Delicacy: Flavor of Virtue
IT WAS said of Matthew Arnold that in all the departments of human life he applied the criterion of delicacy. "A finely touched nature," he said, "will respect in itself the sense of delicacy not less than the senses of honesty."
Egotism. All thrusting forward of one's self, smugness, an air of self-sufficiency, a dictatorial attitude, oracular speeches, me, me, me. The consummate flower of good breeding is humility, not put on or assumed but genuinely felt.
Selfishness, whether seeking the best meats at table, the best seat in the room, and such lapses of the commoner sort, or the more subtle coarseness of monopolizing the conversation, or making one's self conspicuous by over-dressing or jewelry.
Insincerity. This is the besetting sin of writers who desire popularity at any cost. "The slightest deviation from the line of clear conviction," writes G. W. E. Russell, "the least turning to left or right in order; to cocker a prejudice or please an audience or flatter a class, shows a want of delicacy, a preference of present favor to permanent self-respect."
"Ah!" said Rivarol, "no one considers how much pain any man of taste has to suffer before he inflicts any."
All good qualities have a line which they may not pass beyond, else they become absurd. The danger-point in delicacy is becoming finicky, Miss-Nancyish, effeminate.
This does not alter the fact, however, that a certain amount of womanliness marks the complete man; the will of steel must be gloved in velvet courtesy, the strong courage must be tempered with kindliness, wisdom must be suffused with modesty, conviction must be balanced with toleration.
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