Letters to His Son, 1751 by The Earl of Chesterfield

This etext was produced by David Widger LETTERS TO HIS SON 1751 By the EARL OF CHESTERFIELD on the Fine Art of becoming a MAN OF THE WORLD and a GENTLEMAN LETTER CXXVI LONDON, January 8, O.S. 1751 MY DEAR FRIEND: By your letter of the 5th, N. S., I find that your ‘debut’ at
This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Language:
Form:
Genre:
Published:
  • 1751
Tags:
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

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
1751

By the EARL OF CHESTERFIELD

on the Fine Art of becoming a

MAN OF THE WORLD

and a

GENTLEMAN

LETTER CXXVI

LONDON, January 8, O.S. 1751

MY DEAR FRIEND: By your letter of the 5th, N. S., I find that your ‘debut’ at Paris has been a good one; you are entered into good company, and I dare say you will, not sink into bad. Frequent the houses where you have been once invited, and have none of that shyness which makes most of your countrymen strangers, where they might be intimate and domestic if they pleased. Wherever you have a general invitation to sup when you please, profit of it, with decency, and go every now and then. Lord Albemarle will, I am sure, be extremely kind to you, but his house is only a dinner house; and, as I am informed, frequented by no French people. Should he happen to employ you in his bureau, which I much doubt, you must write a better hand than your common one, or you will get no credit by your manuscripts; for your hand is at present an illiberal one; it is neither a hand of business nor of a gentleman, but the hand of a school-boy writing his exercise, which he hopes will never be read.

Madame de Monconseil gives me a favorable account of you; and so do Marquis de Matignon and Madame du Boccage; they all say that you desire to please, and consequently promise me that you will; and they judge right; for whoever really desires to please, and has (as you now have) the means of learning how, certainly will please and that is the great point of life; it makes all other things easy. Whenever you are with Madame de Monconseil, Madame du Boccage, or other women of fashion, with whom you are tolerably free, say frankly and naturally: “I know little of the world; I am quite a novice in it; and although very desirous of pleasing, I am at a loss for the means. Be so good, Madame, as to let me into your secret of pleasing everybody. I shall owe my success to it, and you will always have more than falls to your share.” When, in consequence of this request, they shall tell you of any little error, awkwardness, or impropriety, you should not only feel, but express the warmest acknowledgment. Though nature should suffer, and she will at first hearing them, tell them, that you will look upon the most severe criticisms as the greatest proof of their friendship. Madame du Boccage tells me, particularly, to inform you: “I shall always, receive the honor of his visits with pleasure; it is true, that at his age the pleasures of conversation are cold; but I will endeavor to make him acquainted with young people,” etc.

Make use of this invitation, and as you live, in a manner, next door to her, step in and out there frequently. Monsieur du Boccage will go with you, he tells me, with great pleasure, to the plays, and point out to you whatever deserves your knowing there. This is worth your acceptance too; he has a very good taste. I have not yet heard from Lady Hervey upon your subject; but as you inform me that you have already supped with her once, I look upon you as adopted by her; consult her in all your little matters; tell her any difficulties that may occur to you; ask her what you should do or say in such or such cases; she has ‘l’usage du monde en perfection’, and will help you to acquire it. Madame de Berkenrode ‘est paitrie de graces’, and your quotation is very applicable to her. You may be there, I dare say, as often as you please, and I would advise you to sup there once a week.

You say, very justly, that as Mr. Harte is leaving you, you shall want advice more than ever; you shall never want mine; and as you have already had so much of it, I must rather repeat than add to what I have already given you; but that I will do, and add to it occasionally, as circumstances may require. At present I shall only remind you of your two great objects, which you should always attend to; they are parliament and foreign affairs. With regard to the former, you can do nothing while abroad but attend carefully to the purity, correctness, and elegance of your diction; the clearness and gracefulness of your utterance, in whatever language you speak. As for the parliamentary knowledge, I will take care of that when you come home. With regard to foreign affairs, everything you do abroad may and ought to tend that way. Your reading should be chiefly historical; I do not mean of remote, dark, and fabulous history, still less of jimcrack natural history of fossils, minerals, plants, etc., but I mean the useful, political, and constitutional history of Europe, for these last three centuries and a half. The other thing necessary for your foreign object, and not less necessary than either ancient or modern knowledge, is a great knowledge of the world, manners, politeness, address, and ‘le ton de la bonne compagnie’. In that view, keeping a great deal of good company, is the principal point to which you are now to attend. It seems ridiculous to tell you, but it is most certainly true, that your dancing-master is at this time the man in all Europe of the greatest importance to you. You must dance well, in order to sit, stand, and walk well; and you must do all these well in order to please. What with your exercises, some reading, and a great deal of company, your day is, I confess, extremely taken up; but the day, if well employed, is long enough for everything; and I am sure you will not slattern away one moment of it in inaction. At your age, people have strong and active spirits, alacrity and vivacity in all they do; are ‘impigri’, indefatigable, and quick. The difference is, that a young fellow of parts exerts all those happy dispositions in the pursuit of proper objects; endeavors to excel in the solid, and in the showish parts of life; whereas a silly puppy, or a dull rogue, throws away all his youth and spirit upon trifles, where he is serious or upon disgraceful vices, while he aims at pleasures. This I am sure will not be your case; your good sense and your good conduct hitherto are your guarantees with me for the future. Continue only at Paris as you have begun, and your stay there will make you, what I have always wished you to be, as near perfection as our nature permits.

Adieu, my dear; remember to write to me once a-week, not as to a father, but, without reserve, as to a friend.

LETTER CXXVII

LONDON, January 14, O. S. 1751

MY DEAR FRIEND: Among the many good things Mr. Harte has told me of you, two in particular gave me great pleasure. The first, that you are exceedingly careful and jealous of the dignity of your character; that is the sure and solid foundation upon which you must both stand and rise. A man’s moral character is a more delicate thing than a woman’s reputation of chastity. A slip or two may possibly be forgiven her, and her character may be clarified by subsequent and continued good conduct: but a man’s moral character once tainted is irreparably destroyed. The second was, that you had acquired a most correct and extensive knowledge of foreign affairs, such as the history, the treaties, and the forms of government of the several countries of Europe. This sort of knowledge, little attended to here, will make you not only useful, but necessary, in your future destination, and carry you very far. He added that you wanted from hence some books relative to our laws and constitution, our colonies, and our commerce; of which you know less than of those of any other part of Europe. I will send you what short books I can find of that sort, to give you a general notion of those things: but you cannot have time to go into their depths at present–you cannot now engage with new folios; you and I will refer the constitutional part of this country to our meeting here, when we will enter seriously into it, and read the necessary books together. In the meantime, go on in the course you are in, of foreign matters; converse with ministers and others of every country, watch the transactions of every court, and endeavor to trace them up to their source. This, with your physics, your geometry, and your exercises, will be all that you can possibly have time for at Paris; for you must allow a great deal for company and pleasures: it is they that must give you those manners, that address, that ‘tournure’ of the ‘beau monde’, which will qualify you for your future destination. You must first please, in order to get the confidence, and consequently the secrets, of the courts and ministers for whom and with whom you negotiate.

I will send you by the first opportunity a short book written by Lord Bolingbroke, under the name of Sir John Oldcastle, containing remarks upon the history of England; which will give you a clear general notion of our constitution, and which will serve you, at the same time, like all Lord Bolingbroke’s works, for a model of eloquence and style. I will also send you Sir Josiah Childe’s little book upon trade, which may properly be called the “Commercial Grammar.” He lays down the true principles of commerce, and his conclusions from them are generally very just.

Since you turn your thoughts a little toward trade and commerce, which I am very glad you do, I will recommend a French book to you, which you will easily get at Paris, and which I take to be the best book in the world of that kind: I mean the ‘Dictionnaire de Commerce de Savory’, in three volumes in folio; where you will find every one thing that relates to trade, commerce, specie, exchange, etc., most clearly stated; and not only relative to France, but to the whole world. You will easily suppose, that I do not advise you to read such a book ‘tout de suite’; but I only mean that you should have it at hand, to have recourse to occasionally.

With this great stock of both useful and ornamental knowledge, which you have already acquired, and which, by your application and industry, you are daily increasing, you will lay such a solid foundation of future figure and fortune, that if you complete it by all the accomplishments of manners, graces, etc., I know nothing which you may not aim at, and in time hope for. Your great point at present at Paris, to which all other considerations must give way, is to become entirely a man of fashion: to be well-bred without ceremony, easy without negligence, steady and intrepid with modesty, genteel without affectation, insinuating without meanness, cheerful without being noisy, frank without indiscretion, and secret without mysteriousness; to know the proper time and place for whatever you say or do, and to do it with an air of condition all this is not so soon nor so easily learned as people imagine, but requires observation and time. The world is an immense folio, which demands a great deal of time and attention to be read and understood as it ought to be; you have not yet read above four or five pages of it; and you will have but barely time to dip now and then in other less important books.

Lord Albemarle has, I know, wrote {It is a pleasure for an ordinary mortal to find Lord Chesterfield in gramatical error–and he did it again in the last sentence of this paragraph–but this was 1751? D.W.} to a friend of his here, that you do not frequent him so much as he expected and desired; that he fears somebody or other has given you wrong impressions of him; and that I may possibly think, from your being seldom at his house, that he has been wanting in his attentions to you. I told the person who told me this, that, on the contrary, you seemed, by your letters to me, to be extremely pleased with Lord Albemarle’s behavior to you: but that you were obliged to give up dining abroad during your course of experimental philosophy. I guessed the true reason, which I believe was, that, as no French people frequent his house, you rather chose to dine at other places, where you were likely to meet with better company than your countrymen and you were in the right of it. However, I would have you show no shyness to Lord Albemarle, but go to him, and dine with him oftener than it may be you would wish, for the sake of having him speak well of you here when he returns. He is a good deal in fashion here, and his PUFFING you (to use an awkward expression) before you return here, will be of great use to you afterward. People in general take characters, as they do most things, upon trust, rather than be at the trouble of examining them themselves; and the decisions of four or five fashionable people, in every place, are final, more particularly with regard to characters, which all can hear, and but few judge of. Do not mention the least of this to any mortal; and take care that Lord Albemarle do not suspect that you know anything of the matter.

Lord Huntingdon and Lord Stormount are, I hear, arrived at Paris; you have, doubtless, seen them. Lord Stormount is well spoken of here; however, in your connections, if you form any with them, show rather a preference to Lord Huntingdon, for reasons which you will easily guess.

Mr. Harte goes this week to Cornwall, to take possession of his living; he has been installed at Windsor; he will return here in about a month, when your literary correspondence with him will be regularly carried on. Your mutual concern at parting was a good sign for both.

I have this moment received good accounts of you from Paris. Go on ‘vous etes en bon train’. Adieu.

LETTER CXXVIII

LONDON, January 21, O. S.. 1751

MY DEAR FRIEND: In all my letters from Paris, I have the pleasure of finding, among many other good things, your docility mentioned with emphasis; this is the sure way of improving in those things, which you only want. It is true they are little, but it is as true too that they are necessary things. As they are mere matters of usage and mode, it is no disgrace for anybody of your age to be ignorant of them; and the most compendious way of learning them is, fairly to avow your ignorance, and to consult those who, from long usage and experience, know them best. Good sense and good-nature suggest civility in general; but, in good- breeding there are a thousand little delicacies, which are established only by custom; and it is these little elegances of manners which distinguish a courtier and a man of fashion from the vulgar. I am assured by different people, that your air is already much improved; and one of my correspondents makes you the true French compliment of saying, ‘F’ose vous promettre qu’il sera bientot comme un de nos autres’. However unbecoming this speech may be in the mouth of a Frenchman, I am very glad that they think it applicable to you; for I would have you not only adopt, but rival, the best manners and usages of the place you are at, be they what they will; that is the versatility of manners which is so useful in the course of the world. Choose your models well at Paris, and then rival them in their own way. There are fashionable words, phrases, and even gestures, at Paris, which are called ‘du bon ton’; not to mention ‘certaines Petites politesses et attentions, qui ne sont rien en elle-memes’, which fashion has rendered necessary. Make yourself master of all these things; and to such a degree, as to make the French say, ‘qu’on diroit que c’est un Francois’; and when hereafter you shall be at other courts, do the same thing there; and conform to the fashionable manners and usage of the place; that is what the French themselves are not apt to do; wherever they go, they retain their own manners, as thinking them the best; but, granting them to be so, they are still in the wrong not to conform to those of the place. One would desire to please, wherever one is; and nothing is more innocently flattering than an approbation, and an imitation of the people one converses with.

I hope your colleges with Marcel go on prosperously. In these ridiculous, though, at the same time, really important lectures, pray attend, and desire your professor also to attend, more particularly to the chapter of the arms. It is they that decide of a man’s being genteel or otherwise, more than any other part of the body. A twist or stiffness in the wrist, will make any man in Europe look awkward. The next thing to be attended to is, your coming into a room, and presenting yourself to a company. This gives the first impression; and the first impression is often a lasting one. Therefore, pray desire Professor Marcel to make you come in and go out of his room frequently, and in the supposition of different companies being there; such as ministers, women, mixed companies, etc. Those who present themselves well, have a certain dignity in their air, which, without the least seeming mixture of pride, at once engages, and is respected.

I should not so often repeat, nor so long dwell upon such trifles, with anybody that had less solid and valuable knowledge than you have. Frivolous people attend to those things, ‘par preference’; they know nothing else; my fear with you is, that, from knowing better things, you should despise these too much, and think them of much less consequence than they really are; for they are of a great deal, and more especially to you.

Pleasing and governing women may, in time, be of great service to you. They often please and govern others. ‘A propos’, are you in love with Madame de Berkenrode still, or has some other taken her place in your affections? I take it for granted, that ‘qua to cumque domat Venus, non erubescendis adurit ignibus. Un arrangement honnete sied bien a un galant homme’. In that case I recommend to you the utmost discretion, and the profoundest silence. Bragging of, hinting at, intimating, or even affectedly disclaiming and denying such an arrangement will equally discredit you among men and women. An unaffected silence upon that subject is the only true medium.

In your commerce with women, and indeed with men too, ‘une certaine douceur’ is particularly engaging; it is that which constitutes that character which the French talk of so much, and so justly value, I mean ‘l’aimable’. This ‘douceur’ is not so easily described as felt. It is the compound result of different things; a complaisance, a flexibility, but not a servility of manners; an air of softness in the countenance, gesture, and expression, equally whether you concur or differ with the person you converse with. Observe those carefully who have that ‘douceur’ that charms you and others; and your own good sense will soon enable you to discover the different ingredients of which it is composed. You must be more particularly attentive to this ‘douceur’, whenever you are obliged to refuse what is asked of you, or to say what in itself cannot be very agreeable to those to whom you say it. It is then the necessary gilding of a disagreeable pill. ‘L’aimable’ consists in a thousand of these little things aggregately. It is the ‘suaviter in modo’, which I have so often recommended to you. The respectable, Mr. Harte assures me, you do not want, and I believe him. Study, then, carefully; and acquire perfectly, the ‘Aimable’, and you will have everything.

Abbe Guasco, who is another of your panegyrists, writes me word that he has taken you to dinner at Marquis de St. Germain’s; where you will be welcome as often as you please, and the oftener the better. Profit of that, upon the principle of traveling in different countries, without changing places. He says, too, that he will take you to the parliament, when any remarkable cause is to be tried. That is very well; go through the several chambers of the parliament, and see and hear what they are doing; join practice and observation to your theoretical knowledge of their rights and privileges. No Englishman has the least notion of them.

I need not recommend you to go to the bottom of the constitutional and political knowledge of countries; for Mr. Harte tells me that you have a peculiar turn that way, and have informed yourself most correctly of them.

I must now put some queries to you, as to a ‘juris publici peritus’, which I am sure you can answer me, and which I own I cannot answer myself; they are upon a subject now much talked of.

1st. Are there any particular forms requisite for the election of a King of the Romans, different from those which are necessary for the election of an Emperor?

2d. Is not a King of the Romans as legally elected by the votes of a majority of the electors, as by two-thirds, or by the unanimity of the electors?

3d. Is there any particular law or constitution of the empire, that distinguishes, either in matter or in, form, the election of a King of the Romans from that of an Emperor? And is not the golden bull of Charles the Fourth equally the rule for both?

4th. Were there not, at a meeting of a certain number of the electors (I have forgotten when), some rules and limitations agreed upon concerning the election of a King of the Romans? And were those restrictions legal, and did they obtain the force of law?

How happy am I, my dear child, that I can apply to you for knowledge, and with a certainty of being rightly informed! It is knowledge, more than quick, flashy parts, that makes a man of business. A man who is master of his matter, twill, with inferior parts, be too hard in parliament, and indeed anywhere else, for a man of-better parts, who knows his subject but superficially: and if to his knowledge he joins eloquence and elocution, he must necessarily soon be at the head of that assembly; but without those two, no knowledge is sufficient.

Lord Huntingdon writes me word that he has seen you, and that you have renewed your old school-acquaintance.

Tell me fairly your opinion of him, and of his friend Lord Stormount: and also of the other English people of fashion you meet with. I promise you inviolable secrecy on my part. You and I must now write to each other- as friends, and without the least reserve; there will for the future be a thousand-things in my letters, which I would not have any mortal living but yourself see or know. Those you will easily distinguish, and neither show nor repeat; and I will do the same by you.

To come to another subject (for I have a pleasure in talking over every subject with you): How deep are you in Italian? Do you understand Ariosto, Tasso, Boccaccio and Machiavelli? If you do, you know enough of it and may know all the rest, by reading, when you have time. Little or no business is written in Italian, except in Italy; and if you know enough of it to understand the few Italian letters that may in time come in your way, and to speak Italian tolerably to those very few Italians who speak no French, give yourself no further trouble about that language till you happen to have full leisure to perfect yourself in it. It is not the same with regard to German; your speaking and writing it well, will particularly distinguish you from every other man in England; and is, moreover, of great use to anyone who is, as probably you will be, employed in the Empire. Therefore, pray cultivate them sedulously, by writing four or five lines of German every day, and by speaking it to every German you meet with.

You have now got a footing in a great many good houses at Paris, in which I advise you to make yourself domestic. This is to be done by a certain easiness of carriage, and a decent familiarity. Not by way of putting yourself upon the frivolous footing of being ‘sans consequence’, but by doing in some degree, the honors of the house and table, calling yourself ‘en badinant le galopin d’ici’, saying to the masters or mistress, ‘ceci est de mon departement; je m’en charge; avouez, que je m’en acquitte a merveille.’ This sort of ‘badinage’ has something engaging and ‘liant’ in it, and begets that decent familiarity, which it is both agreeable and useful to establish in good houses and with people of fashion. Mere formal visits, dinners, and suppers, upon formal invitations, are not the thing; they add to no connection nor information; but it is the easy, careless ingress and egress at all hours, that forms the pleasing and profitable commerce of life.

The post is so negligent, that I lose some letters from Paris entirely, and receive others much later than I should. To this I ascribe my having received no letter from you for above a fortnight, which to my impatience seems a long time. I expect to hear from you once a-week. Mr. Harte is gone to Cornwall, and will be back in about three weeks. I have a packet of books to send you by the first opportunity, which I believe will be Mr. Yorke’s return to Paris. The, Greek books come from Mr. Harte, and the English ones from your humble servant. Read Lord Bolingbroke’s with great attention, as well to the style as to the matter. I wish you could form yourself such a style in every language. Style is the dress of thoughts; and a well-dressed thought, like a well-dressed man, appears to great advantage. Yours. Adieu.

LETTER CXXIX

LONDON, August 28, O. S. 1751

MY DEAR FRIEND: A bill for ninety pounds sterling was brought me the other day, said to be drawn upon me by you: I scrupled paying it at first, not upon account of the sum, but because you had sent me no letter of advice, which is always done in those transactions; and still more, because I did not perceive that you had signed it. The person who presented it, desired me to look again, and that I should discover your name at the bottom: accordingly I looked again, and, with the help of my magnifying glass, did perceive that what I had first taken only for somebody’s mark, was, in truth, your name, written in the worst and smallest hand I ever saw in my life.

However, I paid it at a venture; though I would almost rather lose the money, than that such a signature should be yours. All gentlemen, and all men of business, write their names always in the same way, that their signature may be so well known as not to be easily counterfeited; and they generally sign in rather larger character than their common hand; whereas your name was in a less, and a worse, than your common writing. This suggested to me the various accidents which may very probably happen to you, while you write so ill. For instance, if you were to write in such a character to the Secretary’s office, your letter would immediately be sent to the decipherer, as containing matters of the utmost secrecy, not fit to be trusted to the common character. If you were to write so to an antiquarian, he (knowing you to be a man of learning) would certainly try it by the Runic, Celtic, or Sclavonian alphabet, never suspecting it to be a modern character. And, if you were to send a ‘poulet’ to a fine woman, in such a hand, she would think that it really came from the ‘poulailler’; which, by the bye, is the etymology of the word ‘poulet’; for Henry the Fourth of France used to send billets-doux to his mistresses by his ‘poulailler’, under pretense of sending them chickens; which gave the name of poulets to those short, but expressive manuscripts. I have often told you that every man who has the use of his eyes and of his hand, can write whatever hand he pleases; and it is plain that you can, since you write both the Greek and German characters, which you never learned of a writing-master, extremely well, though your common hand, which you learned of a master, is an exceedingly bad and illiberal one; equally unfit for business or common use. I do not desire that you should write the labored, stiff character of a writing-master: a man of business must write quick and well, and that depends simply upon use. I would therefore advise you to get some very good writing-master at Paris, and apply to it for a month only, which will be sufficient; for, upon my word, the writing of a genteel plain hand of business is of much more importance than you think. You will say, it may be, that when you write so very ill, it is because you are in a hurry, to which I answer, Why are you ever in a hurry? A man of sense may be in haste, but can never be in a hurry, because he knows that whatever he does in a hurry, he must necessarily do very ill. He may be in haste to dispatch an affair, but he will care not to let that haste hinder his doing it well. Little minds are in a hurry, when the object proves (as it commonly does) too big for them; they run, they hare, they puzzle, confound, and perplex themselves: they want to do everything at once, and never do it at all. But a man of sense takes the time necessary for doing the thing he is about, well; and his haste to dispatch a business only appears by the continuity of his application to it: he pursues it with a cool steadiness, and finishes it before he begins any other. I own your time is much taken up, and you have a great many different things to do; but remember that you had much better do half of them well and leave the other half undone, than do them all indifferently. Moreover, the few seconds that are saved in the course of the day, by writing ill instead of well, do not amount to an object of time by any means equivalent to the disgrace or ridicule of writing the scrawl of a common whore. Consider, that if your very bad writing could furnish me with matter of ridicule, what will it not do to others who do not view you in that partial light that I do? There was a pope, I think it was Cardinal Chigi, who was justly ridiculed for his attention to little things, and his inability in great ones: and therefore called maximus in minimis, and minimus in maximis. Why? Because he attended to little things when he had great ones to do. At this particular period of your life, and at the place you are now in, you have only little things to do; and you should make it habitual to you to do them well, that they may require no attention from you when you have, as I hope you will have, greater things to mind. Make a good handwriting familiar to you now, that you may hereafter have nothing but your matter to think of, when you have occasion to write to kings and ministers. Dance, dress, present yourself, habitually well now, that you may have none of those little things to think of hereafter, and which will be all necessary to be done well occasionally, when you will have greater things to do.

As I am eternally thinking of everything that can be relative to you, one thing has occurred to me, which I think necessary to mention to you, in order to prevent the difficulties which it might otherwise lay you under; it is this as you get more acquaintances at Paris, it will be impossible for you to frequent your first acquaintances so much as you did, while you had no others. As, for example, at your first ‘debut’, I suppose you were chiefly at Madame Monconseil’s, Lady Hervey’s, and Madame du Boccage’s. Now, that you have got so many other houses, you cannot be at theirs so often as you used; but pray take care not to give them the least reason to think that you neglect, or despise them, for the sake of new and more dignified and shining acquaintances; which would be ungrateful and imprudent on your part, and never forgiven on theirs. Call upon them often, though you do not stay with them so long as formerly; tell them that you are sorry you are obliged to go away, but that you have such and such engagements, with which good-breeding obliges you to comply; and insinuate that you would rather stay with them. In short, take care to make as many personal friends, and as few personal enemies, as possible. I do not mean, by personal friends, intimate and confidential friends, of which no man can hope to have half a dozen in the whole course of his life; but I mean friends, in the common acceptation of the word; that is, people who speak well of you, and who would rather do you good than harm, consistently with their own interest, and no further. Upon the whole, I recommend to you, again and again, ‘les Graces’. Adorned by them, you may, in a manner, do what you please; it will be approved of; without them, your best qualities will lose half their efficacy. Endeavor to be fashionable among the French, which will soon make you fashionable here. Monsieur de Matignon already calls you ‘le petit Francois’. If you can get that name generally at Paris, it will put you ‘a la mode’. Adieu, my dear child.

LETTER CXXX

LONDON, February 4, O. S. 1751

MY DEAR FRIEND: The accounts which I receive of you from Paris grow every day more and more satisfactory. Lord Albemarle has wrote a sort of panegyric of you, which has been seen by many people here, and which will be a very useful forerunner for you. Being in fashion is an important point for anybody anywhere; but it would be a very great one for you to be established in the fashion here before you return. Your business will be half done by it, as I am sure you would not give people reason to change their favorable presentiments of you. The good that is said of you will not, I am convinced, make you a coxcomb; and, on the other hand, the being thought still to want some little accomplishments, will, I am persuaded, not mortify you, but only animate you to acquire them: I will, therefore, give you both fairly, in the following extract of a letter which I lately received from an impartial and discerning friend:–

“Permit me to assure you, Sir, that Mr. Stanhope will succeed. He has a great fund of knowledge, and an uncommonly good memory, although he does not make any parade of either the one or the other. He is desirous of pleasing, and he will please. He has an expressive countenance; his figure is elegant, although little. He has not the least awkwardness, though he has not as yet acquired all-the graces requisite; which Marcel and the ladies will soon give him. In short, he wants nothing but those things, which, at his age, must unavoidably be wanting; I mean, a certain turn and delicacy of manners, which are to be acquired only by time, and in good company. Ready as he is, he will soon learn them; particularly as he frequents such companies as are the most proper to give them.”

By this extract, which I can assure you is a faithful one, you and I have both of us the satisfaction of knowing how much you have, and how little you want. Let what you have give you (if possible) rather more SEEMING modesty, but at the same time more interior firmness and assurance; and let what you want, which you see is very attainable, redouble your attention and endeavors to acquire it. You have, in truth, but that one thing to apply to and a very pleasing application it is, since it is through pleasures you must arrive at it. Company, suppers, balls, spectacles, which show you the models upon which you should form yourself, and all the little usages, customs, and delicacies, which you must adopt and make habitual to you, are now your only schools and universities; in which young fellows and fine women will give you the best lectures.

Monsieur du Boccage is another of your panegyrists; and he tells me that Madame Boccage ‘a pris avec vous le ton de mie et de bonne’; and that you like it very well. You are in the right of it; it is the way of improving; endeavor to be upon that footing with every woman you converse with; excepting where there may be a tender point of connection; a point which I have nothing to do with; but if such a one there is, I hope she has not ‘de mauvais ni de vilains bras’, which I agree with you in thinking a very disagreeable thing.

I have sent you, by the opportunity of Pollok the courier, who was once my servant, two little parcels of Greek and English books; and shall send you two more by Mr. Yorke: but I accompany them with this caution, that as you have not much time to read, you should employ it in reading what is the most necessary, and that is, indisputably modern historical, geographical, chronological, and political knowledge; the present constitution, maxims, force, riches, trade, commerce, characters, parties, and cabals of the several courts of Europe. Many who are reckoned good scholars, though they know pretty accurately the governments of Athens and Rome, are totally ignorant of the constitution of any one country now in Europe, even of their own. Read just Latin and Greek enough to keep up your classical learning, which will be an ornament to you while young, and a comfort to you when old. But the true useful knowledge, and especially for you, is the modern knowledge above mentioned. It is that must qualify you both for domestic and foreign business, and it is to that, therefore, that you should principally direct your attention; and I know, with great pleasure, that you do so. I would not thus commend you to yourself, if I thought commendations would have upon you those ill effects, which they frequently have upon weak minds. I think you are much above being a vain coxcomb, overrating your own merit, and insulting others with the superabundance of it. On the contrary, I am convinced that the consciousness of merit makes a man of sense more modest, though more firm. A man who displays his own merit is a coxcomb, and a man who does not know it is a fool. A man of sense knows it, exerts it, avails himself of it, but never boasts of it; and always SEEMS rather to under than over value it, though in truth, he sets the right value upon it. It is a very true maxim of La Bruyere’s (an author well worth your studying), ‘qu’on ne vaut dans ce monde, que ce que l’on veut valoir’. A man who is really diffident, timid, and bashful, be his merit what it will, never can push himself in the world; his despondency throws him into inaction; and the forward, the bustling, and the petulant, will always get the better of him. The manner makes the whole difference. What would be impudence in one manner, is only a proper and decent assurance in another. A man of sense, and of knowledge in the world, will assert his own rights, and pursue his own objects, as steadily and intrepidly as the most impudent man living, and commonly more so; but then he has art enough to give an outward air of modesty to all he does. This engages and prevails, while the very same things shock and fail, from the overbearing or impudent manner only of doing them. I repeat my maxim, ‘Suaviter in modo, sed fortiter in re’. Would you know the characters, modes and manners of the latter end of the last age, which are very like those of the present, read La Bruyere. But would you know man, independently of modes, read La Rochefoucault, who, I am afraid, paints him very exactly.

Give the inclosed to Abbe Guasco, of whom you make good use, to go about with you, and see things. Between you and me, he has more knowledge than parts. ‘Mais un habile homme sait tirer parti de tout’, and everybody is good for something. President Montesquieu is, in every sense, a most useful acquaintance. He has parts, joined to great reading and knowledge of the world. ‘Puisez dans cette source tant que vous pourrez’.

Adieu. May the Graces attend you! for without them ‘ogni fatica e vana’. If they do not come to you willingly, ravish them, and force them to accompany you in all you think, all you say, and all you do.

LETTER CXXXI

LONDON, February 11, O. S. 1751

MY DEAR FRIEND: When you go to the play, which I hope you do often, for it is a very instructive amusement, you must certainly have observed the very different effects which the several parts have upon you, according as they are well or ill acted. The very best tragedy of, Corneille’s, if well spoken and acted, interests, engages, agitates, and affects your passions. Love, terror, and pity alternately possess you. But, if ill spoken and acted, it would only excite your indignation or your laughter. Why? It is still Corneille’s; it is the same sense, the same matter, whether well or ill acted. It is, then, merely the manner of speaking and acting that makes this great difference in the effects. Apply this to yourself, and conclude from it, that if you would either please in a private company, or persuade in a public assembly, air, looks, gestures, graces, enunciation, proper accents, just emphasis, and tuneful cadences, are full as necessary as the matter itself. Let awkward, ungraceful, inelegant, and dull fellows say what they will in behalf of their solid matter and strong reasonings; and let them despise all those graces and ornaments which engage the senses and captivate the heart; they will find (though they will possibly wonder why) that their rough, unpolished matter, and their unadorned, coarse, but strong arguments, will neither please nor persuade; but, on the contrary, will tire out attention, and excite disgust. We are so made, we love to be pleased better than to be informed; information is, in a certain degree, mortifying, as it implies our previous ignorance; it must be sweetened to be palatable.

To bring this directly to you: know that no man can make a figure in this country, but by parliament. Your fate depends upon your success there as a speaker; and, take my word for it, that success turns much more upon manner than matter. Mr. Pitt and Mr. Murray the solicitor-general, uncle to Lord Stormount, are, beyond comparison, the best speakers; why? only because they are the best orators. They alone can inflame or quiet the House; they alone are so attended to, in that numerous and noisy assembly, that you might hear a pin fall while either of them is speaking. Is it that their matter is better, or their arguments stronger, than other people’s? Does the House expect extraordinary informations from them? Not, in the least: but the House expects pleasure from them, and therefore attends; finds it, and therefore approves. Mr. Pitt, particularly, has very little parliamentary knowledge; his matter is generally flimsy, and his arguments often weak; but his eloquence is superior, his action graceful, his enunciation just and harmonious; his periods are well turned, and every word he makes use of is the very best, and the most expressive, that can be used in that place. This, and not his matter, made him Paymaster, in spite of both king and ministers. From this draw the obvious conclusion. The same thing holds full as true in conversation; where even trifles, elegantly expressed, well looked, and accompanied with graceful action, will ever please, beyond all the homespun, unadorned sense in the world. Reflect, on one side, how you feel within yourself, while you are forced to suffer the tedious, muddy, and ill-turned narration of some awkward fellow, even though the fact may be interesting; and, on the other hand, with what pleasure you attend to the relation of a much less interesting matter, when elegantly expressed, genteelly turned, and gracefully delivered. By attending carefully to all these agremens in your daily conversation, they will become habitual to you, before you come into parliament; and you will have nothing then, to do, but to raise them a little when you come there. I would wish you to be so attentive to this object, that I, would not have you speak to your footman, but in the very best words that the subject admits of, be the language what it will. Think of your words, and of their arrangement, before you speak; choose the most elegant, and place them in the best order. Consult your own ear, to avoid cacophony, and, what is very near as bad, monotony. Think also of your gesture and looks, when you are speaking even upon the most trifling subjects. The same things, differently expressed, looked, and delivered, cease to be the same things. The most passionate lover in the world cannot make a stronger declaration of love than the ‘Bourgeois gentilhomme’ does in this happy form of words, ‘Mourir d’amour me font belle Marquise vos beaux yeux’. I defy anybody to say more; and yet I would advise nobody to say that, and I would recommend to you rather to smother and conceal your passion entirely than to reveal it in these words. Seriously, this holds in everything, as well as in that ludicrous instance. The French, to do them justice, attend very minutely to the purity, the correctness, and the elegance of their style in conversation and in their letters. ‘Bien narrer’ is an object of their study; and though they sometimes carry it to affectation, they never sink into inelegance, which is much the worst extreme of the two. Observe them, and form your French style upon theirs: for elegance in one language will reproduce itself in all. I knew a young man, who, being just elected a member of parliament, was laughed at for being discovered, through the keyhole of his chamber-door, speaking to himself in the glass, and forming his looks and gestures. I could not join in that laugh; but, on the contrary, thought him much wiser than those who laughed at him; for he knew the importance of those little graces in a public assembly, and they did not. Your little person (which I am told, by the way, is not ill turned), whether in a laced coat or a blanket, is specifically the same; but yet, I believe, you choose to wear the former, and you are in the right, for the sake of pleasing more. The worst-bred man in Europe, if a lady let fall her fan, would certainly take it up and give it her; the best-bred man in Europe could do no more. The difference, however, would be considerable; the latter would please by doing it gracefully; the former would be laughed at for doing it awkwardly. I repeat it, and repeat it again, and shall never cease repeating it to you: air, manners, graces, style, elegance, and all those ornaments, must now be the only objects of your attention; it is now, or never, that you must acquire them. Postpone, therefore, all other considerations; make them now your serious study; you have not one moment to lose. The solid and the ornamental united, are undoubtedly best; but were I reduced to make an option, I should without hesitation choose the latter.

I hope you assiduously frequent Marcell–[At that time the most celebrated dancing-master at Paris.]–and carry graces from him; nobody had more to spare than he had formerly. Have you learned to carve? for it is ridiculous not to carve well. A man who tells you gravely that he cannot carve, may as well tell you that he cannot blow his nose: it is both as necessary, and as easy.

Make my compliments to Lord Huntingdon, whom I love and honor extremely, as I dare say you do; I will write to him soon, though I believe he has hardly time to read a letter; and my letters to those I love are, as you know by experience, not very short ones: this is one proof of it, and this would have been longer, if the paper had been so. Good night then, my dear child.

LETTER CXXXII

LONDON, February 28, O. S. 1751.

MY DEAR FRIEND: This epigram in Martial–

“Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare; Hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te”—–

[OR: “I do not love thee Dr. Fell The reason why I cannot tell.
But this I know and know full well: I do not love thee Dr. Fell.” D.W.]

has puzzled a great many people, who cannot conceive how it is possible not to love anybody, and yet not to know the reason why. I think I conceive Martial’s meaning very clearly, though the nature of epigram, which is to be short, would not allow him to explain it more fully; and I take it to be this: O Sabidis, you are a very worthy deserving man; you have a thousand good qualities, you have a great deal of learning; I esteem, I respect, but for the soul of me I cannot love you, though I cannot particularly say why. You are not aimable: you have not those engaging manners, those pleasing attentions, those graces, and that address, which are absolutely necessary to please, though impossible to define. I cannot say it is this or that particular thing that hinders me from loving you; it is the whole together; and upon the whole you are not agreeable.

How often have I, in the course of my life, found myself in this situation, with regard to many of my acquaintance, whom I have honored and respected, without being able to love. I did not know why, because, when one is young, one does not take the trouble, nor allow one’s self the time, to analyze one’s sentiments and to trace them up to their source. But subsequent observation and reflection have taught me why. There is a man, whose moral character, deep learning, and superior parts, I acknowledge, admire, and respect; but whom it is so impossible for me to love, that I am almost in a fever whenever I am in his company. His figure (without being deformed) seems made to disgrace or ridicule the common structure of the human body. His legs and arms are never in the position which, according to the situation of his body, they ought to be in, but constantly employed in committing acts of hostility upon the Graces. He throws anywhere, but down his throat, whatever he means to drink, and only mangles what he means to carve. Inattentive to all the regards of social life, he mistimes or misplaces everything. He disputes with heat, and indiscriminately, mindless of the rank, character, and situation of those with whom he disputes; absolutely ignorant of the several gradations of familiarity or respect, he is exactly the same to his superiors, his equals, and his inferiors; and therefore, by a necessary consequence, absurd to two of the three. Is it possible to love such a man? No. The utmost I can do for him, is to consider him as a respectable Hottentot.–[This ‘mot’ was aimed at Dr. Johnson in retaliation for his famous letter.]

I remember, that when I came from Cambridge, I had acquired, among the pedants of that illiberal seminary, a sauciness of literature, a turn to satire and contempt, and a strong tendency to argumentation and contradiction. But I had been but a very little while in the world, before I found that this would by no means do; and I immediately adopted the opposite character; I concealed what learning I had; I applauded often, without approving; and I yielded commonly without conviction. ‘Suaviter in modo’ was my law and my prophets; and if I pleased (between you and me) it was much more owing to that, than to any superior knowledge or merit of my own. Apropos, the word PLEASING puts one always in mind of Lady Hervey; pray tell her, that I declare her responsible to me for your pleasing; that I consider her as a pleasing Falstaff, who not only pleases, herself, but is the cause of pleasing in others; that I know she can make anything of anybody; and that, as your governess, if she does not make you please, it must be only because she will not, and not because she cannot. I hope you are ‘dubois don’t on en fait’; and if so, she is so good a sculptor, that I am sure she can give you whatever form she pleases. A versatility of manners is as necessary in social, as a versatility of parts is in political life. One must often yield, in order to prevail; one must humble one’s self, to be exalted; one must, like St. Paul, become all things to all men, to gain some; and, by the way, men are taken by the same means, ‘mutatis mutandis’, that women are gained–by gentleness, insinuation, and submission: and these lines of Mr. Dryden will hold to a minister as well as to a mistress:

“The prostrate lover, when he lowest lies, But stoops to conquer, and but kneels to rise.”

In the course of the world, the qualifications of the chameleon are often necessary; nay, they must be carried a little further, and exerted a little sooner; for you should, to a certain degree, take the hue of either the man or the woman that you want, and wish to be upon terms with. ‘A propos’, have you yet found out at Paris, any friendly and hospitable Madame de Lursay, ‘qui veut bien se charger du soin de vous eduquer’? And have you had any occasion of representing to her, ‘qu’elle faisoit donc des noeuds’? But I ask your, pardon, Sir, for the abruptness of the question, and acknowledge that I am meddling with matters that are out of my department. However, in matters of less importance, I desire to be ‘de vos secrets le fidele depositaire’. Trust me with the general turn and color of your amusements at Paris. Is it ‘le fracas du grand monde, comedies, bals, operas, cour,’ etc.? Or is it ‘des petites societes, moins bruyantes, mais pas pour cela moins agreables’? Where are you the most ‘etabli’? Where are you ‘le petit Stanhope? Voyez vous encore jour, a quelque arrangement honnete? Have you made many acquaintances among the young Frenchmen who ride at your Academy; and who are they? Send to me this sort of chit-chat in your letters, which, by the bye, I wish you would honor me with somewhat oftener. If you frequent any of the myriads of polite Englishmen who infest Paris, who are they? Have you finished with Abbe Nolet, and are you ‘au fait’ of all the properties and effects of air? Were I inclined to quibble, I would say, that the effects of air, at least, are best to be learned of Marcel. If you have quite done with l’Abbes Nolet, ask my friend l’Abbe Sallier to recommend to you some meagre philomath, to teach you a little geometry and astronomy; not enough to absorb your attention and puzzle your intellects, but only enough not to be grossly ignorant of either. I have of late been a sort of ‘astronome malgre moi’, by bringing in last Monday into the House of Lords a bill for reforming our present Calendar and taking the New Style. Upon which occasion I was obliged to talk some astronomical jargon, of which I did not understand one word, but got it by heart, and spoke it by rote from a master. I wished that I had known a little more of it myself; and so much I would have you know. But the great and necessary knowledge of all is, to know, yourself and others: this knowledge requires great attention and long experience; exert the former, and may you have the latter! Adieu!

P. S. I have this moment received your letters of the 27th February, and the 2d March, N. S. The seal shall be done as soon as possible. I am, glad that you are employed in Lord Albemarle’s bureau; it will teach you, at least, the mechanical part of that business, such as folding, entering, and docketing letters; for you must not imagine that you are let into the ‘fin fin’ of the correspondence, nor indeed is it fit that you should, at, your age. However, use yourself to secrecy as to the letters you either read or write, that in time you may be trusted with SECRET, VERY SECRET, SEPARATE, APART, etc. I am sorry that this business interferes with your riding; I hope it is seldom; but I insist upon its not interfering with your dancing-master, who is at this time the most useful and necessary of all the masters you have or can have.

LETTER CXXXIII

MY DEAR FRIEND: I mentioned to you, some time ago a sentence which I would most earnestly wish you always to retain in your thoughts, and observe in your conduct. It is ‘suaviter in modo, fortiter in re’ [gentleness of manners, with firmness of mind D.W.]. I do not know any one rule so unexceptionably useful and necessary in every part of life. I shall therefore take it for my text to-day, and as old men love preaching, and I have some right to preach to you, I here present you with my sermon upon these words. To proceed, then, regularly and PULPITICALLY, I will first show you, my beloved, the necessary connection of the two members of my text ‘suaviter in modo: fortiter in re’. In the next place, I shall set forth the advantages and utility resulting from a strict observance of the precept contained in my text; and conclude with an application of the whole. The ‘suaviter in modo’ alone would degenerate and sink into a mean, timid complaisance and passiveness, if not supported and dignified by the ‘fortiter in re’, which would also run into impetuosity and brutality, if not tempered and softened by the ‘suaviter in modo’: however, they are seldom united.

The warm, choleric man, with strong animal spirits, despises the ‘suaviter in modo’, and thinks to, carry all before him by the ‘fortiter in re’. He may, possibly, by great accident, now and then succeed, when he has only weak and timid people to deal with; but his general fate will be, to shock offend, be hated, and fail. On the other hand, the cunning, crafty man thinks to gain all his ends by the ‘suaviter in modo’ only; HE BECOMES ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN; he seems to have no opinion of his own, and servilely adopts the present opinion of the present person; he insinuates himself only into the esteem of fools, but is soon detected, and surely despised by everybody else. The wise man (who differs as much from the cunning, as from the choleric man) alone joins the ‘suaviter in modo’ with the ‘fortiter in re’. Now to the advantages arising from the strict observance of this precept:

If you are in authority, and have a right to command, your commands delivered ‘suaviter in modo’ will be willingly, cheerfully, and consequently well obeyed; whereas, if given only ‘fortiter’, that is brutally, they will rather, as Tacitus says, be interrupted than executed. For my own part, if I bid my footman bring me a glass of wine, in a rough insulting manner, I should expect that, in obeying me, he would contrive to spill some of it upon me: and I am sure I should deserve it. A cool, steady resolution should show that where you have a right to command you will be obeyed; but at the same time, a gentleness in the manner of enforcing that obedience should make it a cheerful one, and soften as much as possible the mortifying consciousness of inferiority. If you are to ask a favor, or even to solicit your due, you must do it ‘suaviter in modo’, or you will give those who have a mind to refuse you, either a pretense to do it, by resenting the manner; but, on the other hand, you must, by a steady perseverance and decent tenaciousness, show the ‘fortiter in re’. The right motives are seldom the true ones of men’s actions, especially of kings, ministers, and people in high stations; who often give to importunity and fear, what they would refuse to justice or to merit. By the ‘suaviter in modo’ engage their hearts, if you can; at least prevent the pretense of offense but take care to show enough of the ‘fortiter in re’ to extort from their love of ease, or their fear, what you might in vain hope for from their justice or good-nature. People in high life are hardened to the wants and distresses of mankind, as surgeons are to their bodily pains; they see and hear of them all day long, and even of so many simulated ones, that they do not know which are real, and which not. Other sentiments are therefore to be applied to, than those of mere justice and humanity; their favor must be captivated by the ‘suaviter in modo’; their love of ease disturbed by unwearied importunity, or their fears wrought upon by a decent intimation of implacable, cool resentment; this is the true ‘fortiter in re’. This precept is the only way I know in the world of being loved without being despised, and feared without being hated. It constitutes the dignity of character which every wise man must endeavor to establish.

Now to apply what has been said, and so conclude.

If you find that you have a hastiness in your temper, which unguardedly breaks out into indiscreet sallies, or rough expressions, to either your superiors, your equals, or your inferiors, watch it narrowly, check it carefully, and call the ‘suaviter in modo’ to your assistance: at the first impulse of passion, be silent till you can be soft. Labor even to get the command of your countenance so well, that those emotions may not be read in it; a most unspeakable advantage in business! On the other hand, let no complaisance, no gentleness of temper, no weak desire of pleasing on your part,–no wheedling, coaxing, nor flattery, on other people’s,–make you recede one jot from any point that reason and prudence have bid you pursue; but return to the charge, persist, persevere, and you will find most things attainable that are possible. A yielding, timid meekness is always abused and insulted by the unjust and the unfeeling; but when sustained by the ‘fortiter in re’, is always respected, commonly successful. In your friendships and connections, as well as in your enmities, this rule is particularly useful; let your firmness and vigor preserve and invite attachments to you; but, at the same time, let your manner hinder the enemies of your friends and dependents from becoming yours; let your enemies be disarmed by the gentleness of your manner, but let them feel, at the same time, the steadiness of your just resentment; for there is a great difference between bearing malice, which is always ungenerous, and a resolute self- defense, which is always prudent and justifiable. In negotiations with foreign ministers, remember the ‘fortiter in re’; give up no point, accept of no expedient, till the utmost necessity reduces you to it, and even then, dispute the ground inch by inch; but then, while you are contending with the minister ‘fortiter in re’, remember to gain the man by the ‘suaviter in modo’. If you engage his heart, you have a fair chance for imposing upon his understanding, and determining his will. Tell him, in a frank, gallant manner, that your ministerial wrangles do not lessen your personal regard for his merit; but that, on the contrary, his zeal and ability in the service of his master, increase it; and that, of all things, you desire to make a good friend of so good a servant. By these means you may, and will very often be a gainer: you never can be a loser. Some people cannot gain upon themselves to be easy and civil to those who are either their rivals, competitors, or opposers, though, independently of those accidental circumstances, they would like and esteem them. They betray a shyness and an awkwardness in company with them, and catch at any little thing to expose them; and so, from temporary and only occasional opponents, make them their personal enemies. This is exceedingly weak and detrimental, as indeed is all humor in business; which can only be carried on successfully by, unadulterated good policy and right reasoning. In such situations I would be more particularly and ‘noblement’, civil, easy, and frank with the man whose designs I traversed: this is commonly called generosity and magnanimity, but is, in truth, good sense and policy. The manner is often as important as the matter, sometimes more so; a favor may make an enemy, and an injury may make a friend, according to the different manner in which they are severally done. The countenance, the address, the words, the enunciation, the Graces, add great efficacy to the ‘suaviter in modo’, and great dignity to the ‘fortiter in re’, and consequently they deserve the utmost attention.

From what has been said, I conclude with this observation, that gentleness of manners, with firmness of mind, is a short, but full description of human perfection on this side of religious and moral duties. That you may be seriously convinced of this truth, and show it in your life and conversation, is the most sincere and ardent wish of, Yours.

LETTER CXXXIV

LONDON, March 11, O. S. 1751.

MY DEAR FRIEND: I received by the last post a letter from Abbe Guasco, in which he joins his representations to those of Lord Albemarle, against your remaining any longer in your very bad lodgings at the Academy; and, as I do not find that any advantage can arise to you from being ‘interne’ in an academy which is full as far from the riding-house and from all your other masters, as your lodgings will probably be, I agree to your removing to an ‘hotel garni’; the Abbe will help you to find one, as I desire him by the inclosed, which you will give him. I must, however, annex one condition to your going into private lodgings, which is an absolute exclusion of English breakfasts and suppers at them; the former consume the whole morning, and the latter employ the evenings very ill, in senseless toasting a l’Angloise in their infernal claret. You will be sure to go to the riding-house as often as possible, that is, whenever your new business at Lord Albemarle’s does not hinder you. But, at all events, I insist upon your never missing Marcel, who is at present of more consequence to you than all the bureaux in Europe; for this is the time for you to acquire ‘tous ces petits riens’, which, though in an arithmetical account, added to one another ‘ad infinitum’, they would amount to nothing, in the account of the world amount to a great and important sum. ‘Les agremens et les graces’, without which you will never be anything, are absolutely made up of all those ‘riens’, which are more easily felt than described. By the way, you may take your lodgings for one whole year certain, by which means you may get them much cheaper; for though I intend to see you here in less than a year, it will be but for a little time, and you will return to Paris again, where I intend you shall stay till the end of April twelvemonth, 1752, at which time, provided you have got all ‘la politesse, les manieres, les attentions, et les graces du beau monde’, I shall place you in some business suitable to your destination.

I have received, at last, your present of the cartoon, from Dominichino, by Planchet. It is very finely done, it is pity that he did not take in all the figures of the original. I will hang it up, where it shall be your own again some time or other.

Mr. Harte is returned in perfect health from Cornwall, and has taken possession of his prebendal house at Windsor, which is a very pretty one. As I dare say you will always feel, I hope you will always express, the strongest sentiments of gratitude and friendship for him. Write to him frequently, and attend to the letters you receive from him. He shall be with us at Blackheath, alias BABIOLE, all the time that I propose you shall be there, which I believe will be the month of August next.

Having thus mentioned to you the probable time of our meeting, I will prepare you a little for it. Hatred; jealousy, or envy, make, most people attentive to discover the least defects of those they do not love; they rejoice at every new discovery they make of that kind, and take care to publish it. I thank God, I do not know what those three ungenerous passions are, having never felt them in my own breast; but love has just the same effect upon me, except that I conceal, instead of publishing, the defeats which my attention makes me discover in those I love. I curiously pry into them; I analyze them; and, wishing either to find them perfect, or to make them so, nothing escapes me, and I soon discover every the least gradation toward or from that perfection. You must therefore expect the most critical ‘examen’ that ever anybody underwent. I shall discover your least, as well as your greatest defects, and I shall very freely tell you of them, ‘Non quod odio habeam sed quod amem’. But I shall tell them you ‘tete-a-tete’, and as MICIO not as DEMEA; and I will tell them to nobody else. I think it but fair to inform you beforehand, where I suspect that my criticisms are likely to fall; and that is more upon the outward, than upon the inward man; I neither suspect your heart nor your head; but to be plain with you, I have a strange distrust of your air, your address, your manners, your ‘tournure’, and particularly of your ENUNCIATION and elegance of style. These will be all put to the trial; for while you are with me, you must do the honors of my house and table; the least inaccuracy or inelegance will not escape me; as you will find by a LOOK at the time, and by a remonstrance afterward when we are alone. You will see a great deal of company of all sorts at BABIOLE, and particularly foreigners. Make, therefore, in the meantime, all these exterior and ornamental qualifications your peculiar care, and disappoint all my imaginary schemes of criticism. Some authors have criticised their own works first, in hopes of hindering others from doing it afterward: but then they do it themselves with so much tenderness and partiality for their own production, that not only the production itself, but the preventive criticism is criticised. I am not one of those authors; but, on the contrary, my severity increases with my fondness for my work; and if you will but effectually correct all the faults I shall find, I will insure you from all subsequent criticisms from other quarters.

Are you got a little into the interior, into the constitution of things at Paris? Have you seen what you have seen thoroughly? For, by the way, few people see what they see, or hear what they hear. For example, if you go to les Invalides, do you content yourself with seeing the building, the hall where three or four hundred cripples dine, and the galleries where they lie? or do you inform yourself of the numbers, the conditions of their admission, their allowance, the value and nature of the fund by which the whole is supported? This latter I call seeing, the former is only starting. Many people take the opportunity of ‘les vacances’, to go and see the, empty rooms where the several chambers of the parliament did sit; which rooms are exceedingly like all other large rooms; when you go there, let it be when they are full; see and hear what is doing in them; learn their respective constitutions, jurisdictions, objects, and methods of proceeding; hear some causes tried in every one of the different chambers; ‘Approfondissez les choses’.

I am glad to hear that you are so well at Marquis de St. Germain’s, –[At that time Ambassador from the King of Sardinia at the Court of France.]–of whom I hear a very good character. How are you with the other foreign ministers at Paris? Do you frequent the Dutch Ambassador or Ambassadress? Have you any footing at the Nuncio’s, or at the Imperial and Spanish ambassadors? It is useful. Be more particular in your letters to me, as to your manner of passing your time, and the company you keep. Where do you dine and sup oftenest? whose house is most your home? Adieu. ‘Les Graces, les Graces’.

LETTER CXXXV

LONDON, March 18, O. S. 1751.

MY DEAR FRIEND: I acquainted you in a former letter, that I had brought a bill into the House of Lords for correcting and reforming our present calendar, which is the Julian, and for adopting the Gregorian. I will now give you a more particular account of that affair; from which reflections will naturally occur to you that I hope may be useful, and which I fear you have not made. It was notorious, that the Julian calendar was erroneous, and had overcharged the solar year with eleven days. Pope Gregory the Thirteenth corrected this error; his reformed calendar was immediately received by all the Catholic powers of Europe, and afterward adopted by all the Protestant ones, except Russia, Sweden, and England. It was not, in my opinion, very honorable for England to remain, in a gross and avowed error, especially in such company; the inconveniency of it was likewise felt by all those who had foreign correspondences, whether political or mercantile. I determined, therefore, to attempt the reformation; I consulted the best lawyers and the most skillful astronomers, and we cooked up a bill for that purpose. But then my difficulty began: I was to bring in this bill, which was necessarily composed of law jargon and astronomical calculations, to both which I am an utter stranger. However, it was absolutely necessary to make the House of Lords think that I knew something of the matter; and also to make them believe that they knew something of it themselves, which they do not. For my own part, I could just as soon have talked Celtic or Sclavonian to them as astronomy, and they would have understood me full as well: so I resolved to do better than speak to the purpose, and to please instead of informing them. I gave them, therefore, only an historical account of calendars, from the Egyptian down to the Gregorian, amusing them now and then with little episodes; but I was particularly attentive to the choice of my words, to the harmony and roundness of my periods, to my elocution, to my action. This succeeded, and ever will succeed; they thought I informed, because I pleased them; and many of them said that I had made the whole very clear to them; when, God knows, I had not even attempted it. Lord Macclesfield, who had the greatest share in forming the bill, and who is one of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers in Europe, spoke afterward with infinite knowledge, and all the clearness that so intricate a matter would admit of: but as his words, his periods, and his utterance, were not near so good as mine, the preference was most unanimously, though most unjustly, given to me. This will ever be the case; every numerous assembly is MOB, let the individuals who compose it be what they will. Mere reason and good sense is never to be talked to a mob; their passions, their sentiments, their senses, and their seeming interests, are alone to be applied to. Understanding they have collectively none, but they have ears and eyes, which must be flattered and seduced; and this can only be done by eloquence, tuneful periods, graceful action, and all the various parts of oratory.

When you come into the House of Commons, if you imagine that speaking plain and unadorned sense and reason will do your business, you will find yourself most grossly mistaken. As a speaker, you will be ranked only according to your eloquence, and by no means according to your matter; everybody knows the matter almost alike, but few can adorn it. I was early convinced of the importance and powers of eloquence; and from that moment I applied myself to it. I resolved not to utter one word, even in common conversation, that should not be the most expressive and the most elegant that the language could supply me with for that purpose; by which means I have acquired such a certain degree of habitual eloquence, that I must now really take some pains, if, I would express myself very inelegantly. I want to inculcate this known truth into you, which, you seem by no means to be convinced of yet, that ornaments are at present your only objects. Your sole business now is to shine, not to weigh. Weight without lustre is lead. You had better talk trifles elegantly to the most trifling woman, than coarse in elegant sense to the most solid man; you had better, return a dropped fan genteelly, than give a thousand pounds awkwardly; and you had better refuse a favor gracefully, than to grant it clumsily. Manner is all, in everything: it is by manner only that you can please, and consequently rise. All your Greek will never advance you from secretary to envoy, or from envoy to ambassador; but your address, your manner, your air, if good, very probably may. Marcel can be of much more use to you than Aristotle. I would, upon my word, much rather that you had Lord Bolingbroke’s style and eloquence in speaking and writing, than all the learning of the Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, and the two Universities united.

Having mentioned Lord Bolingbroke’s style, which is, undoubtedly, infinitely superior to anybody’s, I would have you read his works, which you have, over and-over again, with particular attention to his style. Transcribe, imitate, emulate it, if possible: that would be of real use to you in the House of Commons, in negotiations, in conversation; with that, you may justly hope to please, to persuade, to seduce, to impose; and you will fail in those articles, in proportion as you fall short of it. Upon the whole, lay aside, during your year’s residence at Paris, all thoughts of all that dull fellows call solid, and exert your utmost care to acquire what people of fashion call shining. ‘Prenez l’eclat et le brillant d’un galant homme’.

Among the commonly called little things, to which you, do not attend, your handwriting is one, which is indeed shamefully bad and illiberal; it is neither the hand of a man of business, nor of a gentleman, but of a truant school-boy; as soon, therefore, as you have done with Abbe Nolet, pray get an excellent writing-master (since you think that you cannot teach yourself to write what hand you please), and let him teach you to write a genteel, legible, liberal hand, and quick; not the hand of a procureur or a writing-master, but that sort of hand in which the first ‘Commis’ in foreign bureaus commonly write; for I tell you truly, that were I Lord Albemarle, nothing should remain in my bureau written in your present hand. From hand to arms the transition is natural; is the carriage and motion of your arms so too? The motion of the arms is the most material part of a man’s air, especially in dancing; the feet are not near so material. If a man dances well from the waist upward, wears his hat well, and moves his head properly, he dances well. Do the women say that you dress well? for that is necessary too for a young fellow. Have you ‘un gout vif’, or a passion for anybody? I do not ask for whom: an Iphigenia would both give you the desire, and teach you the means to please.

In a fortnight or three weeks you will see Sir Charles Hotham at Paris, in his way to Toulouse, where he is to stay a year or two. Pray be very civil to him, but do not carry him into company, except presenting him to Lord Albemarle; for, as he is not to stay at Paris above a week, we do not desire that he should taste of that dissipation: you may show him a play and an opera. Adieu, my dear child.

LETTER CXXXVI

LONDON, March 25, O. S. 1751.

MY DEAR FRIEND: What a happy period of your life is this? Pleasure is now, and ought to be, your business. While you were younger, dry rules, and unconnected words, were the unpleasant objects of your labors. When you grow older, the anxiety, the vexations, the disappointments inseparable from public business, will require the greatest share of your time and attention; your pleasures may, indeed, conduce to your business, and your business will quicken your pleasures; but still your time must, at least, be divided: whereas now it is wholly your own, and cannot be so well employed as in the pleasures of a gentleman. The world is now the only book you want, and almost the only one you ought to read: that necessary book can only be read in company, in public places, at meals, and in ‘ruelles’. You must be in the pleasures, in order to learn the manners of good company. In premeditated, or in formal business, people conceal, or at least endeavor to conceal, their characters: whereas pleasures discover them, and the heart breaks out through the guard of the understanding. Those are often propitious moments for skillful negotiators to improve. In your destination particularly, the able conduct of pleasures is of infinite use; to keep a good table, and to do the honors of it gracefully, and ‘sur le ton de la bonne compagnie’, is absolutely necessary for a foreign minister. There is a certain light table chit-chat, useful to keep off improper and too serious subjects, which is only to be learned in the pleasures of good company. In truth it may be trifling; but, trifling as it is, a man of parts and experience of the world will give an agreeable turn to it. ‘L’art de badiner agreablement’ is by no means to be despised.

An engaging address, and turn to gallantry, is often of very great service to foreign ministers. Women have, directly or indirectly; a good deal to say in most courts. The late Lord Strafford governed, for a considerable time, the Court of Berlin and made his own fortune, by being well with Madame de Wartenberg, the first King of Prussia’s mistress. I could name many other instances of that kind. That sort of agreeable ‘caquet de femmes’, the necessary fore-runners of closer conferences, is only to be got by frequenting women of the first fashion, ‘et, qui donnent le ton’. Let every other book then give way to this great and necessary book, the world, of which there are so many various readings, that it requires a great deal of time and attention to under stand it well: contrary to all other books, you must not stay home, but go abroad to read it; and when you seek it abroad, you will not find it in booksellers’ shops and stalls, but in courts, in hotels, at entertainments, balls, assemblies, spectacles, etc. Put yourself upon the footing of an easy, domestic, but polite familiarity and intimacy in the several French houses to which you have been introduced: Cultivate them, frequent them, and show a desire of becoming ‘enfant de la maison’. Get acquainted as much as you can with ‘les gens de cour’; and observe, carefully, how politely they can differ, and how civilly they can hate; how easy and idle they can seem in the multiplicity of their business; and how they can lay hold of the proper moments to carry it on, in the midst of their pleasures. Courts, alone, teach versatility and politeness; for there is no living there without them. Lord Albermarle has, I hear, and am very glad of it, put you into the hands of Messieurs de Bissy. Profit of that, and beg of them to let you attend them in all the companies of Versailles and Paris. One of them, at least, will naturally carry you to Madame de la Valiores, unless he is discarded by this time, and Gelliot–[A famous opera-singer at Paris.]–retaken. Tell them frankly, ‘que vous cherchez a vous former, que vous etes en mains de maitres, s’ils veulent bien s’en donner la peine’. Your profession has this agreeable peculiarity in it, which is, that it is connected with, and promoted by pleasures; and it is the only one in which a thorough knowledge of the world, polite manners, and an engaging address, are absolutely necessary. If a lawyer knows his law, a parson his divinity, and a financier his calculations, each may make a figure and a fortune in his profession, without great knowledge of the world, and without the manners of gentlemen. But your profession throws you into all the intrigues and cabals, as well as pleasures, of courts: in those windings and labyrinths, a knowledge of the world, a discernment of characters, a suppleness and versatility of mind, and an elegance of manners, must be your clue; you must know how to soothe and lull the monsters that guard, and how to address and gain the fair that keep, the golden fleece. These are the arts and the accomplishments absolutely necessary for a foreign minister; in which it must be owned, to our shame, that most other nations outdo the English; and, ‘caeteris paribus’, a French minister will get the better of an English one at any third court in Europe. The French have something more ‘liant’, more insinuating and engaging in their manner, than we have. An English minister shall have resided seven years at a court, without having made any one personal connection there, or without being intimate and domestic in any one house. He is always the English minister, and never naturalized. He receives his orders, demands an audience, writes an account of it to his Court, and his business is done. A French minister, on the contrary, has not been six weeks at a court without having, by a thousand little attentions, insinuated himself into some degree of favor with the Prince, his wife, his mistress, his favorite, and his minister. He has established himself upon a familiar and domestic footing in a dozen of the best houses of the place, where he has accustomed the people to be not only easy, but unguarded, before him; he makes himself at home there, and they think him so. By these means he knows the interior of those courts, and can almost write prophecies to his own, from the knowledge he has of the characters, the humors, the abilities, or the weaknesses of the actors. The Cardinal d’Ossat was looked upon at Rome as an Italian, and not as a French cardinal; and Monsieur d’Avaux, wherever he went, was never considered as a foreign minister, but as a native, and a personal friend. Mere plain truth, sense, and knowledge, will by no means do alone in courts; art and ornaments must come to their assistance. Humors must be flattered; the ‘mollia tempora’ must be studied and known: confidence acquired by seeming frankness, and profited of by silent skill. And, above all; you must gain and engage the heart, to betray the understanding to you. ‘Ha tibi erunt artes’.

The death of the Prince of Wales, who was more beloved for his affability and good-nature than esteemed for his steadiness and conduct, has given concern to many, and apprehensions to all. The great difference of the ages of the King and Prince George presents the prospect of a minority; a disagreeable prospect for any nation! But it is to be hoped, and is most probable, that the King, who is now perfectly recovered of his late indisposition, may live to see his grandson of age. He is, seriously, a most hopeful boy: gentle and good-natured, with good sound sense. This event has made all sorts of people here historians, as well as politicians. Our histories are rummaged for all the particular circumstances of the six minorities we have had since the Conquest, viz, those of Henry III., Edward III., Richard II., Henry VI., Edward V., and Edward VI.; and the reasonings, the speculations, the conjectures, and the predictions, you will easily imagine, must be innumerable and endless, in this nation, where every porter is a consummate politician. Dr. Swift says, very humorously, that “Every man knows that he understands religion and politics, though he never learned them; but that many people are conscious that they do not understand many other sciences, from having never learned them.” Adieu.

LETTER CXXXVII

LONDON, April 7, O. S. 1751

MY DEAR FRIEND: Here you have, altogether, the pocketbooks, the compasses, and the patterns. When your three Graces have made their option, you need only send me, in a letter small pieces of the three mohairs they fix upon. If I can find no way of sending them safely and directly to Paris, I will contrive to have them left with Madame Morel, at Calais, who, being Madame Monconseil’s agent there, may find means of furthering them to your three ladies, who all belong to your friend Madame Monconseil. Two of the three, I am told, are handsome; Madame Polignac, I can swear, is not so; but, however, as the world goes, two out of three is a very good composition.

You will also find in the packet a compass ring set round with little diamonds, which I advise you to make a present of to Abbe Guasco, who has been useful to you, and will continue to be so; as it is a mere bauble, you must add to the value of it by your manner of giving it him. Show it him first, and, when he commends it, as probably he will, tell him that it is at his service, ‘et que comme il est toujours par vole et par chemins, il est absolument necessaire qu’il ale une boussole’. All those little gallantries depend entirely upon the manner of doing them; as, in truth, what does not? The greatest favors may be done so awkwardly and bunglingly as to offend; and disagreeable things may be done so agreeably as almost to oblige. Endeavor to acquire this great secret; it exists, it is to be found, and is worth a great deal more than the grand secret of the alchemists would be if it were, as it is not, to be found. This is only to be learned in courts, where clashing views, jarring opinions, and cordial hatreds, are softened and kept within decent bounds by politeness and manners. Frequent, observe, and learn courts. Are you free of that of St. Cloud? Are you often at Versailles? Insinuate and wriggle yourself into favor at those places. L’Abbe de la Ville, my old friend, will help you at the latter; your three ladies may establish you in the former. The good-breeding ‘de la ville et de la cour’ [of the city and of the court] are different; but without deciding which is intrinsically the best, that of the court is, without doubt, the most necessary for you, who are to live, to grow, and to rise in courts. In two years’ time, which will be as soon as you are fit for it, I hope to be able to plant you in the soil of a YOUNG COURT here: where, if you have all the address, the suppleness and versatility of a good courtier, you will have a great chance of thriving and flourishing. Young favor is easily acquired if the proper means are employed; and, when acquired, it is warm, if not durable; and the warm moments must be snatched and improved. ‘Quitte pour ce qui en pent arriver apres’. Do not mention this view of mine for you to any one mortal; but learn to keep your own secrets, which, by the way, very few people can do.

If your course of experimental philosophy with Abbe Nolot is over, I would have you apply to Abbe Sallier, for a master to give you a general notion of astronomy and geometry; of both of which you may know as much, as I desire you should, in six months’ time. I only desire that you should have a clear notion of the present planetary system, and the history of all the former systems. Fontenelle’s ‘Pluralites des Mondes’ will almost teach you all you need know upon that subject. As for geometry, the seven first books of Euclid will be a sufficient portion of it for you. It is right to have a general notion of those abstruse sciences, so as not to appear quite ignorant of them, when they happen, as sometimes they do, to be the topics of conversation; but a deep knowledge of them requires too much time, and engrosses the mind too much. I repeat it again and again to you, Let the great book of the world be your principal study. ‘Nocturna versate manu, versate diurna’; which may be rendered thus in English: Turn Over MEN BY DAY, AND WOMEN BY NIGHT. I mean only the best editions.

Whatever may be said at Paris of my speech upon the bill for the reformation of the present calendar, or whatever applause it may have met with here, the whole, I can assure you, is owing to the words and to the delivery, but by no means to the matter; which, as I told you in a former letter, I was not master of. I mention this again, to show you the importance of well-chosen words, harmonious periods, and good delivery; for, between you and me, Lord Macclefield’s speech was, in truth, worth a thousand of mine. It will soon be printed, and I will send it you. It is very instructive. You say, that you wish to speak but half as well as I did; you may easily speak full as well as ever I did, if you will but give the same attention to the same objects that I did at your age, and for many years afterward; I mean correctness, purity, and elegance of style, harmony of periods, and gracefulness of delivery. Read over and over again the third book of ‘Cicero de Oratore’, in which he particularly treats of the ornamental parts of oratory; they are indeed properly oratory, for all the rest depends only upon common sense, and some knowledge of the subject you speak upon. But if you would please, persuade, and prevail in speaking, it must be by the ornamental parts of oratory. Make them therefore habitual to you; and resolve never to say the most common things, even to your footman, but in the best words you can find, and with the best utterance. This, with ‘les manieres, la tournure, et les usages du beau monde’, are the only two things you want; fortunately, they are both in your power; may you have them both! Adieu.

LETTER CXXXVIII

LONDON, April 15, O. S. 1751

MY DEAR FRIEND: What success with the graces, and in the accomplishments, elegancies, and all those little nothings so indispensably necessary to constitute an amiable man? Do you take them, do you make a progress in them? The great secret is the art of pleasing; and that art is to be attained by every man who has a good fund of common sense. If you are pleased with any person, examine why; do as he does; and you will charm others by the same things which please you in him. To be liked by women, you must be esteemed by men; and to please men, you must be agreeable to women. Vanity is unquestionably the ruling passion in women; and it is much flattered by the attentions of a man who is generally esteemed by men; when his merit has received the stamp of their approbation, women make it current, that is to say, put him in fashion. On the other hand, if a man has not received the last polish from women, he may be estimable among men, but will never be amiable. The concurrence of the two sexes is as necessary to the perfection of our being, as to the formation of it. Go among women with the good qualities of your sex, and you will acquire from them the softness and the graces of theirs. Men will then add affection to the esteem which they before had for you. Women are the only refiners of the merit of men; it is true, they cannot add weight, but they polish and give lustre to it. ‘A propos’, I am assured, that Madame de Blot, although she has no great regularity of features, is, notwithstanding, excessively pretty; and that, for all that, she has as yet been scrupulously constant to her husband, though she has now been married above a year. Surely she does not reflect, that woman wants polishing. I would have you polish one another reciprocally. Force, assiduities, attentions, tender looks, and passionate declarations, on your side will produce some irresolute wishes, at least, on hers; and when even the slightest wishes arise, the rest will soon follow.

As I take you to be the greatest ‘juris peritus’ and politician of the whole Germanic body, I suppose you will have read the King of Prussia’s letter to the Elector of Mayence, upon the election of a King of the Romans; and on the other side, a memorial entitled, IMPARTIAL REPRESENTATION OF WHAT IS JUST WITH REGARD TO THE ELECTION OF A KING OF
THE ROMANS, etc. The first is extremely well written, but not grounded upon the laws and customs of the empire. The second is very ill written (at least in French), but well grounded. I fancy the author is some German, who has taken into his head that he understands French. I am, however, persuaded that the elegance and delicacy of the King of Prussia’s letter will prevail with two-thirds of the public, in spite of the solidity and truth contained in the other piece. Such is the force of an elegant and delicate style!

I wish you would be so good as to give me a more particular and circumstantial account of the method of passing your time at Paris. For instance, where it is that you dine every Friday, in company with that amiable and respectable old man, Fontenelle? Which is the house where you think yourself at home? For one always has such a one, where one is better established, and more at ease than anywhere else. Who are the young Frenchmen with whom you are most intimately connected? Do you frequent the Dutch Ambassador’s. Have you penetrated yet into Count Caunitz’s house? Has Monsieur de Pignatelli the honor of being one of your humble servants? And has the Pope’s nuncio included you in the jubilee? Tell me also freely how you are with Lord Huntingdon: Do you see him often? Do you connect yourself with him? Answer all these questions circumstantially in your first letter.

I am told that Du Clos’s book is not in vogue at Paris, and that it is violently criticised: I suppose that is because one understands it; and being intelligible is now no longer the fashion. I have a very great respect for fashion, but a much greater for this book; which is, all at once, true, solid, and bright. It contains even epigrams; what can one wish for more?

Mr.—— will, I suppose, have left Paris by this time for his residence at Toulouse. I hope he will acquire manners there; I am sure he wants them. He is awkward, he is silent, and has nothing agreeable in his address,–most necessary qualifications to distinguish one’s self in business, as well as in the POLITE WORLD! In truth, these two things are so connected, that a man cannot make a figure in business, who is not qualified to shine in the great world; and to succeed perfectly in either the one or the other, one must be in ‘utrumque paratus’. May you be that, my dear friend! and so we wish you a good night.

P. S. Lord and Lady Blessington, with their son Lord Mountjoy, will be at Paris next week, in their way to the south of France; I send you a little packet of books by them. Pray go wait upon them, as soon as you hear of their arrival, and show them all the attentions you can.

LETTER CXXXIX

LONDON, April 22, O. S. 1751

MY DEAR FRIEND: I apply to you now, as to the greatest virtuoso of this, or perhaps any other age; one whose superior judgment and distinguishing eye hindered the King of Poland from buying a bad picture at Venice, and whose decisions in the realms of ‘virtu’ are final, and without appeal. Now to the point. I have had a catalogue sent me, ‘d’une Trente a l’aimable de Tableaux des plus Grands Maitres, appartenans au Sieur Araignon Aperen, valet de chambre de la Reine, sur le quai de la Megisserie, au coin de Arche Marion’. There I observe two large pictures of Titian, as described in the inclosed page of the catalogue, No. 18, which I should be glad to purchase upon two conditions: the first is, that they be undoubted originals of Titian, in good preservation; and the other that they come cheap. To ascertain the first (but without disparaging your skill), I wish you would get some undoubted connoisseurs to examine them carefully: and if, upon such critical examination, they should be unanimously allowed to be undisputed originals of Titian, and well preserved, then comes the second point, the price: I will not go above two hundred pounds sterling for the two together; but as much less as you can get them for. I acknowledge that two hundred pounds seems to be a very small sum for two undoubted Titians of that size; but, on the other hand, as large Italian pictures are now out of fashion at Paris, where fashion decides of everything, and as these pictures are too large for common rooms, they may possibly come within the price above limited. I leave the whole of this transaction (the price excepted, which I will not exceed) to your consummate skill and prudence, with proper advice joined to them. Should you happen to buy them for that price, carry them to your own lodgings, and get a frame made to the second, which I observe has none, exactly the same with the other frame, and have the old one new gilt; and then get them carefully packed up, and sent me by Rouen.

I hear much of your conversing with ‘les beaux esprits’ at Paris: I am very glad of it; it gives a degree of reputation, especially at Paris; and their conversation is generally instructive, though sometimes affected. It must be owned, that the polite conversation of the men and women of fashion at Paris, though not always very deep, is much less futile and frivolous than ours here. It turns at least upon some subject, something of taste, some point of history, criticism, and even philosophy; which, though probably not quite so solid as Mr. Locke’s, is, however, better, and more becoming rational beings, than our frivolous dissertations upon the weather, or upon whist. Monsieur du Clos observes, and I think very justly, ‘qu’il y a a present en France une fermentation universelle de la raison qui tend a se developper’. Whereas, I am sorry to say, that here that fermentation seems to have been over some years ago, the spirit evaporated, and only the dregs left. Moreover, ‘les beaux esprits’ at Paris are commonly well-bred, which ours very frequently are not; with the former your manners will be formed; with the latter, wit must generally be compounded for at the expense of manners. Are you acquainted with Marivaux, who has certainly studied, and is well acquainted with the heart; but who refines so much upon its ‘plis et replis’, and describes them so affectedly, that he often is unintelligible to his readers, and sometimes so, I dare say, to himself? Do you know ‘Crebillon le fils’? He is a fine painter and a pleasing writer; his characters are admirable and his reflections just. Frequent these people, and be glad, but not proud of frequenting them: never boast of it, as a proof of your own merit, nor insult, in a manner, other companies by telling them affectedly what you, Montesquieu and Fontenelle were talking of the other day; as I have known many people do here, with regard to Pope and Swift, who had never been twice in company with either; nor carry into other companies the ‘ton’ of those meetings of ‘beaux esprits’. Talk literature, taste, philosophy, etc., with them, ‘a la bonne heure’; but then, with the same ease, and more ‘enjouement’, talk ‘pom-pons, moires’, etc., with Madame de Blot, if she requires it. Almost every subject in the world has its proper time and place; in which no one is above or below discussion. The point is, to talk well upon the subject you talk upon; and the most trifling, frivolous subjects will still give a man of parts an opportunity of showing them. ‘L’usage du grand monde’ can alone teach that. That was the distinguishing characteristic of Alcibiades, and a happy one it was, that he could occasionally, and with so much ease, adopt the most different, and even the most opposite habits and manners, that each seemed natural to him. Prepare yourself for the great world, as the ‘athletae’ used to do for their exercises: oil (if I may use that expression) your mind and your manners, to give them the necessary suppleness and flexibility; strength alone will not do, as young people are too apt to think.

How do your exercises go on? Can you manage a pretty vigorous ‘sauteur’ between the pillars? Are you got into stirrups yet? ‘Faites-vous assaut aux armes? But, above all, what does Marcel say of you? Is he satisfied? Pray be more particular in your accounts of yourself, for though I have frequent accounts of you from others, I desire to have your own too. Adieu. Yours, truly and friendly.

LETTER CXL

LONDON, May 2, O. S. 1751

DEAR FRIEND: Two accounts, which I have very lately received of you, from two good judges, have put me into great spirits, as they have given me reasonable hopes that you will soon acquire all that I believe you want: I mean the air, the address; the graces, and the manners of a man of fashion. As these two pictures of you are very unlike that which I received, and sent you some months ago, I will name the two painters: the first is an old friend and acquaintance of mine, Monsieur d’Aillon. His picture is, I hope, like you; for it is a very good one: Monsieur Tollot’s is still a better, and so advantageous a one, that I will not send you a copy of it, for fear of making you too vain. So far only I will tell you, that there was but one BUT in either of their accounts; and it was this: I gave d’Aillon the question ordinary and extraordinary, upon the important article of manners; and extorted this from him: “But, since you will know it, he still wants that last beautiful varnish, which raises the colors, and gives brilliancy to the piece. Be persuaded that he will acquire it: he has too much sense not to know its value; and if I am not greatly mistaken, more persons than one are now endeavoring to give it him. “Monsieur Tollot says: “In order to be exactly all that you wish him, he only wants those little nothings, those graces in detail, and that amiable ease, which can only be acquired by usage of the great world. I am assured that he is, in that respect, in good hands. I do not know whether that does not rather imply in fine arms.” Without entering into a nice discussion of the last question, I congratulate you and myself upon your being so near that point at which I so anxiously wish you to arrive. I am sure that all your attention and endeavors will be exerted; and, if exerted, they will succeed. Mr. Tollot says, that you are inclined to be fat, but I hope you will decline it as much as you can; not by taking anything corrosive to make you lean, but by taking as little as you can of those things that would make you fat. Drink no chocolate; take your coffee without cream: you cannot possibly avoid suppers at Paris, unless you avoid company too, which I would by no means have you do; but eat as little at supper as you can, and make even an allowance for that little at your dinners. Take occasionally a double dose of riding and fencing; and now that summer is come, walk a good deal in the Tuileries. It is a real inconvenience to anybody to be fat, and besides it is ungraceful for a young fellow. ‘A propos’, I had like to have forgot to tell you, that I charged Tollot to attend particularly to your utterence and diction; two points of the utmost importance. To the first he says: “His enunciation is not bad, but it is to be wished that it were still better; and he expresses himself with more fire than elegance. Usage of good company will instruct him likewise in that.” These, I allow, are all little things, separately; but aggregately, they make a most important and great article in the account of a gentleman. In the House of Commons you can never make a figure without elegance of style, and gracefulness of utterance; and you can never succeed as a courtier at your own Court, or as a minister at any other, without those innumerable ‘petite riens dans les manieres, et dans les attentions’. Mr. Yorke is by this time at Paris; make your court to him, but not so as to disgust, in the least, Lord Albemarle, who may possibly dislike your considering Mr. Yorke as the man of business, and him as only ‘pour orner la scene’. Whatever your opinion may be upon THAT POINT, take care not to let it appear; but be well with them both by showing no public preference to either.

Though I must necessarily fall into repetitions by treating the same subject so often, I cannot help recommending to you again the utmost attention to your air and address. Apply yourself now to Marcel’s lectures, as diligently as you did formerly to Professor Mascow’s; desire him to teach you every genteel attitude that the human body can be put into; let him make you go in and out of his room frequently, and present yourself to him, as if he were by turns different persons; such as a minister, a lady, a superior, an equal, and inferior, etc. Learn to seat genteelly in different companies; to loll genteelly, and with good manners, in those companies where you are authorized to be free, and to sit up respectfully where the same freedom is not allowable. Learn even to compose your countenance occasionally to the respectful, the cheerful, and the insinuating. Take particular care that the motions of your hands and arms be easy and graceful; for the genteelness of a man consists more in them than in anything else, especially in his dancing. Desire some women to tell you of any little awkwardness that they observe in your carriage; they are the best judges of those things; and if they are satisfied, the men will be so too. Think now only of the decorations. Are you acquainted with Madame Geoffrain, who has a great deal of wit; and who, I am informed, receives only the very best company in her house? Do you know Madame du Pin, who, I remember, had beauty, and I hear has wit and reading? I could wish you to converse only with those who, either from their rank, their merit, or their beauty, require constant attention; for a young man can never improve in company where he thinks he may neglect himself. A new bow must be constantly kept bent; when it grows older, and has taken the right turn, it may now and then be relaxed.

I have this moment paid your draft of L89 75s.; it was signed in a very good hand; which proves that a good hand may be written without the assistance of magic. Nothing provokes me much more, than to hear people indolently say that they cannot do, what is in everybody’s power to do, if it be but in their will. Adieu.

LETTER CXLI

LONDON, May 6, O. S. 1751.

MY DEAR FRIEND: The best authors are always the severest critics of their own works; they revise, correct, file, and polish them, till they think they have brought them to perfection. Considering you as my work, I do not look upon myself as a bad author, and am therefore a severe critic. I examine narrowly into the least inaccuracy or inelegance, in order to correct, not to expose them, and that the work may be perfect at last. You are, I know, exceedingly improved in your air, address, and manners, since you have been at Paris; but still there is, I believe, room for further improvement before you come to that perfection which I have set my heart upon seeing you arrive at; and till that moment I must continue filing and polishing. In a letter that I received by last post, from a friend of yours at Paris, there was this paragraph: “I have the honor to assure you, without flattery, that Mr. Stanhope succeeds beyond what might be expected from a person of his age. He goes into very good company; and that kind of manner, which was at first thought to be too decisive and peremptory, is now judged otherwise; because it is acknowledged to be the effect of an ingenuous frankness, accompanied by politeness, and by a proper deference. He studies to please, and succeeds. Madame du Puisieux was the other day speaking of him with complacency and friendship. You will be satisfied with him in all respects. “This is extremely well, and I rejoice at it: one little circumstance only may, and I hope will, be altered for the better. Take pains to undeceive those who thought that ‘petit ton un peu delcide et un peu brusque’; as it is not meant so, let it not appear so. Compose your countenance to an air of gentleness and ‘douceur’, use some expressions of diffidence of your own opinion, and deference to other people’s; such as, “If I might be permitted to say–I should think–Is it not rather so? At least I have the greatest reason to be diffident of myself.” Such mitigating, engaging words do by no means weaken your argument; but, on the contrary, make it more powerful by making it more pleasing. If it is a quick and hasty manner of speaking that people mistake ‘pour decide et brusque’, prevent their mistakes for the future by speaking more deliberately, and taking a softer tone of voice; as in this case you are free from the guilt, be free from the suspicion, too. Mankind, as I have often told you, are more governed by appearances than by realities; and with regard to opinion, one had better be really rough and hard, with the appearance of gentleness and softness, than just the reverse. Few people have penetration enough to discover, attention enough to observe, or even concern enough to examine beyond the exterior; they take their notions from the surface, and go no deeper: they commend, as the gentlest and best-natured man in the world, that man who has the most engaging exterior manner, though possibly they have been but once in his company. An air, a tone of voice, a composure of countenance to mildness and softness, which are all easily acquired, do the business: and without further examination, and possibly with the contrary qualities, that man is reckoned the gentlest, the modestest, and the best-natured man alive. Happy the man, who, with a certain fund of parts and knowledge, gets acquainted with the world early enough to make it his bubble, at an age when most people are the bubbles of the world! for that is the common case of youth. They grow wiser when it is too late; and, ashamed and vexed at having been bubbles so long, too often turn knaves at last. Do not therefore trust to appearances and outside yourself, but pay other people with them; because you may be sure that nine in ten of mankind do, and ever will trust to them. This is by no means a criminal or blamable simulation, if not used with an ill intention. I am by no means blamable in desiring to have other people’s good word, good-will, and affection, if I do not mean to abuse them. Your heart, I know, is good, your sense is sound, and your knowledge extensive. What then remains for you to do? Nothing, but to adorn those fundamental qualifications, with such engaging and captivating manners, softness, and gentleness, as will endear you to those who are able to judge of your real merit, and which always stand in the stead of merit with those who are not. I do not mean by this to recommend to you ‘le fade doucereux’, the insipid softness of a gentle fool; no, assert your own opinion, oppose other people’s when wrong; but let your manner, your air, your terms, and your tone of voice, be soft and gentle, and that easily and naturally, not affectedly. Use palliatives when you contradict; such as I MAY BE MISTAKEN, I AM NOT SURE, BUT I BELIEVE, I SHOULD RATHER THINK, etc. Finish any argument or dispute with some little good-humored pleasantry, to show that you are neither hurt yourself, nor meant to hurt your antagonist; for an argument, kept up a good while, often occasions a temporary alienation on each side. Pray observe particularly, in those French people who are distinguished by that character, ‘cette douceur de moeurs et de manieres’, which they talk of so much, and value so justly; see in what it consists; in mere trifles, and most easy to be acquired, where the heart is really good. Imitate, copy it, till it becomes habitual and easy to you. Without a compliment to you, I take it to be the only thing you now want: nothing will sooner give it you than a real passion, or, at least, ‘un gout vif’, for some woman of fashion; and, as I suppose that you have either the one or the other by this time, you are consequently in the best school. Besides this, if you were to say to Lady Hervey, Madame Monconseil, or such others as you look upon to be your friends, It is said that I have a kind of manner which is rather too decisive and too peremptory; it is not, however, my intention that it should be so; I entreat you to correct, and even publicly to punish me whenever I am guilty. Do not treat me with the least indulgence, but criticise to the utmost. So clear-sighted a judge as you has a right to be severe; and I promise you that the criminal will endeavor to correct himself. Yesterday I had two of your acquaintances to dine with me, Baron B. and his companion Monsieur S. I cannot say of the former, ‘qu’il est paitri de graces’; and I would rather advise him to go and settle quietly at home, than to think of improving himself by further travels. ‘Ce n’est pas le bois don’t on en fait’. His companion is much better, though he has a strong ‘tocco di tedesco’. They both spoke well of you, and so far I liked them both. How go you on with the amiable little Blot? Does she listen to your Battering tale? Are you numbered among the list of her admirers? Is Madame —— your Madame de Lursay? Does she sometimes knot, and are you her Meilcour? They say she has softness, sense, and engaging manners; in such an apprenticeship much may be learned.–[This whole passage, and several others, allude to Crebillon’s ‘Egaremens du Coeur et de l’Esprit’, a sentimental novel written about that time, and then much in vogue at Paris.]

A woman like her, who has always pleased, and often been pleased, can best teach the art of pleasing; that art, without which, ‘ogni fatica vana’. Marcel’s lectures are no small part of that art: they are the engaging forerunner of all other accomplishments. Dress is also an article not to be neglected, and I hope you do not neglect it; it helps in the ‘premier abord’, which is often decisive. By dress, I mean your clothes being well made, fitting you, in the fashion and not above it; your hair well done, and a general cleanliness and spruceness in your person. I hope you take infinite care of your teeth; the consequences of neglecting the mouth are serious, not only to one’s self, but to others. In short, my dear child, neglect nothing; a little more will complete the whole. Adieu. I have not heard from you these three weeks, which I think a great while.

LETTER CXLII

LONDON, May 10, O. S. 1751.

MY DEAR FRIEND: I received yesterday, at the same time, your letters of the 4th and 11th, N. S., and being much more careful of my commissions than you are of yours, I do not delay one moment sending you my final instructions concerning the pictures. The man you allow to be a Titian, and in good preservation; the woman is an indifferent and a damaged picture; but as I want them for furniture for a particular room, companions are necessary; and therefore I am willing to take the woman for better for worse, upon account of the man; and if she is not too much damaged, I can have her tolerably repaired, as many a fine woman is, by a skillful hand here; but then I expect that the lady should be, in a manner, thrown into the bargain with the man; and, in this state of affairs, the woman being worth little or nothing, I will not go above fourscore Louis for the two together. As for the Rembrandt you mention, though it is very cheap, if good, I do not care for it. I love ‘la belle nature’; Rembrandt paints caricatures. Now for your own commissions, which you seem to have forgotten. You mention nothing of the patterns which you received by Monsieur Tollot, though I told you in a former letter, which you must have had before the date of your last, that I should stay till I received the patterns pitched upon by your ladies; for as to the instructions which you sent me in Madame Monconseil’s hand, I could find no mohairs in London that exactly answered that description; I shall, therefore, wait till you send me (which you may easily do in a letter) the patterns chosen by your three graces.

I would, by all means, have you go now and then, for two or three days, to Marechal Coigny’s, at Orli; it is but a proper civility to that family, which has been particularly civil to you; and, moreover, I would have you familiarize yourself with, and learn the interior and domestic manners of, people of that rank and fashion. I also desire that you will frequent Versailles and St. Cloud, at both of which courts you have been received with distinction. Profit of that distinction, and familiarize yourself at both. Great courts are the seats of true good-breeding; you are to live at courts, lose no time in learning them. Go and stay sometimes at Versailles for three or four days, where you will be domestic in the best families, by means of your friend Madame de Puisieux; and mine, l’Abbe de la Ville. Go to the King’s and the Dauphin’s levees, and distinguish yourself from the rest of your countrymen, who, I dare say, never go there when they can help it. Though the young Frenchmen of fashion may not be worth forming intimate connections with, they are well worth making acquaintance of; and I do not see how you can avoid it, frequenting so many good French houses as you do, where, to be sure, many of them come. Be cautious how you contract friendships, but be desirous, and even industrious, to obtain a universal acquaintance. Be easy, and even forward, in making new acquaintances; that is the only way of knowing manners and characters in general, which is, at present, your great object. You are ‘enfant de famille’ in three ministers’ houses; but I wish you had a footing, at least, in thirteen and that, I should think, you might easily bring about, by that common chain, which, to a certain degree, connects those you do not with those you do know.

For instance, I suppose that neither Lord Albemarle, nor Marquis de St. Germain, would make the least difficulty to present you to Comte Caunitz, the Nuncio, etc. ‘Il faut etre rompu du monde’, which can only be done by an extensive, various, and almost universal acquaintance.

When you have got your emaciated Philomath, I desire that his triangles, rhomboids, etc., may not keep you one moment out of the good company you would otherwise be in. Swallow all your learning in the morning, but digest it in company in the evenings. The reading of ten new characters is more your business now, than the reading of twenty old books; showish and shining people always get the better of all others, though ever so solid. If you would be a great man in the world when you are old, shine and be showish in it while you are young, know everybody, and endeavor to please everybody, I mean exteriorly; for fundamentally it is impossible. Try to engage the heart of every woman, and the affections of almost every man you meet with. Madame Monconseil assures me that you are most surprisingly improved in your air, manners, and address: go on, my dear child, and never think that you are come to a sufficient degree of perfection; ‘Nil actum reputans, si quid superesset agendum’; and in those shining parts of the character of a gentleman, there is always something remaining to be acquired. Modes and manners vary in different places, and at different times; you must keep pace with them, know them, and adopt them, wherever you find them. The great usage of the world, the knowledge of characters, the brillant dun galant homme, is all that you now. want. Study Marcel and the ‘beau monde’ with great application, but read Homer and Horace only when you have nothing else to do. Pray who is ‘la belle Madame de Case’, whom I know you frequent? I like the epithet given her very well: if she deserves it, she deserves your attention too. A man of fashion should be gallant to a fine woman, though he does not make love to her, or may be otherwise engaged. On ‘lui doit des politesses, on fait l’eloge de ses charmes, et il n’en est ni plus ni moins pour cela’: it pleases, it flatters; you get their good word, and you lose nothing by it. These ‘gentillesses’ should be accompanied, as indeed everything else should, with an air: ‘un air, un ton de douceur et de politesse’. Les graces must be of the party, or it will never do; and they are so easily had, that it is astonishing to me that everybody has them not; they are sooner gained than any woman of common reputation and decency. Pursue them but with care and attention,