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Letters to His Son, 1748 by The Earl of Chesterfield

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them that island, upon condition of their defending his island of Sicily
against the Turks, which they effectually did. L'Abbe de Vertot has
written the history of Malta, but it is the least valuable of all his
works; and moreover, too long for you to read. But there is a short
history, of all the military orders whatsoever, which I would advise you
to get, as there is also of all the religious orders; both which. are
worth your having and consulting, whenever you meet with any of them in
your way; as, you will very frequently in Catholic countries. For my own
part, I find that I remember things much better, when I recur, to my
books for them, upon some particular occasion, than by reading them 'tout
de suite'. As, for example, if I were to read the history of all the
military or religious orders, regularly one after another, the latter
puts the former out of my head; but when I read the history of any one,
upon account, of its having been the object of conversation or dispute,
I remember it much better. It is the same in geography, where, looking
for any particular place in the map, upon some particular account, fixes
it in one's memory forever. I hope you have worn out your maps by
frequent, use of that sort. Adieu.


In the ages of ignorance, which is always the mother of superstition, it
was thought not only just, but meritorious, to propagate religion by fire
and sword, and to, take away, the, lives and properties of unbelievers.
This enthusiasm produced the several crusades, in the 11th, 12th, and
following centuries, the object of which was, to recover the Holy Land
out of, the hands of the Infidels, who, by the way, were the lawful
possessors. Many honest enthusiasts engaged in those crusades, from a
mistaken principle of religion, and from the pardons granted by the Popes
for all the sins of those pious adventurers; but many more knaves adopted
these holy wars, in hopes of conquest and plunder. After Godfrey of
Bouillon, at the head of these knaves and fools, had taken Jerusalem, in
the year 1099, Christians of various nations remained in that city; among
the rest, one good honest German, that took particular care of his
countrymen who came thither in pilgrimages. He built a house for their
reception, and an hospital dedicated to the Virgin. This little
establishment soon became a great one, by the enthusiasm of many
considerable people who engaged in it, in order to drive the Saracens out
of the Holy Land. This society then began to take its first form; and
its members were called Marian Teutonic Knights. Marian, from their
chapel sacred to the Virgin Mary; Teutonic, from the German, or Teuton,
who was the author of it, and Knights from the wars which they were to
carry on against the Infidels.

These knights behaved themselves so bravely, at first; that Duke
Frederick of Swabia, who was general of the German army in the Holy Land,
sent, in the year 1191, to the Emperor Henry VI. and Pope Celestine III.
to desire that this brave and charitable fraternity might be incorporated
into a regular order of knighthood; which was accordingly done, and rules
and a particular habit were given them. Forty knights, all of noble
families, were at first created by the King of Jerusalem and other
princes then in the army. The first grand master of this order was Henry
Wallpot, of a noble family upon the Rhine. This order soon began to
operate in Europe; drove all the Pagans out of Prussia, and took
possession of it. Soon after, they got Livonia and Courland, and invaded
even Russia, where they introduced the Christian religion. In 1510, they
elected Albert, Marquis of Bradenburg, for their grand master, who,
turning Protestant, soon afterward took Prussia from the order, and kept
it for himself, with the consent of Sigismund, King of Poland, of whom it
was to hold. He then quitted his grand mastership and made himself
hereditary Duke of that country, which is thence called Ducal Prussia.
This order now consists of twelve provinces; viz., Alsatia, Austria,
Coblentz, and Etsch, which are the four under the Prussian jurisdiction;
Franconia, Hesse, Biessen, Westphalia, Lorraine, Thuringia, Saxony, and
Utrecht, which eight are of the German jurisdiction. The Dutch now
possess all that the order had in Utrecht. Every one of the provinces
have their particular Commanderies; and the most ancient of these
Commandeurs is called the Commandeur Provincial. These twelve
Commandeurs are all subordinate to the Grand Master of Germany as their
chief, and have the right of electing the grand master. The elector of
Cologne is at present 'Grand Maitre'.

This order, founded by mistaken Christian zeal, upon the anti-Christian
principles of violence and persecution, soon grew strong by the weakness
and ignorance of the time; acquired unjustly great possessions, of which
they justly lost the greatest part by their ambition and cruelty, which
made them feared and hated by all their neighbors.

I have this moment received your letter of the 4th, N. S., and have only
time to tell you that I can by no means agree to your cutting off your
hair. I am very sure that your headaches cannot proceed from thence.
And as for the pimples upon your head, they are only owing to the heat of
the season, and consequently will not last long. But your own hair is,
at your age, such an ornament, and a wig, however well made, such a
disguise, that I will upon no account whatsoever have you cut off your
hair. Nature did not give it to you for nothing, still less to cause you
the headache. Mr. Eliot's hair grew so ill and bushy, that he was in the
right to cut it off. But you have not the same reason.


LONDON, August 23, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: Your friend, Mr. Eliot, has dined with me twice since I
returned here, and I can say with truth that while I had the seals,
I never examined or sifted a state prisoner with so much care and
curiosity as I did him. Nay, I did more; for, contrary to the laws of
this country, I gave him in some manner, the QUESTION ordinary and
extraordinary; and I have infinite pleasure in telling you that the rack
which I put him to, did not extort from him one single word that was not
such as I wished to hear of you. I heartily congratulate you upon such
an advantageous testimony, from so creditable a witness. 'Laudati a
laudato viro', is one of the greatest pleasures and honors a rational
being can have; may you long continue to deserve it! Your aversion to
drinking and your dislike to gaming, which Mr. Eliot assures me are both
very strong, give me, the greatest joy imaginable, for your sake: as the
former would ruin both your constitution and understanding, and the
latter your fortune and character. Mr. Harte wrote me word some time
ago, and Mr. Eliot confirms it now, that you employ your pin money in a
very different manner, from that in which pin money is commonly lavished:
not in gew-gaws and baubles, but in buying good and useful books. This
is an excellent symptom, and gives me very good hopes. Go on thus, my
dear boy, but for these next two years, and I ask no more. You must then
make such a figure and such a fortune in the world as I wish you, and as
I have taken all these pains to enable you to do. After that time I
allow you to be as idle as ever you please; because I am sure that you
will not then please to be so at all. The ignorant and the weak are only
idle; but those who have once acquired a good stock of knowledge, always
desire to increase it. Knowledge is like power in this respect, that
those who have the most, are most desirous of having more. It does not
clog, by possession, but increases desire; which is the case of very few

Upon receiving this congratulatory letter, and reading your own praises,
I am sure that it must naturally occur to you, how great a share of them
you owe to Mr. Harte's care and attention; and, consequently, that your
regard and affection for him must increase, if there be room for it, in
proportion as you reap, which you do daily, the fruits of his labors.

I must not, however, conceal from you that there was one article in which
your own witness, Mr. Eliot, faltered; for, upon my questioning him home
as to your manner of speaking, he could not say that your utterance was
either distinct or graceful. I have already said so much to you upon
this point that I can add nothing. I will therefore only repeat this
truth, which is, that if you will not speak distinctly and graceful,
nobody will desire to hear you. I am glad to learn that Abbe Mably's
'Droit Public de l'Europe' makes a part of your evening amusements. It
is a very useful book, and gives a clear deduction of the affairs of
Europe, from the treaty of Munster to this time. Pray read it with
attention, and with the proper maps; always recurring to them for the
several countries or towns yielded, taken, or restored. Pyre Bougeant's
third volume will give you the best idea of the treaty of Munster, and
open to you the several views of the belligerent' and contracting
parties, and there never were greater than at that time. The House of
Austria, in the war immediately preceding that treaty, intended to make
itself absolute in the empire, and to overthrow the rights of the
respective states of it. The view of France was to weaken and dismember
the House of Austria to such a degree, as that it should no longer be a
counterbalance to that of Bourbon. Sweden wanted possessions on the
continent of Germany, not only to supply the necessities of its own poor
and barren country, but likewise to hold the balance in the empire
between the House of Austria and the States. The House of Brandenburg
wanted to aggrandize itself by pilfering in the fire; changed sides
occasionally, and made a good bargain at last; for I think it got, at the
peace, nine or ten bishoprics secularized. So that we may date, from the
treaty of Munster, the decline of the House of Austria, the great power
of the House of Bourbon, and the aggrandizement of that of Bradenburg:
which, I am much mistaken, if it stops where it is now.

Make my compliments to Lord Pulteney, to whom I would have you be not
only attentive, but useful, by setting him (in case he wants it) a good
example of application and temperance. I begin to believe that, as I
shall be proud of you, others will be proud too of imitating you: Those
expectations of mine seem now so well grounded, that my disappointment,
and consequently my anger, will be so much the greater if they fail; but
as things stand now, I am most affectionately and tenderly, Yours.


LONDON, August 30, O. S. 1748

DEAR BOY: Your reflections upon the conduct of France, from the treaty of
Munster to this time, are very just; and I am very glad to find, by them,
that you not only read, but that you think and reflect upon what you
read. Many great readers load their memories, without exercising their
judgments; and make lumber-rooms of their heads instead of furnishing
them usefully; facts are heaped upon facts without order or distinction,
and may justly be said to compose that

'-----Rudis indigestaque moles
Quem dixere chaos'.

Go on, then, in the way of reading that you are in; take nothing for
granted, upon the bare authority of the author; but weigh and consider,
in your own mind, the probability of the facts and the justness of the
reflections. Consult different authors upon the same facts, and form
your opinion upon the greater or lesser degree of probability arising
from the whole, which, in my mind, is the utmost stretch of historical
faith; certainty (I fear) not being to be found. When a historian
pretends to give you the causes and motives of events, compare those
causes and motives with the characters and interests of the parties
concerned, and judge for yourself whether they correspond or not.
Consider whether you cannot assign others more probable; and in that
examination, do not despise some very mean and trifling causes of the
actions of great men; for so various and inconsistent is human nature,
so strong and changeable are our passions, so fluctuating are our wills,
and so much are our minds influenced by the accidents of our bodies that
every man is more the man of the day, than a regular consequential
character. The best have something bad, and something little; the worst
have something good, and sometimes something great; for I do not believe
what Velleius Paterculus (for the sake of saying a pretty thing) says of
Scipio, 'Qui nihil non laudandum aut fecit, aut dixit, aut sensit'. As
for the reflections of historians, with which they think it necessary to
interlard their histories, or at least to conclude their chapters (and
which, in the French histories, are always introduced with a 'tant il est
vrai', and in the English, SO TRUE IT IS), do not adopt them implicitly
upon the credit of the author, but analyze them yourself, and judge
whether they are true or not.

But to return to the politics of France, from which I have digressed.
You have certainly made one further reflection, of an advantage which
France has, over and above its abilities in the cabinet and the skill of
its negotiators, which is (if I may use the expression) its SOLENESS,
continuity of riches and power within itself, and the nature of its
government. Near twenty millions of people, and the ordinary revenue of
above thirteen millions sterling a year, are at the absolute disposal of
the Crown. This is what no other power in Europe can say; so that
different powers must now unite to make a balance against France; which
union, though formed upon the principle of their common interest, can
never be so intimate as to compose a machine so compact and simple as
that of one great kingdom, directed by one will, and moved by one
interest. The Allied Powers (as we have constantly seen) have, besides
the common and declared object of their alliance, some separate and
concealed view to which they often sacrifice the general one; which makes
them, either directly or indirectly, pull different ways. Thus, the
design upon Toulon failed in the year 1706, only from the secret view of
the House of Austria upon Naples: which made the Court of Vienna,
notwithstanding the representations of the other allies to the contrary,
send to Naples the 12,000 men that would have done the business at
Toulon. In this last war too, the same causes had the same effects: the
Queen of Hungary in secret thought of nothing but recovering of Silesia,
and what she had lost in Italy; and, therefore, never sent half that
quota which she promised, and we paid for, into Flanders; but left that
country to the maritime powers to defend as they could. The King of
Sardinia's real object was Savona and all the Riviera di Ponente; for
which reason he concurred so lamely in the invasion of Provence, where
the Queen of Hungary, likewise, did not send one-third of the force
stipulated, engrossed as she was by her oblique views upon the plunder of
Genoa, and the recovery of Naples. Insomuch that the expedition into
Provence, which would have distressed France to the greatest degree, and
have caused a great detachment from their army in Flanders, failed
shamefully, for want of every one thing necessary for its success.
Suppose, therefore, any four or five powers who, all together, shall be
equal, or even a little superior, in riches and strength to that one
power against which they are united; the advantage will still be greatly
on the side of that single power, because it is but one. The power and
riches of Charles V. were, in themselves, certainly superior to those of
Frances I., and yet, upon the whole, he was not an overmatch for him.
Charles V.'s dominions, great as they were, were scattered and remote
from each other; their constitutions different; wherever he did not
reside, disturbances arose; whereas the compactness of France made up the
difference in the strength. This obvious reflection convinced me of the
absurdity of the treaty of Hanover, in 1725, between France and England,
to which the Dutch afterward acceded; for it was made upon the
apprehensions, either real or pretended, that the marriage of Don Carlos
with the eldest archduchess, now Queen of Hungary, was settled in the
treaty of Vienna, of the same year, between Spain and the late Emperor
Charles VI., which marriage, those consummate politicians said would
revive in Europe the exorbitant power of Charles V. I am sure, I
heartily wish it had; as, in that case, there had been, what there
certainly is not now, one power in Europe to counterbalance that of
France; and then the maritime powers would, in reality, have held the
balance of Europe in their hands. Even supposing that the Austrian power
would then have been an overmatch for that of France (which, by the way,
is not clear), the weight of the maritime powers, then thrown into the
scale of France, would infallibly have made the balance at least even.
In which case too, the moderate efforts of the maritime powers on the
side of France would have been sufficient; whereas now, they are obliged
to exhaust and beggar themselves; and that too ineffectually, in hopes to
support the shattered; beggared, and insufficient House of Austria.

This has been a long political dissertation; but I am informed that
political subjects are your favorite ones; which I am glad of,
considering your destination. You do well to get your materials all
ready, before you begin your work. As you buy and (I am told) read books
of this kind, I will point out two or three for your purchase and
perusal; I am not sure that I have not mentioned them before, but that is
no matter, if you have not got them. 'Memoires pour servir a l'Histoire
du 17ieme Siecle', is a most useful book for you to recur to for all the
facts and chronology of that country: it is in four volumes octavo, and
very correct and exact. If I do not mistake, I have formerly recommended
to you, 'Les Memoires du Cardinal de Retz'; however, if you have not yet
read them, pray do, and with the attention which they deserve. You will
there find the best account of a very interesting period of the minority
of Lewis XIV. The characters are drawn short, but in a strong and
masterly manner; and the political reflections are the only just and
practical ones that I ever saw in print: they are well worth your
transcribing. 'Le Commerce des Anciens, par Monsieur Huet. Eveque
d'Avranche', in one little volume octavo, is worth your perusal, as
commerce is a very considerable part of political knowledge. I need not,
I am sure, suggest to you, when you read the course of commerce, either
of the ancients or of the moderns, to follow it upon your map; for there
is no other way of remembering geography correctly, but by looking
perpetually in the map for the places one reads of, even though one knows
before, pretty near, where they are.

Adieu! As all the accounts which I receive of you grow better and better,
so I grow more and more affectionately, Yours.


LONDON, September 5, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: I have received yours, with the inclosed German letter to Mr.
Gravenkop, which he assures me is extremely well written, considering the
little time that you have applied yourself to that language. As you have
now got over the most difficult part, pray go on diligently, and make
yourself absolutely master of the rest. Whoever does not entirely
possess a language, will never appear to advantage, or even equal to
himself, either in speaking or writing it. His ideas are fettered, and
seem imperfect or confused, if he is not master of all the words and
phrases necessary to express them. I therefore desire, that you will not
fail writing a German letter once every fortnight to Mr. Gravenkop; which
will make the writing of that language familiar to you; and moreover,
when you shall have left Germany and be arrived at Turin, I shall require
you to write even to me in German; that you may not forget with ease what
you have with difficulty learned. I likewise desire, that while you are
in Germany, you will take all opportunities of conversing in German,
which is the only way of knowing that, or any other language, accurately.
You will also desire your German master to teach you the proper titles
and superscriptions to be used to people of all ranks; which is a point
so material, in Germany, that I have known many a letter returned
unopened, because one title in twenty has been omitted in the direction.

St. Thomas's day now draws near, when you are to leave Saxony and go to
Berlin; and I take it for granted, that if anything is yet wanting to
complete your knowledge of the state of that electorate, you will not
fail to procure it before you go away. I do not mean, as you will easily
believe, the number of churches, parishes, or towns; but I mean the
constitution, the revenues, the troops, and the trade of that electorate.
A few questions, sensibly asked, of sensible people, will produce you the
necessary informations; which I desire you will enter in your little
book, Berlin will be entirely a new scene to you, and I look upon it, in
a manner, as your first step into the great world; take care that step be
not a false one, and that you do not stumble at the threshold. You will
there be in more company than you have yet been; manners and attentions
will therefore be more necessary. Pleasing in company is the only way of
being pleased in it yourself. Sense and knowledge are the first and
necessary foundations for pleasing in company; but they will by no means
do alone, and they will never be perfectly welcome if they are not
accompanied with manners and attentions. You will best acquire these by
frequenting the companies of people of fashion; but then you must resolve
to acquire them, in those companies, by proper care and observation; for
I have known people, who, though they have frequented good company all
their lifetime, have done it in so inattentive and unobserving a manner,
as to be never the better for it, and to remain as disagreeable, as
awkward, and as vulgar, as if they had never seen any person of fashion.
When you go into good company (by good company is meant the people of the
first fashion of the place) observe carefully their turn, their manners,
their address; and conform your own to them. But this is not all
neither; go deeper still; observe their characters, and pray, as far as
you can, into both their hearts and their heads. Seek for their
particular merit, their predominant passion, or their prevailing
weakness; and you will then know what to bait your hook with to catch
them. Man is a composition of so many, and such various ingredients,
that it requires both time and care to analyze him: for though we have
all the same ingredients in our general composition, as reason, will,
passions, and appetites; yet the different proportions and combinations
of them in each individual, produce that infinite variety of characters,
which, in some particular or other, distinguishes every individual from
another. Reason ought to direct the whole, but seldom does. And he who
addresses himself singly to another man's reason, without endeavoring to
engage his heart in his interest also, is no more likely to succeed, than
a man who should apply only to a king's nominal minister, and neglect his
favorite. I will recommend to your attentive perusal, now that you are
going into the world, two books, which will let you as much into the
characters of men, as books can do. I mean, 'Les Reflections Morales de
Monsieur de la Rochefoucault, and Les Caracteres de la Bruyere': but
remember, at the same time, that I only recommend them to you as the best
general maps to assist you in your journey, and not as marking out every
particular turning and winding that you will meet with. There your own
sagacity and observation must come to their aid. La Rochefoucault, is,
I know, blamed, but I think without reason, for deriving all our actions
from the source of self-love. For my own part, I see a great deal of
truth, and no harm at all, in that opinion. It is certain that we seek
our own happiness in everything we do; and it is as certain, that we can
only find it in doing well, and in conforming all our, actions to the
rule of right reason, which is the great law of nature. It is only a
mistaken self-love that is a blamable motive, when we take the immediate
and indiscriminate gratification of a passion, or appetite, for real
happiness. But am I blamable if I do a good action, upon account of the
happiness which that honest consciousness will give me? Surely not.
On the contrary, that pleasing consciousness is a proof of my virtue.
The reflection which is the most censured in Monsieur de la
Rochefoucault's book as a very ill-natured one, is this, 'On trouve dans
le malheur de son meilleur ami, quelque chose qui ne des plait pas'. And
why not? Why may I not feel a very tender and real concern for the
misfortune of my friend, and yet at the same time feel a pleasing
consciousness at having discharged my duty to him, by comforting and
assisting him to the utmost of my power in that misfortune? Give me but
virtuous actions, and I will not quibble and chicane about the motives.
And I will give anybody their choice of these two truths, which amount to
the same thing: He who loves himself best is the honestest man; or, The
honestest man loves himself best.

The characters of La Bruyere are pictures from the life; most of them
finely drawn, and highly colored. Furnish your mind with them first, and
when you meet with their likeness, as you will every day, they will
strike you the more. You will compare every feature with the original;
and both will reciprocally help you to discover the beauties and the

As women are a considerable, or, at least a pretty numerous part of
company; and as their suffrages go a great way toward establishing a
man's character in the fashionable part of the world (which is of great
importance to the fortune and figure he proposes to make in it), it is
necessary to please them. I will therefore, upon this subject, let you
into certain Arcana that will be very useful for you to know, but which
you must, with the utmost care, conceal and never seem to know. Women,
then, are only children of a larger growth; they have an entertaining
tattle, and sometimes wit; but for solid reasoning, good sense, I never
knew in my life one that had it, or who reasoned or acted consequentially
for four-and-twenty hours together. Some little passion or humor always
breaks upon their best resolutions. Their beauty neglected or
controverted, their age increased, or their supposed understandings
depreciated, instantly kindles their little passions, and overturns any
system of consequential conduct, that in their most reasonable moments
they might have been capable of forming. A man of sense only trifles
with them, plays with them, humors and flatters them, as he does with a
sprightly forward child; but he neither consults them about, nor trusts
them with serious matters; though he often makes them believe that he
does both; which is the thing in the world that they are proud of; for
they love mightily to be dabbling in business (which by the way they
always spoil); and being justly distrustful that men in general look upon
them in a trifling light, they almost adore that man who talks more
seriously to them, and who seems to consult and trust them; I say, who
seems; for weak men really do, but wise ones only seem to do it. No
flattery is either too high or too low for them. They will greedily
swallow the highest, and gratefully accept of the lowest; and you may
safely flatter any woman from her understanding down to the exquisite
taste of her fan. Women who are either indisputably beautiful, or
indisputably ugly, are best flattered, upon the score of their
understandings; but those who are in a state of mediocrity, are best
flattered upon their beauty, or at least their graces; for every woman
who is not absolutely ugly thinks herself handsome; but not hearing often
that she is so, is the more grateful and the more obliged to the few who
tell her so; whereas a decided and conscious beauty looks upon every
tribute paid to her beauty only as her due; but wants to shine, and to be
considered on the side of her understanding; and a woman who is ugly
enough to know that she is so, knows that she has nothing left for it but
her understanding, which is consequently and probably (in more senses
than one) her weak side. But these are secrets which you must keep
inviolably, if you would not, like Orpheus, be torn to pieces by the
whole sex; on the contrary, a man who thinks of living in the great
world, must be gallant, polite, and attentive to please the women. They
have, from the weakness of men, more or less influence in all courts;
they absolutely stamp every man's character in the beau monde, and make
it either current, or cry it down, and stop it in payments. It is,
therefore; absolutely necessary to manage, please, and flatter them and
never to discover the least marks of contempt, which is what they never
forgive; but in this they are not singular, for it is the same with men;
who will much sooner forgive an injustice than an insult. Every man is
not ambitious, or courteous, or passionate; but every man has pride
enough in his composition to feel and resent the least slight and
contempt. Remember, therefore, most carefully to conceal your contempt,
however just, wherever you would riot make an implacable enemy. Men are
much more unwilling to have their weaknesses and their imperfections
known than their crimes; and if you hint to a man that you think him
silly, ignorant, or even ill-bred, or awkward, he will hate you more and
longer, than if you tell him plainly, that you think him a rogue. Never
yield to that temptation, which to most young men is very strong; of
exposing other people's weaknesses and infirmities, for the sake either
of diverting the company, or showing your own superiority. You may get
the laugh on your side by it for the present; but you will make enemies
by it forever; and even those who laugh with you then, will, upon
reflection, fear; and consequently hate you; besides that it is ill-
natured, and a good heart desires rather to conceal than expose other
people's weaknesses or misfortunes. If you have wit, use it to please,
and not to hurt: you may shine, like the sun in the temperate zones,
without scorching. Here it is wished for; under the Line it is dreaded.

These are some of the hints which my long experience in the great world
enables me to give you; and which, if you attend to them, may prove
useful to you in your journey through it. I wish it may be a prosperous
one; at least, I am sure that it must be your own fault if it is not.

Make my compliments to Mr. Harte, who, I am very sorry to hear, is not
well. I hope by this time he is recovered. Adieu!


LONDON, September 13, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: I have more than once recommended to you the "Memoirs" of the
Cardinal de Retz, and to attend particularly to the political reflections
interspersed in that excellent work. I will now preach a little upon two
or three of those texts.

In the disturbances at Paris, Monsieur de Beaufort, who was a very
popular, though a very weak man, was the Cardinal's tool with the

Proud of his popularity, he was always for assembling the people of Paris
together, thinking that he made a great figure at the head of them. The
Cardinal, who was factious enough, was wise enough at the same time to
avoid gathering the people together, except when there was occasion, and
when he had something particular for them to do. However, he could not
always check Monsieur de Beaufort; who having assembled them once very
unnecessarily, and without any determined object, they ran riot, would
not be kept within bounds by their leaders, and did their cause a great
deal of harm: upon which the Cardinal observes most judiciously, 'Que
Monsieur de Beaufort me savoit pas, que qui assemble le peuple, l'emeut'.
It is certain, that great numbers of people met together, animate each
other, and will do something, either good or bad, but oftener bad; and
the respective individuals, who were separately very quiet, when met
together in numbers, grow tumultuous as a body, and ripe for any mischief
that may be pointed out to them by the leaders; and, if their leaders
have no business for them, they will find some for themselves. The
demagogues, or leaders of popular factions, should therefore be very
careful not to assemble the people unnecessarily, and without a settled
and well-considered object. Besides that, by making those popular
assemblies too frequent, they make them likewise too familiar, and
consequently less respected by their enemies. Observe any meetings of
people, and you will always find their eagerness and impetuosity rise or
fall in proportion to their numbers: when the numbers are very great, all
sense and reason seem to subside, and one sudden frenzy to seize on all,
even the coolest of them.

Another very just observation of the Cardinal's is, That, the things
which happen in our own times, and which we see ourselves, do not
surprise us near so much as the things which we read of in times past,
though not in the least more extraordinary; and adds, that he is
persuaded that when Caligula made his horse a Consul, the people of Rome,
at that time, were not greatly surprised at it, having necessarily been
in some degree prepared for it, by an insensible gradation of
extravagances from the same quarter. This is so true that we read every
day, with astonishment, things which we see every day without surprise.
We wonder at the intrepidity of a Leonidas, a Codrus, and a Curtius; and
are not the least surprised to hear of a sea-captain, who has blown up
his ship, his crew, and himself, that they might not fall into the hands
of the enemies of his country. I cannot help reading of Porsenna and
Regulus, with surprise and reverence, and yet I remember that I saw,
without either, the execution of Shepherd,--[James Shepherd, a coach-
painter's apprentice, was executed at Tyburn for high treason, March 17,
1718, in the reign of George I.]--a boy of eighteen years old, who
intended to shoot the late king, and who would have been pardoned, if he
would have expressed the least sorrow for his intended crime; but, on the
contrary, he declared that if he was pardoned he would attempt it again;
that he thought it a duty which he owed to his country, and that he died
with pleasure for having endeavored to perform it. Reason equals
Shepherd to Regulus; but prejudice, and the recency of the fact, make
Shepherd a common malefactor and Regulus a hero.

Examine carefully, and reconsider all your notions of things; analyze
them, and discover their component parts, and see if habit and prejudice
are not the principal ones; weigh the matter upon which you are to form
your opinion, in the equal and impartial scales of reason. It is not to
be conceived how many people, capable of reasoning, if they would, live
and die in a thousand errors, from laziness; they will rather adopt the
prejudices of others, than give themselves the trouble of forming
opinions of their own. They say things, at first, because other people
have said them, and then they persist in them, because they have said
them themselves.

The last observation that I shall now mention of the Cardinal's is, "That
a secret is more easily kept by a good many people, than one commonly
imagines." By this he means a secret of importance, among people
interested in the keeping of it. And it is certain that people of
business know the importance of secrecy, and will observe it, where they
are concerned in the event. To go and tell any friend, wife, or
mistress, any secret with which they have nothing to do, is discovering
to them such an unretentive weakness, as must convince them that you will
tell it to twenty others, and consequently that they may reveal it
without the risk of being discovered. But a secret properly communicated
only to those who are to be concerned in the thing in question, will
probably be kept by them though they should be a good many. Little
secrets are commonly told again, but great ones are generally kept.


LONDON, September 20, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: I wait with impatience for your accurate history of the
'Chevaliers Forte Epees', which you promised me in your last, and which
I take to be the forerunner of a larger work that you intend to give the
public, containing a general account of all the religious and military
orders of Europe. Seriously, you will do well to have a general notion
of all those orders, ancient and modern; both as they are frequently the
subjects of conversation, and as they are more or less interwoven with
the histories of those times. Witness the Teutonic Order, which, as soon
as it gained strength, began its unjust depredations in Germany, and
acquired such considerable possessions there; and the Order of Malta
also, which continues to this day its piracies upon the Infidels.
Besides one can go into no company in Germany, without running against
Monsieur le Chevalier, or Monsieur le Commandeur de l' Ordre Teutonique.
It is the same in all the other parts of Europe with regard to the Order
of Malta, where you never go into company without meeting two or three
Chevaliers or Commandeurs, who talk of their 'Preuves', their 'Langues',
their 'Caravanes', etc., of all which things I am sure you would not
willingly be ignorant. On the other hand, I do not mean that you should
have a profound and minute knowledge of these matters, which are of a
nature that a general knowledge of them is fully sufficient. I would not
recommend you to read Abbe Vertot's "History of the Order of Malta," in
four quarto volumes; that would be employing a great deal of good time
very ill. But I would have you know the foundations, the objects, the
INSIGNIA, and the short general history of them all.

As for the ancient religious military orders, which were chiefly founded
in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, such as Malta, the Teutonic, the
Knights Templars, etc., the injustice and the wickedness of those
establishments cannot, I am sure, have escaped your observation. Their
pious object was, to take away by force other people's property, and to
massacre the proprietors themselves if they refused to give up that
property, and adopt the opinions of these invaders. What right or
pretense had these confederated Christians of Europe to the Holy Land?
Let them produce their grant of it in the Bible. Will they say, that the
Saracens had possessed themselves of it by force, and that, consequently,
they had the same right? Is it lawful then to steal goods because they
were stolen before? Surely not. The truth is, that the wickedness of
many, and the weakness of more, in those ages of ignorance and
superstition, concurred to form those flagitious conspiracies against the
lives and properties of unoffending people. The Pope sanctified the
villany, and annexed the pardon of sins to the perpetration of it. This
gave rise to the Crusaders, and carried such swarms of people from Europe
to the conquests of the Holy Land. Peter the Hermit, an active and
ambitious priest, by his indefatigable pains, was the immediate author of
the first crusade; kings, princes, all professions and characters united,
from different motives, in this great undertaking, as every sentiment,
except true religion and morality, invited to it. The ambitious hoped
for kingdoms; the greedy and the necessitous for plunder; and some were
enthusiasts enough to hope for salvation, by the destruction of a
considerable number of their fellow creatures, who had done them no
injury. I cannot omit, upon this occasion, telling you that the Eastern
emperors at Constantinople (who, as Christians, were obliged at least to
seem to favor these expeditions), seeing the immense numbers of the
'Croisez', and fearing that the Western Empire might have some mind to
the Eastern Empire too, if it succeeded against the Infidels, as
'l'appetit vient en mangeant'; these Eastern emperors, very honestly,
poisoned the waters where the 'Croisez' were to pass, and so destroyed
infinite numbers of them.

The later orders of knighthood, such as the Garter in England; the
Elephant in Denmark; the Golden Fleece in Burgundy; the St. Esprit, St.
Michel, St. Louis, and St. Lazare, in France etc., are of a very
different nature and were either the invitations to, or the rewards of;
brave actions in fair war; and are now rather the decorations of the
favor of the prince, than the proofs of the merit of the subject.
However, they are worth your inquiries to a certain degree, and
conversation will give you frequent opportunities for them. Wherever you
are, I would advise you to inquire into the respective orders of that
country, and to write down a short account of them. For example, while
you are in Saxony, get an account of l'Aigle Blanc and of what other
orders there may be, either Polish or Saxon; and, when you shall be at
Berlin, inform yourself of three orders, l'Aigle Noir, la Generosite et
le Vrai Merite, which are the only ones that I know of there. But
whenever you meet with straggling ribands and stars, as you will with a
thousand in Germany, do not fail to inquire what they are, and to take a
minute of them in your memorandum book; for it is a sort of knowledge
that costs little to acquire, and yet it is of some use. Young people
have frequently an incuriousness about them, arising either from
laziness, or a contempt of the object, which deprives them of several
such little parts of knowledge, that they afterward wish they had
acquired. If you will put conversation to profit, great knowledge may be
gained by it; and is it not better (since it is full as easy) to turn it
upon useful than upon useless subjects? People always talk best upon
what they know most, and it is both pleasing them and improving one's
self, to put them upon that subject. With people of a particular
profession, or of a distinguished eminency in any branch of learning,
one is not at a loss; but with those, whether men or women, who properly
constitute what is called the beau monde, one must not choose deep
subjects, nor hope to get any knowledge above that of orders, ranks,
families, and court anecdotes; which are therefore the proper (and not
altogether useless) subjects of that kind of conversation. Women,
especially, are to be talked to as below men and above children. If you
talk to them too deep, you only confound them, and lose your own labor;
if you talk to them too frivolously, they perceive and resent the
contempt. The proper tone for them is, what the French call the
'Entregent', and is, in truth, the polite jargon of good company. Thus,
if you are a good chemist, you may extract something out of everything.

A propos of the beau monde, I must again and again recommend the Graces
to you: There is no doing without them in that world; and, to make a good
figure in that world, is a great step toward making one in the world of
business, particularly that part of it for which you are destined. An
ungraceful manner of speaking, awkward motions, and a disagreeable
address, are great clogs to the ablest man of business, as the opposite
qualifications are of infinite advantage to him. I am told there is a
very good dancing-master at Leipsig. I would have you dance a minuet
very well, not so much for the sake of the minuet itself (though that, if
danced at all, ought to be danced, well), as that it will give you a
habitual genteel carriage and manner of presenting yourself.

Since I am upon little things, I must mention another, which, though
little enough in itself, yet as it occurs at, least once in every day,
deserves some attention; I mean Carving. Do you use yourself to carve
ADROITLY and genteelly, without hacking half an hour across a bone;
without bespattering the company with the sauce; and without overturning
the glasses into your neighbor's pockets? These awkwardnesses are
extremely disagreeable; and, if often repeated, bring ridicule. They are
very easily avoided by a little attention and use.

How trifling soever these things may seem, or really be in themselves,
they are no longer so when above half the world thinks them otherwise.
And, as I would have you 'omnibus ornatum--excellere rebus', I think
nothing above or below my pointing out to you, or your excelling in.
You have the means of doing it, and time before you to make use of them.
Take my word for it, I ask nothing now but what you will, twenty years
hence, most heartily wish that you had done. Attention to all these
things, for the next two or three years, will save you infinite trouble
and endless regrets hereafter. May you, in the whole course of your
life, have no reason for any one just regret! Adieu.

Your Dresden china is arrived, and I have sent it to your Mamma.


LONDON, September 27, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: I have received your Latin "Lecture upon War," which though it
is not exactly the same Latin that Caesar, Cicero, Horace, Virgil, and
Ovid spoke, is, however, as good Latin as the erudite Germans speak or
write. I have always observed that the most learned people, that is,
those who have read the most Latin, write the worst; and that
distinguishes the Latin of gentleman scholar from that of a pedant.
A gentleman has, probably, read no other Latin than that of the Augustan
age; and therefore can write no other, whereas the pedant has read much
more bad Latin than good, and consequently writes so too. He looks upon
the best classical books, as books for school-boys, and consequently
below him; but pores over fragments of obscure authors, treasures up the
obsolete words which he meets with there, and uses them upon all
occasions to show his reading at the expense of his judgment. Plautus is
his favorite author, not for the sake of the wit and the vis comica of
his comedies, but upon account of the many obsolete words, and the cant
of low characters, which are to be met with nowhere else. He will rather
use 'olli' than 'illi', 'optume' than 'optima', and any bad word rather
than any good one, provided he can but prove, that strictly speaking, it
is Latin; that is, that it was written by a Roman. By this rule, I might
now write to you in the language of Chaucer or Spenser, and assert that I
wrote English, because it was English in their days; but I should be a
most affected puppy if I did so, and you would not understand three words
of my letter. All these, and such like affected peculiarities, are the
characteristics of learned coxcombs and pedants, and are carefully
avoided by all men of sense.

I dipped accidentally, the other day, into Pitiscus's preface to his
"Lexicon," where I found a word that puzzled me, and which I did not
remember ever to have met with before. It is the adverb 'praefiscine',
which means, IN A GOOD HOUR; an expression which, by the superstition of
it, appears to be low and vulgar. I looked for it: and at last I found
that it is once or twice made use of in Plautus, upon the strength of
which this learned pedant thrusts it into his preface. Whenever you
write Latin, remember that every word or phrase which you make use of,
but cannot find in Caesar, Cicero, Livy, Horace, Virgil; and Ovid, is
bad, illiberal Latin, though it may have been written by a Roman.

I must now say something as to the matter of the "Lecture," in which I
confess there is one doctrine laid down that surprises me: It is this,
'Quum vero hostis sit lenta citave morte omnia dira nobis minitans
quocunque bellantibus negotium est; parum sane interfuerit quo modo eum
obruere et interficere satagamus, si ferociam exuere cunctetur. Ergo
veneno quoque uti fas est', etc., whereas I cannot conceive that the use
of poison can, upon any account, come within the lawful means of self-
defense. Force may, without doubt, be justly repelled by force, but not
by treachery and fraud; for I do not call the stratagems of war, such as
ambuscades, masked batteries, false attacks, etc., frauds or treachery:
They are mutually to be expected and guarded against; but poisoned
arrows, poisoned waters, or poison administered to your enemy (which can
only be done by treachery), I have always heard, read, and thought, to be
unlawful and infamous means of defense, be your danger ever so great: But
'si ferociam exuere cunctetur'; must I rather die than poison this enemy?
Yes, certainly, much rather die than do a base or criminal action; nor
can I be sure, beforehand, that this enemy may not, in the last moment,
'ferociam exuere'. But the public lawyers, now, seem to me rather to
warp the law, in order to authorize, than to check, those unlawful
proceedings of princes and states; which, by being become common, appear
less criminal, though custom can never alter the nature of good and ill.

Pray let no quibbles of lawyers, no refinements of casuists, break into
the plain notions of right and wrong, which every man's right reason and
plain common sense suggest to him. To do as you would be done by, is the
plain, sure, and undisputed rule of morality and justice. Stick to that;
and be convinced that whatever breaks into it, in any degree, however
speciously it may be turned, and however puzzling it may be to answer it,
is, notwithstanding, false in itself, unjust, and criminal. I do not
know a crime in the world, which is not by the casuists among the Jesuits
(especially the twenty-four collected, I think, by Escobar) allowed, in
some, or many cases, not to be criminal. The principles first laid down
by them are often specious, the reasonings plausible, but the conclusion
always a lie: for it is contrary, to that evident and undeniable rule of
justice which I have mentioned above, of not doing to anyone what you
would not have him do to you. But, however, these refined pieces of
casuistry and sophistry, being very convenient and welcome to people's
passions and appetites, they gladly accept the indulgence, without
desiring to detect the fallacy or the reasoning: and indeed many, I might
say most people, are not able to do it; which makes the publication of
such quibblings and refinements the more pernicious. I am no skillful
casuist nor subtle disputant; and yet I would undertake to justify and
qualify the profession of a highwayman, step by step, and so plausibly,
as to make many ignorant people embrace the profession, as an innocent,
if not even a laudable one; and puzzle people of some degree of
knowledge, to answer me point by point. I have seen a book, entitled
'Quidlibet ex Quolibet', or the art of making anything out of anything;
which is not so difficult as it would seem, if once one quits certain
plain truths, obvious in gross to every understanding, in order to run
after the ingenious refinements of warm imaginations and speculative
reasonings. Doctor Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, a very worthy, ingenious,
and learned man, has written a book, to prove that there is no such thing
as matter, and that nothing exists but in idea: that you and I only fancy
ourselves eating, drinking, and sleeping; you at Leipsig, and I at
London: that we think we have flesh and blood, legs, arms, etc., but that
we are only spirit. His arguments are, strictly speaking, unanswerable;
but yet I am so far from being convinced by them, that I am determined to
go on to eat and drink, and walk and ride, in order to keep that MATTER,
which I so mistakenly imagine my body at present to consist of, in as
good plight as possible. Common sense (which, in truth, very uncommon)
is the best sense I know of: abide by it, it will counsel you best. Read
and hear, for your amusement, ingenious systems, nice questions subtilly
agitated, with all the refinements that warm imaginations suggest; but
consider them only as exercitations for the mind, and turn always to
settle with common sense.

I stumbled, the other day, at a bookseller's, upon "Comte Gabalis,"
in two very little volumes, which I had formerly read. I read it over
again, and with fresh astonishment. Most of the extravagances are taken
from the Jewish Rabbins, who broached those wild notions, and delivered
them in the unintelligible jargon which the Caballists and Rosicrucians
deal in to this day. Their number is, I believe, much lessened, but
there are still some; and I myself have known two; who studied and firmly
believed in that mystical nonsense. What extravagancy is not man capable
of entertaining, when once his shackled reason is led in triumph by fancy
and prejudice! The ancient alchemists give very much into this stuff,
by which they thought they should discover the philosopher's stone;
and some of the most celebrated empirics employed it in the pursuit of
the universal medicine. Paracelsus, a bold empiric and wild Caballist,
asserted that he had discovered it, and called it his 'Alkahest'.
Why or wherefore, God knows; only that those madmen call nothing by an
intelligible name. You may easily get this book from The Hague: read it,
for it will both divert and astonish you, and at the same time teach you
'nil admirari'; a very necessary lesson.

Your letters, except when upon a given subject, are exceedingly laconic,
and neither answer my desires nor the purpose of letters; which should be
familiar conversations, between absent friends. As I desire to live with
you upon the footing of an intimate friend, and not of a parent, I could
wish that your letters gave me more particular accounts of yourself,
and of your lesser transactions. When you write to me, suppose yourself
conversing freely with me by the fireside. In that case, you would
naturally mention the incidents of the day; as where you had been, who
you had seen, what you thought of them, etc. Do this in your letters:
acquaint me sometimes with your studies, sometimes with your diversions;
tell me of any new persons and characters that you meet with in company,
and add your own observations upon them: in short, let me see more of you
in your letters. How do you go on with Lord Pulteney, and how does he go
on at Leipsig? Has he learning, has he parts, has he application? Is he
good or ill-natured? In short, What is he? at least, what do you think
him? You may tell me without reserve, for I promise you secrecy.
You are now of an age that I am desirous to begin a confidential
correspondence with you; and as I shall, on my part, write you very
freely my opinion upon men and things, which I should often be very
unwilling that anybody but you and Mr. Harte should see, so, on your
part, if you write me without reserve, you may depend upon my inviolable
secrecy. If you have ever looked into the "Letters" of Madame de Sevigne
to her daughter, Madame de Grignan, you must have observed the ease,
freedom, and friendship of that correspondence; and yet, I hope and I
believe, that they did not love one another better than we do. Tell me
what books you are now reading, either by way of study or amusement; how
you pass your evenings when at home, and where you pass them when abroad.
I know that you go sometimes to Madame Valentin's assembly; What do you
do there? Do you play, or sup, or is it only 'la belle conversation?'
Do you mind your dancing while your dancing-master is with you? As you
will be often under the necessity of dancing a minuet, I would have you
dance it very well. Remember, that the graceful motion of the arms, the
giving your hand, and the putting on and pulling off your hat genteelly,
are the material parts of a gentleman's dancing. But the greatest
advantage of dancing well is, that it necessarily teaches you to present
yourself, to sit, stand, and walk, genteelly; all of which are of real
importance to a man of fashion.

I should wish that you were polished before you go to Berlin; where, as
you will be in a great deal of good company, I would have you have the
right manners for it. It is a very considerable article to have 'le ton
de la bonne compagnie', in your destination particularly. The principal
business of a foreign minister is, to get into the secrets, and to know
all 'les allures' of the courts at which he resides; this he can never
bring about but by such a pleasing address, such engaging manners, and
such an insinuating behavior, as may make him sought for, and in some
measure domestic, in the best company and the best families of the place.
He will then, indeed, be well informed of all that passes, either by the
confidences made him, or by the carelessness of people in his company,
who are accustomed to look upon him as one of them, and consequently are
not upon their guard before him. For a minister who only goes to the
court he resides at, in form, to ask an audience of the prince or the
minister upon his last instructions, puts them upon their guard, and will
never know anything more than what they have a mind that he should know.
Here women may be put to some use. A king's mistress, or a minister's
wife or mistress, may give great and useful informations; and are very
apt to do it, being proud to show that they have been trusted. But then,
in this case, the height of that sort of address, which, strikes women,
is requisite; I mean that easy politeness, genteel and graceful address,
and that 'exterieur brilliant' which they cannot withstand. There is a
sort of men so like women, that they are to be taken just in the same
way; I mean those who are commonly called FINE MEN; who swarm at all
courts; who have little reflection, and less knowledge; but, who by their
good breeding, and 'train-tran' of the world, are admitted into all
companies; and, by the imprudence or carelessness of their superiors,
pick up secrets worth knowing, which are easily got out of them by proper
address. Adieu.


BATH, October 12, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: I came here three days ago upon account of a disorder in my
stomach, which affected my head and gave me vertigo. I already find
myself something better; and consequently do not doubt but that the
course of these waters will set me quite right. But however and wherever
I am, your welfare, your character, your knowledge, and your morals,
employ my thoughts more than anything that can happen to me, or that I
can fear or hope for myself. I am going off the stage, you are coming
upon it; with me what has been, has been, and reflection now would come
too late; with you everything is to come, even, in some manner,
reflection itself; so that this is the very time when my reflections,
the result of experience, may be of use to you, by supplying the want of
yours. As soon as you leave Leipsig, you will gradually be going into
the great world; where the first impressions that you shall give of
yourself will be of great importance to you; but those which you shall
receive will be decisive, for they always stick. To keep good company,
especially at your first setting out, is the way to receive good
impressions. If you ask me what I mean by good company, I will confess
to you that it is pretty difficult to define; but I will endeavor to make
you understand it as well as I can.

Good company is not what respective sets of company are pleased either to
call or think themselves, but it is that company which all the people of
the place call, and acknowledge to be, good company, notwithstanding some
objections which they may form to some of the individuals who compose it.
It consists chiefly (but by no means without exception) of people of
considerable birth, rank, and character; for people of neither birth nor
rank are frequently, and very justly admitted into it, if distinguished
by any peculiar merit, or eminency in any liberal art or science. Nay,
so motly a thing is good company, that many people, without birth, rank,
or merit, intrude into it by their own forwardness, and others slide into
it by the protection of some considerable person; and some even of
indifferent characters and morals make part of it. But in the main, the
good part preponderates, and people of infamous and blasted characters
are never admitted. In this fashionable good company, the best manners
and the best language of the place are most unquestionably to be learned;
for they establish and give the tone to both, which are therefore called
the language and manners of good company: there being no legal tribunal
to ascertain either.

A company, consisting wholly of people of the first quality, cannot, for
that reason, be called good company, in the common acceptation of the
phrase, unless they are, into the bargain, the fashionable and accredited
company of the place; for people of the very first quality can be as
silly, as ill-bred, and as worthless, as people of the meanest degree.
On the other hand, a company consisting entirely of people of very low
condition, whatever their merit or parts may be, can never be called good
company; and consequently should not be much frequented, though by no
means despised.

A company wholly composed of men of learning, though greatly to be valued
and respected, is not meant by the words GOOD COMPANY; they cannot have
the easy manners and, 'tournure' of the world, as they do not live in it.
If you can bear your part well in such a company, it is extremely right
to be in it sometimes, and you will be but more esteemed in other
companies, for having a place in that. But then do not let it engross
you; for if you do, you will be only considered as one of the 'literati'
by profession; which is not the way either, to shine, or rise in the

The company of professed wits and pests is extremely inviting to most
young men; who if they have wit themselves, are pleased with it, and if
they have none, are sillily proud of being one of it: but it should be
frequented with moderation and judgment, and you should by no means give
yourself up to it. A wit is a very unpopular denomination, as it carries
terror along with it; and people in general are as much afraid of a live
wit, in company, as a woman is of a gun, which she thinks may go off of
itself, and do her a mischief. Their acquaintance is, however, worth
seeking, and their company worth frequenting; but not exclusively of
others, nor to such a degree as to be considered only as one of that
particular set.

But the company, which of all others you should most carefully avoid, is
that low company, which, in every sense of the word, is low indeed; low
in rank, low in parts, low in manners, and low in merit. You will,
perhaps, be surprised that I should think it necessary to warn you
against such company, but yet I do not think it wholly, unnecessary,
from the many instances which I have seen of men of sense and rank,
discredited, verified, and undone, by keeping such company.

Vanity, that source of many of our follies, and of some of our crimes,
has sunk many a man into company, in every light infinitely, below
himself, for the sake of being the first man in it. There he dictates,
is applauded, admired; and, for the sake of being the Coryphceus of that
wretched chorus, disgraces and disqualifies himself soon for any better
company. Depend upon it, you will sink or rise to the level of the
company which you commonly keep: people will judge of you, and not
unreasonably, by that. There is good sense in the Spanish saying, "Tell
me whom you live with, and I will tell you who you are." Make it
therefore your business, wherever you are, to get into that company which
everybody in the place allows to be the best company next to their own;
which is the best definition that I can give you of good company. But
here, too, one caution is very necessary, for want of which many young
men have been ruined, even in good company.

Good company (as I have before observed) is composed of a great variety
of fashionable people, whose characters and morals are very different,
though their manners are pretty much the same. When a young man, new in
the world, first gets into that company, he very rightly determines to
conform to, and imitate it. But then he too often, and fatally, mistakes
the objects of his imitation. He has often heard that absurd term of
genteel and fashionable vices. He there sees some people who shine, and
who in general are admired and esteemed; and observes that these people
are whoremasters, drunkards, or gamesters, upon which he adopts their
vices, mistaking their defects for their perfections, and thinking that
they owe their fashions and their luster to those genteel vices.
Whereas it is exactly the reverse; for these people have acquired their
reputation by their parts, their learning, their good-breeding, and other
real accomplishments: and are only blemished and lowered, in the opinions
of all reasonable people, and of their own, in time, by these genteel and
fashionable vices. A whoremaster, in a flux, or without a nose, is a
very genteel person, indeed, and well worthy of imitation. A drunkard,
vomiting up at night the wine of the day, and stupefied by the headache
all the next, is, doubtless, a fine model to copy from. And a gamester,
tearing his hair, and blaspheming, for having lost more than he had in
the world, is surely a most amiable character. No; these are alloys, and
great ones too, which can never adorn any character, but will always
debase the best. To prove this, suppose any man, without parts and some
other good qualities, to be merely a whoremaster, a drunkard, or a
gamester; how will he be looked upon by all sorts of people? Why, as a
most contemptible and vicious animal. Therefore it is plain, that in
these mixed characters, the good part only makes people forgive, but not
approve, the bad.

I will hope and believe that you will have no vices; but if,
unfortunately, you should have any, at least I beg of you to be content
with your own, and to adopt no other body's.

The adoption of vice has, I am convinced, ruined ten times more young men
than natural inclinations.

As I make no difficulty of confessing my past errors, where I think the
confession may be of use to you, I will own that when I first went to the
university, I drank and smoked, notwithstanding the aversion I had to
wine and tobacco, only because I thought it genteel, and that it made me
look like a man. When I went abroad, I first went to The Hague, where
gaming was much in fashion, and where I observed that many people of
shining rank and character gamed too. I was then young enough, and silly
enough, to believe that gaming was one of their accomplishments; and, as
I aimed at perfection, I adopted gaming as a necessary step to it. Thus
I acquired by error the habit of a vice which, far from adorning my
character, has, I am conscious, been a great blemish in it.

Imitate then, with discernment and judgment, the real perfections of the
good company into which you may get; copy their politeness, their
carriage, their address, and the easy and well-bred turn of their
conversation; but remember that, let them shine ever so bright, their
vices, if they have any, are so many spots which you would no more
imitate, than you would make an artificial wart upon your face, because
some very handsome man had the misfortune to have a natural one upon his:
but, on the contrary, think how much handsomer he would have been without

Having thus confessed some of my 'egaremens', I will now show you a
little of my right side. I always endeavored to get into the best
company wherever I was, and commonly succeeded. There I pleased to some
degree by showing a desire to please. I took care never to be absent or
'distrait'; but on the contrary, attended to everything that was said,
done, or even looked, in company; I never failed in the minutest
attentions and was never 'journalier'. These things, and not my
'egaremens', made me fashionable. Adieu! This letter is full long


BATH, October 19, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: Having in my last pointed out what sort of company you should
keep, I will now give you some rules for your conduct in it; rules which
my own experience and observation enable me to lay down, and communicate
to you, with some degree of confidence. I have often given you hints of
this kind before, but then it has been by snatches; I will now be more
regular and methodical. I shall say nothing with regard to your bodily
carriage and address, but leave them to the care of your dancing-master,
and to your own attention to the best models; remember, however, that
they are of consequence.

Talk often, but never long: in that case, if you do not please, at least
you are sure not to tire your hearers. Pay your own reckoning, but do
not treat the whole company; this being one of the very few cases in
which people do not care to be treated, everyone being fully convinced
that he has wherewithal to pay.

Tell stories very seldom, and absolutely never but where they are very
apt and very short. Omit every circumstance that is not material, and
beware of digressions. To have frequent recourse to narrative betrays
great want of imagination.

Never hold anybody by the button or the hand, in order to be heard out;
for, if people are not willing to hear you, you had much better hold your
tongue than them.

Most long talkers single out some one unfortunate man in company
(commonly him whom they observe to be the most silent, or their next
neighbor) to whisper, or at least in a half voice, to convey a continuity
of words to. This is excessively ill-bred, and in some degree a fraud;
conversation-stock being a joint and common property. But, on the other
hand, if one of these unmerciful talkers lays hold of you, hear him with
patience (and at least seeming attention), if he is worth obliging; for
nothing will oblige him more than a patient hearing, as nothing would
hurt him more than either to leave him in the midst of his discourse, or
to discover your impatience under your affliction.

Take, rather than give, the tone of the company you are in. If you have
parts, you will show them, more or less, upon every subject; and if you
have not, you had better talk sillily upon a subject of other people's
than of your own choosing.

Avoid as much as you can, in mixed companies, argumentative, polemical
conversations; which, though they should not, yet certainly do, indispose
for a time the contending parties toward each other; and, if the
controversy grows warm and noisy, endeavor to put an end to it by some
genteel levity or joke. I quieted such a conversation-hubbub once, by
representing to them that, though I was persuaded none there present
would repeat, out of company, what passed in it, yet I could not answer
for the discretion of the passengers in the street, who must necessarily
hear all that was said.

Above all things, and upon all occasions, avoid speaking of yourself, if
it be possible. Such is the natural pride and vanity of our hearts, that
it perpetually breaks out, even in people of the best parts, in all the
various modes and figures of the egotism.

Some, abruptly, speak advantageously of themselves, without either
pretense or provocation. They are impudent. Others proceed more
artfully, as they imagine; and forge accusations against themselves,
complain of calumnies which they never heard, in order to justify
themselves, by exhibiting a catalogue of their many virtues. They
acknowledge it may, indeed, seem odd that they should talk in that manner
of themselves; it is what they do not like, and what they never would
have done; no; no tortures should ever have forced it from them, if they
had, not been thus unjustly and monstrously accused. But, in these
cases; justice is surely due to one's self, as well as to others; and
when our character is attacked, we may say in our own justification, what
otherwise we never would have said. This thin veil of Modesty drawn
before Vanity, is much too transparent to conceal it, even from very
moderate discernment.

Others go more modestly and more slyly still (as they think) to work; but
in my mind still more ridiculously. They confess themselves (not without
some degree of shame and confusion) into all the Cardinal Virtues, by
first degrading them into weaknesses and then owning their misfortune in
being made up of those weaknesses. They cannot see people suffer without
sympathizing with, and endeavoring to help them. They cannot see people
want, without relieving them, though truly their own circumstances cannot
very well afford it. They cannot help speaking truth, though they know
all the imprudence of it. In short, they know that, with all these
weaknesses, they are not fit to live in the world, much less to thrive in
it. But they are now too old to change, and must rub on as well as they
can. This sounds too ridiculous and 'outre', almost, for the stage; and
yet, take my word for it, you will frequently meet with it upon the
common stage of the world. And here I will observe, by the bye, that you
will often meet with characters in nature so extravagant, that a discreet
dramatist would not venture to set them upon the stage in their true and
high coloring.

This principle of vanity and pride is so strong in human nature that it
descends even to the lowest objects; and one often sees people angling
for praise, where, admitting all they say to be true (which, by the way,
it seldom is), no just praise is to be caught. One man affirms that he
has rode post an hundred miles in six hours; probably it is a lie: but
supposing it to be true, what then? Why he is a very good post-boy, that
is all. Another asserts, and probably not without oaths, that he has
drunk six or eight bottles of wine at a sitting; out of charity, I will
believe him a liar; for, if I do not, I must think him a beast.

Such, and a thousand more, are the follies and extravagances, which
vanity draws people into, and which always defeat their own purpose; and
as Waller says, upon another subject,--

"Make the wretch the most despised,
Where most he wishes to be prized."

The only sure way of avoiding these evils, is never to speak of yourself
at all. But when, historically, you are obliged to mention yourself,
take care not to drop one single word that can directly or indirectly be
construed as fishing for applause. Be your character what it will, it
will be known; and nobody will take it upon your own word. Never imagine
that anything you can say yourself will varnish your defects, or add
lustre to your perfections! but, on the contrary, it may, and nine times
in ten, will, make the former more glaring and the latter obscure. If
you are silent upon your own subject, neither envy, indignation, nor
ridicule, will obstruct or allay the applause which you may really
deserve; but if you publish your own panegyric upon any occasion, or in
any shape whatsoever, and however artfully dressed or disguised, they
will all conspire against you, and you will be disappointed of the very
end you aim at.

Take care never to seem dark and mysterious; which is not only a very
unamiable character, but a very suspicious one too; if you seem
mysterious with others, they will be really so with you, and you will
know nothing. The height of abilities is to have 'volto sciolto' and
'pensieri stretti'; that is, a frank, open, and ingenuous exterior, with
a prudent interior; to be upon your own guard, and yet, by a seeming
natural openness, to put people off theirs. Depend upon it nine in ten
of every company you are in will avail themselves of every indiscreet and
unguarded expression of yours, if they can turn it to their own
advantage. A prudent reserve is therefore as necessary as a seeming
openness is prudent. Always look people in the face when you speak to
them: the not doing it is thought to imply conscious guilt; besides that
you lose the advantage of serving by their countenances what impression
your discourse makes upon them. In order to know people's real
sentiments, I trust much more to my eyes than to my ears: for they can
say whatever they have a mind I should hear; but they can seldom help
looking, what they have no intention that I should know.

Neither retail nor receive scandal willingly; defamation of others may
for the present gratify the malignity of the pride of our hearts; cool
reflection will draw very disadvantageous conclusions from such a
disposition; and in the case of scandal, as in that of robbery, the
receiver is always thought, as bad as the thief.

Mimicry, which is the common and favorite amusement of little low minds,
is in the utmost contempt with great ones. It is the lowest and most
illiberal of all buffoonery. Pray, neither practice it yourself, nor
applaud it in others. Besides that the person mimicked is insulted; and,
as I have often observed to you before, an insult is never forgiven.

I need not (I believe) advise you to adapt your conversation to the
people you are conversing with: for I suppose you would not, without this
caution, have talked upon the same subject, and in the same manner, to a
minister of state, a bishop, a philosopher, a captain, and a woman.
A man of the world must, like the chameleon, be able to take every
different hue; which is by no means a criminal or abject, but a necessary
complaisance; for it relates only to manners and not to morals.

One word only as to swearing, and that, I hope and believe, is more than
is necessary. You may sometimes hear some people in good company
interlard their discourse with oaths, by way of embellishment, as they
think, but you must observe, too, that those who do so are never those
who contribute, in any degree, to give that company the denomination of
good company. They are always subalterns, or people of low education;
for that practice, besides that it has no one temptation to plead, is as
silly and as illiberal as it is wicked.

Loud laughter is the mirth of the mob, who are only pleased with silly
things; for true wit or good sense never excited a laugh since the
creation of the world. A man of parts and fashion is therefore only seen
to smile; but never heard to laugh.

But to conclude this long letter; all the above-mentioned rules, however
carefully you may observe them, will lose half their effect, if
unaccompanied by the Graces. Whatever you say, if you say it with a
supercilious, cynical face, or an embarrassed countenance, or a silly,
disconcerted grin, will be ill received. If, into the bargain, YOU
worse received. If your air and address are vulgar, awkward, and gauche,
you may be esteemed indeed, if you have great intrinsic merit; but you
will never, please; and without pleasing you will rise but heavily.
Venus, among the ancients, was synonymous with the Graces, who were
always supposed to accompany her; and Horace tells us that even Youth and
Mercury, the god of Arts and Eloquence, would not do without her:

'Parum comis sine to Juventas Mercuriusque.'

They are not inexorable Ladies, and may be had if properly, and
diligently pursued. Adieu.


BATH, October 29, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: My anxiety for your success increases in proportion as the time
approaches of your taking your part upon the great stage of the world.
The audience will form their opinion of you upon your first appearance
(making the proper allowance for your inexperience), and so far it will
be final, that, though it may vary as to the degrees, it will never
totally change. This consideration excites that restless attention with
which I am constantly examining how I can best contribute to the
perfection of that character, in which the least spot or blemish would
give me more real concern, than I am now capable of feeling upon any
other account whatsoever.

I have long since done mentioning your great religious and moral duties,
because I could not make your understanding so bad a compliment as to
suppose that you wanted, or could receive, any new instructions upon
those two important points. Mr. Harte, I am sure, has not neglected
them; and, besides, they are so obvious to common sense and reason,
that commentators may (as they often do) perplex, but cannot make them
clearer. My province, therefore, is to supply by my experience your
hitherto inevitable inexperience in the ways of the world. People at
your age are in a state of natural ebriety; and want rails, and
'gardefous', wherever they go, to hinder them from breaking their necks.
This drunkenness of youth is not only tolerated, but even pleases, if
kept within certain bounds of discretion and decency. These bounds are
the point which it is difficult for the drunken man himself to find out;
and there it is that the experience of a friend may not only serve, but
save him.

Carry with you, and welcome, into company all the gaiety and spirits, but
as little of the giddiness, of youth as you can. The former will charm;
but the latter will often, though innocently, implacably offend. Inform
yourself of the characters and situations of the company, before you give
way to what your imagination may prompt you to say. There are, in all
companies, more wrong beads than right ones, and many more who deserve,
than who like censure. Should you therefore expatiate in the praise of
some virtue, which some in company notoriously want; or declaim against
any vice, which others are notoriously infected with, your reflections,
however general and unapplied, will, by being applicable, be thought
personal and leveled at those people. This consideration points out to
you, sufficiently, not to be suspicious and captious yourself, nor to
suppose that things, because they may be, are therefore meant at you.
The manners of well-bred people secure one from those indirect and mean
attacks; but if, by chance, a flippant woman or a pert coxcomb lets off
anything of that kind, it is much better not to seem to understand, than
to reply to it.

Cautiously avoid talking of either your own or other people's domestic
affairs. Yours are nothing to them but tedious; theirs are nothing to
you. The subject is a tender one: and it is odds but that you touch
somebody or other's sore place: for, in this case, there is no trusting
to specious appearances; which may be, and often are, so contrary to the
real situations of things, between men and their wives, parents and their
children, seeming friends, etc., that, with the best intentions in the
world, one often blunders disagreeably.

Remember that the wit, humor, and jokes, of most mixed companies are
local. They thrive in that particular soil, but will not often bear
transplanting. Every company is differently circumstanced, has its
particular cant and jargon; which may give occasion to wit and mirth
within that circle, but would seem flat and insipid in any other, and
therefore will not bear repeating. Nothing makes a man look sillier than
a pleasantry not relished or not understood; and if he meets with a
profound silence when he expected a general applause, or, what is worse,
if he is desired to explain the bon mot, his awkward and embarrassed
situation is easier imagined' than described. 'A propos' of repeating;
take great care never to repeat (I do not mean here the pleasantries) in
one company what you hear in another. Things, seemingly indifferent,
may, by circulation, have much graver consequences than you would
imagine. Besides, there is a general tacit trust in conversation, by
which a man is obliged not to report anything out of it, though he is not
immediately enjoined to secrecy. A retailer of this kind is sure to draw
himself into a thousand scrapes and discussions, and to be shyly and
uncomfortably received wherever he goes.

You will find, in most good company, some people who only keep their
place there by a contemptible title enough; these are what we call VERY
GOOD-NATURED FELLOWS, and the French, 'bons diables'. The truth is, they
are people without any parts or fancy, and who, having no will of their
own, readily assent to, concur in, and applaud, whatever is said or done
in the company; and adopt, with the same alacrity, the most virtuous or
the most criminal, the wisest or the silliest scheme, that happens to be
entertained by the majority of the company. This foolish, and often
criminal complaisance flows from a foolish cause,--the want of any other
merit. I hope that you will hold your place in company by a nobler
tenure, and that you will hold it (you can bear a quibble, I believe,
yet) 'in capite'. Have a will and an opinion of your own, and adhere to
them steadily; but then do it with good humor, good-breeding, and (if you
have it) with urbanity; for you have not yet heard enough either to
preach or censure.

All other kinds of complaisance are not only blameless, but necessary in
good company. Not to seem to perceive the little weaknesses, and the
idle but innocent affectations of the company, but even to flatter them,
in a certain manner, is not only very allowable, but, in truth, a sort of
polite duty. They will be pleased with you, if you do; and will
certainly not be reformed by you if you do not.

For instance: you will find, in every group of company, two principal
figures, viz., the fine lady and the fine gentleman who absolutely give
the law of wit, language, fashion, and taste, to the rest of that
society. There is always a strict, and often for the time being, a
tender alliance between these two figures. The lady looks upon her
empire as founded upon the divine right of beauty (and full as good a
divine right it is as any king, emperor, or pope, can pretend to); she
requires, and commonly meets with, unlimited passive obedience. And why
should she not meet with it? Her demands go no higher than to have her
unquestioned preeminence in beauty, wit, and fashion, firmly established.
Few sovereigns (by the way) are so reasonable. The fine gentleman's
claims of right are, 'mutatis mutandis', the same; and though, indeed,
he is not always a wit 'de jure', yet, as he is the wit 'de facto' of
that company, he is entitled to a share of your allegiance, and everybody
expects at least as much as they are entitled to, if not something more.
Prudence bids you make your court to these joint sovereigns; and no duty,
that I know of, forbids it. Rebellion here is exceedingly dangerous, and
inevitably punished by banishment, and immediate forfeiture of all your
wit, manners, taste, and fashion; as, on the other hand, a cheerful
submission, not without some flattery, is sure to procure you a strong
recommendation and most effectual pass, throughout all their, and
probably the neighboring, dominions. With a moderate share of sagacity,
you will, before you have been half an hour in their company, easily
discover those two principal figures: both by the deference which you
will observe the whole company pay them, and by that easy, careless, and
serene air, which their consciousness of power gives them. As in this
case, so in all others, aim always at the highest; get always into the
highest company, and address yourself particularly to the highest in it.
The search after the unattainable philosopher's stone has occasioned a
thousand useful discoveries, which otherwise would never have been made.

What the French justly call 'les manieres nobles' are only to be acquired
in the very best companies. They are the distinguishing characteristics
of men of fashion: people of low education never wear them so close, but
that some part or other of the original vulgarism appears. 'Les manieres
nobles' equally forbid insolent contempt, or low envy and jealousy. Low
people, in good circumstances, fine clothes, and equipages, will
insolently show contempt for all those who cannot afford as fine clothes,
as good an equipage, and who have not (as their term is) as much money in
their pockets: on the other hand, they are gnawed with envy, and cannot
help discovering it, of those who surpass them in any of these articles;
which are far from being sure criterions of merit. They are likewise
jealous of being slighted; and, consequently, suspicious and captious;
they are eager and hot about trifles because trifles were, at first,
their affairs of consequence. 'Les manieres nobles' imply exactly the
reverse of all this. Study them early; you cannot make them too habitual
and familiar to you.

Just as I had written what goes before, I received your letter of the
24th, N. S., but I have not received that which you mention for Mr.
Harte. Yours is of the kind that I desire; for I want to see your
private picture, drawn by yourself, at different sittings; for though,
as it is drawn by yourself, I presume you will take the most advantageous
likeness, yet I think that I have skill enough in that kind of painting
to discover the true features, though ever so artfully colored, or thrown
into skillful lights and shades.

By your account of the German play, which I do not know whether I should
call tragedy or comedy, the only shining part of it (since I am in a way
of quibbling) seems to have been the fox's tail. I presume, too, that
the play has had the same fate with the squib, and has gone off no more.
I remember a squib much better applied, when it was made the device of
the colors of a French regiment of grenadiers; it was represented
bursting, with this motto under it: 'Peream dum luceam'.

I like the description of your PIC-NIC; where I take it for granted, that
your cards are only to break the formality of a circle, and your
SYMPOSION intended more to promote conversation than drinking. Such an
AMICABLE COLLISION, as Lord Shaftesbury very prettily calls it, rubs off
and smooths those rough corners which mere nature has given to the
smoothest of us. I hope some part, at least, of the conversation is in
German. 'A propos': tell me do you speak that language correctly, and do
you write it with ease? I have no doubt of your mastering the other
modern languages, which are much easier, and occur much oftener; for
which reason, I desire that you will apply most diligently to German,
while you are in Germany, that you may speak and write that language most

I expect to meet Mr. Eliot in London, in about three weeks, after which
you will soon see him at Leipsig. Adieu.


LONDON, November 18, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: Whatever I see or whatever I hear, my first consideration is,
whether it can in any way be useful to you. As a proof of this, I went
accidentally the other day into a print-shop, where, among many others,
I found one print from a famous design of Carlo Maratti, who died about
thirty years ago, and was the last eminent painter in Europe: the subject
is 'il Studio del Disegno'; or "The School of Drawing." An old man,
supposed to be the master, points to his scholars, who are variously
employed in perspective, geometry, and the observation of the statues of
antiquity. With regard to perspective, of which there are some little
specimens, he has wrote, 'Tanto che basti', that is, "As much as is
sufficient"; with regard to geometry, 'Tanto che basti' again; with
regard to the contemplation of the ancient statues, there is written,
'Non mai a bastanza',--"There never can be enough." But in the clouds,
at the top of the piece, are represented the three Graces, with this just
sentence written over them, 'Senza di noi ogni fatica e vana', that is,
"Without us, all labor is vain." This everybody allows to be true in
painting; but all people do not seem to consider, as I hope you will,
that this truth is full as applicable to every other art or science;
indeed to everything that is to be said or done. I will send you the
print itself by Mr. Eliot, when he returns; and I will advise you to
make the same use of it that the Roman Catholics say they do of the
pictures and images of their saints, which is, only to remind them of
those; for the adoration they disclaim. Nay, I will go further, as the
transition from Popery to Paganism is short and easy, I will classically
end poetically advise you to invoke, and sacrifice to them every day, and
all the day. It must be owned, that the Graces do not seem to be natives
of Great Britain; and, I doubt, the best of us here have more of rough
than polished diamond.

Since barbarism drove them out of Greece and Rome, they seem to have
taken refuge in France, where their temples are numerous, and their
worship the established one. Examine yourself seriously, why such and
such people please and engage you, more than such and such others, of
equal merit; and you will always find that it is because the former have
the Graces and the latter not. I have known many a woman with an exact
shape, and a symmetrical assemblage of beautiful features, please nobody;
while others, with very moderate shapes and features, have charmed
everybody. Why? because Venus will not charm so much, without her
attendant Graces, as they will without her. Among men, how often have I
seen the most solid merit and knowledge neglected, unwelcome, or even
rejected, for want of them! While flimsy parts, little knowledge, and
less merit, introduced by the Graces, have been received, cherished, and
admired. Even virtue, which is moral beauty, wants some of its charms if
unaccompanied by them.

If you ask me how you shall acquire what neither you nor I can define or
ascertain, I can only answer, BY OBSERVATION. Form yourself, with regard
to others, upon what you feel pleases you in them. I can tell you the
importance, the advantage, of having the Graces; but I cannot give them
you: I heartily wish I could, and I certainly would; for I do not know a
better present that I could make you. To show you that a very wise,
philosophical, and retired man thinks upon that subject as I do, who have
always lived in the world, I send you, by Mr. Eliot, the famous Mr.
Locke's book upon education; in which you will end the stress that he
lays upon the Graces, which he calls (and very truly) good-breeding.
I have marked all the parts of that book that are worth your attention;
for as he begins with the child, almost from its birth, the parts
relative to its infancy would be useless to you. Germany is, still less
than England, the seat of the Graces; however, you had as good not say so
while you are there. But the place which you are going to, in a great
degree, is; for I have known as many well-bred, pretty men come from
Turin, as from any part of Europe. The late King Victor Amedee took
great pains to form such of his subjects as were of any consideration,
both to business and manners; the present king, I am told, follows his
example: this, however, is certain, that in all courts and congresses,
where there are various foreign ministers, those of the King of Sardinia
are generally the ablest, the politest, and 'les plus delies'. You will
therefore, at Turin, have very good models to form yourself upon: and
remember, that with regard to the best models, as well as to the antique
Greek statues in the print, 'non mai a bastanza'. Observe every word,
look, and motion of those who are allowed to be the most accomplished
persons there. Observe their natural and careless, but genteel air;
their unembarrassed good-breeding; their unassuming, but yet
unprostituted dignity. Mind their decent mirth, their discreet
frankness, and that 'entregent' which, as much above the frivolous as
below the important and the secret, is the proper medium for conversation
in mixed companies. I will observe, by the bye, that the talent of that
light 'entregent' is often of great use to a foreign minister; not only
as it helps him to domesticate himself in many families, but also as it
enables him to put by and parry some subjects of conversation, which
might possibly lay him under difficulties both what to say and how to

Of all the men that ever I knew in my life (and I knew him extremely
well), the late Duke of Marlborough possessed the graces in the highest
degree, not to say engrossed them; and indeed he got the most by them;
for I will venture (contrary to the custom of profound historians, who
always assign deep causes for great events), to ascribe the better half
of the Duke of Marlborough's greatness and riches to those graces. He
was eminently illiterate; wrote bad English and spelled it still worse.
He had no share of what is commonly called PARTS: that is, he had no
brightness, nothing shining in his genius. He had most undoubtedly, an
excellent good plain understanding with sound judgment. But these alone,
would probably have raised him but something higher than they found him;
which was page to King James the Second's queen. There the Graces
protected and promoted him; for while he was an ensign of the Guards, the
Duchess of Cleveland, then favorite mistress to King Charles the Second,
struck by those very Graces, gave him five thousand pounds, with which he
immediately bought an annuity for his life of five hundred pounds a year,
of my grandfather Halifax; which was the foundation of his subsequent
fortune. His figure was beautiful; but his manner was irresistible, by
either man or woman. It was by this engaging, graceful manner, that he
was enabled, during all his war, to connect the various and jarring
powers of the Grand Alliance, and to carry them on to the main object of
the war, notwithstanding their private and separate views, jealousies,
and wrongheadednesses. Whatever court he went to (and he was often
obliged to go himself to some resty and refractory ones), he as
constantly prevailed, and brought them into his measures. The Pensionary
Heinsius, a venerable old minister, grown gray in business, and who had
governed the republic of the United Provinces for more than forty years,
was absolutely governed by the Duke of Marlborough, as that republic
feels to this day. He was always cool; and nobody ever observed the
least variation in his countenance; he could refuse more gracefully than
other people could grant; and those who went away from him the most
dissatisfied as to the substance of their business, were yet personally
charmed with him and, in some degree, comforted by his manner. With all
his gentleness and gracefulness, no man living was more conscious of his
situation, nor maintained his dignity better.

With the share of knowledge which you have already gotten, and with the
much greater which I hope you will soon acquire, what may you not expect
to arrive at, if you join all these graces to it? In your destination
particularly, they are in truth half your business: for, if you once gain
the affections as well as the esteem of the prince or minister of the
court to which you are sent, I will answer for it, that will effectually
do the business of the court that sent you; otherwise it is up-hill work.
Do not mistake, and think that these graces which I so often and so
earnestly recommend to you, should only accompany important transactions,
and be worn only 'les jours de gala'; no, they should, if possible,
accompany every, the least thing you do or say; for, if you neglect them
in little things, they will leave you in great ones. I should, for
instance, be extremely concerned to see you even drink a cup of coffee
ungracefully, and slop yourself with it, by your awkward manner of
holding it; nor should I like to see your coat buttoned, or your shoes
buckled awry. But I should be outrageous, if I heard you mutter your
words unintelligibly, stammer, in your speech, or hesitate, misplace, and
mistake in your narrations; and I should run away from you with greater
rapidity, if possible, than I should now run to embrace you, if I found
you destitute of all those graces which I have set my heart upon their
making you one day, 'omnibus ornatum excellere rebus'.

This subject is inexhaustible, as it extends to everything that is to be
said or done: but I will leave it for the present, as this letter is
already pretty long. Such is my desire, my anxiety for your perfection,
that I never think I have said enough, though you may possibly think that
I have said too much; and though, in truth, if your own good sense is not
sufficient to direct you, in many of these plain points, all that I or
anybody else can say will be insufficient. But where you are concerned,
I am the insatiable man in Horace, who covets still a little corner more
to complete the figure of his field. I dread every little corner that
may deform mine, in which I would have (if possible) no one defect.

I this moment receive yours of the 17th, N. S., and cannot condole with
you upon the secession of your German 'Commensaux'; who both by your and
Mr. Harte's description, seem to be 'des gens d'une amiable absence';
and, if you can replace them by any other German conversation, you will
be a gainer by the bargain. I cannot conceive, if you understand German
well enough to read any German book, how the writing of the German
character can be so difficult and tedious to you, the twenty-four letters
being very soon learned; and I do not expect that you should write yet
with the utmost purity and correctness, as to the language: what I meant
by your writing once a fortnight to Grevenkop, was only to make the
written character familiar to you. However, I will be content with one
in three weeks or so.

I believe you are not likely to see Mr. Eliot again soon, he being still
in Cornwall with his father; who, I hear, is not likely to recover.


LONDON, November 29, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: I delayed writing to you till I could give you some account of
the motions of your friend Mr. Eliot; for whom I know you have, and very
justly, the most friendly concern. His father and he came to town
together, in a post-chaise a fortnight ago, the rest of the family
remaining in Cornwall. His father, with difficulty, survived the
journey, and died last Saturday was seven-night. Both concern and
decency confined your friend, till two days ago, when I saw him; he has
determined, and I think very prudently, to go abroad again; but how soon,
it is yet impossible for him to know, as he must necessarily put his own
private affairs in some order first; but I conjecture that he may
possibly join you at Turin; sooner, to be sure, not. I am very sorry
that you are likely to be so long without the company and the example of
so valuable a friend; and therefore I hope that you will make it up to
yourself, as well as you can at this distance, by remembering and
following his example. Imitate that application of his, which has made
him know all thoroughly, and to the bottom. He does not content himself
with the surface of knowledge; but works in the mine for it, knowing that
it lies deep. Pope says, very truly, in his "Essay on Criticism":--

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.

I shall send you by a ship that goes to Hamburg next week (and by which
Hawkins sends Mr. Harte some things that he wrote for) all those which I
propose sending you by Mr. Eliot, together with a very little box that I
am desired to forward to Mr. Harte. There will be, likewise, two letters
of recommendation for you to Monsieur Andrie and Comte Algarotti, at
Berlin, which you will take care to deliver to them, as soon as you shall
be rigged and fitted out to appear there. They will introduce you into
the best company, and I depend upon your own good sense for your avoiding
of bad. If you fall into bad and low company there, or anywhere else,
you will be irrecoverably lost; whereas, if you keep good company, and
company above yourself, your character and your fortune will be immovably

I have not time to-day, upon account of the meeting of the parliament, to
make this letter of the usual length; and indeed, after the volumes that
I have written to you, all I can add must be unnecessary. However, I
shall probably, 'ex abundanti', return soon to my former prolixity; and
you will receive more and more last words from, Yours.


LONDON, December 6, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: I am at present under very great concern for the loss of a most
affectionate brother, with whom I had always lived in the closest
friendship. My brother John died last Friday night, of a fit of the
gout, which he had had for about a month in his hands and feet, and which
fell at last upon his stomach and head. As he grew, toward the last,
lethargic, his end was not painful to himself. At the distance which you
are at from hence, you need not go into mourning upon this occasion, as
the time of your mourning would be near over, before you could put it on.

By a ship which sails this week for Hamburg, I shall send you those
things which I proposed to have sent you by Mr. Eliot, viz., a little box
from your Mamma; a less box for Mr. Harte; Mr. Locke's book upon
education; the print of Carlo Maratti, which I mentioned to you some time
ago; and two letters of recommendation, one to Monsieur Andrie and the
other to Comte Algarotti, at Berlin. Both those gentlemen will, I am
sure, be as willing as they are able to introduce you into the best
company; and I hope you will not (as many of your countrymen are apt to
do) decline it. It is in the best companies only; that you can learn the
best manners and that 'tournure', and those graces, which I have so often
recommended to you, as the necessary means of making a figure in the

I am most extremely pleased with the account which Mr. Harte gives me of
your progress in Greek, and of your having read Hesiod almost critically.
Upon this subject I suggest but one thing to you, of many that I might
suggest; which is, that you have now got over the difficulties of that
language, and therefore it would be unpardonable not to persevere to your
journey's end, now that all the rest of your way is down hill.

I am also very well pleased to hear that you have such a knowledge of,
and taste for curious books and scarce and valuable tracts. This is a
kind of knowledge which very well becomes a man of sound and solid
learning, but which only exposes a man of slight and superficial reading;
therefore, pray make the substance and matter of such books your first
object, and their title-pages, indexes, letter, and binding, but your
second. It is the characteristic of a man of parts and good judgment to
know, and give that degree of attention that each object deserves.
Whereas little minds mistake little objects for great ones, and lavish
away upon the former that time and attention which only the latter
deserve. To such mistakes we owe the numerous and frivolous tribes of
insect-mongers, shell-mongers, and pursuers and driers of butterflies,
etc. The strong mind distinguishes, not only between the useful and the
useless, but likewise between the useful and the curious. He applies
himself intensely to the former; he only amuses himself with the latter.
Of this little sort of knowledge, which I have just hinted at, you will
find at least as much as you need wish to know, in a superficial but
pretty French book, entitled, 'Spectacle de la Nature'; which will amuse
you while you read it, and give you a sufficient notion of the various
parts of nature. I would advise you to read it, at leisure hours. But
that part of nature, which Mr. Harte tells me you have begun to study
with the Rector magnificus, is of much greater importance, and deserves
much more attention; I mean astronomy. The vast and immense planetary
system, the astonishing order and regularity of those innumerable worlds,
will open a scene to you, which not only deserves your attention as a
matter of curiosity, or rather astonishment; but still more, as it will
give you greater, and consequently juster, ideas of that eternal and
omnipotent Being, who contrived, made, and still preserves that universe,
than all the contemplation of this, comparatively, very little orb, which
we at present inhabit, could possibly give you. Upon this subject,
Monsieur Fontenelle's 'Pluralite des Mondes', which you may read in two
hours' time, will both inform and please you. God bless you! Yours.


LONDON, December 13, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: The last four posts have brought me no letters, either from you
or from Mr. Harte, at which I am uneasy; not as a mamma would be, but as
a father should be: for I do not want your letters as bills of health;
you are young, strong, and healthy, and I am, consequently, in no pain
about that: moreover, were either you or Mr. Harte ill, the other would
doubtless write me word of it. My impatience for yours or Mr. Harte's
letters arises from a very different cause, which is my desire to hear
frequently of the state and progress of your mind. You are now at that
critical period of life when every week ought to produce fruit or flowers
answerable to your culture, which I am sure has not been neglected; and
it is by your letters, and Mr. Harte's accounts of you, that, at this
distance, I can only judge at your gradations to maturity; I desire,
therefore, that one of you two will not fail to write to me once a week.
The sameness of your present way of life, I easily conceive, would not
make out a very interesting letter to an indifferent bystander; but so
deeply concerned as I am in the game you are playing, even the least move
is to me of importance, and helps me to judge of the final event.

As you will be leaving Leipsig pretty soon after you shall have received
this letter, I here send you one inclosed to deliver to Mr. Mascow. It
is to thank him for his attention and civility to you, during your stay
with him: and I take it for granted, that you will not fail making him
the proper compliments at parting; for the good name that we leave behind
at one place often gets before us to another, and is of great use. As
Mr. Mascow is much known and esteemed in the republic of letters, I think
it would be of advantage to you, if you got letters of recommendation
from him to some of the learned men at Berlin. Those testimonials give a
lustre, which is not to be despised; for the most ignorant are forced to
seem, at least, to pay a regard to learning, as the most wicked are to
virtue. Such is their intrinsic worth.

Your friend Duval dined with me the other day, and complained most
grievously that he had not heard from you above a year; I bid him abuse
you for it himself; and advised him to do it in verse, which, if he was
really angry, his indignation would enable him to do. He accordingly
brought me, yesterday, the inclosed reproaches and challenge, which he
desired me to transmit to you. As this is his first essay in English
poetry, the inaccuracies in the rhymes and the numbers are very
excusable. He insists, as you will find, upon being answered in verse;
which I should imagine that you and Mr. HARTE, together, could bring
about; as the late Lady Dorchester used to say, that she and Dr.
Radcliffe, together, could cure a fever. This is however sure, that it
now rests upon you; and no man can say what methods Duval may take, if
you decline his challenge. I am sensible that you are under some
disadvantages in this proffered combat. Your climate, at this time of
the year especially, delights more in the wood fire, than in the poetic
fire; and I conceive the Muses, if there are any at Leipsig, to be rather
shivering than singing; nay, I question whether Apollo is even known
there as god of Verse, or as god of Light: perhaps a little as god of
Physic. These will be fair excuses, if your performance should fall
something short; though I do not apprehend that it will.

While you have been at Leipsig, which is a place of study more than of
pleasure or company, you have had all opportunities of pursuing your
studies uninterruptedly; and have had, I believe, very few temptations to
the contrary. But the case will be quite different at Berlin, where the
splendor and dissipation of a court and the 'beau monde', will present
themselves to you in gaudy shapes, attractive enough to all young people.
Do not think, now, that like an old fellow, I am going to advise you to
reject them, and shut yourself up in your closet: quite the contrary;
I advise you to take your share, and enter into them with spirit and
pleasure; but then I advise you, too, to allot your time so prudently,
as that learning may keep pace with pleasures; there is full time, in the
course of the day, for both, if you do but manage that time right and
like a good economist. The whole morning, if diligently and attentively
devoted to solid studies, will go a great way at the year's end; and the
evenings spent in the pleasures of good company, will go as far in
teaching you a knowledge, not much less necessary than the other, I mean
the knowledge of the world. Between these two necessary studies, that of
books in the morning, and that of the world in the evening, you see that
you will not have one minute to squander or slattern away. Nobody ever
lent themselves more than I did, when I was young, to the pleasures and
dissipation of good company. I even did it too much. But then, I can
assure you, that I always found time for serious studies; and, when I
could find it no other way, I took it out of my sleep, for I resolved
always to rise early in the morning, however late I went to bed at night;
and this resolution I have kept so sacred, that, unless when I have been
confined to my bed by illness, I have not, for more than forty years,
ever been in bed at nine o'clock in the morning but commonly up before

When you are at Berlin, remember to speak German as often as you can, in
company; for everybody there will speak French to you, unless you let
them know that you can speak German, which then they will choose to
speak. Adieu.


LONDON, December 20, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: I received last Saturday by three mails, which came in at once,
two letters from Mr. Harte, and yours of the 8th, N. S.

It was I who mistook your meaning, with regard to your German letters,
and not you who expressed it ill. I thought it was the writing of the
German character that took up so much of your time, and therefore I
advised you, by the frequent writing of that character, to make it easy
and familiar to you: But, since it is only the propriety and purity of
the German language which make your writing it so tedious and laborious,
I will tell you I shall not be nice upon that article; and did not expect
that you should yet be master of all the idioms, delicacies, and
peculiarities of that difficult language. That can only come by use,
especially frequent speaking; therefore, when you shall be at Berlin,
and afterward at Turin, where you will meet many Germans, pray take all
opportunities of conversing in German, in order not only to keep what you
have got of that language, but likewise to improve and perfect yourself
in it. As to the characters, you form them very well, and as you
yourself own, better than your English ones; but then let me ask you this
question: Why do you not form your Roman characters better? for I
maintain, that it is in every man's power to write what hand he pleases;
and, consequently, that he ought to write a good one. You form,
particularly, your 'ee' and your 'll' in zigzag, instead of making them
straight, as thus, 'ee', 'll'; a fault very easily mended. You will not, I
believe, be angry with this little criticism, when I tell you, that by
all the accounts I have had of late from Mr. Harte and others, this is
the only criticism that you give me occasion to make. Mr. Harte's last
letter, of the 14th, N. S., particularly, makes me extremely happy, by
assuring me that, in every respect, you do exceedingly well. I am not
afraid, by what I now say, of making you too vain; because I do not think
that a just consciousness and an honest pride of doing well, can be
called vanity; for vanity is either the silly affectation of good
qualities which one has not, or the sillier pride of what does not
deserve commendation in itself. By Mr. Harte's account, you are got very
near the goal of Greek and Latin; and therefore I cannot suppose that,
as your sense increases, your endeavors and your speed will slacken in
finishing the small remains of your course. Consider what lustre and
'eclat' it will give you, when you return here, to be allowed to be the
best scholar, for a gentleman, in England; not to mention the real
pleasure and solid comfort which such knowledge will give you throughout
your whole life. Mr. Harte tells me another thing, which, I own, I did
not expect: it is, that when you read aloud, or repeat parts of plays,
you speak very properly and distinctly. This relieves me from great
uneasiness, which I was under upon account of your former bad
enunciation. Go on, and attend most diligently to this important
article. It is, of all Graces (and they are all necessary), the most
necessary one.

Comte Pertingue, who has been here about a fortnight, far from
disavowing, confirms all that Mr. Harte has said to your advantage.
He thinks that he shall be at Turin much about the time of your arrival
there, and pleases himself with the hopes of being useful to you.
Though, should you get there before him, he says that Comte du Perron,
with whom you are a favorite, will take that care. You see, by this one
instance, and in the course of your life you will see by a million of
instances, of what use a good reputation is, and how swift and
advantageous a harbinger it is, wherever one goes. Upon this point, too,
Mr. Harte does you justice, and tells me that you are desirous of praise
from the praiseworthy. This is a right and generous ambition; and
without which, I fear, few people would deserve praise.

But here let me, as an old stager upon the theatre of the world, suggest
one consideration to you; which is, to extend your desire of praise a
little beyond the strictly praiseworthy; or else you may be apt to
discover too much contempt for at least three parts in five of the world,
who will never forgive it you. In the mass of mankind, I fear, there is
too great a majority of fools and, knaves; who, singly from their number,
must to a certain degree be respected, though they are by no means
respectable. And a man who will show every knave or fool that he thinks
him such, will engage in a most ruinous war, against numbers much
superior to those that he and his allies can bring into the field. Abhor
a knave, and pity a fool in your heart; but let neither of them,
unnecessarily, see that you do so. Some complaisance and attention to
fools is prudent, and not mean; as a silent abhorrence of individual
knaves is often necessary and not criminal.

As you will now soon part with Lord Pulteney, with whom, during your stay
together at Leipsig, I suppose you have formed a connection, I imagine
that you will continue it by letters, which I would advise you to do.
They tell me that he is good-natured, and does not want parts; which are
of themselves two good reasons for keeping it up; but there is also a
third reason, which, in the course of the world, is not to be despised:
His father cannot live long, and will leave him an immense fortune;
which, in all events will make him of some consequence; and, if he has
parts into the bargain, of very great consequence; so that his
friendship, may be extremely well worth your cultivating, especially as
it will not cost you above one letter in one month.

I do not know whether this letter will find you at Leipsig: at least,
it is the last that I shall direct there. My, next to either you or
Mr. Harte will be directed to Berlin; but as I do not know to what house
or street there, I suppose it will remain at the posthouse till you send
for it. Upon your arrival at Berlin you will send me your particular
direction; and also, pray be minute in your accounts of your reception
there, by those whom I recommend you to, as well as by those to whom they
present you. Remember, too, that you are going to a polite and literate
court, where the Graces will best introduce you.

Adieu. God bless you, and may you continue to deserve my love, as much
as you now enjoy it!

P. S. Lady Chesterfield bids me tell you, that she decides entirely in
your favor against Mr. Grevenkop, and even against herself; for she does
not think that she could, at this time, write either so good a character
or so good German. Pray write her a German letter upon that subject, in
which you may tell her, that, like the rest of the world, you approve of
her judgment, because it is in your favor; and that you true Germans
cannot allow Danes to be competent judges of your language, etc.


LONDON, December 30, O. S. 1748.

DEAR BOY: I direct this letter to Berlin, where, I suppose, it will
either find you, or at least wait but a very little time for you. I
cannot help being anxious for your success, at this your first appearance
upon the great stage of the world; for, though the spectators are always
candid enough to give great allowances, and to show great indulgence to a
new actor; yet, from the first impressions which he makes upon them, they
are apt to decide, in their own minds, at least, whether he will ever be
a good one, or not. If he seems to understand what he says, by speaking
it properly; if he is attentive to his part, instead of staring
negligently about him; and if, upon the whole, he seems ambitious to
please, they willingly pass over little awkwardnesses and inaccuracies,
which they ascribe to a commendable modesty in a young and inexperienced
actor. They pronounce that he will be a good one in time; and, by the
encouragement which they give him, make him so the sooner. This, I hope,
will be your case: you have sense enough to understand your part; a
constant attention, and ambition to excel in it, with a careful
observation of the best actors, will inevitably qualify you, if not for
the first, at least for considerable parts.

Your dress (as insignificant a thing as dress is in itself) is now become
an object worthy of some attention; for, I confess, I cannot help forming
some opinion of a man's sense and character from his dress; and I believe
most people do as well as myself. Any affectation whatsoever in dress

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