This etext was produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author’s ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]
LETTERS TO HIS SON
By the EARL OF CHESTERFIELD
on the Fine Art of becoming a
MAN OF THE WORLD
January 2, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: I am edified with the allotment of your time at Leipsig; which is so well employed from morning till night, that a fool would say you had none left for yourself; whereas, I am sure you have sense enough to know, that such a right use of your time is having it all to yourself; nay, it is even more, for it is laying it out to immense interest, which, in a very few years, will amount to a prodigious capital.
Though twelve of your fourteen ‘Commensaux’ may not be the liveliest people in the world, and may want (as I easily conceive that they do) ‘le ton de la bonne campagnie, et les graces’, which I wish you, yet pray take care not to express any contempt, or throw out any ridicule; which I can assure you, is not more contrary to good manners than to good sense: but endeavor rather to get all the good you can out of them; and something or other is to be got out of everybody. They will, at least, improve you in the German language; and, as they come from different countries, you may put them upon subjects, concerning which they must necessarily be able to give you some useful informations, let them be ever so dull or disagreeable in general: they will know something, at least, of the laws, customs, government, and considerable families of their respective countries; all which are better known than not, and consequently worth inquiring into. There is hardly any body good for every thing, and there is scarcely any body who is absolutely good for nothing. A good chemist will extract some spirit or other out of every substance; and a man of parts will, by his dexterity and management, elicit something worth knowing out of every being he converses with.
As you have been introduced to the Duchess of Courland, pray go there as often as ever your more necessary occupations will allow you. I am told she is extremely well bred, and has parts. Now, though I would not recommend to you, to go into women’s company in search of solid knowledge, or judgment, yet it has its use in other respects; for it certainly polishes the manners, and gives ‘une certaine tournure’, which is very necessary in the course of the world; and which Englishmen have generally less of than any people in the world.
I cannot say that your suppers are luxurious, but you must own they are solid; and a quart of soup, and two pounds of potatoes, will enable you to pass the night without great impatience for your breakfast next morning. One part of your supper (the potatoes) is the constant diet of my old friends and countrymen,–[Lord Chesterfield, from the time he was appointed Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, 1775, used always to call the Irish his countrymen.]–the Irish, who are the healthiest and the strongest bodies of men that I know in Europe.
As I believe that many of my letters to you and to Mr. Harte have miscarried, as well as some of yours and his to me; particularly one of his from Leipsig, to which he refers in a subsequent one, and which I never received; I would have you, for the future, acknowledge the dates of all the letters which either of you shall receive from me; and I will do the same on my part.
That which I received by the last mail, from you, was of the 25th November, N. S.; the mail before that brought me yours, of which I have forgot the date, but which inclosed one to Lady Chesterfield: she will answer it soon, and, in the mean time, thanks you for it.
My disorder was only a very great cold, of which I am entirely recovered. You shall not complain for want of accounts from Mr. Grevenkop, who will frequently write you whatever passes here, in the German language and character; which will improve you in both. Adieu.
LONDON, January 15, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: I willingly accept the new-year’s gift which you promise me for next year; and the more valuable you make it, the more thankful I shall be. That depends entirely upon you; and therefore I hope to be presented, every year, with a new edition of you, more correct than the former, and considerably enlarged and amended.
Since you do not care to be an assessor of the imperial chamber, and that you desire an establishment in England; what do you think of being Greek Professor at one of our universities? It is a very pretty sinecure, and requires very little knowledge (much less than, I hope, you have already) of that language. If you do not approve of this, I am at a loss to know what else to propose to you; and therefore desire that you will inform me what sort of destination you propose for yourself; for it is now time to fix it, and to take our measures accordingly. Mr. Harte tells me that you set up for a ———-; if so, I presume it is in the view of succeeding me in my office;–[A secretary of state.]–which I will very willingly resign to you, whenever you shall call upon me for it. But, if you intend to be the ——–, or the ——- —-, there are some trifling circumstances upon which you should previously take your resolution. The first of which is, to be fit for it: and then, in order to be so, make yourself master of ancient and, modern history, and languages. To know perfectly the constitution, and form of government of every nation; the growth and the decline of ancient and modern empires; and to trace out and reflect upon the causes of both. To know the strength, the riches, and the commerce of every country. These little things, trifling as they may seem, are yet very necessary for a politician to know; and which therefore, I presume, you will condescend to apply yourself to. There are some additional qualifications necessary, in the practical part of business, which may deserve some consideration in your leisure moments; such as, an absolute command of your temper, so as not to be provoked to passion, upon any account; patience, to hear frivolous, impertinent, and unreasonable applications; with address enough to refuse, without offending, or, by your manner of granting, to double the obligation; dexterity enough to conceal a truth without telling a lie; sagacity enough to read other people’s countenances; and serenity enough not to let them discover anything by yours; a seeming frankness with a real reserve. These are the rudiments of a politician; the world must be your grammar.
Three mails are now due from Holland; so that I have no letters from you to acknowledge. I therefore conclude with recommending myself to your favor and protection when you succeed. Yours.
LONDON, January 29, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: I find, by Mr. Harte’s last letter, that many of my letters to you and him, have been frozen up on their way to Leipsig; the thaw has, I suppose, by this time, set them at liberty to pursue their journey to you, and you will receive a glut of them at once. Hudibras alludes, in this verse,
“Like words congealed in northern air,”
to a vulgar notion, that in Greenland words were frozen in their utterance; and that upon a thaw, a very mixed conversation was heard in the air, of all those words set at liberty. This conversation was, I presume, too various and extensive to be much attended to: and may not that be the case of half a dozen of my long letters, when you receive them all at once? I think that I can, eventually, answer that question, thus: If you consider my letters in their true light, as conveying to you the advice of a friend, who sincerely wishes your happiness, and desires to promote your pleasure, you will both read and attend to them; but, if you consider them in their opposite, and very false light, as the dictates of a morose and sermonizing father, I am sure they will be not only unattended to, but unread. Which is the case, you can best tell me. Advice is seldom welcome; and those who want it the most always like it the least. I hope that your want of experience, of which you must be conscious, will convince you, that you want advice; and that your good sense will incline you to follow it.
Tell me how you pass your leisure hours at Leipsig; I know you have not many; and I have too good an opinion of you to think, that, at this age, you would desire more. Have you assemblies, or public spectacles? and of what kind are they? Whatever they are, see them all; seeing everything, is the only way not to admire anything too much.
If you ever take up little tale-books, to amuse you by snatches, I will recommend two French books, which I have already mentioned; they will entertain you, and not without some use to your mind and your manners. One is, ‘La Maniere de bien penser dans les Ouvrages d’Esprit’, written by Pere Bouhours; I believe you read it once in England, with Monsieur Coderc; but I think that you will do well to read it again, as I know of no book that will form your taste better. The other is, ‘L’Art de plaire dans la Conversation’, by the Abbe de Bellegarde, and is by no means useless, though I will not pretend to say, that the art of pleasing can be reduced to a receipt; if it could, I am sure that receipt would be worth purchasing at any price. Good sense, and good nature, are the principal ingredients; and your own observation, and the good advice of others, must give the right color and taste to it. Adieu! I shall always love you as you shall deserve.
LONDON, February 9, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: You will receive this letter, not from a Secretary of State but from a private man; for whom, at his time of life, quiet was as fit, and as necessary, as labor and activity are for you at your age, and for many years yet to come. I resigned the seals, last Saturday, to the King; who parted with me most graciously, and (I may add, for he said so himself) with regret. As I retire from hurry to quiet, and to enjoy, at my ease, the comforts of private and social life, you will easily imagine that I have no thoughts of opposition, or meddling with business. ‘Otium cum dignitate’ is my object. The former I now enjoy; and I hope that my conduct and character entitle me to some share of the latter. In short, I am now happy: and I found that I could not be so in my former public situation.
As I like your correspondence better than that of all the kings, princes, and ministers, in Europe, I shall now have leisure to carry it on more regularly. My letters to you will be written, I am sure, by me, and, I hope, read by you, with pleasure; which, I believe, seldom happens, reciprocally, to letters written from and to a secretary’s office.
Do not apprehend that my retirement from business may be a hindrance to your advancement in it, at a proper time: on the contrary, it will promote it; for, having nothing to ask for myself, I shall have the better title to ask for you. But you have still a surer way than this of rising, and which is wholly in your own power. Make yourself necessary; which, with your natural parts, you may, by application, do. We are in general, in England, ignorant of foreign affairs: and of the interests, views, pretensions, and policy of other courts. That part of knowledge never enters into our thoughts, nor makes part of our education; for which reason, we have fewer proper subjects for foreign commissions, than any other country in Europe; and, when foreign affairs happen to be debated in Parliament, it is incredible with how much ignorance. The harvest of foreign affairs being then so great, and the laborers so few, if you make yourself master of them, you will make yourself necessary; first as a foreign, and then as a domestic minister for that department.
I am extremely well pleased with the account which you give me of the allotment of your time. Do but go on so, for two years longer, and I will ask no more of you. Your labors will be their own reward; but if you desire any other, that I can add, you may depend upon it.
I am glad that you perceive the indecency and turpitude of those of your ‘Commensaux’, who disgrace and foul themselves with dirty w—-s and scoundrel gamesters. And the light in which, I am sure, you see all reasonable and decent people consider them, will be a good warning to you. Adieu.
LONDON, February 13, O. S. 1748
DEAR BOY: your last letter gave me a very satisfactory account of your manner of employing your time at Leipsig. Go on so but for two years more, and, I promise you, that you will outgo all the people of your age and time. I thank you for your explanation of the ‘Schriftsassen’, and ‘Amptsassen’; and pray let me know the meaning of the ‘Landsassen’. I am very willing that you should take a Saxon servant, who speaks nothing but German, which will be a sure way of keeping up your German, after you leave Germany. But then, I would neither have that man, nor him whom you have already, put out of livery; which makes them both impertinent and useless. I am sure, that as soon as you shall have taken the other servant, your present man will press extremely to be out of livery, and valet de chambre; which is as much as to say, that he will curl your hair and shave you, but not condescend to do anything else. I therefore advise you, never to have a servant out of livery; and, though you may not always think proper to carry the servant who dresses you abroad in the rain and dirt, behind a coach or before a chair, yet keep it in your power to do so, if you please, by keeping him in livery.
I have seen Monsieur and Madame Flemming, who gave me a very good account of you, and of your manners, which to tell you the plain truth, were what I doubted of the most. She told me, that you were easy, and not ashamed: which is a great deal for an Englishman at your age.
I set out for Bath to-morrow, for a month; only to be better than well, and enjoy, in, quiet, the liberty which I have acquired by the resignation of the seals. You shall hear from me more at large from thence; and now good night to you.
BATH, February 18, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: The first use that I made of my liberty was to come here, where I arrived yesterday. My health, though not fundamentally bad yet, for want of proper attention of late, wanted some repairs, which these waters never fail giving it. I shall drink them a month, and return to London, there to enjoy the comforts of social life, instead of groaning under the load of business. I have given the description of the life that I propose to lead for the future, in this motto, which I have put up in the frize of my library in my new house:–
Nunc veterum libris, nunc somno, et inertibus horis Ducere sollicitae jucunda oblivia vitas.
I must observe to you upon this occasion, that the uninterrupted satisfaction which I expect to find in that library, will be chiefly owing to my having employed some part of my life well at your age. I wish I had employed it better, and my satisfaction would now be complete; but, however, I planted while young, that degree of knowledge which is now my refuge and my shelter. Make your plantations still more extensive; they will more than pay you for your trouble. I do not regret the time that I passed in pleasures; they were seasonable; they were the pleasures of youth, and I enjoyed them while young. If I had not, I should probably have overvalued them now, as we are very apt to do what we do not know; but, knowing them as I do, I know their real value, and how much they are generally overrated. Nor do I regret the time that I have passed in business, for the same reason; those who see only the outside of it, imagine it has hidden charms, which they pant after; and nothing but acquaintance can undeceive them. I, who have been behind the scenes, both of pleasure and business, and have seen all the springs and pullies of those decorations which astonish and dazzle the audience, retire, not only without regret, but with contentment and satisfaction. But what I do, and ever shall regret, is the time which, while young, I lost in mere idleness, and in doing nothing. This is the common effect of the inconsideracy of youth, against which I beg you will be most carefully upon your guard. The value of moments, when cast up, is immense, if well employed; if thrown away, their loss is irrecoverable. Every moment may be put to some use, and that with much more pleasure, than if unemployed. Do not imagine, that by the employment of time, I mean an uninterrupted application to serious studies. No; pleasures are, at proper times, both as necessary and as useful; they fashion and form you for the world; they teach you characters, and show you the human heart in its unguarded minutes. But then remember to make that use of them. I have known many people, from laziness of mind, go through both pleasure and business with equal inattention; neither enjoying the one, nor doing the other; thinking themselves men of pleasure, because they were mingled with those who were, and men of business, because they had business to do, though they did not do it. Whatever you do, do it to the purpose; do it thoroughly, not superficially. ‘Approfondissez’: go to the bottom of things. Any thing half done or half known, is, in my mind, neither done nor known at all. Nay worse, it often misleads. There is hardly any place or any company, where you may not gain knowledge, if you please; almost everybody knows some one thing, and is glad to talk upon that one thing. Seek and you will find, in this world as well as in the next. See everything; inquire into everything; and you may excuse your curiosity, and the questions you ask which otherwise might be thought impertinent, by your manner of asking them; for most things depend a great deal upon the manner. As, for example, I AM AFRAID THAT I AM VERY TROUBLESOME WITH MY QUESTIONS; BUT NOBODY CAN INFORM ME SO WELL AS YOU;
or something of that kind.
Now that you are in a Lutheran country, go to their churches, and observe the manner of their public worship; attend to their ceremonies, and inquire the meaning and intention of everyone of them. And, as you will soon understand German well enough, attend to their sermons, and observe their manner of preaching. Inform yourself of their church government: whether it resides in the sovereign, or in consistories and synods. Whence arises the maintenance of their clergy; whether from tithes, as in England, or from voluntary contributions, or from pensions from the state. Do the same thing when you are in Roman Catholic countries; go to their churches, see all their ceremonies: ask the meaning of them, get the terms explained to you. As, for instance, Prime, Tierce, Sexte, Nones, Matins, Angelus, High Mass, Vespers, Complines, etc. Inform yourself of their several religious orders, their founders, their rules, their vows, their habits, their revenues, etc. But, when you frequent places of public worship, as I would have you go to all the different ones you meet with, remember, that however erroneous, they are none of them objects of laughter and ridicule. Honest error is to be pitied, not ridiculed. The object of all the public worships in the world is the same; it is that great eternal Being who created everything. The different manners of worship are by no means subjects of ridicule. Each sect thinks its own is the best; and I know no infallible judge in this world, to decide which is the best. Make the same inquiries, wherever you are, concerning the revenues, the military establishment, the trade, the commerce, and the police of every country. And you would do well to keep a blank paper book, which the Germans call an ALBUM; and there, instead of desiring, as they do, every fool they meet with to scribble something, write down all these things as soon as they come to your knowledge from good authorities.
I had almost forgotten one thing, which I would recommend as an object for your curiosity and information, that is, the administration of justice; which, as it is always carried on in open court, you may, and I would have you, go and see it with attention and inquiry.
I have now but one anxiety left, which is concerning you. I would have you be, what I know nobody is–perfect. As that is impossible, I would have you as near perfection as possible. I know nobody in a fairer way toward it than yourself, if you please. Never were so much pains taken for anybody’s education as for yours; and never had anybody those opportunities of knowledge and improvement which you, have had, and still have, I hope, I wish, I doubt, and fear alternately. This only I am sure of, that you will prove either the greatest pain or the greatest pleasure of, Yours.
BATH, February 22, O. S. 1748.
DEAR Boy: Every excellency, and every virtue, has its kindred vice or weakness; and if carried beyond certain bounds, sinks into one or the other. Generosity often runs into profusion, economy into avarice, courage into rashness, caution into timidity, and so on:–insomuch that, I believe, there is more judgment required, for the proper conduct of our virtues, than for avoiding their opposite vices. Vice, in its true light, is so deformed, that it shocks us at first sight, and would hardly ever seduce us, if it did not, at first, wear the mask of some virtue. But virtue is, in itself, so beautiful, that it charms us at first sight; engages us more and more upon further acquaintance; and, as with other beauties, we think excess impossible; it is here that judgment is necessary, to moderate and direct the effects of an excellent cause. I shall apply this reasoning, at present, not to any particular virtue, but to an excellency, which, for want of judgment, is often the cause of ridiculous and blamable effects; I mean, great learning; which, if not accompanied with sound judgment, frequently carries us into error, pride, and pedantry. As, I hope, you will possess that excellency in its utmost extent, and yet without its too common failings, the hints, which my experience can suggest, may probably not be useless to you.
Some learned men, proud of their knowledge, only speak to decide, and give judgment without appeal; the consequence of which is, that mankind, provoked by the insult, and injured by the oppression, revolt; and, in order to shake off the tyranny, even call the lawful authority in question. The more you know, the modester you should be: and (by the bye) that modesty is the surest way of gratifying your vanity. Even where you are sure, seem rather doubtful; represent, but do not pronounce, and, if you would convince others, seem open to conviction yourself.
Others, to show their learning, or often from the prejudices of a school- education, where they hear of nothing else, are always talking of the ancients, as something more than men, and of the moderns, as something less. They are never without a classic or two in their pockets; they stick to the old good sense; they read none of the modern trash; and will show you, plainly, that no improvement has been made, in any one art or science, these last seventeen hundred years. I would by no means have you disown your acquaintance with the ancients: but still less would I have you brag of an exclusive intimacy with them. Speak of the moderns without contempt, and of the ancients without idolatry; judge them all by their merits, but not by their ages; and if you happen to have an Elzevir classic in your pocket neither show it nor mention it.
Some great scholars, most absurdly, draw all their maxims, both for public and private life, from what they call parallel cases in the ancient authors; without considering, that, in the first place, there never were, since the creation of the world, two cases exactly parallel; and, in the next place, that there never was a case stated, or even known, by any historian, with every one of its circumstances; which, however, ought to be known, in order to be reasoned from. Reason upon the case itself, and the several circumstances that attend it, and act accordingly; but not from the authority of ancient poets, or historians. Take into your consideration, if you please, cases seemingly analogous; but take them as helps only, not as guides. We are really so prejudiced by our education, that, as the ancients deified their heroes, we deify their madmen; of which, with all due regard for antiquity, I take Leonidas and Curtius to have been two distinguished ones. And yet a solid pedant would, in a speech in parliament, relative to a tax of two- pence in the pound upon some community or other, quote those two heroes, as examples of what we ought to do and suffer for our country. I have known these absurdities carried so far by people of injudicious learning, that I should not be surprised, if some of them were to propose, while we are at war with the Gauls, that a number of geese should be kept in the Tower, upon account of the infinite advantage which Rome received IN A PARALLEL CASE, from a certain number of geese in the Capitol. This way of reasoning, and this way of speaking, will always form a poor politician, and a puerile declaimer.
There is another species of learned men, who, though less dogmatical and supercilious, are not less impertinent. These are the communicative and shining pedants, who adorn their conversation, even with women, by happy quotations of Greek and Latin; and who have contracted such a familiarity with the Greek and Roman authors, that they, call them by certain names or epithets denoting intimacy. As OLD Homer; that SLY ROGUE Horace; MARO, instead of Virgil; and Naso, Instead of Ovid. These are often imitated by coxcombs, who have no learning at all; but who have got some names and some scraps of ancient authors by heart, which they improperly and impertinently retail in all companies, in hopes of passing for scholars. If, therefore, you would avoid the accusation of pedantry on one hand, or the suspicion of ignorance on the other, abstain from learned ostentation. Speak the language of the company that you are in; speak it purely, and unlarded with any other. Never seem wiser, nor more learned, than the people you are with. Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket: and do not pull it out and strike it; merely to show that you have one. If you are asked what o’clock it is, tell it; but do not proclaim it hourly and unasked, like the watchman.
Upon the whole, remember that learning (I mean Greek and Roman learning) is a most useful and necessary ornament, which it is shameful not to be master of; but, at the same time most carefully avoid those errors and abuses which I have mentioned, and which too often attend it. Remember, too, that great modern knowledge is still more necessary than ancient; and that you had better know perfectly the present, than the old state of Europe; though I would have you well acquainted with both.
I have this moment received your letter of the 17th, N. S. Though, I confess, there is no great variety in your present manner of life, yet materials can never be wanting for a letter; you see, you hear, or you read something new every day; a short account of which, with your own reflections thereupon, will make out a letter very well. But, since you desire a subject, pray send me an account of the Lutheran establishment in Germany; their religious tenets, their church government, the maintenance, authority, and titles of their clergy.
‘Vittorio Siri’, complete, is a very scarce and very dear book here; but I do not want it. If your own library grows too voluminous, you will not know what to do with it, when you leave Leipsig. Your best way will be, when you go away from thence, to send to England, by Hamburg, all the books that you do not absolutely want.
BATH, March 1, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: By Mr. Harte’s letter to Mr. Grevenkop, of the 21st February, N. S., I find that you had been a great while without receiving any letters from me; but by this time, I daresay you think you have received enough, and possibly more than you have read; for I am not only a frequent, but a prolix correspondent.
Mr. Harte says, in that letter, that he looks upon Professor Mascow to be one of the ablest men in Europe, in treaty and political knowledge. I am extremely glad of it; for that is what I would have you particularly apply to, and make yourself perfect master of. The treaty part you must chiefly acquire by reading the treaties themselves, and the histories and memoirs relative to them; not but that inquiries and conversations upon those treaties will help you greatly, and imprint them better in your mind. In this course of reading, do not perplex yourself, at first, by the multitude of insignificant treaties which are to be found in the Corps Diplomatique; but stick to the material ones, which altered the state of Europe, and made a new arrangement among the great powers; such as the treaties of Munster, Nimeguen, Ryswick, and Utrecht.
But there is one part of political knowledge, which is only to be had by inquiry and conversation; that is, the present state of every power in Europe, with regard to the three important points, of strength, revenue, and commerce. You will, therefore, do well, while you are in Germany, to inform yourself carefully of the military force, the revenues, and the commerce of every prince and state of the empire; and to write down those informations in a little book, for that particular purpose. To give you a specimen of what I mean:–
THE ELECTORATE OF HANOVER
The revenue is about L500,000 a year.
The military establishment, in time of war, may be about 25,000 men; but that is the utmost.
The trade is chiefly linens, exported from Stade.
There are coarse woolen manufactures for home-consumption.
The mines of Hartz produce about L100,000 in silver, annually.
Such informations you may very easily get, by proper inquiries, of every state in Germany if you will but prefer useful to frivolous conversations.
There are many princes in Germany, who keep very few or no troops, unless upon the approach of danger, or for the sake of profit, by letting them out for subsidies, to great powers: In that case, you will inform yourself what number of troops they could raise, either for their own defense, or furnish to other powers for subsidies.
There is very little trouble, and an infinite use, in acquiring of this knowledge. It seems to me even to be a more entertaining subject to talk upon, than ‘la pluie et le beau tens’.
Though I am sensible that these things cannot be known with the utmost exactness, at least by you yet, you may, however, get so near the truth, that the difference will be very immaterial.
Pray let me know if the Roman Catholic worship is tolerated in Saxony, anywhere but at Court; and if public mass-houses are allowed anywhere else in the electorate. Are the regular Romish clergy allowed; and have they any convents?
Are there any military orders in Saxony, and what? Is the White Eagle a Saxon or a Polish order? Upon what occasion, and when was it founded? What number of knights?
Adieu! God bless you; and may you turn out what I wish!
BATH, March 9, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: I must from time to time, remind you of what I have often recommended to you, and of what you cannot attend to too much; SACRIFICE TO THE GRACES. The different effects of the same things, said or done, when accompanied or abandoned by them, is almost inconceivable. They prepare the way to the heart; and the heart has such an influence over the understanding, that it is worth while to engage it in our interest. It is the whole of women, who are guided by nothing else: and it has so much to say, even with men, and the ablest men too, that it commonly triumphs in every struggle with the understanding. Monsieur de Rochefoucault, in his “Maxims,” says, that ‘l’esprit est souvent la dupe du coeur.’ If he had said, instead of ‘souvent, tresque toujours’, I fear he would have been nearer the truth. This being the case, aim at the heart. Intrinsic merit alone will not do; it will gain you the general esteem of all; but not the particular affection, that is, the heart of any. To engage the affections of any particular person, you must, over and above your general merit, have some particular merit to that person by services done, or offered; by expressions of regard and esteem; by complaisance, attentions, etc., for him. And the graceful manner of doing all these things opens the way to the heart, and facilitates, or rather insures, their effects. From your own observation, reflect what a disagreeable impression an awkward address, a slovenly figure, an ungraceful manner of speaking, whether stuttering, muttering, monotony, or drawling, an unattentive behavior, etc., make upon you, at first sight, in a stranger, and how they prejudice you against him, though for aught you know, he may have great intrinsic sense and merit. And reflect, on the other hand, how much the opposites of all these things prepossess you, at first sight, in favor of those who enjoy them. You wish to find all good qualities in them, and are in some degree disappointed if you do not. A thousand little things, not separately to be defined, conspire to form these graces, this je ne sais quoi, that always please. A pretty person, genteel motions, a proper degree of dress, an harmonious voice, something open and cheerful in the countenance, but without laughing; a distinct and properly varied manner of speaking: All these things, and many others, are necessary ingredients in the composition of the pleasing je ne sais quoi, which everybody feels, though nobody can describe. Observe carefully, then, what displeases or pleases you in others, and be persuaded, that in general; the same things will please or displease them in you. Having mentioned laughing, I must particularly warn you against it: and I could heartily wish, that you may often be seen to smile, but never heard to laugh while you live. Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and in manners; it is the manner in which the mob express their silly joy at silly things; and they call it being merry. In my mind, there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill-bred, as audible laughter. True wit, or sense, never yet made anybody laugh; they are above it: They please the mind, and give a cheerfulness to the countenance. But it is low buffoonery, or silly accidents, that always excite laughter; and that is what people of sense and breeding should show themselves above. A man’s going to sit down, in the supposition that he has a chair behind him, and falling down upon his breech for want of one, sets a whole company a laughing, when all the wit in the world would not do it; a plain proof, in my mind, how low and unbecoming a thing laughter is: not to mention the disagreeable noise that it makes, and the shocking distortion of the face that it occasions. Laughter is easily restrained, by a very little reflection; but as it is generally connected with the idea of gaiety, people do not enough attend to its absurdity. I am neither of a melancholy nor a cynical disposition, and am as willing and as apt to be pleased as anybody; but I am sure that, since I have had the full use of my reason, nobody has ever heard me laugh. Many people, at first, from awkwardness and ‘mauvaise honte’, have got a very disagreeable and silly trick of laughing whenever they speak; and I know a man of very good parts, Mr. Waller, who cannot say the commonest thing without laughing; which makes those, who do not know him, take him at first for a natural fool. This, and many other very disagreeable habits, are owing to mauvaise honte at their first setting out in the world. They are ashamed in company, and so disconcerted, that they do not know what they do, and try a thousand tricks to keep themselves in countenance; which tricks afterward grow habitual to them. Some put their fingers in their nose, others scratch their heads, others twirl their hats; in short, every awkward, ill-bred body has his trick. But the frequency does not justify the thing, and all these vulgar habits and awkwardnesses, though not criminal indeed, are most carefully to be guarded against, as they are great bars in the way of the art of pleasing. Remember, that to please is almost to prevail, or at least a necessary previous step to it. You, who have your fortune to make, should more particularly study this art. You had not, I must tell you, when you left England, ‘les manieres prevenantes’; and I must confess they are not very common in England; but I hope that your good sense will make you acquire them abroad. If you desire to make yourself considerable in the world (as, if you have any spirit, you do), it must be entirely your own doing; for I may very possibly be out of the world at the time you come into it. Your own rank and fortune will not assist you; your merit and your manners can alone raise you to figure and fortune. I have laid the foundations of them, by the education which I have given you; but you must build the superstructure yourself.
I must now apply to you for some informations, which I dare say you can, and which I desire you will give me.
Can the Elector of Saxony put any of his subjects to death for high treason, without bringing them first to their trial in some public court of justice?
Can he, by his own authority, confine any subject in prison as long as he pleases, without trial?
Can he banish any subject out of his dominions by his own authority?
Can he lay any tax whatsoever upon his subjects, without the consent of the states of Saxony? and what are those states? how are they elected? what orders do they consist of? Do the clergy make part of them? and when, and how often do they meet?
If two subjects of the elector’s are at law, for an estate situated in the electorate, in what court must this suit be tried? and will the decision of that court be final, or does there lie an appeal to the imperial chamber at Wetzlaer?
What do you call the two chief courts, or two chief magistrates, of civil and criminal justice?
What is the common revenue of the electorate, one year with another?
What number of troops does the elector now maintain? and what is the greatest number that the electorate is able to maintain?
I do not expect to have all these questions answered at once; but you will answer them, in proportion as you get the necessary and authentic informations.
You are, you see, my German oracle; and I consult you with so much faith, that you need not, like the oracles of old, return ambiguous answers; especially as you have this advantage over them, too, that I only consult you about past end present, but not about what is to come.
I wish you a good Easter-fair at Leipsig. See, with attention all the shops, drolls, tumblers, rope-dancers, and ‘hoc genus omne’: but inform yourself more particularly of the several parts of trade there. Adieu.
LONDON, March 25, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: I am in great joy at the written and the verbal accounts which I have received lately of you.
The former, from Mr. Harte; the latter, from Mr. Trevanion, who is arrived here: they conspire to convince me that you employ your time well at Leipsig. I am glad to find you consult your own interest and your own pleasure so much; for the knowledge which you will acquire in these two years is equally necessary for both. I am likewise particularly pleased to find that you turn yourself to that sort of knowledge which is more peculiarly necessary for your destination: for Mr. Harte tells me you have read, with attention, Caillieres, Pequet, and Richelieu’s “Letters.” The “Memoirs” of the Cardinal de Retz will both entertain and instruct you; they relate to a very interesting period of the French history, the ministry of Cardinal Mazarin, during the minority of Lewis XIV. The characters of all the considerable people of that time are drawn, in a short, strong, and masterly manner; and the political reflections, which are most of them printed in italics, are the justest that ever I met with: they are not the labored reflections of a systematical closet politician, who, without the least experience of business, sits at home and writes maxims; but they are the reflections which a great and able man formed from long experience and practice in great business. They are true conclusions, drawn from facts, not from speculations.
As modern history is particularly your business, I will give you some rules to direct your study of it. It begins, properly with Charlemagne, in the year 800. But as, in those times of ignorance, the priests and monks were almost the only people that could or did write, we have scarcely any histories of those times but such as they have been pleased to give us, which are compounds of ignorance, superstition, and party zeal. So that a general notion of what is rather supposed, than really known to be, the history of the five or six following centuries, seems to be sufficient; and much time would be but ill employed in a minute attention to those legends. But reserve your utmost care, and most diligent inquiries, from the fifteenth century, and downward. Then learning began to revive, and credible histories to be written; Europe began to take the form, which, to some degree, it still retains: at least the foundations of the present great powers of Europe were then laid. Lewis the Eleventh made France, in truth, a monarchy, or, as he used to say himself, ‘la mit hors de Page’. Before his time, there were independent provinces in France, as the Duchy of Brittany, etc., whose princes tore it to pieces, and kept it in constant domestic confusion. Lewis the Eleventh reduced all these petty states, by fraud, force, or marriage; for he scrupled no means to obtain his ends.
About that time, Ferdinand King of Aragon, and Isabella his wife, Queen of Castile, united the whole Spanish monarchy, and drove the Moors out of Spain, who had till then kept position of Granada. About that time, too, the house of Austria laid the great foundations of its subsequent power; first, by the marriage of Maximilian with the heiress of Burgundy; and then, by the marriage of his son Philip, Archduke of Austria, with Jane, the daughter of Isabella, Queen of Spain, and heiress of that whole kingdom, and of the West Indies. By the first of these marriages, the house of Austria acquired the seventeen provinces, and by the latter, Spain and America; all which centered in the person of Charles the Fifth, son of the above-mentioned Archduke Philip, the son of Maximilian. It was upon account of these two marriages, that the following Latin distich was made:
Bella gerant alii, Tu felix Austria nube; Nam qua, Mars aliis; dat tibi regna Venus.
This immense power, which the Emperor Charles the Fifth found himself possessed of, gave him a desire for universal power (for people never desire all till they have gotten a great deal), and alarmed France; this sowed the seeds of that jealousy and enmity, which have flourished ever since between those two great powers. Afterward the House of Austria was weakened by the division made by Charles the Fifth of his dominions, between his son, Philip the Second of Spain, and his brother Ferdinand; and has ever since been dwindling to the weak condition in which it now is. This is a most interesting part of the history of Europe, of which it is absolutely necessary that you should be exactly and minutely informed.
There are in the history of most countries, certain very remarkable eras, which deserve more particular inquiry and attention than the common run of history. Such is the revolt of the Seventeen Provinces, in the reign of Philip the Second of Spain, which ended in forming the present republic of the Seven United Provinces, whose independency was first allowed by Spain at the treaty of Munster. Such was the extraordinary revolution of Portugal, in the year 1640, in favor of the present House of Braganza. Such is the famous revolution of Sweden, when Christian the Second of Denmark, who was also king of Sweden, was driven out by Gustavus Vasa. And such also is that memorable era in Denmark, of 1660; when the states of that kingdom made a voluntary surrender of all their rights and liberties to the Crown, and changed that free state into the most absolute monarchy now in Europe. The Acta Regis, upon that occasion, are worth your perusing. These remarkable periods of modern history deserve your particular attention, and most of them have been treated singly by good historians, which are worth your reading. The revolutions of Sweden, and of Portugal, are most admirably well written by L’Abbe de Vertot; they are short, and will not take twelve hours’ reading. There is another book which very well deserves your looking into, but not worth your buying at present, because it is not portable; if you can borrow or hire it, you should; and that is, ‘L’ Histoire des Traits de Paix, in two volumes, folio, which make part of the ‘Corps Diplomatique’. You will there find a short and clear history, and the substance of every treaty made in Europe, during the last century, from the treaty of Vervins. Three parts in four of this book are not worth your reading, as they relate to treaties of very little importance; but if you select the most considerable ones, read them with attention, and take some notes, it will be of great use to you. Attend chiefly to those in which the great powers of Europe are the parties; such as the treaty of the Pyrenees, between France and Spain; the treaties of Nimeguen and Ryswick; but, above all, the treaty of Munster should be most circumstantially and minutely known to you, as almost every treaty made since has some reference to it. For this, Pere Bougeant is the best book you can read, as it takes in the thirty years’ war, which preceded that treaty. The treaty itself, which is made a perpetual law of the empire, comes in the course of your lectures upon the ‘Jus Publicum Imperii’.
In order to furnish you with materials for a letter, and at the same time to inform both you and myself of what it is right that we should know, pray answer me the following questions:
How many companies are there in the Saxon regiments of foot? How many men in each company?
How many troops in the regiments of horse and dragoons; and how many men in each?
What number of commissioned and non-commissioned officers in a company of foot, or in a troop of horse or dragoons? N. B. Noncommissioned officers are all those below ensigns and cornets.
What is the daily pay of a Saxon foot soldier, dragoon, and trooper?
What are the several ranks of the ‘Etat Major-general’? N. B. The Etat Major-general is everything above colonel. The Austrians have no brigadiers, and the French have no major-generals in their Etat Major. What have the Saxons? Adieu!
LONDON, March 27, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: This little packet will be delivered to you by one Monsieur Duval, who is going to the fair at Leipsig. He is a jeweler, originally of Geneva, but who has been settled here these eight or ten years, and a very sensible fellow: pray do be very civil to him.
As I advised you, some time ago, to inform yourself of the civil and military establishments of as many of the kingdoms and states of Europe, as you should either be in yourself, or be able to get authentic accounts of, I send you here a little book, in which, upon the article of Hanover, I have pointed out the short method of putting down these informations, by way of helping your memory. The book being lettered, you can immediately turn to whatever article you want; and, by adding interleaves to each letter, may extend your minutes to what particulars you please. You may get such books made anywhere; and appropriate each, if you please, to a particular object. I have myself found great utility in this method. If I had known what to have sent you by this opportunity I would have done it. The French say, ‘Que les petits presens entretiennent l’amite et que les grande l’augmentent’; but I could not recollect that you wanted anything, or at least anything that you cannot get as well at Leipsig as here. Do but continue to deserve, and, I assure you, that you shall never want anything I can give.
Do not apprehend that my being out of employment may be any prejudice to you. Many things will happen before you can be fit for business; and when you are fit, whatever my situation may be, it will always be in my power to help you in your first steps; afterward you must help yourself by your own abilities. Make yourself necessary, and, instead of soliciting, you will be solicited. The thorough knowledge of foreign affairs, the interests, the views, and the manners of the several courts in Europe, are not the common growth of this country. It is in your power to acquire them; you have all the means. Adieu! Yours.
LETTERS TO HIS SON
LONDON, April 1, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: I have not received any letter, either from you or from Mr, Harte, these three posts, which I impute wholly to accidents between this place and Leipsig; and they are distant enough to admit of many. I always take it for granted that you are well, when I do not hear to the contrary; besides, as I have often told you, I am much more anxious about your doing well, than about your being well; and, when you do not write, I will suppose that you are doing something more useful. Your health will continue, while your temperance continues; and at your age nature takes sufficient care of the body, provided she is left to herself, and that intemperance on one hand, or medicines on the other, do not break in upon her. But it is by no means so with the mind, which, at your age particularly, requires great and constant care, and some physic. Every quarter of an hour, well or ill employed, will do it essential and lasting good or harm. It requires also a great deal of exercise, to bring it to a state of health and vigor. Observe the difference there is between minds cultivated, and minds uncultivated, and you will, I am sure, think that you cannot take too much pains, nor employ too much of your time in the culture of your own. A drayman is probably born with as good organs as Milton, Locke, or Newton; but, by culture, they are as much more above him as he is above his horse. Sometimes, indeed, extraordinary geniuses have broken out by the force of nature, without the assistance of education; but those instances are too rare for anybody to trust to; and even they would make a much greater figure, if they had the advantage of education into the bargain. If Shakespeare’s genius had been cultivated, those beauties, which we so justly admire in him, would have been undisgraced by those extravagancies, and that nonsense, with which they are frequently accompanied. People are, in general, what they are made, by education and company, from fifteen to five-and-twenty; consider well, therefore, the importance of your next eight or nine years; your whole depends upon them. I will tell you sincerely, my hopes and my fears concerning you. I think you will be a good scholar; and that you will acquire a considerable stock of knowledge of various kinds; but I fear that you neglect what are called little, though, in truth, they are very material things; I mean, a gentleness of manners, an engaging address, and an insinuating behavior; they are real and solid advantages, and none but those who do not know the world, treat them as trifles. I am told that you speak very quick, and not distinctly; this is a most ungraceful and disagreeable trick, which you know I have told you of a thousand times; pray attend carefully to the correction of it. An agreeable and, distinct manner of speaking adds greatly to the matter; and I have known many a very good speech unregarded, upon account of the disagreeable manner in which it has been delivered, and many an indifferent one applauded, from the contrary reason. Adieu!
LONDON, April 15, O. S. 1748
DEAR BOY: Though I have no letters from you to acknowledge since my last to you, I will not let three posts go from hence without a letter from me. My affection always prompts me to write to you; and I am encouraged to do it, by the hopes that my letters are not quite useless. You will probably receive this in the midst of the diversions of Leipsig fair; at which, Mr. Harte tells me, that you are to shine in fine clothes, among fine folks. I am very glad of it, as it is time that you should begin to be formed to the manners of the world in higher life. Courts are the best schools for that sort of learning. You are beginning now with the outside of a court; and there is not a more gaudy one than that of Saxony. Attend to it, and make your observations upon the turn and manners of it, that you may hereafter compare it with other courts which you will see; And, though you are not yet able to be informed, or to judge of the political conduct and maxims of that court, yet you may remark the forms, the ceremonies, and the exterior state of it. At least see everything that you can see, and know everything that you can know of it, by asking questions. See likewise everything at the fair, from operas and plays, down to the Savoyard’s raree-shows.
Everything is worth seeing once; and the more one sees, the less one either wonders or admires.
Make my compliments to Mr. Harte, and tell him that I have just now received his letter, for which I thank him. I am called away, and my letter is therefore very much shortened. Adieu.
I am impatient to receive your answers to the many questions that I have asked you.
LONDON, April 26, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: I am extremely pleased with your continuation of the history of the Reformation; which is one of those important eras that deserves your utmost attention, and of which you cannot be too minutely informed. You have, doubtless, considered the causes of that great event, and observed that disappointment and resentment had a much greater share in it, than a religious zeal or an abhorrence of the errors and abuses of popery.
Luther, an Augustine monk, enraged that his order, and consequently himself, had not the exclusive privilege of selling indulgences, but that the Dominicans were let into a share of that profitable but infamous trade, turns reformer, and exclaims against the abuses, the corruption, and the idolatry, of the church of Rome; which were certainly gross enough for him to have seen long before, but which he had at least acquiesced in, till what he called the rights, that is, the profit, of his order came to be touched. It is true, the church of Rome furnished him ample matter for complaint and reformation, and he laid hold of it ably.
This seems to me the true cause of that great and necessary, work; but whatever the cause was, the effect was good; and the Reformation spread itself by its own truth and fitness; was conscientiously received by great numbers in Germany, and other countries; and was soon afterward mixed up with the politics of princes; and, as it always happens in religious disputes, became the specious covering of injustice and ambition.
Under the pretense of crushing heresy, as it was called, the House of Austria meant to extend and establish its power in the empire; as, on the other hand, many Protestant princes, under the pretense of extirpating idolatry, or at least of securing toleration, meant only to enlarge their own dominions or privileges. These views respectively, among the chiefs on both sides, much more than true religious motives, continued what were called the religious wars in Germany, almost uninterruptedly, till the affairs of the two religions were finally settled by the treaty of Munster.
Were most historical events traced up to their true causes, I fear we should not find them much more noble or disinterested than Luther’s disappointed avarice; and therefore I look with some contempt upon those refining and sagacious historians, who ascribe all, even the most common events, to some deep political cause; whereas mankind is made up of inconsistencies, and no man acts invariably up to his predominant character. The wisest man sometimes acts weakly, and the weakest sometimes wisely. Our jarring passions, our variable humors, nay, our greater or lesser degree of health and spirits, produce such contradictions in our conduct, that, I believe, those are the oftenest mistaken, who ascribe our actions to the most seemingly obvious motives; and I am convinced, that a light supper, a good night’s sleep, and a fine morning, have sometimes made a hero of the same man, who, by an indigestion, a restless night, and rainy morning, would, have proved a coward. Our best conjectures, therefore, as to the true springs of actions, are but very uncertain; and the actions themselves are all that we must pretend to know from history. That Caesar was murdered by twenty-three conspirators, I make no doubt: but I very much doubt that their love of liberty, and of their country, was their sole, or even principal motive; and I dare say that, if the truth were known, we should find that many other motives at least concurred, even in the great Brutus himself; such as pride, envy, personal pique, and disappointment. Nay, I cannot help carrying my Pyrrhonism still further, and extending it often to historical facts themselves, at least to most of the circumstances with which they are related; and every day’s experience confirms me in this historical incredulity. Do we ever hear the most recent fact related exactly in the same way, by the several people who were at the same time eyewitnesses of it? No. One mistakes, another misrepresents, and others warp it a little to their own, turn of mind, or private views. A man who has been concerned in a transaction will not write it fairly; and a man who has not, cannot. But notwithstanding all this uncertainty, history is not the less necessary to be known, as the best histories are taken for granted, and are the frequent subjects both of conversation and writing. Though I am convinced that Caesar’s ghost never appeared to Brutus, yet I should be much ashamed to be ignorant of that fact, as related by the historians of those times. Thus the Pagan theology is universally received as matter for writing and conversation, though believed now by nobody; and we talk of Jupiter, Mars, Apollo, etc., as gods, though we know, that if they ever existed at all, it was only as mere mortal men. This historical Pyrrhonism, then, proves nothing against the study and knowledge of history; which, of all other studies, is the most necessary for a man who is to live in the world. It only points out to us, not to be too decisive and peremptory; and to be cautious how we draw inferences for our own practice from remote facts, partially or ignorantly related; of which we can, at best, but imperfectly guess, and certainly not know the real motives. The testimonies of ancient history must necessarily be weaker than those of modern, as all testimony grows weaker and weaker, as it is more and more remote from us. I would therefore advise you to study ancient history, in general, as other people, do; that is, not to be ignorant of any or those facts which are universally received, upon the faith of the best historians; and whether true or false, you have them as other people have them. But modern history, I mean particularly that of the last three centuries, is what I would have you apply to with the greatest attention and exactness. There the probability of coming at the truth is much greater, as the testimonies are much more recent; besides, anecdotes, memoirs, and original letters, often come to the aid of modern history. The best memoirs that I know of are those of Cardinal de Retz, which I have once before recommended to you; and which I advise you to read more than once, with attention. There are many political maxims in these memoirs, most of which are printed in italics; pray attend to, and remember them. I never read them but my own experience confirms the truth of them. Many of them seem trifling to people who are not used to business; but those who are, feel the truth of them.
It is time to put an end to this long rambling letter; in which if any one thing can be of use to you, it will more than pay the trouble I have taken to write it. Adieu! Yours.
LONDON, May 10, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: I reckon that this letter will find you just returned from Dresden, where you have made your first court caravanne. What inclination for courts this taste of them may have given you, I cannot tell; but this I think myself sure of, from your good sense, that in leaving Dresden, you have left dissipation too; and have resumed at Leipsig that application which, if you like courts, can alone enable you to make a good figure at them. A mere courtier, without parts or knowledge, is the most frivolous and contemptible of all beings; as, on the other hand, a man of parts and knowledge, who acquires the easy and noble manners of a court, is the most perfect. It is a trite, commonplace observation, that courts are the seats of falsehood and dissimulation. That, like many, I might say most, commonplace observations, is false. Falsehood and dissimulation are certainly to be found at courts; but where are they not to be found? Cottages have them, as well as courts; only with worse manners. A couple of neighboring farmers in a village will contrive and practice as many tricks, to over- reach each other at the next market, or to supplant each other in the favor, of the squire, as any two courtiers can do to supplant each other in the favor of their prince.
Whatever poets may write, or fools believe, of rural innocence and truth, and of the perfidy of courts, this is most undoubtedly true that shepherds and ministers are both men; their nature and passions the same, the modes of them only different.
Having mentioned commonplace observations, I will particularly caution you against either using, believing, or approving them. They are the common topics of witlings and coxcombs; those, who really have wit, have the utmost contempt for them, and scorn even to laugh at the pert things that those would-be wits say upon such subjects.
Religion is one of their favorite topics; it is all priest-craft; and an invention contrived and carried on by priests of all religions, for their own power and profit; from this absurd and false principle flow the commonplace, insipid jokes, and insults upon the clergy. With these people, every priest, of every religion, is either a public or a concealed unbeliever, drunkard, and whoremaster; whereas, I conceive, that priests are extremely like other men, and neither the better nor the worse for wearing a gown or a surplice: but if they are different from other people, probably it is rather on the side of religion and morality, or, at least, decency, from their education and manner of life.
Another common topic for false wit, and cool raillery, is matrimony. Every man and his wife hate each other cordially, whatever they may pretend, in public, to the contrary. The husband certainly wishes his wife at the devil, and the wife certainly cuckolds her husband. Whereas, I presume, that men and their wives neither love nor hate each other the more, upon account of the form of matrimony which has been said over them. The cohabitation, indeed, which is the consequence of matrimony, makes them either love or hate more, accordingly as they respectively deserve it; but that would be exactly the same between any man and woman who lived together without being married.
These and many other commonplace reflections upon nations or professions in general (which are at least as often false as true), are the poor refuge of people who have neither wit nor invention of their own, but endeavor to shine in company by second-hand finery. I always put these pert jackanapes out of countenance, by looking extremely grave, when they expect that I should laugh at their pleasantries; and by saying WELL, AND SO, as if they had not done, and that the sting were still to come. This disconcerts them, as they have no resources in themselves, and have but one set of jokes to live upon. Men of parts are not reduced to these shifts, and have the utmost contempt for them, they find proper subjects enough for either useful or lively conversations; they can be witty without satire or commonplace, and serious without being dull. The frequentation of courts checks this petulancy of manners; the good- breeding and circumspection which are necessary, and only to be learned there, correct those pertnesses. I do not doubt but that you are improved in your manners by the short visit which you have made at Dresden; and the other courts, which I intend that you shall be better acquainted with, will gradually smooth you up to the highest polish. In courts, a versatility of genius and softness of manners are absolutely necessary; which some people mistake for abject flattery, and having no opinion of one’s own; whereas it is only the decent and genteel manner of maintaining your own opinion, and possibly of bringing other people to it. The manner of doing things is often more important than the things themselves; and the very same thing may become either pleasing or offensive, by the manner of saying or doing it. ‘Materiam superabat opus’, is often said of works of sculpture; where though the materials were valuable, as silver, gold, etc., the workmanship was still more so. This holds true, applied to manners; which adorn whatever knowledge or parts people may have; and even make a greater impression upon nine in ten of mankind, than the intrinsic value of the materials. On the other hand, remember, that what Horace says of good writing is justly applicable to those who would make a good figure in courts, and distinguish themselves in the shining parts of life; ‘Sapere est principium et fons’. A man who, without a good fund of knowledge and parts, adopts a court life, makes the most ridiculous figure imaginable. He is a machine, little superior to the court clock; and, as this points out the hours, he points out the frivolous employment of them. He is, at most, a comment upon the clock; and according to the hours that it strikes, tells you now it is levee, now dinner, now supper time, etc. The end which I propose by your education, and which (IF YOU PLEASE) I shall certainly attain, is to unite in you all the knowledge of a scholar with the manners of a courtier; and to join, what is seldom joined by any of my countrymen, books and the world. They are commonly twenty years old before they have spoken to anybody above their schoolmaster, and the fellows of their college. If they happen to have learning, it is only Greek and Latin, but not one word of modern history, or modern languages. Thus prepared, they go abroad, as they call it; but, in truth, they stay at home all that while; for being very awkward, confoundedly ashamed, and not speaking the languages, they go into no foreign company, at least none good; but dine and sup with one another only at the tavern. Such examples, I am sure, you will not imitate, but even carefully avoid. You will always take care to keep the best company in the place where you are, which is the only use of traveling: and (by the way) the pleasures of a gentleman are only to be found in the best company; for that not which low company, most falsely and impudently, call pleasure, is only the sensuality of a swine.
I ask hard and uninterrupted study from you but one year more; after that, you shall have every day more and more time for your amusements. A few hours each day will then be sufficient for application, and the others cannot be better employed than in the pleasures of good company. Adieu.
LONDON, May 31, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: I received yesterday your letter of the 16th, N. S., and have, in consequence of it, written this day to Sir Charles Williams, to thank him for all the civilities he has shown you. Your first setting out at court has, I find, been very favorable; and his Polish Majesty has distinguished you. I hope you received that mark of distinction with respect and with steadiness, which is the proper behavior of a man of fashion. People of a low, obscure education cannot stand the rays of greatness; they are frightened out of their wits when kings and great men speak to them; they are awkward, ashamed, and do not know what nor how to answer; whereas, ‘les honnetes gens’ are not dazzled by superior rank: they know, and pay all the respect that is due to it; but they do it without being disconcerted; and can converse just as easily with a king as with any one of his subjects. That is the great advantage of being introduced young into good company, and being used early to converse with one’s superiors. How many men have I seen here, who, after having had the full benefit of an English education, first at school, and then at the university, when they have been presented to the king, did not know whether they stood upon their heads or their heels! If the king spoke to them, they were annihilated; they trembled, endeavored to put their hands in their pockets, and missed them; let their hats fall, and were ashamed to take them up; and in short, put themselves in every attitude but the right, that is, the easy and natural one. The characteristic of a well- bred man, is to converse with his inferiors without insolence, and with his superiors with respect and ease. He talks to kings without concern; he trifles with women of the first condition with familiarity, gayety, but respect; and converses with his equals, whether he is acquainted with them or not, upon general common topics, that are not, however, quite frivolous, without the least concern of mind or awkwardness of body: neither of which can appear to advantage, but when they are perfectly easy.
The tea-things, which Sir Charles Williams has given you, I would have you make a present of to your Mamma, and send them to her by Duval when he returns. You owe her not only duty, but likewise great obligations for her care and tenderness; and, consequently, cannot take too many opportunities of showing your gratitude.
I am impatient to receive your account of Dresden, and likewise your answers to the many questions that I asked you.
Adieu for this time, and God bless you!
LONDON, May 27, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: This and the two next years make so important a period of your life, that I cannot help repeating to you my exhortations, my commands, and (what I hope will be still more prevailing with you than either) my earnest entreaties, to employ them well. Every moment that you now lose, is so much character and advantage lost; as, on the other hand, every moment that you now employ usefully, is so much time wisely laid out, at most prodigious interest. These two years must lay the foundations of all the knowledge that you will ever have; you may build upon them afterward as much as you please, but it will be too late to lay any new ones. Let me beg of you, therefore, to grudge no labor nor pains to acquire, in time, that stock of knowledge, without which you never can rise, but must make a very insignificant figure in the world. Consider your own situation; you have not the advantage of rank or fortune to bear you up; I shall, very probably, be out of the world before you can properly be said to be in it. What then will you have to rely on but your own merit? That alone must raise you, and that alone will raise you, if you have but enough of it. I have often heard and read of oppressed and unrewarded merit, but I have oftener (I might say always) seen great merit make its way, and meet with its reward, to a certain degree at least, in spite of all difficulties. By merit, I mean the moral virtues, knowledge, and manners; as to the moral virtues, I say nothing to you; they speak best for themselves, nor can I suspect that they want any recommendation with you; I will therefore only assure you, that without them you will be most unhappy.
As to knowledge, I have often told you, and I am persuaded you are thoroughly convinced, how absolutely necessary it is to you, whatever your destination may be. But as knowledge has a most extensive meaning, and as the life of man is not long enough to acquire, nor his mind capable of entertaining and digesting, all parts of knowledge, I will point out those to which you should particularly apply, and which, by application, you may make yourself perfect master of. Classical knowledge, that is, Greek and Latin, is absolutely necessary for everybody; because everybody has agreed to think and to call it so. And the word ILLITERATE, in its common acceptation, means a man who is ignorant of those two languages. You are by this time, I hope, pretty near master of both, so that a small part of the day dedicated to them, for two years more, will make you perfect in that study. Rhetoric, logic, a little geometry, and a general notion of astronomy, must, in their turns, have their hours too; not that I desire you should be deep in any one of these; but it is fit you should know something of them all. The knowledge more particularly useful and necessary for you, considering your destination, consists of modern languages, modern history, chronology, and geography, the laws of nations, and the ‘jus publicum Imperii’. You must absolutely speak all the modern Languages, as purely and correctly as the natives of the respective countries: for whoever does not speak a language perfectly and easily, will never appear to advantage in conversation, nor treat with others in it upon equal terms. As for French, you have it very well already; and must necessarily, from the universal usage of that language, know it better and better every day: so that I am in no pain about that: German, I suppose, you know pretty well by this time, and will be quite master of it before you leave Leipsig: at least, I am sure you may. Italian and Spanish will come in their turns, and, indeed, they are both so easy, to one who knows Latin and French, that neither of them will cost you much time or trouble. Modern history, by which I mean particularly the history of the last three centuries, should be the object of your greatest and constant attention, especially those parts of it which relate more immediately to the great powers of Europe. This study you will carefully connect with chronology and geography; that is, you will remark and retain the dates of every important event; and always read with the map by you, in which you will constantly look for every place mentioned: this is the only way of retaining geography; for, though it is soon learned by the lump, yet, when only so learned, it is still sooner forgot.
Manners, though the last, and it may be the least ingredient of real merit, are, however, very far from being useless in its composition; they adorn, and give an additional force and luster to both virtue and knowledge. They prepare and smooth the way for the progress of both; and are, I fear, with the bulk of mankind, more engaging than either. Remember, then, the infinite advantage of manners; cultivate and improve your own to the utmost good sense will suggest the great rules to you, good company will do the rest. Thus you see how much you have to do; and how little time to do it in: for when you are thrown out into the world, as in a couple of years you must be, the unavoidable dissipation of company, and the necessary avocations of some kind of business or other, will leave you no time to undertake new branches of knowledge: you may, indeed, by a prudent allotment of your time, reserve some to complete and finish the building; but you will never find enough to lay new foundations. I have such an opinion of your understanding, that I am convinced you are sensible of these truths; and that, however hard and laborious your present uninterrupted application may seem to you, you will rather increase than lessen it. For God’s sake, my dear boy, do not squander away one moment of your time, for every moment may be now most usefully employed. Your future fortune, character, and figure in the world, entirely depend upon your use or abuse of the two next years. If you do but employ them well, what may you not reasonably expect to be, in time? And if you do not, what may I not reasonably fear you will be? You are the only one I ever knew, of this country, whose education was, from the beginning, calculated for the department of foreign affairs; in consequence of which, if you will invariably pursue, and diligently qualify yourself for that object, you may make yourself absolutely necessary to the government, and, after having received orders as a minister abroad, send orders, in your turn, as Secretary of State at home. Most of our ministers abroad have taken up that department occasionally, without having ever thought of foreign affairs before; many of them, without speaking any one foreign language; and all of them without manners which are absolutely necessary toward being well received, and making a figure at foreign courts. They do the business accordingly, that is, very ill: they never get into the secrets of these courts, for want of insinuation and address: they do not guess at their views, for want of knowing their interests: and, at last, finding themselves very unfit for, soon grow weary of their commissions, and are impatient to return home, where they are but too justly laid aside and neglected. Every moment’s conversation may, if you please, be of use to you; in this view, every public event, which is the common topic of conversation, gives you an opportunity of getting some information. For example, the preliminaries of peace, lately concluded at Aix-la-Chapelle, will be the common subject of most conversations; in which you will take care to ask the proper questions: as, what is the meaning of the Assiento contract for negroes, between England and Spain; what the annual ship; when stipulated; upon what account suspended, etc. You will likewise inform yourself about Guastalla, now given to Don Philip, together with Parma and Placentia; who they belonged to before; what claim or pretensions Don Philip had to them; what they are worth; in short, everything concerning them. The cessions made by the Queen of Hungary to the King of Sardinia, are, by these preliminaries, confirmed and secured to him: you will inquire, therefore, what they are, and what they are worth. This is the kind of knowledge which you should be most thoroughly master of, and in which conversation will help you almost as much as books: but both are best. There are histories of every considerable treaty, from that of Westphalia to that of Utrecht, inclusively; all which I would advise you to read. Pore Bougeant’s, of the treaty of Westphalia, is an excellent one; those of Nimeguen, Ryswick, and Utrecht, are not so well written; but are, however, very useful. ‘L’Histoire des Traites de Paix’, in two volumes, folio, which I recommended to you some time ago, is a book that you should often consult, when you hear mention made of any treaty concluded in the seventeenth century.
Upon the whole, if you have a mind to be considerable, and to shine hereafter, you must labor hard now. No quickness of parts, no vivacity, will do long, or go far, without a solid fund of knowledge; and that fund of knowledge will amply repay all the pains that you can take in acquiring it. Reflect seriously, within yourself, upon all this, and ask yourself whether I can have any view, but your interest, in all that I recommend to you. It is the result of my experience, and flows from that tenderness and affection with which, while you deserve them, I shall be, Yours.
Make my compliments to Mr. Harte, and tell him that I have received his letter of the 24th, N. S.
LONDON, May 31, O. S. 1748
DEAR BOY: I have received, with great satisfaction, your letter of the 28th N. S., from Dresden: it finishes your short but clear account of the Reformation which is one of those interesting periods of modern history, that can not be too much studied nor too minutely known by you. There are many great events in history, which, when once they are over, leave things in the situation in which they found them. As, for instance, the late war; which, excepting the establishment in Italy for Don Philip, leave things pretty much in state quo; a mutual restitution of all acquisitions being stipulated by the preliminaries of the peace. Such events undoubtedly deserve your notice, but yet not so minutely as those, which are not only important in themselves, but equally (or it may be more) important by their consequences too: of this latter sort were the progress of the Christian religion in Europe; the Invasion of the Goths; the division of the Roman empire into Western and Eastern; the establishment and rapid progress of Mahometanism; and, lastly, the Reformation; all which events produced the greatest changes in the affairs of Europe, and to one or other of which, the present situation of all the parts of it is to be traced up.
Next to these, are those events which more immediately effect particular states and kingdoms, and which are reckoned entirely local, though their influence may, and indeed very often does, indirectly, extend itself further, such as civil wars and revolutions, from which a total change in the form of government frequently flows. The civil wars in England, in the reign of King Charles I., produced an entire change of the government here, from a limited monarchy to a commonwealth, at first, and afterward to absolute power, usurped by Cromwell, under the pretense of protection, and the title of Protector.
The Revolution in 1688, instead of changing, preserved one form of government; which King James II. intended to subvert, and establish absolute power in the Crown.
These are the two great epochs in our English history, which I recommend to your particular attention.
The league formed by the House of Guise, and fomented by the artifices of Spain, is a most material part of the history of France. The foundation of it was laid in the reign of Henry II., but the superstructure was carried on through the successive reigns of Francis II., Charles IX. and Henry III., till at last it was crushed, partly, by the arms, but more by the apostasy of Henry IV.
In Germany, great events have been frequent, by which the imperial dignity has always either gotten or lost; and so it they have affected the constitution of the empire. The House of Austria kept that dignity to itself for near two hundred years, during which time it was always attempting extend its power, by encroaching upon the rights and privileges of the other states of the empire; till at the end of the bellum tricennale, the treaty of Munster, of which France is guarantee, fixed the respective claims.
Italy has been constantly torn to pieces, from the time of the Goths, by the Popes and the Anti-popes, severally supported by other great powers of Europe, more as their interests than as their religion led them; by the pretensions also of France, and the House of Austria, upon Naples, Sicily, and the Milanese; not to mention the various lesser causes of squabbles there, for the little states, such as Ferrara, Parma, Montserrat, etc.
The Popes, till lately, have always taken a considerable part, and had great influence in the affairs of Europe; their excommunications, bulls, and indulgences, stood instead of armies in the time of ignorance and bigotry; but now that mankind is better informed, the spiritual authority of the Pope is not only less regarded, but even despised by the Catholic princes themselves; and his Holiness is actually little more than Bishop of Rome, with large temporalities, which he is not likely to keep longer than till the other greater powers in Italy shall find their conveniency in taking them from him. Among the modern Popes, Leo the Tenth, Alexander the Sixth, and Sextus Quintus, deserve your particular notice; the first, among other things, for his own learning and taste, and for his encouragement of the reviving arts and sciences in Italy. Under his protection, the Greek and Latin classics were most excellently translated into Italian; painting flourished and arrived at its perfection; and sculpture came so near the ancients, that the works of his time, both in marble and bronze, are now called Antico-Moderno.
Alexander the Sixth, together with his natural son Caesar Borgia, was famous for his wickedness, in which he, and his son too, surpassed all imagination. Their lives are well worth your reading. They were poisoned themselves by the poisoned wine which they had prepared for others; the father died of it, but Caesar recovered.
Sixtus the Fifth was the son of a swineherd, and raised himself to the popedom by his abilities: he was a great knave, but an able and singular one.
Here is history enough for to-day: you shall have some more soon. Adieu.
LONDON, June 21, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: Your very bad enunciation runs so much in my head, and gives me such real concern, that it will be the subject of this, and, I believe, of many more letters. I congratulate both you and myself, that, was informed of it (as I hope) in time to prevent it: and shall ever think myself, as hereafter you will, I am sure think yourself, infinitely obliged to Sir Charles Williams for informing me of it. Good God! if this ungraceful and disagreeable manner of speaking had, either by your negligence or mine, become habitual to you, as in a couple of years more it would have been, what a figure would you have made in company, or in a public assembly? Who would have liked you in the one or attended you; in the other? Read what Cicero and Quintilian say of enunciation, and see what a stress they lay upon the gracefulness of it; nay, Cicero goes further, and even maintains, that a good figure is necessary for an orator; and particularly that he must not be vastus, that is, overgrown and clumsy. He shows by it that he knew mankind well, and knew the powers of an agreeable figure and a graceful, manner. Men, as well as women, are much oftener led by their hearts than by their understandings. The way to the heart is through the senses; please their eyes and their ears and the work is half done. I have frequently known a man’s fortune decided for ever by his first address. If it is pleasing, people are hurried involuntarily into a persuasion that he has a merit, which possibly he has not; as, on the other hand, if it is ungraceful, they are immediately prejudiced against him, and unwilling to allow him the merit which it may be he has. Nor is this sentiment so unjust and unreasonable as at first it may seem; for if a man has parts, he must know of what infinite consequence it is to him to have a graceful manner of speaking, and a genteel and pleasing address; he will cultivate and improve them to the utmost. Your figure is a good one; you have no natural defect in the organs of speech; your address may be engaging, and your manner of speaking graceful, if you will; so that if you are not so, neither I nor the world can ascribe it to anything but your want of parts. What is the constant and just observation as to all actors upon the stage? Is it not, that those who have the best sense, always speak the best, though they may happen not to have the best voices? They will speak plainly, distinctly, and with the proper emphasis, be their voices ever so bad. Had Roscius spoken QUICK, THICK, and UNGRACEFULLY, I will answer for it, that Cicero would not have thought him worth the oration which he made in his favor. Words were given us to communicate our ideas by: and there must be something inconceivably absurd in uttering them in such a manner as that either people cannot understand them, or will not desire to understand them. I tell you, truly and sincerely, that I shall judge of your parts by your speaking gracefully or ungracefully. If you have parts, you will never be at rest till you have brought yourself to a habit of speaking most gracefully; for I aver, that it is in your power– You will desire Mr. Harte, that you may read aloud to him every day; and that he will interrupt and correct you every time that you read too fast, do not observe the proper stops, or lay a wrong emphasis. You will take care to open your teeth when you speak; to articulate every word distinctly; and to beg of Mr. Harte, Mr. Eliot, or whomsoever you speak to, to remind and stop you, if you ever fall into the rapid and unintelligible mutter. You will even read aloud to yourself, and time your utterance to your own ear; and read at first much slower than you need to do, in order to correct yourself of that shameful trick of speaking faster than you ought. In short, if you think right, you will make it your business; your study, and your pleasure to speak well. Therefore, what I have said in this, and in my last, is more than sufficient, if you have sense; and ten times more would not be sufficient, if you have not; so here I rest it.
Next to graceful speaking, a genteel carriage, and a graceful manner of presenting yourself, are extremely necessary, for they are extremely engaging: and carelessness in these points is much more unpardonable in a young fellow than affectation. It shows an offensive indifference about pleasing. I am told by one here, who has seen you lately, that you are awkward in your motions, and negligent of your person: I am sorry for both; and so will you be, when it will be too late, if you continue so some time longer. Awkwardness of carriage is very alienating; and a total negligence of dress and air is an impertinent insult upon custom and fashion. You remember Mr. —— very well, I am sure, and you must consequently remember his, extreme awkwardness: which, I can assure you, has been a great clog to his parts and merit, that have, with much difficulty, but barely counterbalanced it at last. Many, to whom I have formerly commended him, have answered me, that they were sure he could not have parts, because he was so awkward: so much are people, as I observed to you before, taken by the eye. Women have great influence as to a man’s fashionable character; and an awkward man will never have their votes; which, by the way, are very numerous, and much oftener counted than weighed. You should therefore give some attention to your dress, and the gracefulness of your motions. I believe, indeed, that you have no perfect model for either at Leipsig, to form yourself upon; but, however, do not get a habit of neglecting either; and attend properly to both, when you go to courts, where they are very necessary, and where you will have good masters and good models for both. Your exercises of riding, fencing, and dancing, will civilize and fashion your body and your limbs, and give you, if you will but take it, ‘l’air d’un honnete homme’.
I will now conclude with suggesting one reflection to you; which is, that you should be sensible of your good fortune, in having one who interests himself enough in you, to inquire into your faults, in order to inform you of them. Nobody but myself would be so solicitous, either to know or correct them; so that you might consequently be ignorant of them yourself; for our own self-love draws a thick veil between us and our faults. But when you hear yours from me, you may be sure that you hear them from one who for your sake only desires to correct them; from one whom you cannot suspect of any, partiality but in your favor; and from one who heartily wishes that his care of you, as a father, may, in a little time, render every care unnecessary but that of a friend. Adieu.
P. S. I condole with you for the untimely and violent death of the tuneful Matzel.
LONDON, July 1, O. S. 1748.
DEAR Boy: I am extremely well pleased with the course of studies which Mr. Harte informs me you are now in, and with the degree of application which he assures me you have to them. It is your interest to do so, as the advantage will be all your own. My affection for you makes me both wish and endeavor that you may turn out well; and, according as you do turn out, I shall either be proud or ashamed of you. But as to mere interest, in the common acceptation of that word, it would be mine that you should turn out ill; for you may depend upon it, that whatever you have from me shall be most exactly proportioned to your desert. Deserve a great deal, and you shall have a great deal; deserve a little, and you shall have but a little; and be good for nothing at all, and, I assure you, you shall have nothing at all.
Solid knowledge, as I have often told you, is the first and great foundation of your future fortune and character; for I never mention to you the two much greater points of Religion and Morality, because I cannot possibly suspect you as to either of them. This solid knowledge you are in a fair way of acquiring; you may, if you please; and I will add, that nobody ever had the means of acquiring it more in their power than you have. But remember, that manners must adorn knowledge, and smooth its way through the world. Like a great rough diamond, it may do very well in a closet by way of curiosity, and also for its intrinsic value; but it will never be worn or shine if it is not polished. It is upon this article, I confess, that I suspect you the most, which makes me recur to it so often; for I fear that you are apt to show too little attention to everybody, and too much contempt to many. Be convinced, that there are no persons so insignificant and inconsiderable, but may, some time or other, have it in their power to be of use to you; which they certainly will not, if you have once shown them contempt. Wrongs are often forgiven; but contempt never is. Our pride remembers it forever. It implies a discovery of weaknesses, which we are much more careful to conceal than crimes. Many a man will confess his crimes to a common friend, but I never knew a man who would tell his silly weaknesses to his most intimate one–as many a friend will tell us our faults without reserve, who will not so much as hint at our follies; that discovery is too mortifying to our self-love, either to tell another, or to be told of one’s self. You must, therefore, never expect to hear of your weaknesses, or your follies, from anybody but me; those I will take pains to discover, and whenever I do, shall tell you of them.
Next to manners are exterior graces of person and address, which adorn manners, as manners adorn knowledge. To say that they please, engage, and charm, as they most indisputably do, is saying that one should do everything possible to acquire them. The graceful manner of speaking is, particularly, what I shall always holloa in your ears, as Hotspur holloaed MORTIMER to Henry IV., and, like him too, I have aimed to have a starling taught to say, SPEAK DISTINCTLY AND GRACEFULLY, and send him you, to replace your loss of the unfortunate Matzel, who, by the way, I am told, spoke his language very distinctly and gracefully.
As by this time you must be able to write German tolerably well, I desire that you will not fail to write a German letter, in the German character, once every fortnight, to Mr. Grevenkop: which will make it more familiar to you, and enable me to judge how you improve in it.
Do not forget to answer me the questions, which I asked you a great while ago, in relation to the constitution of Saxony; and also the meaning of the words ‘Landsassii and Amptsassii’.
I hope you do not forget to inquire into the affairs of trade and commerce, nor to get the best accounts you can of the commodities and manufactures, exports and imports of the several countries where you may be, and their gross value.
I would likewise have you attend to the respective coins, gold, silver, copper, etc., and their value, compared with our coin’s; for which purpose I would advise you to put up, in a separate piece of paper, one piece of every kind, wherever you shall be, writing upon it the name and the value. Such a collection will be curious enough in itself; and that sort of knowledge will be very useful to you in your way of business, where the different value of money often comes in question.
I am doing to Cheltenham to-morrow, less for my health; which is pretty good, than for the dissipation and amusement of the journey. I shall stay about a fortnight.
L’Abbe Mably’s ‘Droit de l’Europe’, which Mr. Harte is so kind as to send me, is worth your reading. Adieu.
CHELTENHAM, July 6, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: Your school-fellow, Lord Pulteney,–[Only child of the Right Hon. William Pulteney, Earl of Bath. He died before his father.]–set out last week for Holland, and will, I believe, be at Leipsig soon after this letter: you will take care to be extremely civil to him, and to do him any service that you can while you stay there; let him know that I wrote to you to do so. As being older, he should know more than you; in that case, take pains to get up to him; but if he does not, take care not to let him feel his inferiority. He will find it out of himself without your endeavors; and that cannot be helped: but nothing is more insulting, more mortifying and less forgiven, than avowedly to take pains to make a man feel a mortifying inferiority in knowledge, rank, fortune, etc. In the two last articles, it is unjust, they not being in his power: and in the first it is both ill-bred and ill-natured. Good-breeding, and good- nature, do incline us rather to raise and help people up to ourselves, than to mortify and depress them, and, in truth, our own private interest concurs in it, as it is making ourselves so many friends, instead of so many enemies. The constant practice of what the French call ‘les Attentions’, is a most necessary ingredient in the art of pleasing; they flatter the self-love of those to whom they are shown; they engage, they captivate, more than things of much greater importance. The duties of social life every man is obliged to discharge; but these attentions are voluntary acts, the free-will offerings of good-breeding and good. nature; they are received, remembered, and returned as such. Women, particularly, have a right to them; and any omission in that respect is downright ill-breeding.
Do you employ your, whole time in the most useful manner? I do not mean, do you study all day long? nor do I require it. But I mean, do you make the most of the respective allotments of your time? While you study, is it with attention? When you divert yourself, is it with spirit? Your diversions may, if you please, employ some part of your time very usefully. It depends entirely upon the nature of them. If they are futile and frivolous it is time worse than lost, for they will give you an habit of futility. All gaming, field-sports, and such sort of amusements, where neither the understanding nor the senses have the least share, I look upon as frivolous, and as the resources of little minds, who either do not think, or do not love to think. But the pleasures of a man of parts either flatter the senses or improve the mind; I hope at least, that there is not one minute of the day in which you do nothing at all. Inaction at your age is unpardonable.
Tell me what Greek and Latin books you can now read with ease. Can you open Demosthenes at a venture, and understand him? Can you get through an “Oration” of Cicero, or a “Satire” of Horace, without difficulty? What German books do you read, to make yourself master of that language? And what French books do you read for your amusement? Pray give me a particular and true account of all this; for I am not indifferent as to any one thing that relates to you. As, for example, I hope you take great care to keep your whole person, particularly your mouth, very clean; common decency requires it, besides that great cleanliness is very conducive to health. But if you do not keep your mouth excessively clean, by washing it carefully every morning, and after every meal, it will not only be apt to smell, which is very disgusting and indecent, but your teeth will decay and ache, which is both a great loss and a great pain. A spruceness of dress is also very proper and becoming at your age; as the negligence of it implies an indifference about pleasing, which does not become a young fellow. To do whatever you do at all to the utmost perfection, ought to be your aim at this time of your life; if you can reach perfection, so much the better; but at least, by attempting it, you will get much nearer than if you never attempted it at all.
Adieu! SPEAK GRACEFULLY AND DISTINCTLY if you intend to converse ever with, Yours.
P. S. As I was making up my letter, I received yours of the 6th, O. S. I like your dissertation upon Preliminary Articles and Truces. Your definitions of both are true. Those are matters which I would have you be master of; they belong to your future department, But remember too, that they are matters upon which you will much oftener have occasion to speak than to write; and that, consequently, it is full as necessary to speak gracefully and distinctly upon them as to write clearly and elegantly. I find no authority among the ancients, nor indeed among the moderns, for indistinct and unintelligible utterance. The Oracles indeed meant to be obscure; but then it was by the ambiguity of the expression, and not by the inarticulation of the words. For if people had not thought, at least, they understood them, they would neither have frequented nor presented them as they did. There was likewise among the ancients, and is still among the moderns, a sort of people called Ventriloqui, who speak from their bellies, on make the voice seem to come from some other part of the room than that where they are. But these Ventriloqui speak very distinctly and intelligibly. The only thing, then, that I can find like a precedent for your way of speaking (and I would willingly help you to one if I could) is the modern art ‘de persifler’, practiced with great success by the ‘Petits maitres’ at Paris. This noble art consists in picking out some grave, serious man, who neither understands nor expects, raillery, and talking to him very quick, and inarticulate sounds; while the man, who thinks that he did not hear well; or attend sufficiently, says, ‘Monsieur? or ‘Plait-il’? a hundred times; which affords matter of much mirth to those ingenious gentlemen. Whether you would follow, this precedent, I submit to you.
Have you carried no English or French comedies of tragedies with you to Leipsig? If you have, I insist upon your reciting some passages of them every day to Mr. Harte in the most distinct and graceful manner, as if you were acting them upon a stage.
The first part of my, letter is more than an answer to your questions concerning Lord Pulteney.
LONDON, July, 20, O. S. 1748
DEAR BOY: There are two sorts of understandings; one of which hinders a man from ever being considerable, and the other commonly makes him ridiculous; I mean the lazy mind, and the trifling, frivolous mind: Yours, I hope, is neither. The lazy mind will not take the trouble of going to the bottom of anything; but, discouraged by the first difficulties (and everything worth knowing or having is attained with some), stops short, contents, itself with easy, and consequently superficial knowledge, and prefers a great degree of ignorance to a small degree of trouble. These people either think, or represent most things as impossible; whereas, few things are so to industry and activity. But difficulties seem to them, impossibilities, or at least they pretend to think them so–by way of excuse for their laziness. An hour’s attention to the same subject is too laborious for them; they take everything in the light in which it first presents itself; never consider, it in all its different views; and, in short, never think it through. The consequence of this is that when they come to speak upon these subjects, before people who have considered them with attention; they only discover their own ignorance and laziness, and lay themselves open to answers that put them in confusion. Do not then be discouraged by the first difficulties, but ‘contra audentior ito’; and resolve to go to the bottom of all those things which every gentleman ought to know well. Those arts or sciences which are peculiar to certain professions, need not be deeply known by those who are not intended for those professions. As, for instance; fortification and navigation; of both which, a superficial and general knowledge, such as the common course of conversation, with a very little inquiry on your part, will give you, is sufficient. Though, by the way, a little more knowledge of fortification may be of some use to you; as the events of war, in sieges, make many of the terms, of that science occur frequently in common conversation; and one would be sorry to say, like the Marquis de Mascarille in Moliere’s ‘Precieuses Ridicules’, when he hears of ‘une demie lune, Ma foi! c’etoit bien une lune toute entiere’. But those things which every, gentleman, independently of profession, should know, he ought to know well, and dive into all the depth of them. Such are languages, history, and geography ancient and modern, philosophy, rational logic; rhetoric; and, for you particularly, the constitutions and the civil and military state of every country in Europe: This, I confess; is a pretty large circle of knowledge, attended with some difficulties, and requiring some trouble; which, however; an active and industrious mind will overcome; and be amply repaid. The trifling and frivolous mind is always busied, but to little purpose; it takes little objects for great ones, and throws away upon trifles that time and attention which only important things deserve. Knick-knacks; butterflies; shells, insects, etc., are the subjects of their most serious researches. They contemplate the dress, not the characters of the company they keep. They attend more to the decorations of a play than the sense of it; and to the ceremonies of a court more than to its politics. Such an employment of time is an absolute loss of it. You have now, at most, three years to employ either well or ill; for, as I have often told you, you will be all your life what you shall be three years hence. For God’s sake then reflect. Will you throw this time away either in laziness, or in trifles? Or will you not rather employ every moment of it in a manner that must so soon reward you with so much pleasure, figure, and character? I cannot, I will not doubt of your choice. Read only useful books; and never quit a subject till you are thoroughly master of it, but read and inquire on till then. When you are in company, bring the conversation to some useful subject, but ‘a portee’ of that company. Points of history, matters of literature, the customs of particular countries, the several orders of knighthood, as Teutonic, Maltese, etc., are surely better subjects of conversation, than the weather, dress, or fiddle-faddle stories, that carry no information along with them. The characters of kings and great men are only to be learned in conversation; for they are never fairly written during their lives. This, therefore, is an entertaining and instructive subject of conversation, and will likewise give you an opportunity of observing how very differently characters are given, from the different passions and views of those who give them. Never be ashamed nor afraid of asking questions: for if they lead to information, and if you accompany them with some excuse, you will never be reckoned an impertinent or rude questioner. All those things, in the common course of life, depend entirely upon the manner; and, in that respect, the vulgar saying is true, ‘That one man can better steal a horse, than another look over the hedge.’ There are few things that may not be said, in some manner or other; either in a seeming confidence, or a genteel irony, or introduced with wit; and one great part of the knowledge of the world consists in knowing when and where to make use of these different manners. The graces of the person, the countenance, and the way of speaking, contribute so much to this, that I am convinced, the very same thing, said by a genteel person in an engaging way, and GRACEFULLY and distinctly spoken, would please, which would shock, if MUTTERED out by an awkward figure, with a sullen, serious countenance. The poets always represent Venus as attended by the three Graces, to intimate that even beauty will not do without: I think they should have given Minerva three also; for without them, I am sure learning is very unattractive. Invoke them, then, DISTINCTLY, to accompany all your words and motions. Adieu.
P. S. Since I wrote what goes before, I have received your letter, OF NO DATE, with the inclosed state of the Prussian forces: of which, I hope, you have kept a copy; this you should lay in a ‘portefeuille’, and add to it all the military establishments that you can get of other states and kingdoms: the Saxon establishment you may, doubtless, easily find. By the way, do not forget to send me answers to the questions which I sent you some time ago, concerning both the civil and the ecclesiastical affairs of Saxony.
Do not mistake me, and think I only mean that you should speak elegantly with regard to style, and the purity of language; but I mean, that you should deliver and pronounce what you say gracefully and distinctly; for which purpose I will have you frequently read very loud, to Mr. Harte, recite parts of orations, and speak passages of plays; for, without a graceful and pleasing enunciation, all your elegancy of style, in speaking, is not worth one farthing.
I am very glad that Mr. Lyttelton approves of my new house, and particularly of my CANONICAL–[James Brydges, duke of Chandos, built a most magnificent and elegant house at CANNONS, about eight miles from London. It was superbly furnished with fine pictures, statues, etc., which, after his death, were sold, by auction. Lord Chesterfield purchased the hall-pillars, the floor; and staircase with double flights; which are now in Chesterfield House, London.]–pillars. My bust of Cicero is a very fine one, and well preserved; it will have the best place in my library, unless at your return you bring me over as good a modern head of your own, which I should like still better. I can tell you, that I shall examine it as attentively as ever antiquary did an old one.
Make my compliments to Mr. Harte, at whose recovery I rejoice.
LONDON, August 2, O. S. 1748.
DEAR BOY: Duval the jeweler, is arrived, and was with me three or four days ago. You will easily imagine that I asked him a few questions concerning you; and I will give you the satisfaction of knowing that, upon the whole, I was very well pleased with the account he gave me. But, though he seemed to be much in your interest, yet he fairly owned to me that your utterance was rapid, thick, and ungraceful. I can add nothing to what I have already said upon this subject; but I can and do repeat the absolute necessity of speaking distinctly and gracefully, or else of not speaking at all, and having recourse to signs. He tells me that you are pretty fat for one of your age: this you should attend to in a proper way; for if, while very young; you should grow fat, it would be troublesome, unwholesome, and ungraceful; you should therefore, when you have time, take very strong exercise, and in your diet avoid fattening things. All malt liquors fatten, or at least bloat; and I hope you do not deal much in them. I look upon wine and water to be, in every respect; much wholesomer.
Duval says there is a great deal of very good company at Madame Valentin’s and at another lady’s, I think one Madame Ponce’s, at Leipsig. Do you ever go to either of those houses, at leisure times? It would not, in my mind, be amiss if you did, and would give you a habit of ATTENTIONS; they are a tribute which all women expect; and which all men, who would be well received by them; must pay. And, whatever the mind may be, manners at least are certainly improved by the company of women of fashion.
I have formerly told you, that you should inform yourself of the several orders, whether military or religious, of the respective countries where you may be. The Teutonic Order is the great Order of Germany, of which I send you inclosed a short account. It may serve to suggest questions to you for more particular inquiries as to the present state of it, of which you ought to be minutely informed. The knights, at present, make vows, of which they observe none, except it be that of not marrying; and their only object now is, to arrive, by seniority, at the Commanderies in their respective provinces; which are, many of them, very lucrative. The Order of Malta is, by a very few years, prior to the Teutonic, and owes its foundation to the same causes. These’ knights were first called Knights Hospitaliers of St. John. of Jerusalem, then Knights of Rhodes; and in the year 1530, Knights of Malta, the Emperor Charles V. having granted