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The following excerpt is taken from American Heritage April,1963

When the late summons came from the Blackstone suite, Hauling, dishevelled and discouraged, had long since lost faith in Daugherty’s brash prophecy. Harvey was waiting for him behind his heavy tortoise-shell glasses. “We think you may be nominated tomorrow,” he told the stunned Harding with the urbanity of an undertaker. “Before acting finally, we think you should tell us, on your conscience and before God, whether there is anything that might be brought against you that woidd embarrass the party, any impediment that might disqualify you or make you inexpedient either as candidate or as President.” Harding asked for a little time to think it over alone. Ten minutes later he came back to say that there was no impediment.

According to Dictionary.com, 'urbanity' means 'the quality of being urbane; refined courtesy or politeness; suavity' and an 'undertaker' refers to a 'funeral director'. Still I am uncertain of the link between the 'urbanity' and an 'undertaker'. Any ideas?

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    As a profession, undertakers are polite and courteous. They try to console their customers, not aggravate them.
    – Drew
    Jun 27 '17 at 22:29
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    Basically, Harvey is asking Harding what skeletons he has in his closet. He's asking him to tell all the secrets one would normally take to the grave. So he's trying to do it as delicately as possible -- with the urbanity of an undertaker. Imagine your loved one has just died and you've just had the funeral and the undertaker, who needs to feed his family, has to ask you for payment for the funeral services. He has to be delicate and polite. Harvey had to be the same way if Harding was really going to come clean. Jun 27 '17 at 22:52
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    A phrase similar to "the X of a Y" is often used to characterize some sort of behavior/appearance of exemplar Y, where the specific characteristic would be of category X. For instance, one might refer to "the patience of a small child", suggesting that very little patience was being exhibited. Or, "the speed of a cheetah", suggesting very quick afoot.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 28 '17 at 2:08
  • Although there is undoubtedly a stereotype of the cloyingly polite and emotive undertaker, I think it is a modern stereotype. I don't think this is the image that the author's metaphorical undertaker was meant to bring forth. I think irony is intended, and that the undertaker of 1963 would be cool, grave, stiff, and deadpan in the delivery of his announcement. Inscrutable is a synonym that comes to mind. Urbanity is associated with warmth, undertakers aren't.
    – Phil Sweet
    Oct 16 '17 at 21:57
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    @PhilSweet - My first close dealings with an undertaker were in 1976, and I was quite impressed with how thoughtful, tactful, and even-tempered he was. Neither cloying nor inscrutable.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 16 '17 at 22:29
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I think @Drew's comment answers this pretty well.

An undertaker or funeral director is, and must be, in his or her professional capacity, polite, courteous, sensitive, delicate, considerate, and certainly suave (OED definition of "suave": "Of a person, their manner: blandly polite," "soothingly agreeable") -- in other words, urbane. So, in the passage, Harvey is speaking as urbanely (as politely, suavely, etc.) as an undertaker.

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