The consummate gentleman

It isn’t often I encounter someone whom I instantly recognize as a gentleman.  But when the occasion occurs it is distinctive and potently manifest. It is a compliment which borders on faultlessness (though I fully suspect that beneath the veneer there may exist tolerable imperfection). These polished beings are nonetheless members of the human race and are thus adorned with the inevitable imperatives of its rudimentary animal nature. Yet the consummate gentleman preserves an identifiable superlative which pleasingly sets him apart from others.

My initial acquaintance with this uniqueness of performance was through Dr. Frank Glassow who was a senior surgeon at the Shouldice Hospital in Thornhill, Ontario.

Shouldice Hospital (formerly Shouldice Hernia Centre) is a private hospital at 7750 Bayview Avenue in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada. The hospital specializes in hernia care. Its location is the former estate of George McCullagh, a publisher who created The Globe and Mail newspaper in 1936.

The hospital was founded in 1945 by Dr. Earle Shouldice. While private hospitals are not allowed under Ontario’s Private Hospitals Act, Shouldice Hospital is one of seven private hospitals in the province grandfathered under the Act. The hospital has been continuously family run from its inception but is partially publicly funded.

In the 2020s, Liberty Development planned to build five residential towers on the property. In September 2022, the City of Markham purchased the Shouldice property for CA$188 million, to transform the lands into a public park, while continuing the lease for the hospital.

Dr. Glassow and his wife Mrs. Winnifred (“Freddie”) Glassow were the parents of a colleague of mine from St. Andrew’s College.  The Glassows regularly entertained boys from school for Sunday evening dinners or casual treats such as at the golf club after a football match at Bishop Ridley College. During these social gatherings it was paramountly evident that Dr. Glassow maintained the height of decorum. His propriety was marked by the classic elements of chivalry, courteous and honour. It was impossible not to remark upon the singularity of Dr. Glassow’s demeanour. Indeed I have since found that the characteristic elements of the consummate gentleman are similarly remarkable.

In plain terms, the consummate gentleman is a man apart from others. I emphasize this because the distinction is not to be mistaken from the mere act of politeness for example. Many have there been whom I have met or known who succeed to the pinnacle of triumph when it comes to parlour dignity and suavity.  But those sometimes rarefied attributes fail to meet the standard of the consummate gentleman.

The consummate gentleman is not especially known for his sophistication or refinement; rather for his kindness and improving nature, noticeably lacking in covetousness or ambition. Strangely the traits of a consummate gentleman are instantly recognizable for what they are not more than for what they are. There is a distinguishable lack of any projection other than the promotion of well-being and fluidity.

This naturally makes the definition of a consummate gentleman a challenge. When devoid of any apparent ulterior motive it becomes oddly disruptive to the normal assessment of character and inner machinations. And I believe I can safely say that there is always a measure of reserve to the consummate gentleman.  His is never an opinionated absorption nor of a talkative nature. This however is not to be confused with those of a surreptitious resolve. It is equally evident in openness as concealment that the application of the consummate gentleman is trustworthy and beneficial.

I have mentioned Dr. Glassow.  There are others whom I have met of similar masterly character such as Mr. Gage Love, former proprietor of Campus Paper. Or Mr. John Bell, son of James Mackintosh Bell (one of the erstwhile celebrities of the Town of Almonte).

James Abbott Mackintosh Bell (23 September 1877 – 31 March 1934) was a New Zealand geologist, writer and company director. He was born in St Andrews, Quebec on 23 September 1877 and graduated from Harvard University in 1904. In 1909, he married Vera Margaret Beauchamp, the older sister of the writer Katherine Mansfield.

All the men whom I have mentioned by name are deceased. This is no accident. I imagine it would be both misguided and intrusive to label living men whom I have met or know as consummate gentlemen. It would no doubt offend the sensibilities of those gentlemen to consider that they are somehow perceived by others as having a deeper moral fabric. And while it most certainly would be beneath them to object to such denomination, I suspect they’d only unwillingly accept the platitude. The consummate gentleman is not a man without intent or purpose; but it does not include public approbation.

It must be noted that the consummate gentleman is not necessarily a man of good breeding nor a man of impressive appearance whether distinguished by a walking stick or otherwise. In my experience as a rural legal practitioner, the acquaintance of a consummate gentleman is neither prescribed nor proscribed by visible bounds. To my knowledge the only embargo upon the consummate gentleman is the failure of his perception by others.  Because so often the consummate gentleman is characterized by a retiring deportment, it requires a degree of delicacy to awaken the sometimes hidden achievements of the man.

It is always a pleasure to interact with the consummate gentleman though I can tell you it requires a special distraction to vitalize any of the private expressions of the consummate gentleman. He will somehow avoid particularity of himself, not by design or disguise, rather unwittingly as he tends more often to promote agreeable discussion of the matters at hand or as regularly about others or their especial ambitions.