What attributes make a man? More importantly, what made a Southern man? Two famous Southern men had much to say about this. George Washington and Lighthorse Harry Lee, Robert E. Lee’s father, spilled ink on the subject, Washington in a short book titled Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation and Lee in letters to his eldest son Charles Carter Lee. These “rules” formed sound advice and were given in a time that demanded gentlemanly behavior.
Washington’s code of conduct served him well. He was considered the best conversationalist, athlete, and dancer in Virginia. He loved a good joke and women enjoyed his polite conversation. Washington exemplified the ideal man of the court, if not the ideal man in general. He had what Castigleone called the sprezaturra, an effortless display of manly demeanor both around men and women. This part of his character is often ignored or denounced by modern historians as insincere. One of these modern sages (a feminist from Massachusetts) went as far as to call Washington “sort of a boob.”
Jealousy has no expiration date.
Washington advised young men to do simple things to promote decency: