Manvotional: Manliness by John Brookes, Part I

The first two chapters explore the concepts of manliness and masculinity, while the following three chapters discuss how these ideas have been shaped throughout history to include both positive and negative aspects. These changes in perspective are due to sociological, political and economic developments that are just now being grasped by society as a whole.

Manliness is a complex concept that is difficult to define. Oxford Brookes University defines manliness as “a quality of being masculine, typically associated with qualities such as courage and strength.”

Vintage group of men at dock.

Image courtesy of postaletrice.

What traits and characteristics define authentic manliness? It’s a difficult question to respond to. Even for a person who writes a blog about the subject, it’s tough to put a notion as vast and diverse as manliness into words. As a result, I often consult ancient works on the topic in search of answers to this query. Our forefathers were just as enthusiastic about the issue as we are, but they took more time to consider it. As a result, the wordsmiths of the past were frequently able to hit the nail on the head. John Brookes, who wrote the book Manliness in 1875, was one of these guys who successfully got to the essence of manliness. He explores what he considers to be the defining attributes of manliness in the following sections. I’ll release Part 2 next week, in which he explores the outcomes of practicing these qualities. See here for another fantastic perspective on what genuine manliness entails.

What Is Manliness, in the First Chapter?

In its broadest definition, the term “man” refers to an adult male who exudes power, vitality, and magnanimity. Manliness is defined by a man’s finest attributes, such as dignity, heroism, purity, faithfulness, and joy.

The Romans had a word that meant manliness, manhood, strength, courage, capacity, excellence, and virtue—the word was virtus, derived from vir, a man of courage and principle, one who deserved the name of man—the meaning of which was manliness, manhood, strength, courage, capacity, excellence, and virtue. All that was great in man’s physical, intellectual, and moral structure was included in the definition of virtues.

As a result, we may now respond to the question, “What is Manliness?” Bravery and openness. Manliness is carrying out courageously our views of what should be expressed and done with rectitude of soul.

Thackeray, that wonderful, smart man, has perfectly encapsulated the qualities of a real gentleman in a few short questions. “How does one become a gentleman?” Is it to be truthful, polite, generous, courageous, and wise, and to practice all of these traits in the most elegant outer way possible? Is it necessary for a gentleman to be a devoted son, a faithful spouse, and a trustworthy father? Isn’t it better for him to live a respectable life, pay his expenses, have lofty and exquisite preferences, and honorable goals in life?” There can only be one response to these inquisitive, rational questions, and that is yes.

Not everyone can distinguish the difference between gilt and gold, the genuine from the fake, a gentleman from a polished scoundrel; nevertheless only reality, honesty, is worthy of respect—true manliness, not its plated imitation. A narrative about the Persian sage Cogia Effendi has a lot of wisdom. Cogia Effendi disguised herself as a poor guy and entered a residence during a feast. He was pushed about and hurried, he couldn’t get close to the table, and he was treated so badly that he withdrew. Going home, he put on beautiful clothes: jeweled slippers on his feet, a golden robe on his back, a turban glistening with a priceless diamond on his head, and a sabre with rich diamonds in the hilt at his side. This human nature student entered the room for the second time. Effendi’s new outfit brought about a miraculous transformation. The guests yielded this time, and the host, rushing up to Cogia, screamed, “Welcome, my lord Effendi, thrice welcome!” “Would your lordship want anything to eat?” His lordship said, “Quaint.” He took his golden robe in his hand and said ironically, “Welcome, my Lord Coat, welcome, most excellent robe!” Stretching out his right foot theatrically so that his glittering slipper could be seen, he took his golden robe in his hand and said ironically, “Welcome, my Lord Coat, welcome, most excellent robe!” “Would your lordship want anything to eat?” “For I need to ask my coat what it will eat, because the welcome was entirely to it,” he said, turning to his shocked host.


Our first goal in life should not be to become farmers, attorneys, politicians, pastors, businessmen, or warriors, but to become men with more than just trade knowledge—having healthy, flexible, strong, elegant bodies—minds that enjoy watching, reading, thinking, and criticizing—and hearts that love…

We believe there is no better way to end this introductory chapter than by repeating Robert Nicoll’s rousing words, “True Nobility.”

I don’t care about his ancestors or his name; if manliness is in his heart, noble birth may claim him. I don’t care about the world’s riches, but his portion will be thin if you say yes when I question, ‘Has he a true-heart?’ man’s I don’t care where he came from or where he was raised; if the spring is clean, it doesn’t matter where it bursts. Is it better to live in a palace or a hovel?

I’m not looking for the beginning of his life; rather, I’m looking for a response to the question, ‘Is he an honest man?’

Intuition (Chapter 2)

I can’t think of a more endearing attribute in childhood or age than character openness. It is admired by every nobleman, adored by every real lady, and cherished by every kid. It is the key to everyone’s hearts, since who doesn’t like the upright, truthful, conscientious, joyful, and optimistic?

Does the reader believe there isn’t much in this trait that is comprehensive and potent? Let us see: a man with an open, intuitive mind and heart is intelligent; he understands and admits that his education is incomplete; he is always striving to improve and become more God-like; he has compassion for all other souls… The attitude is that of one who waits; of one who does not yet know the truth, the perfect and noblest route accessible to man, and who, as such, observes those who come pretending to have the knowledge to give with the tranquility of arrested energy. Such a mindset has a strange allure. We may feel thankful to a person when we know his ultimate conclusions, when he has given us all he has to say, but we also feel that we know the limitations of what we are grateful for. However, there is an endless amount of potential in the developing germ. There’s no telling how tall a germ will grow, or what paths or shapes it will take; and an eager interest arises around this early working, which can’t attend to the fully established plant. This is the beauty of childhood; nevertheless, it is a beauty that belongs to all individuals who, although being beyond childhood, recognize and feel that they are still growing and not finished.

Greatness, nobility, and manliness all need a depth of emotion… Tennyson’s strength is largely due to his honesty of heart and depth of emotion.

This argument is supported by the moving poem In Memoriam, written by the Poet in response to the loss of his friend, Arthur H. Hallam. The kind and noble friendship that existed between the two friends is shown in “In Memoriam.” Blessed are the Damons with their Pythias, Davids with their Jonathans, and Tennysons with their Hallams.


As a result, a real man must have depth of emotion, as well as the openness of what Shakspeare refers to as “the mind’s eye.” Openness helps everyone get to the truth, own his mistakes when they happen, and improve in the future. Openness provides a man a broad perspective, compassion, a complete heart, and a fervency of spirit.

Every sensible man keeps his mind and heart open to receive truth, new ideas, and new loves; closing them denotes Liliputian intellect and heart.

We’re reminded of the individual who told Sir Charles Lyell that geology was untrue and he didn’t believe a word of it. “Do you know anything about geology?” Sir Charles questioned. Have you ever researched the topic or read anything about it?” “Not at all,” the objector said; “why should I study it if I don’t believe in it?” “Well, then,” the geologist answered, “you are incompetent to debate or have an opinion on the matter.” Go study geology and then come to me with your arguments, and I’ll listen to you. It will, however, be pointless since you will have the same viewpoint as I do.”

When a guy of openness, bravery, and intelligence appears, how delightful the concern among little souls and small brains!

“For a statesman, nothing is more requisite than that he should be able to narrate accurately, to explain succinctly, to answer clearly and logically, and in short to deliver all that he knows, or has to say, with the greatest force, the least apparent effort, and the least irrelevancy,” writes Mr. Arthur Helps in his book Thoughts on Government. This is the whole of man’s responsibility in respect to his interactions with his fellow man. If a guy can explain rationally, correctly, concisely, forcefully, and without irrelevance, one pleasant effect will be that irrational arguments will fade away.

On the Second Great Element of Manliness-Fearless and Cheerful Decisiveness (Chapter III)

Many people recognize what they should do; many people have executive strength; but the number of people who possess both of these qualities of noble character is surely not many. Tremendous intuitive power is usually accompanied with great bravery; so, whomever lacks this talent is likely lacking in actual courage…

It is unmanly to be unsure, jittery, and uncertain – to be victims of indecision. Undoubtedly, our weak wills are to blame for most of our misery. “You can only half-fill,” one told others who didn’t succeed. He who is dissatisfied lacks self-confidence and is unmanned by a lack of willpower. A vacillator can never achieve excellence in anything; his desires and time are squandered in indecision. Whoever without character decisiveness declares himself a puppet of circumstance.

A guy who is determined is a strong man, and if he is properly decisive, he is a clever man who is respected, valuable, and in control of his own destiny. The victims of life bow to a man who has tremendous willpower and declares, “I am resolv’d for death or dignity,” because he will not bend to them. Martin Tupper puts it thus way:


“A thousand quail may be raised by the iron will of one strong heart.”

How quickly a resolute guy clears the path— creates space for himself! “Come to the forge with it then; shape it; I would not have things cool,” he says to Mrs. Page when he has work to do. Use today’s wind and tide to get things done. “Give it a step,” a Spartan advised his son, who complained that his sword was too short. “Every time missed provides a chance for tragedy,” Napoleon stated.

Courage, heroic stoutness of heart, is a distinguishing feature of a great soul.

“Always ready to show His manly forehead to the most ferocious opponent.”

Without heroism, there can be no manliness, no grandeur of heart. One thing that every man needs is to be bold, to put timidity, which is a wretched creature, beneath his feet. The wonderful old Latin saying, Fortuna favet fortibus…, is full of encouragement.

Sir Francis Drake was described as “chaste in his life, honest in his dealings, true of his word; kind to those who were under him, and loathing nothing so much as sloth” by the quaint old Fuller.

Great men awaken the hero inside them, demonstrating that “virtue is brave, and kindness is fearless.”

So wake us up and let us go to work on whatever tasks have been assigned to us. As Goethe puts it—

“Do not be alarmed! “Do and dare before you die!” says the narrator.

Who doesn’t respect great men’s upright, noble attitude, composure, and unstoppable force in thought, speech, and action? Who can resist appreciating their intellectual and emotional independence, their bravery and dignity, and their generous, masculine melancholy—a pathos that never descends into sickening sentimentality? Witness their great sense of honor, their aversion to taking advantage of others, their noble aims, and their love for all men, which “opens a small paradise in our hearts.”

Any individual who want to turn his life into a festival must possess both will and bravery. We know that if we grab a nettle without fear, it is innocuous; if we touch it too closely, it hurts.

Many accolades, satellites, pillows, and easy-chairs are despised by a bold man. All great people’s lives are natural, lyrical, beautiful, courageously virtuous, and harmonious. The magnanimous are unconcerned with the trivialities of human existence, and must smile at the individual who is made happy or unhappy by a modest amount of praise or censure.

T. Carlyle states, “Hardly for the flower of mankind will love alone do.” True. To bring out the gold in our personalities, we need the discipline of adversity.

Opposition, or any other kind of buffeting to which a man does not yield, is a disguised benefactor. We’ve heard that migrating birds, who travel high in the air, need a wind that is blowing against them in order to make progress and maintain their height. So, in order to grow his masculinity, a magnanimous man must go through difficulties and afflictions. Storms will not damage us if we bravely confront them. Great, decent souls have the fewest worries; in fact, we should all have just one dread: the fear of doing something wrong.