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A Gentleman’s Guide: Book Review

by Stephen K. Baskerville

This book is rather wonderful. It is a book whose time has come. It will be hard for the gender-fluid denizens of Wokeville to believe that a work so fearlessly Incorrect can still be written. Its true nature will be entirely beyond their grasp. Oh dear, what a pity, never mind.

The delight of the book for me is its sly humour. A gentleman, I dare say, should be willing – on occasion, but judiciously – to deploy such humour in the service of matters of deadly seriousness. So it is here. Anyone wishing to cock their own particular snook at the relentlessly Correct could learn from this masterly example…such as,

While a gentleman might not be greatly aroused by the spectre of global warming, it has been observed that he will not neglect to take any measures necessary to ensure the comfort of his hunting hounds.”

The apoplexy induced in many by this insouciant disregard for all that is currently regarded as holy is cathartic to contemplate.

Dr Baskerville explains the difference between his work and the deluge of instructions to men, invariably stemming from women’s complaints against us. This book, he tells us, is about the logic behind the rules, though he does not disregard the importance of Good Form. You may usefully take advice from many sources, he advises, on “how to fit a suit, pass the dishes at a dinner party, or do battle with a crocodile” and, he adds, “while you are at it, it may be time to consider dispensing with the tattoos and body piercings and backward baseball caps.” (Ugh! The thought!).

Grammarians will be delighted to find an ally in Dr Baskerville: “Your appearance will be a challenge you must live up to (or, because a gentleman always uses correct grammar, up to which you must live)”.

There is much sound advice, such as “never argue with a fool because a third party does not know which one is the fool

There are examples aplenty of the art of the elegant put-down, such as when quoting Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think”, to which Baskerville adds, “Given that his pensées were the main inspiration behind the French Revolution, it might have been better for everyone if somebody had offered him a lift”. I think the author lets Rousseau off lightly – arguably he is also culpable for Wokeness and many points between, too.

As an atheist I am not sure I am entitled to express vigorous agreement with the following, though I do so anyway: “Any church where the presiding clergyperson is a woman is almost certainly more of a political outfit than a real church and is best avoided, unless you wish to be harangued about your proclivity for domestic violence and rape.”

And speaking of religion, here’s a passage which illustrates the inseparability of the gentlemanly from the numinous, but in the same beguiling humorous tone deployed throughout: “It has been said that ‘a gentleman believes in God because by and large he is confident that God believes in him’. This irony is not so flippant as it might sound. Religious beliefs – at least the best ones – impel us to obey the rules not simply because otherwise bad consequences will ensue, including serious punishments to ourselves. At some point, we at least try to obey because gradually we come to feel that to do so is to act in ways that are consistent with the logic of the universe. There is no better preparation for being a gentleman.

However, it is not all fun and games, poking at the conceits of our critics. There is a hard core to this book. It concerns how we men – we aspiring gentlemen – should be responding in this age of misandry. It is, I fear, a message whose importance will vie with its likelihood to be misunderstood. This message becomes most emphatic in the last chapter, wherein the author instructs that we should “stop rebelling”, but the message is presaged here and there throughout. I indulge in a long quote by way of illustration,

Nowadays, when men as a group have fallen to about the lowest status in their history, it might be worth considering the value of taking the moral high ground and rising above the sordid pursuit of individual ‘empowerment’, the finger-pointing, and victim-mongering, and seek a code of conduct that is more elevated than that of others…

…a gentleman must not be afraid of being hated, and one of the gentlemanly qualities that is most difficult to put into practice is how to respond to reproaches, insults, criticism, and hatred. You might recall that the seminal figure of the religion that shaped the ideal of a modern gentleman – Jesus – provided precisely such a model of how to respond, not with vitriol, bitterness, and reciprocal anger…but with humility and sacrifice.”

Continuing the serious tone, Dr Baskerville reminds us of a generic characteristic of failing empires: “When the ruling ethic deteriorates, and before the empire collapses altogether, the administration degenerates into an oppressive bureaucratic tyranny, with the functionaries expanding their turf and making business for themselves by creating the problems they are supposed to be solving.” The reader will think of his or her own examples. The author is clear in this book and in his other works that the deterioration of the ethic in the West is due, in the main, to feminism and the sexualisation of politics. The claims of feminists that they are oppressed, “rationalises ever-increasing power for politicians, judges, lawyers, and functionaries”.

As an atheist it is discomforting to acknowledge that Baskerville is right when he opines: “It is no accident that the status of men has deteriorated directly alongside the status of religion. In societies where religion is still respected, men are still respected.” This is a sentiment which will attract severe criticism in the context of the Taliban’s recent ascendancy in Afghanistan – but there are religions and then there are religions.

Dr Baskerville’s view on sex, marriage and family is deeply and unapologetically traditional. But he recognises that our culture is now replete with feminist women. His advice is simple: avoid them. The following advice will rankle with both sides in the (so-called) sex war: “You must accept the responsibility to protect and provide for any woman. It is therefore critical to choose a woman who acknowledges this and accepts the traditional rules and division of labour, rather than one who asserts her “equality” (another meaningless word in the relations between the sexes). The bottom line: avoid such women.” When it becomes a war between men and women, he reminds us, men lose. This is why it is a cardinal principle for a gentleman never to compete against a woman. (And, I would add, an innate instinct in men to avoid such unfair competition – unfair because men will always lose, society will see to that).

By all means”, writes Baskerville, “join the MGTOW men and abstain from sex with my blessing, but while you are at it, at least direct your boycott at a constructive purpose: to marginalise bad women, encourage good women, and possibly even – despite your professed intentions – find one of the latter to marry”. He rightly warns MGTOW against throwing the gentlemanly baby out with the feminist bathwater: “While you may have other, valid, reasons for a life of celibacy, if you resort to it from fear, you will have largely disqualified yourself from being a gentleman.” One cannot accuse Baskerville of being fearful. One wonders whether it will be the feminists or the extreme-MGTOW who will scrag Baskerville first.

The tough message, gentlemen, is that, despite rampant injustice, the particular noblesse oblige applicable to the gentilhomme is just this: “You are the end of the road, the buck stops with you. It is you who must build our institutions again from scratch”. I did say the book had a hard core. “The moment you put away your rebellion is the moment you will assume your rightful place and begin to rule. Like it or not, the ball is now in your court. Actually, the ball is always in your court….No one ever said that ruling the world would be easy”.