higher. A gentleman who is brave without being just may become turbulent; while a common person who is brave and not just may end in becoming a highwayman.
[tr. Jennings (1895)]

A gentleman esteems what is right as of the highest importance. A gentleman who has valour, but is without a knowledge and love of what is right, is likely to commit a crime. A man of the people who has courage, but is without the knowledge and love of what is right, is likely to become a robber.
[tr. Ku Hung-Ming (1898)]

Men of the superior class deem rectitude the highest thing. It is men of the superior class, with courage but without rectitude, who rebel. It is men of the lower class, with courage but without rectitude, who become robbers.
[tr. Soothill (1910)]

The proper man puts equity at the top, if a gentleman have courage without equity it will make a mess; if a mean man have courage without equity he will steal.
[tr. Pound (1933)]

A gentleman gives the first place to Right. If a gentleman has courage but neglects Right, he becomes turbulent. If a small man has courage but neglects Right, he becomes a thief.
[tr. Waley (1938)]

For the gentleman it is morality that is supreme. Possessed of courage but devoid of morality, a gentleman will make trouble while a small man will be a brigand.
[tr. Lau (1979)]

Rightness the gentleman regards as paramount; for if a gentleman has courage but lacks a sense of right and wrong, he will cause political chaos; and if a small man has courage but lacks a sense of right and wrong, he will commit burglary.
[tr. Dawson (1993), 17.21]

A gentleman puts justice above everything. A gentleman who is brave but not just may become a rebel; a vulgar man who is brave but not just may become a bandit.
[tr. Leys (1997)]

A gentleman stresses the righteousness as a top rule. If a gentleman has the braveness but no righteousness, will be disordered. If a mean person has the braveness but no righteousness, will be a robber.
[tr. Cai/Yu (1998), No. 463]

In fact, the exemplary person gives first priority to appropriate conduct (yi). An exemplary person who is bold yet is lacking a sense of appropriateness will be unruly, while a petty person of the same cut will be a thief.
[tr. Ames/Rosemont (1998)]

With the gentleman, right comes before all else. If a gentleman has courage but lacks a sense of right, he will make a rebellion. If a little man has courage but lacks a sense of right, he will become a thief.
[tr. Brooks/Brooks (1998), 17:21]

The noble-minded honor Duty above all. In the noble-minded, courage without Duty leads to turmoil. In little people, courage without Duty leads to theft and robbery.
[tr. Hinton (1998), 17.22]

The gentleman holds rightness in highest esteem. A gentleman who possesses courage but lacks rightness will become rebellious. A petty man who possesses courage but lacks rightness will turn to thievery.
[tr. Watson (2007)]

The gentleman (junzi) puts rightness at the top. If a man of high status (junzi) has courage but not a sense of rightness, he will create political upheaval. If a lowly man has courage but not a sense of rightness, he will turn to banditry.
[tr. Annping Chin (2014)]

A Jun Zi's top objective is righteousness. If a Jun Zi has valor but acts against righteousness, he is prone to make trouble. If a Xiao Ren has valor but acts against righteousness, he is prone to commit crimes.
[tr. Li (2020)]

Added on 13-Sep-22 | Last updated 13-Sep-22
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The superior man in everything considers righteousness to be essential. He performs it according to the rules of propriety. He brings it forth in humility. He completes it with sincerity. This is indeed a superior man.

[君子義以為質,禮以行之,孫以出之,信以成之,君子哉]

Confucius (c. 551- c. 479 BC) Chinese philosopher, sage, politician [孔夫子 (Kǒng Fūzǐ, K'ung Fu-tzu, K'ung Fu Tse), 孔子 (Kǒngzǐ, Chungni), 孔丘 (Kǒng Qiū, K'ung Ch'iu)]
The Analects [論語, 论语, Lúnyǔ], Book 15, verse 18 (15.18) (6th C. BC – 3rd C. AD) [tr. Legge (1861), 15.17]
    (Source)

(Source (Chinese)). Alternate translations, noting where Legge's numbering is used:

When the "superior man" regards righteousness as the thing material, gives operation to it according to the rules of propriety, lets it issue in humility, and become complete in sincerity, -- there indeed is your superior man!
[tr. Jennings (1895), 15.17]

A wise and good man makes Right the substance of his being; he cries it out with judgment and good sense; he speaks it with modesty; and he attains it with sincerity: -- such a man is a really good and wise man!
[tr. Ku Hung-Ming (1898), 15.17]

The noble man takes the Right as his foundation principle, reduces it to practice with all courtesy, carries it out with modesty, and renders it perfect with sincerity, -- such is the noble man.
[tr. Soothill (1910), 15.17]

When a princely man makes the Right his fundamental principle, makes Courtesy his rule in evolving it, Modesty his rule for exhibiting it, and Sincerity his rule for effectuating it perfectly, -- what a princely man he is!
[tr. Soothill (1910), 15.17, alternate]

The proper man gives substance to his acts by equity. He proceeds according to the rites, puts them forth modestly, and makes them perfect by sticking to his word. That's the proper man (in whom's the voice of his forebears).
[tr. Pound (1933), 15.17]

The gentleman who takes the right as his material to work upon and ritual as the guide in putting what is right into practice, who is modest in setting out his projects and faithful in carrying them to their conclusions, he indeed is a true gentleman.
[tr. Waley (1938), 15.17]

The gentleman has morality as his basic stuff and by observing the rites puts it into practice, by being modest gives it expression, and by being trustworthy in word brings it to completion. Such is a gentleman indeed!
[tr. Lau (1979)]

Righteousness the gentleman regards as the essential stuff and the rites are his means of putting it into effect. If modesty is the quality with which he reveals it and good faith is his method of bringing it to completion, he is indeed a gentleman.
[tr. Dawson (1993)]

A gentleman takes justice as his basis, enacts it in conformity with the ritual, expounds it with modesty, and through good faith, brings it to fruition. That is how a gentleman proceeds.
[tr. Leys (1997)]

A gentleman takes the righteousness as his essence, practices with the rituals, words with modesty, and gets achievement with honesty. It is the gentleman.
[tr. Cai/Yu (1998), v. 402]

Having a sense of appropriate conduct [yi] as one's basic disposition [zhi], developing it in observing ritual propriety [li], expressing it with modesty, and consummating it in making good on one's word [xin]; this then is an exemplary person [junzi].
[tr. Ames/Rosemont (1998)]

If a gentleman has right as his substance, and puts it in practice with propriety, promulgates it with lineality, and brings it to a conclusion with fidelity, he is a gentleman indeed!
[tr. Brooks/Brooks (1998), LY17 c0270 addition]

The noble-minded make Duty their very nature. They put it into practice through Ritual; they make it shine through humility; and standing by their words, they perfect it. Then they are noble-minded indeed!
[tr. Hinton (1998)]

The gentleman takes rightness as his substance, puts it into practice by means of ritual, gives it expression through modesty, and perfects it by being trustworthy. Now that is a gentleman!
[tr. Slingerland (2003)]

The gentleman makes rightness the substance, practices it through ritual, displays it with humility, brings it to completion with trustworthiness. That’s the gentleman.
[tr. Watson (2007)]

The gentleman makes rightness the substance. He works at it through ritual propriety; he expresses it with modesty; he brings it to completion by being trustworthy. Now that is a gentleman!
[tr. Annping Chin (2014)]

A Jun Zi regards righteousness and honor as fundamental bases, acts in line with Li, shows humility, delivers promises, and completes contracts with sincerity and trust. If so, he is indeed a Jun Zi.
[tr. Li (2020)]

A leader takes rightness as their essence, puts it into practice through ritual, manifests it through humility, and brings it to fruition through trustworthiness. This is how a leader behaves.
[tr. Brown (2021)]

Added on 19-Jul-22 | Last updated 1-Aug-22
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A real man of fashion and pleasures observes decency: at least, neither borrows nor affects vices; and, if he unfortunately has any, he gratifies them with choice, delicacy, and secrecy.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (27 Mar 1747) [Letter 119]
    (Source)
Added on 8-Jan-21 | Last updated 8-Jan-21
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A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.

Oliver Herford (1863–1935) Anglo-American writer, artist and illustrator
(Attributed)

Widely attributed to Herford as early as 1915. Similar in construction to "A gentleman is a man who never gives offense unintentionally," "A gentleman is a person who never insults anyone unintentionally," etc., which go back to at least 1905, and in the late 1920s were attributed without citation to Oscar Wilde. See here for more discussion of the Wilde citation.

By possible coincidence, Herford was known at the time as the American Oscar Wilde.
Added on 2-Sep-20 | Last updated 2-Sep-20
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We’re poor little lambs who’ve lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We’re little black sheep who’ve gone astray,
Baa-aa-aa!
Gentlemen rankers out on a spree,
Damned from here to Eternity.
God ha’ mercy on such as we,
Baa! Yah! Bah!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“Gentlemen-Rankers,” (1892)
    (Source)
Added on 12-Jun-17 | Last updated 12-Jun-17
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Anyone can be heroic from time to time, but a gentleman is something which you have to be all the time. Which isn’t easy.

Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) Italian novelist and dramatist
The Pleasure of Honesty (1917) [tr. Murray]
Added on 30-Jun-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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An able man shows his Spirit by gentle words and resolute actions.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (15 Jan 1753)
    (Source)
Added on 27-Apr-15 | Last updated 27-Apr-15
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If we are asked what is the most essential characteristic that underlies this word, the word itself will guide us to gentleness, to absence of such things as brow-beating, overbearing manners and fuss, and generally to consideration for other people.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Gentleman” (1912)
    (Source)
Added on 18-Dec-08 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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A gentleman seeks virtue; a small man seeks land. A gentleman seeks justice; a small man seeks favors.

Confucius (c. 551- c. 479 BC) Chinese philosopher, sage, politician [孔夫子 (Kǒng Fūzǐ, K'ung Fu-tzu, K'ung Fu Tse), 孔子 (Kǒngzǐ, Chungni), 孔丘 (Kǒng Qiū, K'ung Ch'iu)]
The Analects [Lun Yü], 4.11 (6th C. BC) [ed. Lao-Tse; tr. Leys (1997)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "The superior man thinks of virtue; the small man thinks of comfort. The superior man thinks of the sanctions of law; the small man thinks of favours which he may receive." [tr. Legge (1930)]
  • "The gentleman [junzi] worries about the condition of his moral character, while the common man [xiaoren] worries about [whether he can hold on to] his land. The gentleman is conscious of [not breaking] the law, while the common man is conscious of what benefits he might reap [from the state]." [tr. Chin (2014)]
  • "The superior man seeks what is right; the inferior one, what is profitable." [Source]
Added on 12-May-04 | Last updated 5-Jul-20
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