In Praise of Sprezzatura: The Compleat Gentleman Giveaway

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 14, 2009 · 169 comments

in A Man's Life, On Virtue


Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Brad Miner. Mr. Miner is the author of The Compleat Gentleman. For a chance to win his book, see the details below.

What was once called sprezzatura, a wonderful word coined by the sixteenth-century writer Baldassare Castiglione, is a kind of graceful restraint that is an elemental characteristic of true civility. It helped define Western ideas about the gentleman, and it helped strangers to manage the slow transition to friendship.

Castiglione was an advisor to Popes Leo X and Clement VII, and to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier appeared in 1528, but it has surprising freshness today. It was considered revolutionary in its time, and yet Castiglione’s take on manliness owed much to Aristotle and Cicero. The ideal courtier was to have Aristotelian arete, which is to say excellence. An aristos (whence our word aristocrat) was educated in the best ideas and tempered by training to possess the best impulses, martial and artistic. He was, in Jacob Burckhardt’s phrase, engaged in “self-fashioning.” For Aristotle — and for men of the Renaissance such as Castiglione and Shakespeare — the standard for self-fashioning was the “golden mean,” the center between extremes. As Peter Burke explains: “Courage is defined as the mean between rashness and cowardice, liberality as the mean between extravagance and parsimony, and so on.” From Cicero, Castiglione took the Stoic concept of neglentia diligens (studied negligence), an obvious precursor to sprezzatura. And like many writers of his period, Castiglione respected Ovid’s famous observation, “Ars est celare artem.”

The purpose of art is to conceal itself.

Castiglione advocates such “art” in the formation of the gentleman, but his critics say he means pretense or dishonesty, and Castiglione’s courtier has come down to us as a superficial fellow content to fake it if he can — so long as the deception is shrewd.

Sprezzatura in Practice

No one is born a gentleman. Becoming one is a matter of education, and Castiglione’s “art” is really the practice of the principles that when finally internalized create the man whose urbanity, wit, athleticism, and restraint have sunk into his sinews.

A gentleman practices sprezzatura so that he can get it right. Confucius said that “although the gentleman may not have attained goodness, he acts in such a way so that he might become good.”

Developing sprezzatura is a worthy challenge in a culture that discourages and is suspicious of discretion and restraint. Many people are simply aghast at taciturnity. We tend to distrust anyone we suspect of not being “open.”

But the whole point of restraint, and the etiquette supporting it, is to give us a chance to negotiate slowly and carefully the difference between being strangers and becoming friends.

The handshake developed as a way strangers could show themselves unarmed. It was a sensible and cautious first step towards friendship. We do well to remember that intimacy must be a process, a negotiation, and that who meets a stranger and jumps quickly into bed, so to speak, has a better than even chance of waking up next to an enemy.

The ability to pause before acting and then to act sensibly is manifest prudence, which is the first among the cardinal virtues.

A man who has sprezzatura is content to keep his own counsel. He not only does not need to have his motives understood, he prefers that they not be understood. His actions, including his carefully chosen words, speak for him. It is not necessary for others—save his intimates—to know more.

Although it is not specifically a reason for embracing circumspection, it so happens that a discrete gentleman amasses, over time, a tremendous edge in the affairs of this world. He hears things that others do not, because people of all sorts confide in him, knowing that he will not betray their trust. The knowledge of the human heart that the compleat gentleman thus develops can be a burden, but it is also something of a liberation. It may call upon every bit of his strength to restrain himself from saying or doing more than he ought with knowledge gained from friendship, but there it is.

The art (and depth) of sprezzatura is defined by a man’s power: the stronger and wiser he is, the gentler his manner and the more circumspect his speech; the more, in other words, his true self is hidden.

Of course there is more to sprezzatura than just restraint. There is the quality people refer to when a man is called suave. Cary Grant was usually a gentleman in his film roles because he seemed able to do difficult things with ease and because he seemed a “man of the world,” not only suave but urbane as well. One could not imagine him saying anything inappropriate, and it was inconceivable that he would blurt out an intimacy, perhaps not even to an intimate friend. He knew the difference between a true friend, an acquaintance, and a stranger.

Implicit in sprezzatura is not only an effortless elegance but also a strenuous self-control. In the end, to be a gentleman is to hold Stoically, quietly to the conviction that he not be seen doing his “gentlemanly thing.” Silence really is golden. As Cervantes has Sancho Panza put it: “A closed mouth catches no flies.”

The Compleat Gentleman Giveaway

The Compleat Gentleman - small 3

Intrigued by the concept of sprezzatura? Want to know more about the virtues and attributes that every man should seek to cultivate? Enter to win a copy of Brad Miner’s The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man’s Guide to Chivalry. Mr. Miner reaches back in time to recover the oldest and best ideals of manhood. The book explored the roles every man should embody: warrior (a readiness to face battle for a just cause), lover (he lets a woman be what she wants to be) and monk (a man possessing true knowledge).

We’re giving away 2 copies of The Compleat Gentleman to AoM readers. To enter to win, leave a comment about a figure, historical or present day, famous or not, fictional or real, who either showed a mastery of the art of sprezzatura or an embarrassing disregard for it.

Contest ends Friday, July 17, 2009 at 11PM CST.

As usual, I’ll randomly pick two people from the entries.

101 Carroll R. Posey July 15, 2009 at 8:50 am

Hank Reardon from Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” is a great example of the restraint you cited in describing sprezzatura.

102 W. O. Henley July 15, 2009 at 9:05 am

Two characters from Iliad – Hector as the embodiment of sprezzatura, and Achilles, the antithesis.

103 Dorian Jay July 15, 2009 at 9:10 am

One of the best social master of Sprezzatua (even if it was not named like this) was with no doubts the great XIXth Century dandy George Bryan Brummel. He was considered as more influential than the Prince Of Wales (the future king George IV). He was sometime harsch or cruel, but always with exquisite manners…

104 Paul July 15, 2009 at 9:50 am

Guys , even if you don’t win the book its worth the effort to get and read. I have the first edition and along with the book Once an Eagle by Anto Myer it is required reading for my sons.


105 John July 15, 2009 at 9:52 am

Austin Powers was pretty suave… NOT!

106 Matt July 15, 2009 at 9:58 am

Achilles didn’t have sprezzatura.

107 Kevin July 15, 2009 at 10:15 am

How about Robin Hood or the Three Musketeers? I especially like Errol Flynn’s version of Robin.

108 Jeffrey July 15, 2009 at 10:36 am

Pierre Trudeau, former Prime Minister of Canada. Always properly attired, stylish but never fashionable, a man with real flair.

109 David Freeman July 15, 2009 at 10:37 am

I know this may be unpopular with some, but I am going to say that Jesus is a perfect example of Sprezzatura. Being God’s son, he was the embodiment of restraint, as he had full access to power of God. He was incredibly strong and wise, yet continually humbled himself. He was also steadfast in his purpose and beliefs (he was considered a heretic by the Jewish Officials), and in the end, he made the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life for the people he loved: you and me.

110 D.A.D July 15, 2009 at 10:40 am

First that comes to mind is George Washington.

111 Art DeGiovine July 15, 2009 at 10:40 am

Madoff – need I say more.

112 Ryan G July 15, 2009 at 10:46 am

My example of a LACK of sprezzatura would be Andrew Jackson. He is actually one of my favorite presidents in this regard, because his actions stir in me a sense of laughter.

Jackson has been in seven duels in his life, or one hundred, depending on whom you ask. His two biggest regrets in life include not killing two people. His brash, willful disrespect of the presidents cabinet and quickness to anger, demonstrate his need for spezzatura.

I must add that, this lack of sprezzatura, makes him a very interesting read however.

113 Jason July 15, 2009 at 11:34 am

George Washington embodies these characteristics, he even wrote a set of rules to this effect, and without it would not have won the respect of his peers, and eventually the nation, at a fragile time when a true gentleman or “aristocrat” was needed to lead a new nation in its birth and infancy.

114 Ryan L July 15, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Alan Watts best demonstrates a mastery of sprezzatura.

The similarities between sprezzatura and taoism, as defined by the Tao Te Ching, are outstanding. While sprezzatura calls for a “graceful restraint,” taoism supports wu wei, which means “action without action.” The Tao Te Ching calls for restraint before all action, doing without doing, and slower living so as to make the moral and best decisions. As the parallels between taoism and sprezzatura are immaculate, I find it most appropriate to nominate a modern adherent of taoism. Alan Watts wins my nominations as his constant lecturing of the tao and wu wei, in ethics, metaphysics, and even aesthetics, perfectly overlaps with the concept of sprezzatura.

115 ephraim July 15, 2009 at 12:19 pm

From the Jewish tradition, my impression is that the Vilna Gaon embodied the qualities of gracefulness, wisdom, and deep self-control that are implied here.

116 Brian July 15, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Tim Robbins’ character in The Shawshank Redemption is a great modern example of sprezzatura. Jailed for a crime he didn’t commit, Andy Dupresne very slowly and deliberately works his way out of prison. He never reveals his ultimate plan, never blabbers about it. But all the time he meticulously works away at gaining others’ confidence and eventually brings justice about. I’m sure he could have jumped a guard, grabbed a gun, and shot his way out, but that would have had a higher chance of failure towards his ultimate goal. Sprezzatura does not jump the gun on crying foul. Sprezzatura can patiently wait for justice while still serving others (such as maintaining their finances or building a library).

117 Ealasaid July 15, 2009 at 1:43 pm

I gotta go with the amazing Lord Vetinari from the Discworld books as a spectacular example of sprezzatura. He’s very quiet and dignified, and generally nobody really can tell what he’s up to until after he’s accomplished whatever it is he set out to do. More on him here at my fansite.

118 Danny July 15, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Does it have to be a man? Because for an embarrassing lack, I would choose Sarah Palin. Especially her speech when stepping down from being governor.

119 Jeffrey Peck July 15, 2009 at 2:02 pm

C.S. Lewis absolutely exemplifies a tremendous hold on the art of sprezzatura. A true gentleman of prose, Lewis highlighted many aspects of sprezzatura in his apologetic works. If the master of sprezzatura embodies the roles of warrior, lover and monk, a few of his brilliant quotes indicate Lewis’s practiced hand at the art.
He confirms the necessity of fighting for what you believe in with the quote, “We have discovered that the scheme of ‘outlawing war’ has made war more like an outlaw without making it less frequent and that to banish the knight does not alleviate the suffering of the peasant.”
Lewis speaks of love in his book The Problem of Pain, stating, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”
Lastly, Lewis never ceased his search for truth. It was his search for truth that caused his conversion from atheism to Christianity. The wisdom he reaped from that experience has lead to this quote from Mere Christianity, “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”
So we can see how Lewis embraced sprezzatura and how his writings have been so cultivated by it. He was a true gentleman and understood chivalry’s place in an evolving society.

120 Terry July 15, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I would have to say my grandpa. He was a man of few words but always a gentleman. I learned so much just by watching him.

121 Aaron Schnabel July 15, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Percy Blakeney, the Scarlet Pimpernel. In public he downplayed his intelligence, cunning and courage so that under the cover of darkness he could risk his life to save french aristocrats unjustly assigned to a date with Madame Guillotine…

122 Kevin Cox July 15, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Obviously Cary Grant!

123 Gabriel July 15, 2009 at 3:40 pm

I instantly thought of Atticus Finch while reading this. A dignified, reserved lawyer, but one who loved to be with his kids and have jam sessions on the Jew’s harp. He didn’t need anyone to understand or approve of the actions he took, both as a lawyer and a father. As such, he had the respect of both his friends and his enemies. He is a role model for all times.

As far as those who have a blatant disregard for sprezzatura, I would say nearly any politician. Rather than a restrained silence until events unfold, they make promises to everyone they meet. Whether those promises will be remembered is anyone’s guess.

124 Nathaniel July 15, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenburg was an excellent example of sprezzatura. Extremely accomplished and well-liked as a staff officer in the Reichswehr and
Wehrmacht due to his ease with words and approachable nature, he was also one of the most important soldiers in the plot to remove Hitler from power. Severely wounded in Africa in 1943, he recovered from losing an eye, all the fingers on his right hand and all but three on his left to become the driving organizational force behind operation Valkyrie in addition to his extensive duties as a staff officer. He underwent this dangerous endeavor because of a deep feeling of responsibilty for his country and its people. He said to a friend, “I could never look the wives and children of the fallen in the eye if I did not do something to stop this senseless slaughter.”

125 Fred July 15, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I am going to go with Jubal Harshaw, from Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”. Jubal is the model man in the novel, described as “…Jubal E. Harshaw, LL.B., M.D., Sc.D., bon vivant, gourmet, sybarite, popular author extraordinary, neo-pessimist philosopher, devout agnostic, professional clown, amateur subversive, and parasite by choice.”

Great book, btw.

126 Andrew Mark July 15, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Maximus Decimus Meridius from the movie Gladiator. He rolled with lifes punches and always maintained his honor and respect with a cool head. His words were few, but choice and his friends found shelter in his presence.

That Brad Miner book sounds like an interesting read…

127 T L July 15, 2009 at 6:23 pm

my father, Robert.

128 Mike July 15, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Henry Seishiro Okazaki: Embodied the Warrior, Lover, and Monk aspects.

Seishiro’s zeal for life was found in everything he did. He studied and mastered many forms and developed his own system of fighting: Danzan Ryu. Quick to defend and protect others [on a personal and larger scale], he ran from his Honolulu home on Dec. 7 carrying his sword [thinking at first it would include a beach landing] and yelling for them not to attack and go home when he heard the Japanese planes thundering overhead. This act and many others previous to this event and after, won him the title “The Professor” as a term of endearment by those who respected him and knew of his selfless giving to the community.

129 Mac McGowan July 15, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Norman Maclean who wrote the memoir of brotherhood “A River Runs Through It” strikes me as a man who held his own in any situation, and did so with restraint and aplomb, a regard for those weaker than himself, and a high standard of conduct to which he held himself.

130 Carl LoPiccolo July 15, 2009 at 7:23 pm

The fist person to pop into my mind was Bob Hope. Although he was a public figure he was able to keep his public and private lives separate. He stood up for what he believed in and supported the men and women of this country that put their lives on the line every day, whether he supported what we were fighting for or not.

131 Ambrish Kochikar July 15, 2009 at 7:45 pm

The fictional movie character of Lieutenant Frank Bullitt (played by Steve McQueen) is my vote for a good example of a man who mastered the art of Sprezzatura.

132 noice06 July 15, 2009 at 8:59 pm

David Robinson. He was a competitor and winner, but always in control of his words and his demeanor. He knew that his skills at basketball did not define him as a man, but instead kept the game in perspective.

133 Keith July 15, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Joe DiMaggio is a model example of sprezzatura. Not only was he very quiet and tacit, but he also was modest about his ballplaying abilities. He honed said abilities from very early on in life, and was dedicated entirely to baseball throughout his whole career. He was able to be friends with nearly anyone, and draw attention to them while taking it off of himself. He was a complete gentleman towards Marilyn Monroe and treated her like the lady he saw her as. Even after her death, he carefully guarded her memory from newshounds who wanted to write shocking tabloid stories about her. He was a master of sprezzatura in the ways described here.

134 Doug Forbes July 15, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Neil Armstrong! Arguably the most recognized name in the world, yet he has stayed out of the limelight (and off the talk shows). He is the consummate professional – a fantastic piece of flying to land on the Moon, yet has consistently played down his role, and emphasized the team effort that Apollo was. He has never tried to trade on his publicity.

135 Antonio July 15, 2009 at 11:33 pm

I’m up for mentioning James Bond as one who LACKED sprezzatura. Although most would consider James Bond as a cool guy and urbane, I believed he lacked the self-control that would keep him out of the many difficult situations he found himself in. More specifically, the situations he’s found himself in after sleeping with the enemy. Literally.

I second Jacob M., for lack of a real-life example, in mentioning Sherlock Holmes.

136 Dr. Tom Baugh July 15, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Henry Clay of Kentucky… held off the bloody Civil War in the US for a decade by his crafting of compromises that kept peace.

137 Heather S July 15, 2009 at 11:48 pm

I’m going with Bond…..James Bond….

138 John July 15, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Horatio Hornblower, the fictional character.

139 Matt Demers July 16, 2009 at 12:36 am

Hunter S. Thompson; which side he was on was debatable.

140 PM Riches July 16, 2009 at 1:16 am

In the realm of fictional characters – I’d have to nominate The Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek.

Actually I will say that Thomas Crowne, as played by Pierce Brosnan had a certain grasp of the core of sprezzatura – that being “the stronger and wiser he is, the gentler his manner and the more circumspect his speech; the more, in other words, his true self is hidden.” One only needs to watch the scene early in the film when he sells one of his assets to a rival and the resulting, incredibly amusing, tete-a-tete that follows.

141 Dmitri Petrovsky July 16, 2009 at 1:23 am

It sounds absurd due to how truly western the concept of sprezzatura was, but the Buddha Gotama embodied the concept incredibly well. When pressed to describe nirvana to his disciples he simply waved his hand and said “it is not for you to know” – when preaching, he spoke in images and symbols, using metaphors to communicate his point. He spoke not of his own life, but how others may live theirs. Furthermore, he walked the “middle path” described in the article above, treading a careful line between asceticism and materialism.

142 Shaun July 16, 2009 at 4:13 am

I’d say that the anti-sprezzatura spokesman would have to be George Bush…now watch this shot…

143 Chris July 16, 2009 at 8:13 am

The most anti-sprezzatura person I can think of is Bill o’Reilly. They man shoots off at the mouth on whatever the topic of the day is, he shows absolutely no respect for anyone of differing opinions, and, as the great clips of him blowing up on YouTube show, he’s an overall jerk.

144 Scott July 16, 2009 at 8:26 am

Pope Benedict XVI handles himself with such dignity, humility, and grace that I see him as an ideal exams of sprezzatura. He responds to the most boorish behavior with such considered appropriateness, I am proud to be one of his biggest fans.

145 Steven July 16, 2009 at 9:34 am

The detective character Christoper Foley on BBC’s television series, Foley’s War.

146 Trav July 16, 2009 at 9:48 am

My vote would have to go to Denys Finch-Hatton, Karen Blixen’s lover from “Out of Africa”. He always carried himself in a smooth, polished, non-chalant, effortess manner but possessed the mysterious air of something so much deeper than was ever revealed.

147 Bryan J July 16, 2009 at 10:39 am

Teddy Roosevelt – Speak softly and carry a big stick!

148 Jay_T_R July 16, 2009 at 11:58 am

As a past student leader at Texas A&M, I had the opportunity to meet and discussion various issues from time to time with Dr. Robert Gates, now Secretary of Defense Gates. I was always impressed at his ability to pause and calculate every response he made. The tact in his answers to questions, even loaded ones, was incredible and not once have I known the man to have to retract a statement he made prematurely. I consider this a great asset to his ability as a leader and gentleman.

149 Ben Pratt July 16, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Two characters from fiction come to mind:

Peter Wiggin from Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and sequels. From the view of Ender of Valentine, Peter was a maniacal big brother, but if you consider what he does through the persona of Locke, until eventually becoming elected Hegemon, his actions very much demonstrate this admirable principle.

Eliza from Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. Though a woman, her effortless manipulations among the French (and other) aristocracy allowed her to pursue her own goals throughout her life.

150 Joe July 16, 2009 at 2:21 pm

“A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.” – George Bernard Shaw.

Plus, he had a fantastic beard.

151 bill July 16, 2009 at 2:23 pm

George Washington was sprezzatura.

152 Shane Long July 16, 2009 at 3:57 pm

My vote is for two former politicians that now broker peace around the world former President Jimmy Carter and George Mitchell. I think both have the “ability to pause before acting and then to act sensibly is manifest prudence, which is the first among the cardinal virtues.”

153 Taylor July 16, 2009 at 4:40 pm

The character of Joe Roberts, played by Sean Connery in Sidney Lumet’s “The Hill” definitely has it. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should do so immediately. A great man movie

154 Spud July 16, 2009 at 5:18 pm

My cousin Ted, I think, exhibits sprezzatura. Generally quiet yet crazy, the manner in which Ted does what he does is left unexplained to the public, and even to most of family. I am greatly honoured whenever I get to sit and talk with him, because though people know he is intelligent, he is so much more thoughtful and wise than we give him credit for. I admire Ted very much.

155 Paul July 16, 2009 at 5:23 pm

An interesting fictional example is Gandalf. While not an obviously manly figure, he certainly did not parade his considerable power, kept his own counsel, and didn’t get involved in the affairs of others unless bigger matters were at stake.

156 dan July 16, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Pat Tillman , beacuse he was a true American who had evreything and gave it up to serve his country.

157 Beniaminus July 16, 2009 at 9:48 pm

Leonardo da Vinci. A fine example of the self made man, always learning, athletic, entertaining and self-controlled.

158 Ed July 16, 2009 at 10:56 pm

My current boss displays sprezzatura. He is very reserved until he chooses to let you into his confidence and always acts the gentleman. His limited communication gets people to talk to him more than they would someone else I think.

159 Carl C July 16, 2009 at 11:49 pm

My grandfather was the epitome of a gentleman. Severed in WW II, deacon in the church, family man and always had time to teach me how to fish and be a decent person. Nuff said.

160 Gustavo Caetano July 17, 2009 at 1:27 am

Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel

161 Jonathan Foster July 17, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I would nominate Benjamin Franklin. He is perceived as a gentleman histrocially. He associated with American Patriots and European nobility. He dabbled and investigated just about everything he could in science and philosophy. Philanthropically, he even established a trust fund that continues to this day to benefit Philiadelphia.

162 Colin July 17, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Colin Powell

163 peter July 17, 2009 at 5:08 pm

One person that comes to mind when i think about the concept of spezzatura is Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes. He is a famous british explorer, who was the first man to cross both the north and south poles by surface means. He is such a man that he was able to complete SEVEN marathons in SEVEN days on SEVEN different continents four months after having a heart attack.

This may not have been the wisest move but having watched interviews with Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, i can attest that he is a true gentleman, who considers all the risks before he sets out to do anything. His is also a man of honor who lives by his conscience. I highly recommend looking him up.

164 Harry July 17, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Francisco D’Anconia, of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, perfectly illustrates the power of this control over oneself. He is a character we all hope to be comparable to in some way…

165 Joey July 17, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Tupac Shakur made it looks easy for the smallest man in the room to be the most feared.

166 Corey July 17, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I would say that Robert Heinlein, wile an excellent writer, is an example of a lack of sprezzatura. When safe in his career and unhindered by public opinion, his later books (Glory Road, Number of the Beast, Stranger in a Strange Bed, &c.) were all very vocal, and crassly and unrestrainedly vocal, in urging ungentlemanly behavior. Mike the Martian urges faithlessness in marriage and disregard of human life; Lazarus Long is the embodiment of cowardice.
For reasons listed above, C. S. Lewis and his protagonists are far better practicioners of this virtue. For true sprezzatura, I will agree with those who have said George Washington – here is a man who has won vistory against the mightiest military of the day, has won the highest office of the newly formed country, and when asked how he would be addressed, simply said “Mr. President.”

As an aside, I find it interesting that the Victorian gentleman and the Edo-period samurai both found restraint to be the most telling demonstration of proper behavior: note the similarities in the colors of fabric – subdued dark blues, browns, blacks, sometimes with subtle pin-stripes. Fascinating.

167 Rev. Adrian L. Piazza July 17, 2009 at 11:06 pm

For a compleat lack of sprezzatura, my nomination is Brett Favre. From his weepy goodbye in Green Bay to his super public argument/transfer to NY. Finally, his constant jabbering about going to the Vikings, which did not happen. He talks to everyone and has the emotional fortitude of a feminine fourteen year old.

I learned Sprezzatura from Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel. He could skewer a phony at a 100 yards, but, was invariably polite and genuinely helpful to those who were seeking to learn. He could weave a tale (seemingly pointless) that would keep your attention until he revealed the crux of the matter, followed by an question that kept your mind busy for days. Conducted the Liturgy with a genuine reverence with hair mussed from putting on the surplice. From Australia through Germany and England was always dressed as a Dr. Professor ought: three piece suit or sweater vest and jacket, tweeds in the spring and summer. Only dressed down in his own back yard. Smoked thick black cigars, pipes and drank Foster’s from the can. Never shared, but spoke when he needed and was silent when he listened.

168 Rob July 18, 2009 at 10:45 am

I agree with Jack, below.

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