A refined simplicity is the characteristic of all high bred deportment, in every country, and a considerate humanity should be the aim of all beneath it.

It seems to mean "All the high bred! They have a refined simplicity! Anywhere in the world. And all the lesser beings! Be kind!"

  • 1
    Bred is the past participle form of breed. Breeding is an old-fashioned term for "polite behavior, especially behavior that is thought to be connected with the type of family that you come from". The last part of the sentence simply means that if you don't have the quality called "breeding" (in the old-fashioned sense), you should aim at something simpler, which is called "manners". – Damkerng T. May 4 '14 at 15:33
  • @DamkerngT. Exactly! Post it! ... Here, 151-2, is the source, to fill up your answer. – StoneyB on hiatus May 4 '14 at 15:58
  • @StoneyB Thank you for the suggestion, but I believe that you are much better than me at explaining "On American Deportment". I can only understand the text, but you can give the OP even more (than just the literal meaning). – Damkerng T. May 4 '14 at 16:08
  • @DamkerngT. No, no - you were there first, and anyway I dislike reading Cooper. – StoneyB on hiatus May 4 '14 at 16:16
  • @user4550 I have a title, but StoneyB does not. – StoneyB on hiatus May 4 '14 at 17:14

It's bad writing.

What Cooper is trying to say is that

  • The deportment (behavior) of the 'highly bred' (meaning people who are raised in luxury and learn elegant behavior from their youth) is marked by 'a refined simplicity'.

  • Those born to a less elevated station should aim to achieve'a considerate humanity' (meaning 'consideration for others as human beings') in their deportment.

That is, ordinary people should not mimic the behavior of the rich, which can only be carried off by people 'bred' to it, but should content themselves with being decent human beings.

By way of analogy, replace 'deportment' with 'language': "Only those who have read and spoken the Standard Language from birth can master all the subtleties of a language; speakers of non-standard dialects and other languages should aim at clarity and precision." There's some truth in it, but it's a very condescending and ethnocentric attitude.

  • He didn't say it's bad writing. Rather, he said that it's condescending and ethnocentric. In other words, it suffers from the prejudices of his time (which are still alive in our time, although in a bit more subtle form). One of the most famous examples of this sort of prejudice is Kipling's The White Man's Burden, which shows the attitude in a very obvious fashion. – BobRodes May 4 '14 at 18:55
  • @username901345 Because it is bad writing. What is 'a refined simplicity'? What was it before it was 'refined'? What is the 'considerate humanity' we who have smaller fortunes than Cooper should aim at? Does he possibly mean 'consideration for humanity'? Or a 'humane consideration'? And what is 'it' that which 'all' are below? ... If you don't believe me, ask another writer, Mark Twain, who not only was famous but still is. – StoneyB on hiatus May 4 '14 at 18:57
  • @BobRodes No; I said in my first sentence that it's bad writing, and I stand by that. It has nothing to do with Cooper's class-centered condescension, which he is actually making an effort to overcome. – StoneyB on hiatus May 4 '14 at 18:58
  • Ok, well, now he did say it's bad writing. LOL But my comment still stands. Stoney, I'm not convinced that Cooper has failed to well express the prejudices which he sees as reality. – BobRodes May 4 '14 at 18:59
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    Yes, Twain's lack of respect for Cooper's writing is well known, and his ability to support any point that he cared to make is equally so. Nevertheless, I personally don't find the OP's sentence to be an example of bad writing, misguided though the sentiments expressed in it may be. As for the questions you raise, an ngram check shows that they were both common enough terms during Cooper's time; presumably they had some common currency of meaning then that they may not have now. – BobRodes May 4 '14 at 19:52

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