It is that time of year again, gentle reader, when you have the chance to win a prize in the form of a bit of intellectual swag from yours truly, to thank you for reading this blog – but you only have until July 31st to enter!
You can submit your entries by going to the “Birthday Contest” tab at the top of this page, or on the home page for the site. You can also enter by following the jump to the contest entry form. Winners of The Courtier’s 3rd Birthday Contest will receive a copy of Count Baldassare Castiglione’s classic “Book of the Courtier”, which served as the inspiration for this blog. Entries must be received no later than midnight EST on Sunday, July 31, 2011.
This year I am inviting my readers to nominate a person or persons whom they regard to be a contemporary, living example of the ideal of “sprezzatura”, which Castiglione describes in the “Book of the Courtier” as a key characteristic of the ideal lady and gentleman. Castiglione coined the term, which he has one of his characters in the book, Count Ludovico da Canossa, define as follows:
I have found quite a universal rule which seems to me valid above all other, in all human affairs whether in word or deed: and that is to avoid affectation in every way possible, as though it were some rough and dangerous reef; and – to coin a new term, perhaps – to practice in all thing a certain “sprezzatura”, so as to conceal all artfulness, and make whatever is done or said appear to be without any effort and almost without any thought about it.
As we learn through the course of the book, Castiglione believes that the ideal gentleman or lady should try to be elegant, intelligent, and accomplished, a good citizen and upholder of traditional values, someone who is sophisticated and yet believes in the importance of piety, duty to country, and aiding the poor, and who achieves whatever level of success they have in life through a kind of cosmopolitan graciousness which they continually make an effort to improve upon – and does all of this without seeming to break a sweat, or without seeming desperate for fame and fortune.
So the question is: Whom do you feel, in our present day, has this quality of “sprezzatura” about them? How do they demonstrate Castiglione’s ideal? Perhaps there is a famous person in politics, the arts, sports, the sciences, etc., that springs to mind when you read Castiglione’s words about this ideal lady or gentleman. Or perhaps you have a relative or friend you admire, whom Castiglione might have been describing in his writing.
Castiglione would no doubt agree with me that it is important that we point out the example of such people. It is so very easy to trash the present-day, for there is so much trash in it. What we do not do often enough is to note our appreciation of those who have stayed out of the muck and mire of our contemporary ignorant, ill-mannered, poorly-dressed, moral relativist society, and managed to show us that civilization is not entirely dead – not yet, anyway.
The entry I like best will be selected for publication in the August 16, 2011 post on the Blog of the Courtier; it can be as short or lengthy an entry as you wish, but no less than 20 words and no more than 500 words maximum. Multiple entries are certainly permitted, but please nominate only one person per entry. Incomplete entries, or entries which do not have valid contact information, will not considered – since I will have to get in touch with you somehow about how to get you your prize if you win. Your contact details will be kept private, however, and your full name will not appear on the blog unless you give me express permission.
Again, all entries to the contest must be submitted before midnight EST on July 31, 2011, in order to be considered for the prize; I will announce the winner on Monday, August 1st, in order to have their prize arrive prior to the publication of the winning entry.
Good luck, and thank you for your continued readership!