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
LONDON, January 10, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I have received your letter of the 31st December, N. S. Your thanks for my present, as you call it, exceed the value of the present; but the use, which you assure me that you will make of it, is the thanks which I desire to receive. Due attention to the inside of books, and due contempt for the outside, is the proper relation between a man of sense and his books.
Now that you are going a little more into the world; I will take this occasion to explain my intentions as to your future expenses, that you may know what you have to expect from me, and make your plan accordingly. I shall neither deny nor grudge you any money, that may be necessary for either your improvement or your pleasures: I mean the pleasures of a rational being. Under the head of improvement, I mean the best books, and the best masters, cost what they will; I also mean all the expense of lodgings, coach, dress; servants, etc., which, according to the several places where you may be, shall be respectively necessary to enable you to keep the best company. Under the head of rational pleasures, I comprehend, first, proper charities, to real and compassionate objects of it; secondly, proper presents to those to whom you are obliged, or whom you desire to oblige; thirdly, a conformity of expense to that of the company which you keep; as in public spectacles; your share of little entertainments; a few pistoles at games of mere commerce; and other incidental calls of good company. The only two articles which I will never supply, are the profusion of low riot, and the idle lavishness of negligence and laziness. A fool squanders away, without credit or advantage to himself, more than a man of sense spends with both. The latter employs his money as he does his time, and never spends a shilling of the one, nor a minute of the other, but in something that is either useful or rationally pleasing to himself or others. The former buys whatever he does not want, and does not pay for what he does want. He cannot withstand the charms of a toyshop; snuff-boxes, watches, heads of canes, etc., are his destruction. His servants and tradesmen conspire with his own indolence to cheat him; and, in a very little time, he is astonished, in the midst of all the ridiculous superfluities, to find himself in want of all the real comforts and necessaries of life. Without care and method, the largest fortune will not, and with them, almost the smallest will, supply all necessary expenses. As far as you can possibly, pay ready money for everything you buy and avoid bills. Pay that money, too, yourself, and not through the hands of any servant, who always either stipulates poundage, or requires a present for his good word, as they call it. Where you must have bills (as for meat and drink, clothes, etc.), pay them regularly every month, and with your own hand. Never, from a mistaken economy, buy a thing you do not want, because it is cheap; or from a silly pride, because it is dear. Keep an account in a book of all that you receive, and of all that you pay; for no man who knows what he receives and what he pays ever runs out. I do not mean that you should keep an account of the shillings and half-crowns which you may spend in chair-hire, operas, etc.: they are unworthy of the time, and of the ink that they would consume; leave such minutia to dull, penny-wise fellows; but remember, in economy, as well as in every other part of life, to have the proper attention to proper objects, and the proper contempt for little ones. A strong mind sees things in their true proportions; a weak one views them through a magnifying medium, which, like the microscope, makes an elephant of a flea: magnifies all little objects, but cannot receive great ones. I have known many a man pass for a miser, by saving a penny and wrangling for twopence, who was undoing himself at the same time by living above his income, and not attending to essential articles which were above his ‘portee’. The sure characteristic of a sound and strong mind, is to find in everything those certain bounds, ‘quos ultra citrave nequit consistere rectum’. These boundaries are marked out by a very fine line, which only good sense and attention can discover; it is much too fine for vulgar eyes. In manners, this line is good-breeding; beyond it, is troublesome ceremony; short of it, is unbecoming negligence and inattention. In morals, it divides ostentatious puritanism from criminal relaxation; in religion, superstition from impiety: and, in short, every virtue from its kindred vice or weakness. I think you have sense enough to discover the line; keep it always in your eye, and learn to walk upon it; rest upon Mr. Harte, and he will poise you till you are able to go alone. By the way, there are fewer people who walk well upon that line, than upon the slack rope; and therefore a good performer shines so much the more.
Your friend Comte Pertingue, who constantly inquires after you, has written to Comte Salmour, the Governor of the Academy at Turin, to prepare a room for you there immediately after the Ascension: and has recommended you to him in a manner which I hope you will give him no reason to repent or be ashamed of. As Comte Salmour’s son, now residing at The Hague, is my particular acquaintance, I shall have regular and authentic accounts of all that you do at Turin.
During your stay at Berlin, I expect that you should inform yourself thoroughly of the present state of the civil, military, and ecclesiastical government of the King of Prussia’s dominions; particularly of the military, which is upon a better footing in that country than in any other in Europe.
You will attend at the reviews, see the troops exercised, and inquire into the numbers of troops and companies in the respective regiments of horse, foot, and dragoons; the numbers and titles of the commissioned and non-commissioned officers in the several troops and companies; and also take care to learn the technical military terms in the German language; for though you are not to be a military man, yet these military matters are so frequently the subject of conversation, that you will look very awkwardly if you are ignorant of them. Moreover, they are commonly the objects of negotiation, and, as such, fall within your future profession. You must also inform yourself of the reformation which the King of Prussia has lately made in the law; by which he has both lessened the number, and shortened the duration of law-suits; a great work, and worthy of so great a prince! As he is indisputably the ablest prince in Europe, every part of his government deserves your most diligent inquiry, and your most serious attention. It must be owned that you set out well, as a young politician, by beginning at Berlin, and then going to Turin, where you will see the next ablest monarch to that of Prussia; so that, if you are capable of making political reflections, those two princes will furnish you with sufficient matter for them.
I would have you endeavor to get acquainted with Monsieur de Maupertuis, who is so eminently distinguished by all kinds of learning and merit, that one should be both sorry and ashamed of having been even a day in the same place with him, and not to have seen him. If you should have no other way of being introduced to him, I will send you a letter from hence. Monsieur Cagenoni, at Berlin, to whom I know you are recommended, is a very able man of business, thoroughly informed of every part of Europe; and his acquaintance, if you deserve and improve it as you should do, may be of great use to you.
Remember to take the best dancing-master at Berlin, more to teach you to sit, stand, and walk gracefully, than to dance finely. The Graces, the Graces; remember the Graces! Adieu!
LONDON, January 24, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I have received your letter of the l2th, N. S., in which I was surprised to find no mention of your approaching journey to Berlin, which, according to the first plan, was to be on the 20th, N. S., and upon which supposition I have for some time directed my letters to you, and Mr. Harte, at Berlin. I should be glad that yours were more minute with regard to your motions and transactions; and I desire that, for the future, they may contain accounts of what and who you see and hear, in your several places of residence; for I interest myself as much in the company you keep, and the pleasures you take, as in the studies you pursue; and therefore, equally desire to be informed of them all. Another thing I desire, which is, that you will acknowledge my letters by their dates, that I may know which you do, and which you do not receive.
As you found your brain considerably affected by the cold, you were very prudent not to turn it to poetry in that situation; and not less judicious in declining the borrowed aid of a stove, whose fumigation, instead of inspiration, would at best have produced what Mr. Pope calls a souterkin of wit. I will show your letter to Duval, by way of justification for not answering his challenge; and I think he must allow the validity of it; for a frozen brain is as unfit to answer a challenge in poetry, as a blunt sword is for a single combat.
You may if you please, and therefore I flatter myself that you will, profit considerably by your stay at Berlin, in the article of manners and useful knowledge. Attention to what you will see and hear there, together with proper inquiries, and a little care and method in taking notes of what is more material, will procure you much useful knowledge. Many young people are so light, so dissipated, and so incurious, that they can hardly be said to see what they see, or hear what they hear: that is, they hear in so superficial and inattentive a manner, that they might as well not see nor hear at all. For instance, if they see a public building, as a college, an hospital, an arsenal, etc., they content themselves with the first ‘coup d’oeil’, and neither take the time nor the trouble of informing themselves of the material parts of them; which are the constitution, the rules, and the order and economy in the inside. You will, I hope, go deeper, and make your way into the substance of things. For example, should you see a regiment reviewed at Berlin or Potsdam, instead of contenting yourself with the general glitter of the collective corps, and saying, ‘par maniere d’acquit’, that is very fine, I hope you will ask what number of troops or companies it consists of; what number of officers of the Etat Major, and what number of subalternes; how many ‘bas officiers’, or non-commissioned officers, as sergeants, corporals, ‘anspessades, frey corporals’, etc., their pay, their clothing, and by whom; whether by the colonels, or captains, or commissaries appointed for that purpose; to whom they are accountable; the method of recruiting, completing, etc.
The same in civil matters: inform yourself of the jurisdiction of a court of justice; of the rules and numbers and endowments of a college, or an academy, and not only of the dimensions of the respective edifices; and let your letters to me contain these informations, in proportion as you acquire them.
I often reflect, with the most flattering hopes, how proud I shall be of you, if you should profit, as you may, of the opportunities which you have had, still have, and will have, of arriving at perfection; and, on the other hand, with dread of the grief and shame you will give me if you do not. May the first be the case! God bless you!
LONDON, February 7, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: You are now come to an age capable of reflection, and I hope you will do, what, however, few people at your age do, exert it for your own sake in the search of truth and sound knowledge. I will confess (for I am not unwilling to discover my secrets to you) that it is not many years since I have presumed to reflect for myself. Till sixteen or seventeen I had no reflection; and for many years after that, I made no use of what I had. I adopted the notions of the books I read, or the company I kept, without examining whether they were just or not; and I rather chose to run the risk of easy error, than to take the time and trouble of investigating truth. Thus, partly from laziness, partly from dissipation, and partly from the ‘mauvaise honte’ of rejecting fashionable notions, I was (as I have since found) hurried away by prejudices, instead of being guided by reason; and quietly cherished error, instead of seeking for truth. But since I have taken the trouble of reasoning for myself, and have had the courage to own that I do so, you cannot imagine how much my notions of things are altered, and in how different a light I now see them, from that in which I formerly viewed them, through the deceitful medium of prejudice or authority. Nay, I may possibly still retain many errors, which, from long habit, have perhaps grown into real opinions; for it is very difficult to distinguish habits, early acquired and long entertained, from the result of our reason and reflection.
My first prejudice (for I do not mention the prejudices of boys, and women, such as hobgoblins, ghosts, dreams, spilling salt, etc.) was my classical enthusiasm, which I received from the books I read, and the masters who explained them to me. I was convinced there had been no common sense nor common honesty in the world for these last fifteen hundred years; but that they were totally extinguished with the ancient Greek and Roman governments. Homer and Virgil could have no faults, because they were ancient; Milton and Tasso could have no merit, because they were modern. And I could almost have said, with regard to the ancients, what Cicero, very absurdly and unbecomingly for a philosopher, says with regard to Plato, ‘Cum quo errare malim quam cum aliis recte sentire’. Whereas now, without any extraordinary effort of genius, I have discovered that nature was the same three thousand years ago as it is at present; that men were but men then as well as now; that modes and customs vary often, but that human nature is always the same. And I can no more suppose that men were better, braver, or wiser, fifteen hundred or three thousand years ago, than I can suppose that the animals or vegetables were better then than they are now. I dare assert too, in defiance of the favorers of the ancients, that Homer’s hero, Achilles, was both a brute and a scoundrel, and consequently an improper character for the hero of an epic poem; he had so little regard for his country, that he would not act in defense of it, because he had quarreled with Agamemnon about a w—e; and then afterward, animated by private resentment only, he went about killing people basely, I will call it, because he knew himself invulnerable; and yet, invulnerable as he was, he wore the strongest armor in the world; which I humbly apprehend to be a blunder; for a horse-shoe clapped to his vulnerable heel would have been sufficient. On the other hand, with submission to the favorers of the moderns, I assert with Mr. Dryden, that the devil is in truth the hero of Milton’s poem; his plan, which he lays, pursues, and at last executes, being the subject of the poem. From all which considerations I impartially conclude that the ancients had their excellencies and their defects, their virtues and their vices, just like the moderns; pedantry and affectation of learning decide clearly in favor of the former; vanity and ignorance, as peremptorily in favor of the latter. Religious prejudices kept pace with my classical ones; and there was a time when I thought it impossible for the honestest man in the world to be saved out of the pale of the Church of England, not considering that matters of opinion do not depend upon the will; and that it is as natural, and as allowable, that another man should differ in opinion from me, as that I should differ from him; and that if we are both sincere, we are both blameless; and should consequently have mutual indulgence for each other.
The next prejudices that I adopted were those of the ‘beau monde’, in which as I was determined to shine, I took what are commonly called the genteel vices to be necessary. I had heard them reckoned so, and without further inquiry I believed it, or at least should have been ashamed to have denied it, for fear of exposing myself to the ridicule of those whom I considered as the models of fine gentlemen. But I am now neither ashamed nor afraid to assert that those genteel vices, as they are falsely called, are only so many blemishes in the character of even a man of the world and what is called a fine gentleman, and degrade him in the opinions of those very people, to whom he, hopes to recommend himself by them. Nay, this prejudice often extends so far, that I have known people pretend to vices they had not, instead of carefully concealing those they had.
Use and assert your own reason; reflect, examine, and analyze everything, in order to form a sound and mature judgment; let no (authority) impose upon your understanding, mislead your actions, or dictate your conversation. Be early what, if you are not, you will when too late wish you had been. Consult your reason betimes: I do not say that it will always prove an unerring guide; for human reason is not infallible; but it will prove the least erring guide that you can follow. Books and conversation may assist it; but adopt neither blindly and implicitly; try both by that best rule, which God has given to direct us, reason. Of all the troubles, do not decline, as many people do, that of thinking. The herd of mankind can hardly be said to think; their notions are almost all adoptive; and, in general, I believe it is better that it should be so, as such common prejudices contribute more to order and quiet than their own separate reasonings would do, uncultivated and unimproved as they are. We have many of those useful prejudices in this country, which I should be very sorry to see removed. The good Protestant conviction, that the Pope is both Antichrist and the Whore of Babylon, is a more effectual preservative in this country against popery, than all the solid and unanswerable arguments of Chillingworth.
The idle story of the pretender’s having been introduced in a warming pan into the queen’s bed, though as destitute of all probability as of all foundation, has been much more prejudicial to the cause of Jacobitism than all that Mr. Locke and others have written, to show the unreasonableness and absurdity of the doctrines of indefeasible hereditary right, and unlimited passive obedience. And that silly, sanguine notion, which is firmly entertained here, that one Englishman can beat three Frenchmen, encourages, and has sometimes enabled, one Englishman in reality to beat two.
A Frenchman ventures, his life with alacrity ‘pour l’honneur du Roi’; were you to change the object, which he has been taught to have in view, and tell him that it was ‘pour le bien de la Patrie’, he would very probably run away. Such gross local prejudices prevail with the herd of mankind, and do not impose upon cultivated, informed, and reflecting minds. But then they are notions equally false, though not so glaringly absurd, which are entertained by people of superior and improved understandings, merely for want of the necessary pains to investigate, the proper attention to examine, and the penetration requisite to determine the truth. Those are the prejudices which I would have you guard against by a manly exertion and attention of your reasoning faculty. To mention one instance of a thousand that I could give you: It is a general prejudice, and has been propagated for these sixteen hundred years, that arts and sciences cannot flourish under an absolute government; and that genius must necessarily be cramped where freedom is restrained. This sounds plausible, but is false in fact. Mechanic arts, as agriculture, etc., will indeed be discouraged where the profits and property are, from the nature of the government, insecure. But why the despotism of a government should cramp the genius of a mathematician, an astronomer, a poet, or an orator, I confess I never could discover. It may indeed deprive the poet or the orator of the liberty of treating of certain subjects in the manner they would wish, but it leaves them subjects enough to exert genius upon, if they have it. Can an author with reason complain that he is cramped and shackled, if he is not at liberty to publish blasphemy, bawdry, or sedition? all which are equally prohibited in the freest governments, if they are wise and well regulated ones. This is the present general complaint of the French authors; but indeed chiefly of the bad ones. No wonder, say they, that England produces so many great geniuses; people there may think as they please, and publish what they think. Very true, but what hinders them from thinking as they please? If indeed they think in manner destructive of all religion, morality, or good manners, or to the disturbance of the state, an absolute government will certainly more effectually prohibit them from, or punish them for publishing such thoughts, than a free one could do. But how does that cramp the genius of an epic, dramatic, or lyric poet? or how does it corrupt the eloquence of an orator in the pulpit or at the bar? The number of good French authors, such as Corneille, Racine, Moliere, Boileau, and La Fontaine, who seemed to dispute it with the Augustan age, flourished under the despotism of Lewis XIV.; and the celebrated authors of the Augustan age did not shine till after the fetters were riveted upon the Roman people by that cruel and worthless Emperor. The revival of letters was not owing, neither, to any free government, but to the encouragement and protection of Leo X. and Francis I; the one as absolute a pope, and the other as despotic a prince, as ever reigned. Do not mistake, and imagine that while I am only exposing a prejudice, I am speaking in favor of arbitrary power; which from my soul I abhor, and look upon as a gross and criminal violation of the natural rights of mankind. Adieu.
LONDON, February 28, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I was very much pleased with the account that you gave me of your reception at Berlin; but I was still better pleased with the account which Mr. Harte sent me of your manner of receiving that reception; for he says that you behaved yourself to those crowned heads with all the respect and modesty due to them; but at the same time, without being any more embarrassed than if you had been conversing with your equals. This easy respect is the perfection of good-breeding, which nothing but superior good sense, or a long usage of the world, can produce, and as in your case it could not be the latter, it is a pleasing indication to me of the former.
You will now, in the course of a few months, have been rubbed at three of the considerable courts of Europe,-Berlin, Dresden, and Vienna; so that I hope you will arrive at Turin tolerably smooth and fit for the last polish. There you may get the best, there being no court I know of that forms more well-bred, and agreeable people. Remember now, that good- breeding, genteel carriage, address, and even dress (to a certain degree), are become serious objects, and deserve a part of your attention.
The day, if well employed, is long enough for them all. One half of it bestowed upon your studies and your exercises, will finish your mind and your body; the remaining part of it, spent in good company, will form your manners, and complete your character. What would I not give to have you read Demosthenes critically in the morning, and understand him better than anybody; at noon, behave yourself better than any person at court; and in the evenings, trifle more agreeably than anybody in mixed companies? All this you may compass if you please; you have the means, you have the opportunities. Employ them, for God’s sake, while you may, and make yourself that all-accomplished man that I wish to have you. It entirely depends upon these two years; they are the decisive ones.
I send you here inclosed a letter of recommendation to Monsieur Capello, at Venice, which you will deliver him immediately upon your arrival, accompanying it with compliments from me to him and Madame, both of whom you have seen here. He will, I am sure, be both very civil and very useful to you there, as he will also be afterward at Rome, where he is appointed to go ambassador. By the way, wherever you are, I would advise you to frequent, as much as you can, the Venetian Ministers; who are always better informed of the courts they reside at than any other minister; the strict and regular accounts, which they are obliged to give to their own government, making them very diligent and inquisitive.
You will stay at Venice as long as the Carnival lasts; for though I am impatient to have you at Turin, yet I would wish you to see thoroughly all that is to be seen at so singular a place as Venice, and at so showish a time as the Carnival. You will take also particular care to view all those meetings of the government, which strangers are allowed to see; as the Assembly of the Senate, etc., and also to inform yourself of that peculiar and intricate form of government. There are books which give an account of it, among which the best is Amelot de la Houssaye, which I would advise you to read previously; it will not only give you a general notion of that constitution, but also furnish you with materials for proper questions and oral informations upon the place, which are always the best. There are likewise many very valuable remains, in sculpture and paintings, of the best masters, which deserve your attention.
I suppose you will be at Vienna as soon as this letter will get thither; and I suppose, too, that I must not direct above one more to you there. After which, my next shall be directed to you at Venice, the only place where a letter will be likely to find you, till you are at Turin; but you may, and I desire that you will write to me, from the several places in your way, from whence the post goes.
I will send you some other letters for Venice, to Vienna, or to your banker at Venice, to whom you will, upon your arrival there, send for them: For I will take care to have you so recommended from place to place, that you shall not run through them, as most of your countrymen do, without the advantage of seeing and knowing what best deserves to be seen and known; I mean the men and the manners.
God bless you, and make you answer my wishes: I will now say, my hopes! Adieu.
DEAR BOY: I direct this letter to your banker at Venice, the surest place for you to meet with it, though I suppose that it will be there some time before you; for, as your intermediate stay anywhere else will be short, and as the post from hence, in this season of easterly winds is uncertain, I direct no more letters to Vienna; where I hope both you and Mr. Harte will have received the two letters which I sent you respectively; with a letter of recommendation to Monsieur Capello, at Venice, which was inclosed in mine to you. I will suppose too, that the inland post on your side of the water has not done you justice; for I received but one single letter from you, and one from Mr. Harte, during your whole stay at Berlin; from whence I hoped for, and expected very particular accounts.
I persuade myself, that the time you stay at Venice will be properly employed, in seeing all that is to be seen in that extraordinary place: and in conversing with people who can inform you, not of the raree-shows of the town, but of the constitution of the government; for which purpose I send you the inclosed letters of recommendation from Sir James Grey, the King’s Resident at Venice, but who is now in England. These, with mine to Monsieur Capello, will carry you, if you will go, into all the best company at Venice.
But the important point; and the important place, is Turin; for there I propose your staying a considerable time, to pursue your studies, learn your exercises, and form your manners. I own, I am not without my anxiety for the consequence of your stay there, which must be either very good or very bad. To you it will be entirely a new scene. Wherever you have hitherto been, you have conversed, chiefly, with people wiser and discreeter than yourself; and have been equally out of the way of bad advice or bad example; but in the Academy at Turin you will probably meet with both, considering the variety of young fellows about your own age; among whom it is to be expected that some will be dissipated and idle, others vicious and profligate. I will believe, till the contrary appears, that you have sagacity enough to distinguish the good from the bad characters; and both sense and virtue enough to shun the latter, and connect yourself with the former: but however, for greater security, and for your sake alone, I must acquaint you that I have sent positive orders to Mr. Harte to carry you off, instantly, to a place which I have named to him, upon the very first symptom which he shall discover in you, of drinking, gaming, idleness, or disobedience to his orders; so that, whether Mr. Harte informs me or not of the particulars, I shall be able to judge of your conduct in general by the time of your stay at Turin. If it is short, I shall know why; and I promise you, that you shall soon find that I do; but if Mr. Harte lets you continue there, as long as I propose that you should, I shall then be convinced that you make the proper use of your time; which is the only thing I have to ask of you. One year is the most that I propose you should stay at Turin; and that year, if you employ it well, perfects you. One year more of your late application, with Mr. Harte, will complete your classical studies. You will be likewise master of your exercises in that time; and will have formed yourself so well at that court, as to be fit to appear advantageously at any other. These will be the happy effects of your year’s stay at Turin, if you behave, and apply yourself there as you have done at Leipsig; but if either ill advice, or ill example, affect and seduce you, you are ruined forever. I look upon that year as your decisive year of probation; go through it well, and you will be all accomplished, and fixed in my tenderest affection forever; but should the contagion of vice of idleness lay hold of you there, your character, your fortune, my hopes, and consequently my favor are all blasted, and you are undone. The more I love you now, from the good opinion I have of you, the greater will be my indignation if I should have reason to change it. Hitherto you have had every possible proof of my affection, because you have deserved it; but when you cease to deserve it, you may expect every possible mark of my resentment. To leave nothing doubtful upon this important point I will tell you fairly, beforehand, by what rule I shall judge of your conduct–by Mr. Harte’s accounts. He will not I am sure, nay, I will say more, he cannot be in the wrong with regard to you. He can have no other view but your good; and you will, I am sure, allow that he must be a better judge of it than you can possibly be at your age. While he is satisfied, I shall be so too; but whenever he is dissatisfied with you, I shall be much more so. If he complains, you must be guilty; and I shall not have the least regard for anything that you may allege in your own defense.
I will now tell you what I expect and insist upon from you at Turin: First, that you pursue your classical and other studies every morning with Mr. Harte, as long and in whatever manner Mr. Harte shall be pleased to require; secondly, that you learn, uninterruptedly, your exercises of riding, dancing, and fencing; thirdly, that you make yourself master of the Italian language; and lastly, that you pass your evenings in the best company. I also require a strict conformity to the hours and rules of the Academy. If you will but finish your year in this manner at Turin, I have nothing further to ask of you; and I will give you everything that you can ask of me. You shall after that be entirely your own master; I shall think you safe; shall lay aside all authority over you, and friendship shall be our mutual and only tie. Weigh this, I beg of you, deliberately in your own mind; and consider whether the application and the degree of restraint which I require but for one year more, will not be amply repaid by all the advantages, and the perfect liberty, which you will receive at the end of it. Your own good sense will, I am sure, not allow you to hesitate one moment in your choice. God bless you! Adieu.
P. S. Sir James Grey’s letters not being yet sent to me, as I thought they would, I shall inclose them in my next, which I believe will get to Venice as soon as you.
LONDON, April 12, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I received, by the last mail, a letter from Mr. Harte, dated Prague, April the 1st, N. S., for which I desire you will return him my thanks, and assure him that I extremely approve of what he has done, and proposes eventually to do, in your way to Turin. Who would have thought you were old enough to have been so well acquainted with the heroes of the ‘Bellum Tricennale’, as to be looking out for their great-grandsons in Bohemia, with that affection with which, I am informed, you seek for the Wallsteins, the Kinskis, etc. As I cannot ascribe it to your age, I must to your consummate knowledge of history, that makes every country, and every century, as it were, your own. Seriously, I am told, that you are both very strong and very correct in history; of which I am extremely glad. This is useful knowledge.
Comte du Perron and Comte Lascaris are arrived here: the former gave me a letter from Sir Charles Williams, the latter brought me your orders. They are very pretty men, and have both knowledge and manners; which, though they always ought, seldom go together. I examined them, particularly Comte Lascaris, concerning you; their report is a very favorable one, especially on the side of knowledge; the quickness of conception which they allow you I can easily credit; but the attention which they add to it pleases me the more, as I own I expected it less. Go on in the pursuit and the increase of knowledge; nay, I am sure you will, for you now know too much to stop; and, if Mr. Harte would let you be idle, I am convinced you would not. But now that you have left Leipsig, and are entered into the great world, remember there is another object that must keep pace with, and accompany knowledge; I mean manners, politeness, and the Graces; in which Sir Charles Williams, though very much your friend, owns that you are very deficient. The manners of Leipsig must be shook off; and in that respect you must put on the new man. No scrambling at your meals, as at a German ordinary; no awkward overturns of glasses, plates, and salt-cellars; no horse play. On the contrary, a gentleness of manners, a graceful carriage, and an insinuating address, must take their place. I repeat, and shall never cease repeating to you, THE GRACES, THE GRACES.
I desire that as soon as ever you get to Turin you will apply yourself diligently to the Italian language; that before you leave that place, you may know it well enough to be able to speak tolerably when you get to Rome; where you will soon make yourself perfectly master of Italian, from the daily necessity you will be under of speaking it. In the mean time, I insist upon your not neglecting, much less forgetting, the German you already know; which you may not only continue but improve, by speaking it constantly to your Saxon boy, and as often as you can to the several Germans you will meet in your travels. You remember, no doubt, that you must never write to me from Turin, but in the German language and character.
I send you the inclosed letter of recommendation to Mr. Smith the King’s Consul at Venice; who can, and I daresay will, be more useful to you there than anybody. Pray make your court, and behave your best, to Monsieur and Madame Capello, who will be of great use to you at Rome. Adieu! Yours tenderly.
LONDON, April 19, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: This letter will, I believe, still find you at Venice in all the dissipation of masquerades, ridottos, operas, etc. With all my heart; they are decent evening’s amusements, and very properly succeed that serious application to which I am sure you devote your mornings. There are liberal and illiberal pleasures as well as liberal and illiberal arts: There are some pleasures that degrade a gentleman as much as some trades could do. Sottish drinking, indiscriminate gluttony, driving coaches, rustic sports, such as fox-chases, horse-races, etc., are in my opinion infinitely below the honest and industrious profession of a tailor and a shoemaker, which are said to ‘deroger’.
As you are now in a musical country, where singing, fiddling, and piping, are not only the common topics of conversation, but almost the principal objects of attention, I cannot help cautioning you against giving in to those (I will call them illiberal) pleasures (though music is commonly reckoned one of the liberal arts) to the degree that most of your countrymen do, when they travel in Italy. If you love music, hear it; go to operas, concerts, and pay fiddlers to play to you; but I insist upon your neither piping nor fiddling yourself. It puts a gentleman in a very frivolous, contemptible light; brings him into a great deal of bad company; and takes up a great deal of time, which might be much better employed. Few things would mortify me more, than to see you bearing a part in a concert, with a fiddle under your chin, or a pipe in your mouth.
I have had a great deal of conversation with Comte du Perron and Comte Lascaris upon your subject: and I will tell you, very truly, what Comte du Perron (who is, in my opinion, a very pretty man) said of you: ‘Il a de l’esprit, un savoir peu commun a son age, une grande vivacite, et quand il aura pris des manieres il sera parfait; car il faut avouer qu’il sent encore le college; mars cela viendra’. I was very glad to hear, from one whom I think so good a judge, that you wanted nothing but ‘des manieres’, which I am convinced you will now soon acquire, in the company which henceforward you are likely to keep. But I must add, too, that if you should not acquire them, all the rest will be of little use to you. By ‘manieres’, I do not mean bare common civility; everybody must have that who would not be kicked out of company; but I mean engaging, insinuating, shining manners; distinguished politeness, an almost irresistible address; a superior gracefulness in all you say and do. It is this alone that can give all your other talents their full lustre and value; and, consequently, it is this which should now be thy principal object of your attention. Observe minutely, wherever you go, the allowed and established models of good-breeding, and form yourself upon them. Whatever pleases you most in others, will infallibly please others in you. I have often repeated this to you; now is your time of putting it in practice.
Pray make my compliments to Mr. Harte, and tell him I have received his letter from Vienna of the 16th N. S., but that I shall not trouble him with an answer to it till I have received the other letter which he promises me, upon the subject of one of my last. I long to hear from him after your settlement at Turin: the months that you are to pass there will be very decisive ones for you. The exercises of the Academy, and the manners of courts must be attended to and acquired; and, at the same time, your other studies continued. I am sure you will not pass, nor desire, one single idle hour there: for I do not foresee that you can, in any part of your life, put out six months to greater interest, than those next six at Turin.
We will talk hereafter about your stay at Rome and in other parts of Italy. This only I will now recommend to you; which is, to extract the spirit of every place you go to. In those places which are only distinguished by classical fame, and valuable remains of antiquity, have your classics in your hand and in your head; compare the ancient geography and descriptions with the modern, and never fail to take notes. Rome will furnish you with business enough of that sort; but then it furnishes you with many other objects well deserving your attention, such as deep ecclesiastical craft and policy. Adieu.
LONDON, April 27, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I have received your letter from Vienna, of the 19th N. S., which gives me great uneasiness upon Mr. Harte’s account. You and I have reason to interest ourselves very particularly in everything that relates to him. I am glad, however, that no bone is broken or dislocated; which being the case, I hope he will have been able to pursue his journey to Venice. In that supposition I direct this letter to you at Turin; where it will either find, or at least not wait very long for you, as I calculate that you will be there by the end of next month, N. S. I hope you reflect how much you have to do there, and that you are determined to employ every moment of your time accordingly. You have your classical and severer studies to continue with Mr. Harte; you have your exercises to learn; the turn and manners of a court to acquire; reserving always some time for the decent amusements and pleasures of a gentleman. You see I am never against pleasures; I loved them myself when I was of your age, and it is as reasonable that you should love them now. But I insist upon it that pleasures are very combinable with both business and studies, and have a much better relish from the mixture. The man who cannot join business and pleasure is either a formal coxcomb in the one, or a sensual beast in the other. Your evenings I therefore allot for company, assemblies, balls, and such sort of amusements, as I look upon those to be the best schools for the manners of a gentleman; which nothing can give but use, observation, and experience. You have, besides, Italian to learn, to which I desire you will diligently apply; for though French is, I believe, the language of the court at Turin, yet Italian will be very necessary for you at Rome, and in other parts of Italy; and if you are well grounded in it while you are at Turin (as you easily may, for it is a very easy language), your subsequent stay at Rome will make you perfect in it. I would also have you acquire a general notion of fortification; I mean so far as not to be ignorant of the terms, which you will often hear mentioned in company, such as ravelin, bastion; glacis, contrescarpe, etc. In order to this, I do not propose that you should make a study of fortification, as if you were to be an engineer, but a very easy way of knowing as much as you need know of them, will be to visit often the fortifications of Turin, in company with some old officer or engineer, who will show and explain to you the several works themselves; by which means you will get a clearer notion of them than if you were to see them only upon paper for seven years together. Go to originals whenever you can, and trust to copies and descriptions as little as possible. At your idle hours, while you are at Turin, pray read the history of the House of Savoy, which has produced a great many very great men. The late king, Victor Amedee, was undoubtedly one, and the present king is, in my opinion, another. In general, I believe that little princes are more likely to be great men than those whose more extensive dominions and superior strength flatter them with a security, which commonly produces negligence and indolence. A little prince, in the neighborhood of great ones, must be alert and look out sharp, if he would secure his own dominions: much more still if he would enlarge them. He must watch for conjunctures or endeavor to make them. No princes have ever possessed this art better than those of the House of Savoy; who have enlarged their dominions prodigiously within a century by profiting of conjunctures.
I send you here inclosed a letter from Comte Lascaris, who is a warm friend of yours: I desire that you will answer it very soon and cordially, and remember to make your compliments in it to Comte du Perron. A young man should never be wanting in those attentions; they cost little and bring in a great deal, by getting you people’s good word and affection. They gain the heart, to which I have always advised you to apply yourself particularly; it guides ten thousand for one that, reason influences.
I cannot end this letter or (I believe) any other, without repeating my recommendation of THE GRACES. They are to be met with at Turin: for God’s sake, sacrifice to them, and they will be propitious. People mistake grossly, to imagine that the least awkwardness, either in matter or manner, mind or body, is an indifferent thing and not worthy of attention. It may possibly be a weakness in me, but in short we are all so made: I confess to you fairly, that when you shall come home and that I first see you, if I find you ungraceful in your address, and awkward in your person and dress, it will be impossible for me to love you half so well as I should otherwise do, let your intrinsic merit and knowledge be ever so great. If that would be your case with me, as it really would, judge how much worse it might be with others, who have not the same affection and partiality for you, and to whose hearts you must make your own way.
Remember to write to me constantly while you are in Italy, in the German language and character, till you can write to me in Italian; which will not be till you have been some time at Rome.
Adieu, my dear boy: may you turn out what Mr. Harte and I wish you. I must add that if you do not, it will be both your own fault and your own misfortune.
LONDON, May 15, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: This letter will, I hope, find you settled to your serious studies, and your necessary exercises at Turin, after the hurry and the dissipation of the Carnival at Venice. I mean that your stay at Turin should, and I flatter myself that it will, be an useful and ornamental period of your education; but at the same time I must tell you, that all my affection for you has never yet given me so much anxiety, as that which I now feel. While you are in danger, I shall be in fear; and you are in danger at Turin. Mr. Harte will by his care arm you as well as he can against it; but your own good sense and resolution can alone make you invulnerable. I am informed, there are now many English at the Academy at Turin; and I fear those are just so many dangers for you to encounter. Who they are, I do not know; but I well know the general ill conduct, the indecent behavior, and the illiberal views, of my young countrymen. abroad; especially wherever they are in numbers together. Ill example is of itself dangerous enough; but those who give it seldom stop there; they add their infamous exhortations and invitations; and, if they fail, they have recourse to ridicule, which is harder for one of your age and inexperience to withstand than either of the former. Be upon your guard, therefore, against these batteries, which will all be played upon you. You are not sent abroad to converse with your own countrymen: among them, in general, you will get, little knowledge, no languages, and, I am sure, no manners. I desire that you will form no connections, nor (what they impudently call) friendships with these people; which are, in truth, only combinations and conspiracies against good morals and good manners. There is commonly, in young people, a facility that makes them unwilling to refuse anything that is asked of them; a ‘mauvaise honte’ that makes them ashamed to refuse; and, at the same time, an ambition of pleasing and shining in the company they keep: these several causes produce the best effect in good company, but the very worst in bad. If people had no vices but their own, few would have so many as they have. For my own part, I would sooner wear other people’s clothes than their vices; and they would sit upon me just as well. I hope you will have none; but if ever you have, I beg, at least, they may be all your own. Vices of adoption are, of all others, the most disgraceful and unpardonable. There are degrees in vices, as well as in virtues; and I must do my countrymen the justice to say, that they generally take their vices in the lower degree. Their gallantry is the infamous mean debauchery of stews, justly attended and rewarded by the loss of their health, as well as their character. Their pleasures of the table end in beastly drunkenness, low riot, broken windows, and very often (as they well deserve), broken bones. They game for the sake of the vice, not of the amusement; and therefore carry it to excess; undo, or are undone by their companions. By such conduct, and in such company abroad, they come home, the unimproved, illiberal, and ungentlemanlike creatures that one daily sees them, that is, in the park and in the streets, for one never meets them in good company; where they have neither manners to present themselves, nor merit to be received. But, with the manners of footmen and grooms, they assume their dress too; for you must have observed them in the streets here, in dirty blue frocks, with oaken sticks in their ends, and their hair greasy and unpowdered, tucked up under their hats of an enormous size. Thus finished and adorned by their travels, they become the disturbers of play-houses; they break the windows, and commonly the landlords, of the taverns where they drink; and are at once the support, the terror, and the victims, of the bawdy-houses they frequent. These poor mistaken people think they shine, and so they do indeed; but it is as putrefaction shines in the dark.
I am not now preaching to you, like an old fellow, upon their religious or moral texts; I am persuaded that you do not want the best instructions of that kind: but I am advising you as a friend, as a man of the world, as one who would not have you old while you are young, but would have you to take all the pleasures that reason points out, and that decency warrants. I will therefore suppose, for argument’s sake (for upon no other account can it be supposed), that all the vices above mentioned were perfectly innocent in themselves: they would still degrade, vilify, and sink those who practiced them; would obstruct their rising in the world by debasing their characters; and give them low turn of mind, and manners absolutely inconsistent with their making any figure in upper life and great business.
What I have now said, together with your own good sense, is, I hope, sufficient to arm you against the seduction, the invitations, or the profligate exhortations (for I cannot call them temptations) of those unfortunate young people. On the other hand, when they would engage you in these schemes, content yourself with a decent but steady refusal; avoid controversy upon such plain points. You are too young to convert them; and, I trust, too wise to be converted by them. Shun them not only in reality, but even in appearance, if you would be well received in good company; for people will always be shy of receiving a man who comes from a place where the plague rages, let him look ever so healthy. There are some expressions, both in French and English, and some characters, both in those two and in other countries, which have, I dare say, misled many young men to their ruin. ‘Une honnete debauche, une jolie debauche; “An agreeable rake, a man of pleasure.” Do not think that this means debauchery and profligacy; nothing like it. It means, at most, the accidental and unfrequent irregularities of youth and vivacity, in opposition to dullness, formality, and want of spirit. A ‘commerce galant’, insensibly formed with a woman of fashion; a glass of wine or two too much, unwarily taken in the warmth and joy of good company; or some innocent frolic, by which nobody is injured, are the utmost bounds of that life of pleasure, which a man of sense and decency, who has a regard for his character, will allow himself, or be allowed by others. Those who transgress them in the hopes of shining, miss their aim, and become infamous, or at least, contemptible.
The length or shortness of your stay at Turin will sufficiently inform me (even though Mr. Harte should not) of your conduct there; for, as I have told you before, Mr. Harte has the strictest orders to carry you away immediately from thence, upon the first and least symptom of infection that he discovers about you; and I know him to be too conscientiously scrupulous, and too much your friend and mine not to execute them exactly. Moreover, I will inform you, that I shall have constant accounts of your behavior from Comte Salmour, the Governor of the Academy, whose son is now here, and my particular friend. I have, also, other good channels of intelligence, of which I do not apprise you. But, supposing that all turns out well at Turin, yet, as I propose your being at Rome for the jubilee, at Christmas, I desire that you will apply yourself diligently to your exercises of dancing, fencing, and riding at the Academy; as well for the sake of your health and growth, as to fashion and supple you. You must not neglect your dress neither, but take care to be ‘bien mis’. Pray send for the best operator for the teeth at Turin, where I suppose there is some famous one; and let him put yours in perfect order; and then take care to keep them so, afterward, yourself. You had very good teeth, and I hope they are so still; but even those who have bad ones, should keep them clean; for a dirty mouth is, in my mind, ill manners. In short, neglect nothing that can possibly please. A thousand nameless little things, which nobody can describe, but which everybody feels, conspire to form that WHOLE of pleasing; as the several pieces of a Mosaic work though, separately, of little beauty or value, when properly joined, form those beautiful figures which please everybody. A look, a gesture, an attitude, a tone of voice, all bear their parts in the great work of pleasing. The art of pleasing is more particularly necessary in your intended profession than perhaps in any other; it is, in truth, the first half of your business; for if you do not please the court you are sent to, you will be of very little use to the court you are sent from. Please the eyes and the ears, they will introduce you to the heart; and nine times in ten, the heart governs the understanding.
Make your court particularly, and show distinguished attentions to such men and women as are best at court, highest in the fashion, and in the opinion of the public; speak advantageously of them behind their backs, in companies whom you have reason to believe will tell them again. Express your admiration of the many great men that the House of Savoy has produced; observe that nature, instead of being exhausted by those efforts, seems to have redoubled them, in the person of the present King, and the Duke of Savoy; wonder, at this rate, where it will end, and conclude that it must end in the government of all Europe. Say this, likewise, where it will probably be repeated; but say it unaffectedly, and, the last especially, with a kind of ‘enjouement’. These little arts are very allowable, and must be made use of in the course of the world; they are pleasing to one party, useful to the other, and injurious to nobody.
What I have said with regard to my countrymen in general, does not extend to them all without exception; there are some who have both merit and manners. Your friend, Mr. Stevens, is among the latter; and I approve of your connection with him. You may happen to meet with some others, whose friendship may be of great use to you hereafter, either from their superior talents, or their rank and fortune; cultivate them; but then I desire that Mr. Harte may be the judge of those persons.
Adieu my dear child! Consider seriously the importance of the two next years to your character, your figure, and your fortune.
LONDON, May 22, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I recommended to you, in my last, an innocent piece of art; that of flattering people behind their backs, in presence of those who, to make their own court, much more than for your sake, will not fail to repeat and even amplify the praise to the party concerned. This is, of all flattery, the most pleasing, and consequently the most effectual. There are other, and many other, inoffensive arts of this kind, which are necessary in the course of the world, and which he who practices the earliest, will please the most, and rise the soonest. The spirits and vivacity of youth are apt to neglect them as useless, or reject them as troublesome. But subsequent knowledge and experience of the world reminds us of their importance, commonly when it is too late. The principal of these things is the mastery of one’s temper, and that coolness of mind, and serenity of countenance, which hinders us from discovering by words, actions, or even looks, those passions or sentiments by which we are inwardly moved or agitated; and the discovery of which gives cooler and abler people such infinite advantages over us, not only in great business, but in all the most common occurrences of life. A man who does not possess himself enough to hear disagreeable things without visible marks of anger and change of countenance, or agreeable ones, without sudden bursts of joy and expansion of countenance, is at the mercy of every artful knave or pert coxcomb; the former will provoke or please you by design, to catch unguarded words or looks by which he will easily decipher the secrets of your heart, of which you should keep the key yourself, and trust it with no man living. The latter will, by his absurdity, and without intending it, produce the same discoveries of which other people will avail themselves. You will say, possibly, that this coolness must be constitutional, and consequently does not depend upon the will: and I will allow that constitution has some power over us; but I will maintain, too, that people very often, to excuse themselves, very unjustly accuse their constitutions. Care and reflection, if properly used, will get the better: and a man may as surely get a habit of letting his reason prevail over his constitution, as of letting, as most people do, the latter prevail over the former. If you find yourself subject to sudden starts of passion or madness (for I see no difference between them but in their duration), resolve within yourself, at least, never to speak one word while you feel that emotion within you. Determine, too, to keep your countenance as unmoved and unembarrassed as possible; which steadiness you may get a habit of, by constant attention. I should desire nothing better, in any negotiation, than to have to do with one of those men of warm, quick passions; which I would take care to set in motion. By artful provocations I would extort rash unguarded expressions; and, by hinting at all the several things that I could suspect, infallibly discover the true one, by the alteration it occasioned in the countenance of the person. ‘Volto sciolto con pensieri stretti’, is a most useful maxim in business. It is so necessary at some games, such as ‘Berlan Quinze’, etc., that a man who had not the command of his temper and countenance, would infallibly be outdone by those who had, even though they played fair. Whereas, in business, you always play with sharpers; to whom, at least, you should give no fair advantages. It may be objected, that I am now recommending dissimulation to you; I both own and justify it. It has been long said, ‘Qui nescit dissimulare nescit regnare’: I go still further, and say, that without some dissimulation no business can be carried on at all. It is SIMULATION that is false, mean, and criminal: that is the cunning which Lord Bacon calls crooked or left- handed wisdom, and which is never made use of but by those who have not true wisdom. And the same great man says, that dissimulation is only to hide our own cards, whereas simulation is put on, in order to look into other people’s. Lord Bolingbroke, in his “Idea of a Patriot King,” which he has lately published, and which I will send you by the first opportunity, says very justly that simulation is a STILETTO,–not only an unjust but an unlawful weapon, and the use of it very rarely to be excused, never justified. Whereas dissimulation is a shield, as secrecy is armor; and it is no more possible to preserve secrecy in business, without same degree of dissimulation, than it is to succeed in business without secrecy. He goes on, and says, that those two arts of dissimulation and secrecy are like the alloy mingled with pure ore: a little is necessary, and will not debase the coin below its proper standard; but if more than that little be employed (that is, simulation and cunning), the coin loses its currency, and the coiner his credit.
Make yourself absolute master, therefore, of your temper and your countenance, so far, at least, as that no visible change do appear in either, whatever you may feel inwardly. This may be difficult, but it is by no means impossible; and, as a man of sense never attempts impossibilities on one hand, on the other, he is never discouraged by difficulties: on the contrary, he redoubles his industry and his diligence; he perseveres, and infallibly prevails at last. In any point which prudence bids you pursue, and which a manifest utility attends, let difficulties only animate your industry, not deter you from the pursuit. If one way has failed, try another; be active, persevere, and you will conquer. Some people are to be reasoned, some flattered, some intimidated, and some teased into a thing; but, in general, all are to be brought into it at last, if skillfully applied to, properly managed, and indefatigably attacked in their several weak places. The time should likewise be judiciously chosen; every man has his ‘mollia tempora’, but that is far from being all day long; and you would choose your time very ill, if you applied to a man about one business, when his head was full of another, or when his heart was full of grief, anger, or any other disagreeable sentiment.
In order to judge of the inside of others, study your own; for men in general are very much alike; and though one has one prevailing passion, and another has another, yet their operations are much the same; and whatever engages or disgusts, pleases or offends you, in others will, ‘mutatis mutandis’, engage, disgust, please, or offend others, in you. Observe with the utmost attention all the operations of your own mind, the nature of your passions, and the various motives that determine your will; and you may, in a great degree, know all mankind. For instance, do you find yourself hurt and mortified when another makes you feel his superiority, and your own inferiority, in knowledge, parts, rank, or fortune? You will certainly take great care not to make a person whose good will, good word, interest, esteem, or friendship, you would gain, feel that superiority in you, in case you have it. If disagreeable insinuations, sly sneers, or repeated contradictions, tease and irritate you, would you use them where you wish to engage and please? Surely not, and I hope you wish to engage and please, almost universally. The temptation of saying a smart and witty thing, or ‘bon mot’; and the malicious applause with which it is commonly received, has made people who can say them, and, still oftener, people who think they can, but cannot, and yet try, more enemies, and implacable ones too, than any one other thing that I know of: When such things, then, shall happen to be said at your expense (as sometimes they certainly will), reflect seriously upon the sentiments of uneasiness, anger, and resentment which they excite in you; and consider whether it can be prudent, by the same means, to excite the same sentiments in others against you. It is a decided folly to lose a friend for a jest; but, in my mind, it is not a much less degree of folly to make an enemy of an indifferent and neutral person, for the sake of a ‘bon mot’. When things of this kind happen to be said of you, the most prudent way is to seem not to suppose that they are meant at you, but to dissemble and conceal whatever degree of anger you may feel inwardly; but, should they be so plain that you cannot be supposed ignorant of their meaning, to join in the laugh of the company against yourself; acknowledge the hit to be a fair one, and the jest a good one, and play off the whole thing in seeming good humor; but by no means reply in the same way; which only shows that you are hurt, and publishes the victory which you might have concealed. Should the thing said, indeed injure your honor or moral character, there is but one proper reply; which I hope you never will have occasion to make.
As the female part of the world has some influence, and often too much, over the male, your conduct with regard to women (I mean women of fashion, for I cannot suppose you capable of conversing with any others) deserves some share in your reflections. They are a numerous and loquacious body: their hatred would be more prejudicial than their friendship can be advantageous to you. A general complaisance and attention to that sex is therefore established by custom, and certainly necessary. But where you would particularly please anyone, whose situation, interest, or connections, can be of use to you, you must show particular preference. The least attentions please, the greatest charm them. The innocent but pleasing flattery of their persons, however gross, is greedily swallowed and kindly digested: but a seeming regard for their understandings, a seeming desire of, and deference for, their advice, together with a seeming confidence in their moral virtues, turns their heads entirely in your favor. Nothing shocks them so much as the least appearance of that contempt which they are apt to suspect men of entertaining of their capacities; and you may be very sure of gaining their friendship if you seem to think it worth gaining. Here dissimulation is very often necessary, and even simulation sometimes allowable; which, as it pleases them, may, be useful to you, and is injurious to nobody.
This torn sheet, which I did not observe when I began upon it, as it alters the figure, shortens, too, the length of my letter. It may very well afford it: my anxiety for you carries me insensibly to these lengths. I am apt to flatter myself, that my experience, at the latter end of my life, may be of use to you at the beginning of yours; and I do not grudge the greatest trouble, if it can procure you the least advantage. I even repeat frequently the same things, the better to imprint them on your young, and, I suppose, yet giddy mind; and I shall think that part of my time the best employed, that contributes to make you employ yours well. God bless you, child!
LONDON, June 16, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I do not guess where this letter will find you, but I hope it will find you well: I direct it eventually to Laubach; from whence I suppose you have taken care to have your letters sent after you. I received no account from Mr. Harte by last post, and the mail due this day is not yet come in; so that my informations come down no lower than the 2d June, N. S., the date of Mr, Harte’s last letter. As I am now easy about your health, I am only curious about your motions, which I hope have been either to Inspruck or Verona; for I disapprove extremely of your proposed long and troublesome journey to Switzerland. Wherever you may be, I recommend to you to get as much Italian as you can, before you go either to Rome or Naples: a little will be of great use to you upon the road; and the knowledge of the grammatical part, which you can easily acquire in two or three months, will not only facilitate your progress, but accelerate your perfection in that language, when you go to those places where it is generally spoken; as Naples, Rome, Florence, etc.
Should the state of your health not yet admit of your usual application to books, you may, in a great degree, and I hope you will, repair that loss by useful and instructive conversations with Mr. Harte: you may, for example, desire him to give you in conversation the outlines, at least, of Mr. Locke’s logic; a general notion of ethics, and a verbal epitome of rhetoric; of all which Mr. Harte will give you clearer ideas in half an hour, by word of mouth, than the books of most of the dull fellows who have written upon those subjects would do in a week.
I have waited so long for the post, which I hoped would come, that the post, which is just going out, obliges me to cut this letter short. God bless you, my dear child! and restore you soon to perfect health!
My compliments to Mr. Harte; to whose care your life is the least thing that you owe.
LONDON, June 22, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: The outside of your letter of the 7th N. S., directed by your own hand, gave me more pleasure than the inside of any other letter ever did. I received it yesterday at the same time with one from Mr. Harts of the 6th. They arrived at a very proper time, for they found a consultation of physicians in my room, upon account of a fever which I had for four or five days, but which has now entirely left me. As Mr. Harte Says THAT YOUR LUNGS NOW AND THEN GIVE YOU A LITTLE PAIN, and that YOUR SWELLINGS COME AND GO VARIABLY, but as he mentions nothing of your coughing, spitting, or sweating, the doctors take it for granted that you are entirely free from those three bad symptoms: and from thence conclude, that, the pain which you sometimes feel upon your lungs is only symptomatical of your rheumatic disorder, from the pressure of the muscles which hinders the free play of the lungs. But, however, as the lungs are a point of the utmost importance and delicacy, they insist upon your drinking, in all events, asses’ milk twice a day, and goats’ whey as often as you please, the oftener the better: in your common diet, they recommend an attention to pectorals, such as sago, barley, turnips, etc. These rules are equally good in rheumatic as in consumptive cases; you will therefore, I hope, strictly observe them; for I take it for granted that you are above the silly likings or dislikings, in which silly people indulge their tastes, at the expense of their health.
I approve of your going to Venice, as much as I disapproved of your going to Switzerland. I suppose that you are by this time arrived; and, in that supposition, I direct this letter there. But if you should find the heat too great, or the water offensive, at this time of the year, I would have you go immediately to Verona, and stay there till the great heats are over, before you return to Venice.
The time which you will probably pass at Venice will allow you to make yourself master of that intricate and singular form of government, of which few of our travelers know anything. Read, ask, and see everything that is relative to it. There are likewise many valuable remains of the remotest antiquity, and many fine pieces of the Antico-moderno, all which deserve a different sort of attention from that which your countrymen commonly give them. They go to see them, as they go to see the lions, and kings on horseback, at the Tower here, only to say that they have seen them. You will, I am sure, view them in another light; you will consider them as you would a poem, to which indeed they are akin. You will observe whether the sculptor has animated his stone, or the painter his canvas, into the just expression of those sentiments and passions which should characterize and mark their several figures. You will examine, likewise, whether in their groups there be a unity of action, or proper relation; a truth of dress and manners. Sculpture and painting are very justly called liberal arts; a lively and strong imagination, together with a just observation, being absolutely necessary to excel in either; which, in my opinion, is by no means the case of music, though called a liberal art, and now in Italy placed even above the other two; a proof of the decline of that country. The Venetian school produced many great painters, such as Paul Veronese, Titian, Palma, etc., of whom you will see, as well in private houses as in churches, very fine pieces. The Last Supper, of Paul Veronese, in the church of St. George, is reckoned his capital performance, and deserves your attention; as does also the famous picture of the Cornaro Family, by Titian. A taste for sculpture and painting is, in my mind, as becoming as a taste for fiddling and piping is unbecoming, a man of fashion. The former is connected with history and poetry; the latter, with nothing that I know of but bad company.
Learn Italian as fast as ever you can, that you may be able to understand it tolerably, and speak it a little before you go to Rome and Naples: There are many good historians in that language, and excellent translations of the ancient Greek and Latin authors; which are called the Collana; but the only two Italian poets that deserve your acquaintance are Ariosto and Tasso; and they undoubtedly have great merit.
Make my compliments to Mr. Harte, and tell him that I have consulted about his leg, and that if it was only a sprain, he ought to keep a tight bandage about the part, for a considerable time, and do nothing else to it. Adieu! ‘Jubeo te bene valere’.
LONDON, July 6, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: As I am now no longer in pain about your health, which I trust is perfectly restored; and as, by the various accounts I have had of you, I need not be in pain about your learning, our correspondence may, for the future, turn upon less important points, comparatively; though still very important ones: I mean, the knowledge of the world, decorum, manners, address, and all those (commonly called little) accomplishments, which are absolutely necessary to give greater accomplishments their full, value and lustre.
Had I the admirable ring of Gyges, which rendered the wearer invisible; and had I, at the same time, those magic powers, which were very common formerly, but are now very scarce, of transporting myself, by a wish, to any given place, my first expedition would be to Venice, there to RECONNOITRE you, unseen myself. I would first take you in the morning, at breakfast with Mr. Harte, and attend to your natural and unguarded conversation with him; from whence, I think, I could pretty well judge of your natural turn of mind. How I should rejoice if I overheard you asking him pertinent questions upon useful subjects! or making judicious reflections upon the studies of that morning, or the occurrences of the former day! Then I would follow you into the different companies of the day, and carefully observe in what manner you presented yourself to, and behaved yourself with, men of sense and dignity; whether your address was respectful, and yet easy; your air modest, and yet unembarrassed; and I would, at the same time, penetrate into their thoughts, in order to know whether your first ‘abord’ made that advantageous impression upon their fancies, which a certain address, air, and manners, never fail doing. I would afterward follow you to the mixed companies of the evening; such as assemblies, suppers, etc., and there watch if you trifled gracefully and genteelly: if your good-breeding and politeness made way for your parts and knowledge. With what pleasure should I hear people cry out, ‘Che garbato cavaliere, com’ e pulito, disinvolto, spiritoso’! If all these things turned out to my mind, I would immediately assume my own shape, become visible, and embrace you: but if the contrary happened, I would preserve my invisibility, make the best of my way home again, and sink my disappointment upon you and the world. As, unfortunately, these supernatural powers of genii, fairies, sylphs, and gnomes, have had the fate of the oracles they succeeded, and have ceased for some time, I must content myself (till we meet naturally, and in the common way) with Mr. Harte’s written accounts of you, and the verbal ones which I now and then receive from people who have seen you. However, I believe it would do you no harm, if you would always imagine that I were present, and saw and heard everything you did and said.
There is a certain concurrence of various little circumstances which compose what the French call ‘l’aimable’; and which, now that you are entering into the world, you ought to make it your particular study to acquire. Without them, your learning will be pedantry, your conversation often improper, always unpleasant, and your figure, however good in itself, awkward and unengaging. A diamond, while rough, has indeed its intrinsic value; but, till polished, is of no use, and would neither be sought for nor worn. Its great lustre, it is true, proceeds from its solidity and strong cohesion of parts; but without the last polish, it would remain forever a dirty, rough mineral, in the cabinets of some few curious collectors. You have; I hope, that solidity and cohesion of parts; take now as much pains to get the lustre. Good company, if you make the right use of it, will cut you into shape, and give you the true brilliant polish. A propos of diamonds: I have sent you by Sir James Gray, the King’s Minister, who will be at Venice about the middle of September, my own diamond buckles; which are fitter for your young feet than for my old ones: they will properly adorn you; they would only expose me. If Sir James finds anybody whom he can trust, and who will be at Venice before him, he will send them by that person; but if he should not, and that you should be gone from Venice before he gets there, he will in that case give them to your banker, Monsieur Cornet, to forward to you, wherever you may then be. You are now of an age, at which the adorning your person is not only not ridiculous, but proper and becoming. Negligence would imply either an indifference about pleasing, or else an insolent security of pleasing, without using those means to which others are obliged to have recourse. A thorough cleanliness in your person is as necessary for your own health, as it is not to be offensive to other people. Washing yourself, and rubbing your body and limbs frequently with a fleshbrush, will conduce as much to health as to cleanliness. A particular attention to the cleanliness of your mouth, teeth, hands, and nails, is but common decency, in order not to offend people’s eyes and noses.
I send you here inclosed a letter of recommendation to the Duke of Nivernois, the French Ambassador at Rome; who is, in my opinion, one of the prettiest men I ever knew in my life. I do not know a better model for you to form yourself upon; pray observe and frequent him as much as you can. He will show you what manners and graces are. I shall, by successive posts, send you more letters, both for Rome and Naples, where it will be your own fault entirely if you do not keep the very best company.
As you will meet swarms of Germans wherever you go, I desire that you will constantly converse with them in their own language, which will improve you in that language, and be, at the same time, an agreeable piece of civility to them.
Your stay in Italy will, I do not doubt, make you critically master of Italian; I know it may, if you please, for it is a very regular, and consequently a very easy language. Adieu! God bless you!
LONDON, July 20, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I wrote to Mr. Harte last Monday, the 17th, O. S., in answer to his letter of the 20th June, N. S., which I had received but the day before, after an interval of eight posts; during which I did not know whether you or he existed, and indeed I began to think that you did not. By that letter you ought at this time to be at Venice; where I hope you are arrived in perfect health, after the baths of Tiefler, in case you have made use of them. I hope they are not hot baths, if your lungs are still tender.
Your friend, the Comte d’Einsiedlen, is arrived here: he has been at my door, and I have been at his; but we have not yet met. He will dine with me some day this week. Comte Lascaris inquires after you very frequently, and with great affection; pray answer the letter which I forwarded to you a great while ago from him. You may inclose your answer to me, and I will take care to give it him. Those attentions ought never to be omitted; they cost little, and please a great deal; but the neglect of them offends more than you can yet imagine. Great merit, or great failings, will make you be respected or despised; but trifles, little attentions, mere nothings, either done, or neglected, will make you either liked or disliked, in the general run of the world. Examine yourself why you like such and such people, and dislike such and such others; and you will find, that those different sentiments proceed from very slight causes. Moral virtues are the foundation of society in general, and of friendship in particular; but attentions, manners, and graces, both adorn and strengthen them. My heart is so set upon your pleasing, and consequently succeeding in the world, that possibly I have already (and probably shall again) repeat the same things over and over to you. However, to err, if I do err, on the surer side, I shall continue to communicate to you those observations upon the world which long experience has enabled me to make, and which I have generally found to hold true. Your youth and talents, armed with my experience, may go a great way; and that armor is very much at your service, if you please to wear it. I premise that it is not my imagination, but my memory, that gives you these rules: I am not writing pretty; but useful reflections. A man of sense soon discovers, because he carefully observes, where, and how long, he is welcome; and takes care to leave the company, at least as soon as he is wished out of it. Fools never perceive where they are either ill-timed or illplaced.
I am this moment agreeably stopped, in the course of my reflections, by the arrival of Mr. Harte’s letter of the 13th July, N. S., to Mr. Grevenkop, with one inclosed for your Mamma. I find by it that many of his and your letters to me must have miscarried; for he says that I have had regular accounts of you: whereas all those accounts have been only his letter of the 6th and yours of the 7th June, N. S.; his of the 20th June, N. S., to me; and now his of the 13th July, N. S., to Mr. Grevenkop. However, since you are so well, as Mr. Harte says you are, all is well. I am extremely glad that you have no complaint upon your lungs; but I desire that you will think you have, for three or four months to come. Keep in a course of asses’ or goats’ milk, for one is as good as the other, and possibly the latter is the best; and let your common food be as pectoral as you can conveniently make it. Pray tell Mr. Harte that, according to his desire, I have wrote a letter of thanks to Mr. Firmian. I hope you write to him too, from time to time. The letters of recommendation of a man of his merit and learning will, to be sure, be of great use to you among the learned world in Italy; that is, provided you take care to keep up to the character he gives you in them; otherwise they will only add to your disgrace.
Consider that you have lost a good deal of time by your illness; fetch it up now that you are well. At present you should be a good economist of your moments, of which company and sights will claim a considerable share; so that those which remain for study must be not only attentively, but greedily employed. But indeed I do not suspect you of one single moment’s idleness in the whole day. Idleness is only the refuge of weak minds, and the holiday of fools. I do not call good company and liberal pleasures, idleness; far from it: I recommend to you a good share of both.
I send you here inclosed a letter for Cardinal Alexander Albani, which you will give him, as soon as you get to Rome, and before you deliver any others; the Purple expects that preference; go next to the Duc de Nivernois, to whom you are recommended by several people at Paris, as well as by myself. Then you may carry your other letters occasionally.
Remember to pry narrowly into every part of the government of Venice: inform yourself of the history of that republic, especially of its most remarkable eras; such as the Ligue de eambray, in 1509, by which it had like to have been destroyed; and the conspiracy formed by the Marquis de Bedmar, the Spanish Ambassador, to subject it to the Crown of Spain. The famous disputes between that republic and the Pope are worth your knowledge; and the writings of the celebrated and learned Fra Paolo di Sarpi, upon that occasion, worth your reading. It was once the greatest commercial power in Europe, and in the 14th and 15th centuries made a considerable figure; but at present its commerce is decayed, and its riches consequently decreased; and, far from meddling now with the affairs of the Continent, it owes its security to its neutrality and inefficiency; and that security will last no longer than till one of the great Powers in Europe engrosses the rest of Italy; an event which this century possibly may, but which the next probably will see.
Your friend Comte d’Ensiedlen and his governor, have been with me this moment, and delivered me your letter from Berlin, of February the 28th, N. S. I like them both so well that I am glad you did; and still gladder to hear what they say of you. Go on, and continue to deserve the praises of those who deserve praises themselves. Adieu.
I break open this letter to acknowledge yours of the 30th June, N. S., which I have but this instant received, though thirteen days antecedent in date to Mr. Harte’s last. I never in my life heard of bathing four hours a day; and I am impatient to hear of your safe arrival at Venice, after so extraordinary an operation.
LONDON, July 30, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: Mr. Harte’s letters and yours drop in upon me most irregularly; for I received, by the last post, one from Mr. Harte, of the 9th, N. S., and that which Mr. Grevenkop had received from him, the post before, was of the 13th; at last, I suppose, I shall receive them all.
I am very glad that my letter, with Dr. Shaw’s opinion, has lessened your bathing; for since I was born, I never heard of bathing four hours a-day; which would surely be too much, even in Medea’s kettle, if you wanted (as you do not yet) new boiling.
Though, in that letter of mine, I proposed your going to Inspruck, it was only in opposition to Lausanne, which I thought much too long and painful a journey for you; but you will have found, by my subsequent letters, that I entirely approved of Venice; where I hope you have now been some time, and which is a much better place for you to reside at, till you go to Naples, than either Tieffer or Laubach. I love capitals extremely; it is in capitals that the best company is always to be found; and consequently, the best manners to be learned. The very best provincial places have some awkwardness, that distinguish their manners from those of the metropolis. ‘A propos’ of capitals, I send you here two letters of recommendation to Naples, from Monsieur Finochetti, the Neapolitan Minister at The Hague; and in my next I shall send you two more, from the same person, to the same place.
I have examined Comte d’Einsiedlen so narrowly concerning you, that I have extorted from him a confession that you do not care to speak German, unless to such as understand no other language. At this rate, you will never speak it well, which I am very desirous that you should do, and of which you would, in time, find the advantage. Whoever has not the command of a language, and does not speak it with facility, will always appear below himself when he converses in that language; the want of words and phrases will cramp and lame his thoughts. As you now know German enough to express yourself tolerably, speaking it very often will soon make you speak it very well: and then you will appear in it whatever you are. What with your own Saxon servant and the swarms of Germans you will meet with wherever you go, you may have opportunities of conversing in that language half the day; and I do very seriously desire that you will, or else all the pains that you have already taken about it are lost. You will remember likewise, that, till you can write in Italian, you are always to write to me in German.
Mr. Harte’s conjecture concerning your distemper seems to be a very reasonable one; it agrees entirely with mine, which is the universal rule by which every man judges of another man’s opinion. But, whatever may have been the cause of your rheumatic disorder, the effects are still to be attended to; and as there must be a remaining acrimony in your blood, you ought to have regard to that, in your common diet as well as in your medicines; both which should be of a sweetening alkaline nature, and promotive of perspiration. Rheumatic complaints are very apt to return, and those returns would be very vexatious and detrimental to you; at your age, and in your course of travels. Your time is, now particularly, inestimable; and every hour of it, at present, worth more than a year will be to you twenty years hence. You are now laying the foundation of your future character and fortune; and one single stone wanting in that foundation is of more consequence than fifty in the superstructure; which can always be mended and embellished if the foundation is solid. To carry on the metaphor of building: I would wish you to be a Corinthian edifice upon a Tuscan foundation; the latter having the utmost strength and solidity to support, and the former all possible ornaments to decorate. The Tuscan column is coarse, clumsy, and unpleasant; nobody looks at it twice; the Corinthian fluted column is beautiful and attractive; but without a solid foundation, can hardly be seen twice, because it must soon tumble down. Yours affectionately.
LONDON, August 7, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: By Mr. Harte’s letter to me of the 18th July N. S., which I received by the last post, I am at length informed of the particulars both of your past distemper, and of your future motions. As to the former, I am now convinced, and so is Dr. Shaw, that your lungs were only symptomatically affected; and that the rheumatic tendency is what you are chiefly now to guard against, but (for greater security) with due attention still to your lungs, as if they had been, and still were, a little affected. In either case, a cooling, pectoral regimen is equally good. By cooling, I mean cooling in its consequences, not cold to the palate; for nothing is more dangerous than very cold liquors, at the very time that one longs for them the most; which is, when one is very hot. Fruit, when full ripe, is very wholesome; but then it must be within certain bounds as to quantity; for I have known many of my countrymen die of bloody-fluxes, by indulging in too great a quantity of fruit, in those countries where, from the goodness and ripeness of it, they thought it could do them no harm. ‘Ne quid nimis’, is a most excellent rule in everything; but commonly the least observed, by people of your age, in anything.
As to your future motions, I am very well pleased with them, and greatly prefer your intended stay at Verona to Venice, whose almost stagnating waters must, at this time of the year, corrupt the air. Verona has a pure and clear air, and, as I am informed, a great deal of good company. Marquis Maffei, alone, would be worth going there for. You may, I think, very well leave Verona about the middle of September, when the great heats will be quite over, and then make the best of your way to Naples; where, I own, I want to have you by way of precaution (I hope it is rather over caution) in case of the last remains of a pulmonic disorder. The amphitheatre at Verona is worth your attention; as are also many buildings there and at Vicenza, of the famous Andrea Palladio, whose taste and style of buildings were truly antique. It would not be amiss, if you employed three or four days in learning the five orders of architecture, with their general proportions; and you may know all that you need know of them in that time. Palladio’s own book of architecture is the best you can make use of for that purpose, skipping over the mechanical part of it, such as the materials, the cement, etc.
Mr. Harte tells me, that your acquaintance with the classics is renewed; the suspension of which has been so short, that I dare say it has produced no coldness. I hope and believe, you are now so much master of them, that two hours every day, uninterruptedly, for a year or two more, will make you perfectly so; and I think you cannot now allot them a greater share than that of your time, considering the many other things you have to learn and to do. You must know how to speak and write Italian perfectly; you must learn some logic, some geometry, and some astronomy; not to mention your exercises, where they are to be learned; and, above all, you must learn the world, which is not soon learned; and only to be learned by frequenting good and various companies.
Consider, therefore, how precious every moment of time is to you now. The more you apply to your business, the more you will taste your pleasures. The exercise of the mind in the morning whets the appetite for the pleasures of the evening, as much as the exercise of the body whets the appetite for dinner. Business and pleasure, rightly understood, mutually assist each other, instead of being enemies, as silly or dull people often think them. No man tastes pleasures truly, who does not earn them by previous business, and few people do business well, who do nothing else. Remember that when I speak of pleasures, I always mean the elegant pleasures of a rational being, and, not the brutal ones of a swine. I mean ‘la bonne Chere’, short of gluttony; wine, infinitely short of drunkenness; play, without the least gaming; and gallantry without debauchery. There is a line in all these things which men of sense, for greater security, take care to keep a good deal on the right side of; for sickness, pain, contempt and infamy, lie immediately on the other side of it. Men of sense and merit, in all other respects, may have had some of these failings; but then those few examples, instead of inviting us to imitation, should only put us the more upon our guard against such weaknesses: and whoever thinks them fashionable, will not be so himself; I have often known a fashionable man have some one vice; but I never in my life knew a vicious man a fashionable man. Vice is as degrading as it is criminal. God bless you, my dear child!
LONDON, August 20, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: Let us resume our reflections upon men, their characters, their manners, in a word, our reflections upon the world. They may help you to form yourself, and to know others; a knowledge very useful at all ages, very rare at yours. It seems as if it were nobody’s business to communicate it to young men. Their masters teach them, singly, the languages or the sciences of their several departments; and are indeed generally incapable of teaching them the world: their parents are often so too, or at least neglect doing it, either from avocations, indifference, or from an opinion that throwing them into the world (as they call it) is the best way of teaching it them. This last notion is in a great degree true; that is, the world can doubtless never be well known by theory: practice is absolutely necessary; but surely it is of great use to a young man, before he sets out for that country full of mazes, windings, and turnings, to have at least a general map of it, made by some experienced traveler.
There is a certain dignity of manners absolutely necessary, to make even the most valuable character either respected or respectable.–[Meaning worthy of respect.]
Horse-play, romping, frequent and loud fits of laughter, jokes, waggery, and indiscriminate familiarity, will sink both merit and knowledge into a degree of contempt. They compose at most a merry fellow; and a merry fellow was never yet a respectable man. Indiscriminate familiarity either offends your superiors, or else dubbs you their dependent and led captain. It gives your inferiors just, but troublesome and improper claims of equality. A joker is near akin to a buffoon; and neither of them is the least related to wit. Whoever is admitted or sought for, in company, upon any other account than that of his merit and manners, is never respected there, but only made use of. We will have such-a-one, for he sings prettily; we will invite such-a-one to a ball, for he dances well; we will have such-a-one at supper, for he is always joking and laughing; we will ask another, because he plays deep at all games, or because he can drink a great deal. These are all vilifying distinctions, mortifying preferences, and exclude all ideas of esteem and regard. Whoever is HAD (as it is called) in company for the sake of any one thing singly, is singly that thing and will never be considered in any other light; consequently never respected, let his merits be what they will.
This dignity of manners, which I recommend so much to you, is not only as different from pride, as true courage is from blustering, or true wit from joking; but is absolutely inconsistent with it; for nothing vilifies and degrades more than pride. The pretensions of the proud man are oftener treated with sneer and contempt, than with indignation; as we offer ridiculously too little to a tradesman, who asks ridiculously too much for his goods; but we do not haggle with one who only asks a just and reasonable price.
Abject flattery and indiscriminate assentation degrade as much as indiscriminate contradiction and noisy debate disgust. But a modest assertion of one’s own opinion, and a complaisant acquiescence to other people’s, preserve dignity.
Vulgar, low expressions, awkward motions and address, vilify, as they imply either a very low turn of mind, or low education and low company.
Frivolous curiosity about trifles, and a laborious attention to little objects which neither require nor deserve a moment’s thought, lower a man; who from thence is thought (and not unjustly) incapable of greater matters. Cardinal de Retz, very sagaciously, marked out Cardinal Chigi for a little mind, from the moment that he told him he had wrote three years with the same pen, and that it was an excellent good one still.
A certain degree of exterior seriousness in looks and motions gives dignity, without excluding wit and decent cheerfulness, which are always serious themselves. A constant smirk upon the face, and a whifing activity of the body, are strong indications of futility. Whoever is in a hurry, shows that the thing he is about is too big for him. Haste and hurry are very different things.
I have only mentioned some of those things which may, and do, in the opinion of the world, lower and sink characters, in other respects valuable enough,–but I have taken no notice of those that affect and sink the moral characters. They are sufficiently obvious. A man who has patiently been kicked may as well pretend to courage, as a man blasted by vices and crimes may to dignity of any kind. But an exterior decency and dignity of manners will even keep such a man longer from sinking, than otherwise he would be: of such consequence is the [****], even though affected and put on! Pray read frequently, and with the utmost attention, nay, get by heart, if you can, that incomparable chapter in Cicero’s “Offices,” upon the [****], or the Decorum. It contains whatever is necessary for the dignity of manners.
In my next I will send you a general map of courts; a region yet unexplored by you, but which you are one day to inhabit. The ways are generally crooked and full of turnings, sometimes strewed with flowers, sometimes choked up with briars; rotten ground and deep pits frequently lie concealed under a smooth and pleasing surface; all the paths are slippery, and every slip is dangerous. Sense and discretion must accompany you at your first setting out; but, notwithstanding those, till experience is your guide, you will every now and then step out of your way, or stumble.
Lady Chesterfield has just now received your German letter, for which she thanks you; she says the language is very correct; and I can plainly see that the character is well formed, not to say better than your English character. Continue to write German frequently, that it may become quite familiar to you. Adieu.
LONDON, August 21, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: By the last letter that I received from Mr. Harte, of the 31st July, N. S., I suppose you are now either at Venice or Verona, and perfectly re covered of your late illness: which I am daily more and more convinced had no consumptive tendency; however, for some time still, ‘faites comme s’il y en avoit’, be regular, and live pectorally.
You will soon be at courts, where, though you will not be concerned, yet reflection and observation upon what you see and hear there may be of use to you, when hereafter you may come to be concerned in courts yourself. Nothing in courts is exactly as it appears to be; often very different; sometimes directly contrary. Interest, which is the real spring of everything there, equally creates and dissolves friendship, produces and reconciles enmities: or, rather, allows of neither real friendships nor enmities; for, as Dryden very justly observes, POLITICIANS NEITHER LOVE NOR HATE. This is so true, that you may think you connect yourself with two friends to-day, and be obliged tomorrow to make your option between them as enemies; observe, therefore, such a degree of reserve with your friends as not to put yourself in their power, if they should become your enemies; and such a degree of moderation with your enemies, as not to make it impossible for them to become your friends.
Courts are, unquestionably, the seats of politeness and good-breeding; were they not so, they would be the seats of slaughter and desolation. Those who now smile upon and embrace, would affront and stab each other, if manners did not interpose; but ambition and avarice, the two prevailing passions at courts, found dissimulation more effectual than violence; and dissimulation introduced that habit of politeness, which distinguishes the courtier from the country gentleman. In the former case the strongest body would prevail; in the latter, the strongest mind.
A man of parts and efficiency need not flatter everybody at court; but he must take great care to offend nobody personally; it being in the power of every man to hurt him, who cannot serve him. Homer supposes a chain let down from Jupiter to the earth, to connect him with mortals. There is, at all courts, a chain which connects the prince or the minister with the page of the back stairs, or the chamber-maid. The king’s wife, or mistress, has an influence over him; a lover has an influence over her; the chambermaid, or the valet de chambre, has an influence over both, and so ad infinitum. You must, therefore, not break a link of that chain, by which you hope to climb up to the prince.
You must renounce courts if you will not connive at knaves, and tolerate fools. Their number makes them considerable. You should as little quarrel as connect yourself with either.
Whatever you say or do at court, you may depend upon it, will be known; the business of most of those, who crowd levees and antichambers, being to repeat all that they see or hear, and a great deal that they neither see nor hear, according as they are inclined to the persons concerned, or according to the wishes of those to whom they hope to make their court. Great caution is therefore necessary; and if, to great caution, you can join seeming frankness and openness, you will unite what Machiavel reckons very difficult but very necessary to be united; ‘volto sciolto e pensieri stretti’.
Women are very apt to be mingled in court intrigues; but they deserve attention better than confidence; to hold by them is a very precarious tenure.
I am agreeably interrupted in these reflections by a letter which I have this moment received from Baron Firmian. It contains your panegyric, and with the strongest protestations imaginable that he does you only justice. I received this favorable account of you with pleasure, and I communicate it to you with as much. While you deserve praise, it is reasonable you should know that you meet with it; and I make no doubt, but that it will encourage you in persevering to deserve it. This is one paragraph of the Baron’s letter: Ses moeurs dans un age si tendre, reglees selon toutes les loix d’une morale exacte et sensee; son application (that is what I like) a tout ce qui s’appelle etude serieuse, et Belles Lettres,–“Notwithstanding his great youth, his manners are regulated by the most unexceptionable rules of sense and of morality. His application THAT IS WHAT I LIKE to every kind of serious study, as well as to polite literature, without even the least appearance of ostentatious pedantry, render him worthy of your most tender affection; and I have the honor of assuring you, that everyone cannot but be pleased with the acquisition of his acquaintance or of his friendship. I have profited of it, both here and at Vienna; and shall esteem myself very happy to make use of the permission he has given me of continuing it by letter.” Reputation, like health, is preserved and increased by the same means by which it is acquired. Continue to desire and deserve praise, and you will certainly find it. Knowledge, adorned by manners, will infallibly procure it. Consider, that you have but a little way further to get to your journey’s end; therefore, for God’s sake, do not slacken your pace; one year and a half more of sound application, Mr. Harte assures me, will finish this work; and when this work is finished well, your own will be very easily done afterward. ‘Les Manieres et les Graces’ are no immaterial parts of that work; and I beg that you will give as much of your attention. to them as to your books. Everything depends upon them; ‘senza di noi ogni fatica e vana’. The various companies you now go into will procure them you, if you will carefully observe, and form yourself upon those who have them.
Adieu! God bless you! and may you ever deserve that affection with which I am now, Yours.
LONDON, September 5, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I have received yours from Laubach, of the 17th of August, N. S., with the inclosed for Comte Lascaris; which I have given him, and with which he is extremely pleased, as I am with your account of Carniola. I am very glad that you attend to, and inform yourself of, the political objects of the country you go through. Trade and manufactures are very considerable, not to say the most important ones; for, though armies and navies are the shining marks of the strength of countries, they would be very ill paid, and consequently fight very ill, if manufactures and commerce did not support them. You have certainly observed in Germany the inefficiency of great powers, with great tracts of country and swarms of men; which are absolutely useless, if not paid by other powers who have the resources of manufactures and commerce. This we have lately experienced to be the case of the two empresses of Germany and Russia: England, France, and Spain, must pay their respective allies, or they may as well be without them.
I have not the least objection to your taking, into the bargain, the observation of natural curiosities; they are very welcome, provided they do not take up the room of better things. But the forms of government, the maxims of policy, the strength or weakness, the trade and commerce, of the several countries you see or hear of are the important objects, which I recommend to your most minute inquiries, and most serious attention. I thought that the republic of Venice had by this time laid aside that silly and frivolous piece of policy, of endeavoring to conceal their form of government; which anybody may know, pretty nearly, by taking the pains to read four or five books, which explain all the great parts of it; and as for some of the little wheels of that machine, the knowledge of them would be as little useful to others as dangerous to themselves. Their best policy (I can tell them) is to keep quiet, and to offend no one great power, by joining with another. Their escape, after the Ligue of Cambray, should prove a useful lesson to them.
I am glad you frequent the assemblies at Venice. Have you seen Monsieur and Madame Capello, and how did they receive you? Let me know who are the ladies whose houses you frequent the most. Have you seen the Comptesse d’Orselska, Princess of Holstein? Is Comte Algarotti, who was the TENANT there, at Venice?
You will, in many parts of Italy, meet with numbers of the Pretender’s people (English, Scotch, and Irish fugitives), especially at Rome; probably the Pretender himself. It is none of your business to declare war to these people, as little as it is your interest, or, I hope, your inclination, to connect yourself with them; and therefore I recommend to you a perfect neutrality. Avoid them as much as you can with decency and good manners; but when you cannot, avoid any political conversation or debates with them; tell them that you do not concern yourself with political matters: that you are neither maker nor a deposer of kings; that when you left England, you left a king in it, and have not since heard either of his death, or of any revolution that has happened; and that you take kings and kingdoms as you find them; but enter no further into matters with them, which can be of no use, and might bring on heats and quarrels. When you speak of the old Pretender, you will call him only the Chevalier de St. George;–but mention him as seldom as possible. Should he chance to speak to you at any assembly (as, I am told, he sometimes does to the English), be sure that you seem not to know him; and answer him civilly, but always either in French or in Italian; and give him, in the former, the appellation of Monsieur, and in the latter, of Signore. Should you meet with the Cardinal of York, you will be under no difficulty; for he has, as Cardinal, an undoubted right to ‘Eminenza’. Upon the whole, see any of those people as little as possible; when you do see them, be civil to them, upon the footing of strangers; but never be drawn into any altercations with them about the imaginary right of their king, as they call him.
It is to no sort of purpose to talk to those people of the natural rights of mankind, and the particular constitution of this country. Blinded by prejudices, soured by misfortunes, and tempted by their necessities, they are as incapable of reasoning rightly, as they have hitherto been of acting wisely. The late Lord Pembroke never would know anything that he had not a mind to know; and, in this case, I advise you to follow his example. Never know either the father or the two sons, any otherwise than as foreigners; and so, not knowing their pretensions, you have no occasion to dispute them.
I can never help recommending to you the utmost attention and care, to acquire ‘les Manieres, la Tournure, et les Graces, d’un galant homme, et d’un homme de cour’. They should appear in every look, in every action; in your address, and even in your dress, if you would either please or rise in the world. That you may do both (and both are in your power) is most ardently wished you, by Yours.
P. S. I made Comte Lascaris show me your letter, which I liked very well; the style was easy and natural, and the French pretty correct. There were so few faults in the orthography, that a little more observation of the best French authors would make you a correct master of that necessary language.
I will not conceal from you, that I have lately had extraordinary good accounts of you, from an unexpected and judicious person, who promises me that, with a little more of the world, your manners and address will equal your knowledge. This is the more pleasing to me, as those were the two articles of which I was the most doubtful. These commendations will not, I am persuaded, make you vain and coxcomical, but only encourage you to go on in the right way.
LONDON, September 12, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: It seems extraordinary, but it is very true, that my anxiety for you increases in proportion to the good accounts which I receive of you from all hands. I promise myself so much from you, that I dread the least disappointment. You are now so near the port, which I have so long wished and labored to bring you safe into, that my concern would be doubled, should you be shipwrecked within sight of it. The object, therefore, of this letter is (laying aside all the authority of a parent) to conjure you as a friend, by the affection you have for me (and surely you have reason to have some), and by the regard you have for yourself, to go on, with assiduity and attention, to complete that work which, of late, you have carried on so well, and which is now so near being finished. My wishes and my plan were to make you shine and distinguish yourself equally in the learned and the polite world. Few have been able to do it. Deep learning is generally tainted with pedantry, or at least unadorned by manners: as, on the other hand, polite manners and the turn of the world are too often unsupported by knowledge, and consequently end contemptibly, in the frivolous dissipation of drawing-rooms and ruelles. You are now got over the dry and difficult parts of learning; what remains requires much more time than trouble. You have lost time by your illness; you must regain it now or never. I therefore most earnestly desire, for your own sake, that for these next six months, at least six hours every morning, uninterruptedly, may be inviolably sacred to your studies with Mr. Harte. I do not know whether he will require so much; but I know that I do, and hope you will, and consequently prevail with him to give you that time; I own it is a good deal: but when both you and he consider that the work will be so much better, and so much sooner done, by such an assiduous and continued application, you will, neither of you, think it too much, and each will find his account in it. So much for the mornings, which from your own good sense, and Mr. Harte’s tenderness and care of you, will, I am sure, be thus well employed. It is not only reasonable, but useful too, that your evenings should be devoted to amusements and pleasures: and therefore I not only allow, but recommend, that they should be employed at assemblies, balls, SPECTACLES, and in the best companies; with this restriction only, that the consequences of the evening’s diversions may not break in upon the morning’s studies, by breakfastings, visits, and idle parties into the country. At your age, you need not be ashamed, when any of these morning parties are proposed, to say that you must beg to be excused, for you are obliged to devote your mornings to Mr. Harte; that I will have it so; and that you dare not do otherwise. Lay it all upon me; though I am persuaded it will be as much your own inclination as it is mine. But those frivolous, idle people, whose time hangs upon their own hands, and who desire to make others lose theirs too, are not to be reasoned with: and indeed it would be doing them too much honor. The shortest civil answers are the best; I CANNOT, I DARE NOT, instead of I WILL NOT; for if you were to enter with them into the necessity of study end the usefulness of knowledge, it would only furnish them with matter for silly jests; which, though I would not have you mind, I would not have you invite. I will suppose you at Rome studying six hours uninterruptedly with Mr. Harte, every morning, and passing your evenings with the best company of Rome, observing their manners and forming your own; and I will suppose a number of idle, sauntering, illiterate English, as there commonly is there, living entirely with one another, supping, drinking, and sitting up late at each other’s lodgings; commonly in riots and scrapes when drunk, and never in good company when sober. I will take one of these pretty fellows, and give you the dialogue between him and yourself; such as, I dare say, it will be on his side; and such as, I hope, it will be on yours:–
Englishman. Will you come and breakfast with me tomorrow? there will be four or five of our countrymen; we have provided chaises, and we will drive somewhere out of town after breakfast.
Stanhope. I am very sorry I cannot; but I am obliged to be at home all morning.
Englishman. Why, then, we will come and breakfast with you.
Stanhope. I can’t do that neither; I am engaged.
Englishman. Well, then, let it be the next day.