What is the meaning of measure of grace in that context below? I saw it in a movie called Amistad (1997), that scene starts at 00:32:10 in the movie.

You're quite the scholar, Mr. Joadson, aren't ya? Quite the historian. Let me tell you something about that quality if I might. Without an accompanying mastery of at least one-tenth its measure of grace, such erudition is worthless, sir.


2 Answers 2


Could it be that the speaker refers to the biblical:

The righteous man conceived nine words in his heart, and only the tenth will come to his lips (See Sirach 25:7).

Note: This is a more literal translation from the Greek text of the Septuagint. It might be different from what you will find in the available English translations.

It could be a metaphor to say that the measure of the skill you show should be a tenth of your whole "mastery".


It is worth noting that the movie "Amistad" (which I remember fondly) is set in the early nineteenth century, and the scene in question is one of formal and sarcastic speech. This means that the usage is rather different than it would be in a more modern setting.

By "measure of grace" the speaker here refers to elegance. But in that time "grace" also had routinely a Christian religious connotation, and that usage also colors the speech here. The speaker is saying that mere technical knowledge is pointless without more moral qualities -- I would need to rewatch the movie for fuller context to be more precise. I suspect the speaker is also implying that Joadson is not in fact as knowledgeable and learned as he purports to be, but I would need to check the context to be sure of that.

This is a case of using particularly polite forms to imply a negative message. This was a style much more common when the film is set than it is now.

  • So it means leap of faith kinda.I mean sometimes you have to think outside of science.
    – Ghost
    Dec 15, 2020 at 17:48
  • I must admit I can't easily "parse" the text myself. I'm guessing that "it" (the thing that has a "measure of grace") refers back to "that quality", which itself seems to refer back to the "attribute" of being a scholar / historian. But I can't get my head around why there should be some (established, known) "level of elegance" associated with being a scholar, nor can I see why it makes sense to require that a scholar's "level of elegance" should be at least 1/10th his "level of erudition" for his scholarship to have any value. I suspect it's just fancy words that don't really make sense. Dec 15, 2020 at 17:52
  • No @Ghost I don't think the usage here is at all similar to "leap of faith" or has anything to do with being "outside science". It is saying that knowing ":what" is pointless without knowing "why" . And again, fuller context would help here. I remember the film, but not this particular scene. Dec 15, 2020 at 17:53

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