clung to the idea, which led clever people in step with the timesrnto disparage Southerners for their peculiar manners. “Southernrnmen were proud of being gentlemen, although they have beenrntold in ever’ conceivable va that it was a foolish pride” (BasilrnL, Gildersleeve, The Creed of the Old South, 1865-1915). Butrnthis verv idea of a gentleman has kept the concept of mannersrnalive in the South while it became obsolete elsewhere.rnGildersleeve, who was born in Charleston, South Carolina,rnbecame professor of Greek at the University of Virginia and,rnduring his summer vacations from 1861 to 1864, fought withrnthe Confederate army. His ast scholarly work and his sevenrnhonorary doctorates attest to his reputation as the foremostrnscholar among American classici.sts.rnMoral qualities were the foundation of his gracious manners.rnHis way of life was modest and temperate. “I have lived well sornfar if fcene qui latuit bene vixit [He has lived well who has lainrnwell hidden] is true, and I am content to live well to the end.”rnAs all of Gildcrslecve’s works show, he was wise. Paul Shorey,rnthe great Platonist, noted that the speakers at Cildersleeve’srnmemorial service “dwelt not so mvich on the wit, brilliancv, thernscholarship, which they took for granted, as on the moral qualitiesrnof the man, the teacher, the companion, the helper, thernfriend.”rnHis training in morals and manners began early. Wlien hernwas four years old, he had read the complete Bible in English,rnthough, he savs, with little understanding. At the age of five, hernhad read Sf John’s Gospel in Greek. From then to the end ofrnhis life, he thought most readily in the Greek language.rnGildersleeve had an unsurpassed knowledge of the ancientrnclassics. But, in the South, there were enough general readersrnto keep current the idea of manners as an English equivalent tornethos and mores. A favorite book among Virginia gentlemenrnwas Parallel Lives, written in Greek by Plutarch, who examinesrncharacter and its influence on the governance of sociefv. Thosernwho could not read Plutarch in Greek had at hand an Englishrnclassic, the translation of the Lives, bv John Drden. A passagernfrom I^r den’s “Pericles” draws together irtue and manners:rnBut such is the effect of virtuous actions, that we not onlyrnadmire them but long to copy the example. The goods ofrnfortune ve wish to enjoy, virtue we desire to practise; thernformer we are content to receive from others, the effectsrnof the latter we are ambitious that others should receivernfrom us. For it is die nature of virtue to draw us powerfullyrnto itself to kindle in us an aetie principle to form ourrnmanners and engage our affections, and this even in anrnhistorical description . . .rnThe ancient classics now have few readers in the South, andrncommon readers of the English cla.ssics are also few. Nonetheless,rncustoms that have their origin and support in tiie classicsrnhave sur’ived, including the reply, “Just fine, thank you,” to thernquer-, “How are vou?”; the query to a single person, “How arernyou all?”; and the use of “sir” and “ma’am” in addressing parents,rnteachers, overseers, pastors, and priests.rnVisitors to the South have regarded as peculiar the avitomaticrnreply, “Just fine, thank you.” Some have criticized therncustom as encouraging hypocrisy and falsehood. Older andrnwiser people once had an answer to this charge: The inquiry isrnnot about your health, vour li.ngs, vour bank account, or love,rnbut asks after your disposition. “And,” a grandmother would tellrnyou, “if your disposition is not just fine, you stay in your room,rnyoung man.” “Disposition” is a grand old word, now seldomrnheard. Its Middle English sense, “turn of mind,” is still in use.rnThis suggests that the virtue that leads to a good disposition isrnthe virtue of the mind: wisdom. But in his De officiis, Cicero a.ssignsrna steady disposition, a steacK’ turn of mind, to fortitude.rnWe all know that adversib,’ calls for fortitude. But Cicerornsuggests that prosperih- also calls for fortitude: “When things arcrnprospering and flowing according to our will, let us with greatrnlabor flee pride, fastidiousness, and arrogance.” Would the criticrnof Southern manners think it hypocritical if someone in goodrnhealth, with a large bank account, with good grades in school,rnwith success in love, were to reply, “Just fine, thank you”? Takingrnthese conditions as circumstances warranting the wordrn”fine” exposes a narrowness in one’s conception of human naturernthat sees well-being as resting on accidents rather thanrnessences. Cicero and the grandmother have kept the soul inrnview. Thus, Cicero’s advice is much the same as the grandmother’s,rnhi both adversit)’- and prosperit)-, keep idem vultus —rn”the same face” — and eadem frons —”a contented countenance.”rnThe Southerner mav recall St. Paul’s haunting words,rn”I ha’e learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be contenfrn(Philippians 4:11). King James’ translators proposed “disposition”rnas a gloss to “‘good manners” in their rendering of 1rnCorinthians 15:33.rnOften, in the South, a conversation will begin with “How arcrny’all?” and end with “Tell all of’em I sav, ‘Hello there.'” A singlernperson addressed as many people, a pronoun without an antecedent,rnand an adverb without a referent strike visitors to thernSouth as peculiar, Holhwood as amusing, and English teachersrnas intolerable. But those who mind their manners ask afterrn”all,” who mav be family, friends, members of a church or club,rnor any other a.ssociation of people. One way to keep current thernsense of manners that combines behavior, character, andrnmorals is to preserve the cu.stoms that sprang out of tiiat sense.rnSuch is the custom of asking after “y’all,” which subordinatesrnthe secular to the spiritual state. This question asks generallyrnabout a firmily and, at its besf carries tiic hope tiiat their spiritualrnstate is just fine, a state that “cannot be accounted for bv anyrnhuman formula.” Cicero assigns the bonds of kinship to tiierncardinal virtue of justice. The family, he asserts, is the foundationrnof the city and the seminar)’ of a republic. “Jirst fine.” Takenrnas an adverb, “just” here means “precisely”; as an adjective,rn”fine” means “free from dross or impurity” (OED). ThusrnSocrates, condemned to die, but true to his principles, couldrnanswer truthfully, “Just fine.” This is one of those memorablernmoments in Western civilization when a human being becomesrna living image of ideal behavior. “Just fine” is a reminderrnof the ideal to which we .should be faithful, however obstinate!)rnopposed to that ideal our feeling may be at the moment.rnThe guardians of a famil)- are parents. The guardians of a cihrnare teachers, pastors, and officers of the law. The guardians of arnrepublic are soldiers. All ot these guardians have courage asrntheir foremost virtue. The foremost ‘irtue of citizens is temperance.rnA Southern custom trains children, citizens in embrvo, tornrespect their elders, the guardians. This training maroonsrnSoutherners in the waste places of past ages. Erasmus illustrates,rnin his Colloquy on Manners (1522), this ven- training forrnschoolbo)s.rnMaster: How long have )ou been away from home?rnBov: Nearly six montiis.rnAUGUST 2001/1 9rnrnrn