Twenty Points of Baltasar Gracián

Following on the heels of Survival Mom’s “Eight Vital Skills” is a post from the Art of Manliness blog titled “Cunning as a Serpent, Innocent as a Dove: The Art of Worldly Wisdom“. Baltasar Gracián was a 17th century Jesuit priest who wrote sort of a survival guide for life in the Spanish court. The book is titled The Art of Worldly Wisdom. Brett and Kate McKay have taken 20 of their favorites from the 300 maxims and commentary in the book and included them in an excellent post. The Art of Manliness blog is another on my daily reading list. I am pretty sure that I have read every single post on that blog, and it has been on the Confederate Colonel links list since the very beginning.

Although it has been 17 years since I left the “corporate world” to start my own business, I can attest to how well these apply to the real world today – nearly 350 years after it was written. For example, knowing how to balance #10 and #17 can have a big impact on one’s career reputation.

Keep in mind that, like the writing of Machiavelli, this should not be considered advice, but wisdom. Understanding the actions of others – whether they be honorable or dishonorable – is a vitally important life skill. This type of information (this book and The Prince by Machiavelli) is not like the maxims of Robert E. Lee, in which each and every point describes the actions of a Southern gentleman. This is more of a catalog of how a wide range of people think and act. While the majority of what we find in this type of book is good, solid, practical advice, some of it would be abhorrent to any Southern gentleman. Whether it is advice to be followed or observations to be noted, they must be understood to successfully navigate through the often-rocky waters of life.

  1. In your affairs, create suspense.
  2. The height of perfection. No one is born complete; perfect yourself and your activities day by day
  3. Don’t arouse excessive expectations from the start.
  4. Never exaggerate.
  5. Never lose your self-respect.
  6. Never lose your composure.
  7. Don’t be uneven, or inconsistent in your actions: either through inclination or choice.
  8. Choose a heroic model, more to emulate than to imitate.
  9. Understand yourself: your temperament, intellect, opinions, emotions. You can’t be master of yourself if you don’t first understand yourself.
  10. Don’t hang around to be a setting sun. The sensible person’s maxim: abandon things before they abandon you.
  11. Get used to the bad temperaments of those you deal with, like getting used to ugly faces.
  12. Never complain. Complaining always brings discredit.
  13. Avoid familiarity when dealing with people. It should be neither used nor permitted.
  14. Know how to appreciate. There’s no one who can’t be better than someone at something, and none who excel who can’t be excelled.
  15. Undertake what’s easy as if it were hard, and what’s hard as if it were easy.
  16. Take a joke, but don’t make someone the butt of one. The first is a form of politeness; the second, of audacity.
  17. Carry things through.
  18. Don’t be carried away by the last person you meet.
  19. Go with the flow, but not beyond decency.
  20. Act as though always on view. The insightful man is the one who sees that others see or will see him.

I have just listed the main points here, so be sure to read the full post on Art of Manliness for a more detailed explanation of these points.

About Stephen Clay McGehee

Born-Again Christian, Grandfather, husband, business owner, Southerner, aspiring Southern Gentleman. Publisher of The Confederate Colonel and The Southern Agrarian blogs. President/Owner of Adjutant Workshop, Inc., Vice President - Gather The Fragments Bible Mission, Inc. (Sierra Leone, West Africa), Webmaster - Military Order of The Stars and Bars, Kentucky Colonel.
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