Maintaining a gentlemanly character was certainly no easy feat for those living in Victorian Oshawa. Of course, one was expected to have discipline and an esteemed manner regardless of the circumstances. Nonetheless even those of high status lost a few battles to their tempers.
One such example involved a conflict between the respectable Thomas Conant Esq. and arithmetic teacher, Mr. D. Black in the fall of 1865. Now, the twenty-three-year-old Thomas certainly did not think of himself as an expert lecturer but he found himself quite unsatisfied with the teaching style utilized by Mr. Black to portray the rudiments of figures to his younger sister, Electa. Thomas, not burdened by timidity, made himself plainly understood. However, Mr. Black quickly took offence to these comments, claiming that he would not “submit” to Thomas’ “interference and dictation.”After a few exchanges things appear to have gotten heated quickly.
After being taken aback by Mr. Black’s non-compliance Thomas pressured further, boldly stating that his behavior seemed to imply…
“…that we should shut our eyes and take no interest in the pupil’s under your charge.
I have neither time nor inclination to continue a discussion – but contend that persons having an interest in the pupils have a right to suggest as I have done and demand a gentlemanly answer.
And in a later response Mr. Black, still having none of Thomas’ intervention, replied with:
“You seem offended at the ‘tone’ of my reply to your note of yesterday and characterize it as ungentlemanly. Perhaps it was. If so, I regret it. But you will understand its tone little perhaps when I tell you that the tone of the letter to which I wrote in reply struck my mind as impertinent and dictatorial.”
It is likely Electa never quite realized the extent of the bold, quoted, and underlined words being exchanged between these two gentlemen over her education. Yet, while the language is quite appalling for these Victorian men I’m sure many can relate to their good intentions. Whether a parent, older sibling, or instructor the method of how to properly up-bring and treat those under out care still exists as a personal and potentially controversial topic. Unfortunately, Helen Lovejoy cannot be everywhere to ensure that “won’t somebody please think of the children?!” rather than their gentlemanliness in many of these times of need.