Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield.

Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1766-71 online

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on the Fine Art of becoming a


and a



LONDON, February 11, 1766

MY DEAR FRIEND: I received two days ago your letter of the 25th past; and
your former, which you mention in it, but ten days ago; this may easily
be accounted for from the badness of the weather, and consequently of the
roads. I hardly remember so severe a win ter; it has occasioned many
illnesses here. I am sure it pinched my crazy carcass so much that, about
three weeks ago, I was obliged to be let blood twice in four days, which
I found afterward was very necessary, by the relief it gave to my head
and to the rheumatic pains in my limbs; and from the execrable kind of
blood which I lost.

Perhaps you expect from me a particular account of the present state of
affairs here; but if you do you will be disappointed; for no man living
(and I still less than anyone) knows what it is; it varies, not only
daily, but hourly.

Most people think, and I among the rest, that the date of the present
Ministers is pretty near out; but how soon we are to have a new style,
God knows. This, however, is certain, that the Ministers had a contested
election in the House of Commons, and got it but by eleven votes; too
small a majority to carry anything; the next day they lost a question in
the House of Lords, by three. The question in the House of Lords was, to
enforce the execution of the Stamp-act in the colonies 'vi et armis'.
What conclusions you will draw from these premises, I do not know; but I
protest I draw none; but only stare at the present undecipherable state
of affairs, which, in fifty years' experience, I have never seen anything
like. The Stamp-act has proved a most pernicious measure; for, whether it
is repealed or not, which is still very doubtful, it has given such
terror to the Americans, that our trade with them will not be, for some
years, what it used to be; and great numbers of our manufacturers at home
will be turned a starving for want of that employment which our very
profitable trade to America found them: and hunger is always the cause of
tumults and sedition.

As you have escaped a fit of the gout in this severe cold weather, it is
to be hoped you may be entirely free from it, till next winter at least.

P. S. Lord having parted with his wife, now, keeps another w - -e, at a
great expense. I fear he is totally undone.


LONDON, March 17, 1766.

MY DEAR FRIEND: You wrong me in thinking me in your debt; for I never
receive a letter of yours, but I answer it by the next post, or the next
but one, at furthest: but I can easily conceive that my two last letters
to you may have been drowned or frozen in their way; for portents and
prodigies of frost, snow, and inundations, have been so frequent this
winter, that they have almost lost their names.

You tell me that you are going to the baths of BADEN; but that puzzles me
a little, so I recommend this letter to the care of Mr. Larpent, to
forward to you; for Baden I take to be the general German word for baths,
and the particular ones are distinguished by some epithet, as Weissbaden,
Carlsbaden, etc. I hope they are not cold baths, which I have a very ill
opinion of, in all arthritic or rheumatic cases; and your case I take to
be a compound of both, but rather more of the latter.

You will probably wonder that I tell you nothing of public matters; upon
which I shall be as secret as Hotspur's gentle Kate, who would not tell
what she did not know; but what is singular, nobody seems to know any
more of them than I do. People gape, stare, conjecture, and refine.
Changes of the Ministry, or in the Ministry at least, are daily reported
and foretold, but of what kind, God only knows. It is also very doubtful
whether Mr. Pitt will come into the Administration or not; the two
present Secretaries are extremely desirous that he should; but the others
think of the horse that called the man to its assistance. I will say
nothing to you about American affairs, because I have not pens, ink, or
paper enough to give you an intelligible account of them. They have been
the subjects of warm and acrimonious debates, both in the Lords and
Commons, and in all companies.

The repeal of the Stamp-act is at last carried through. I am glad of it,
and gave my proxy for it, because I saw many more inconveniences from the
enforcing than from the repealing it.

Colonel Browne was with me the other day, and assured me that he left you
very well. He said he saw you at Spa, but I did not remember him; though
I remember his two brothers, the Colonel and the ravisher, very well.
Your Saxon colonel has the brogue exceedingly. Present my respects to
Count Flemming; I am very sorry for the Countess's illness; she was a
most well-bred woman.

You would hardly think that I gave a dinner to the Prince of Brunswick,
your old acquaintance. I glad it is over; but I could not avoid it. 'Il
m'avait tabli de politesses'. God bless you!


BLACKHEATH, June 13, 1766.

MY DEAR FRIEND: I received yesterday your letter of the 30th past. I
waited with impatience for it, not having received one from you in six
weeks; nor your mother neither, who began to be very sure that you were
dead, if not buried. You should write to her once a week, or at least
once a-fortnight; for women make no allowance either for business or
laziness; whereas I can, by experience, make allowances for both:
however, I wish you would generally write to me once a fortnight.

Last week I paid my midsummer offering, of five hundred pounds, to Mr.
Larpent, for your use, as I suppose he has informed you. I am punctual,
you must allow.

What account shall I give you of ministerial affairs here? I protest I do
not know: your own description of them is as exact a one as any I, who am
upon the place, can give you. It is a total dislocation and
'derangement'; consequently a total inefficiency. When the Duke of
Grafton quitted the seals, he gave that very reason for it, in a speech
in the House of Lords: he declared, "that he had no objection to the
persons or the measures of the present Ministers; but that he thought
they wanted strength and efficiency to carry on proper measures with
success; and that he knew but one man MEANING, AS YOU WILL EASILY
SUPPOSE, MR. PITT who could give them strength and solidity; that, under
this person, he should be willing to serve in any capacity, not only as a
General Officer, but as a pioneer; and would take up a spade and a
mattock." When he quitted the seals, they were offered first to Lord
Egmont, then to Lord Hardwicke; who both declined them, probably for the
same reasons that made the Duke of Grafton resign them; but after their
going a-begging for some time, the Duke of - - - -begged them, and has
them 'faute de mieux'. Lord Mountstuart was never thought of for Vienna,
where Lord Stormont returns in three months; the former is going to be
married to one of the Miss Windsors, a great fortune. To tell you the
speculations, the reasonings, and the conjectures, either of the
uninformed, or even of the best-informed public, upon the present
wonderful situation of affairs, would take up much more time and paper
than either you or I can afford, though we have neither of us a great
deal of business at present.

I am in as good health as I could reasonably expect, at my age, and with
my shattered carcass; that is, from the waist upward; but downward it is
not the same: for my limbs retain that stiffness and debility of my long
rheumatism; I cannot walk half an hour at a time. As the autumn, and
still more as the winter approaches, take care to keep yourself very
warm, especially your legs and feet.

Lady Chesterfield sends you her compliments, and triumphs in the success
of her plaster. God bless you!


BLACKHEATH, July 11, 1766.

MY DEAR FRIEND: You are a happy mortal, to have your time thus employed
between the great and the fair; I hope you do the honors of your country
to the latter. The Emperor, by your account, seems to be very well for an
emperor; who, by being above the other monarchs in Europe, may justly be
supposed to have had a proportionably worse education. I find, by your
account of him, that he has been trained up to homicide, the only science
in which princes are ever instructed; and with good reason, as their
greatness and glory singly depend upon the numbers of their
fellow-creatures which their ambition exterminates. If a sovereign
should, by great accident, deviate into moderation, justice, and
clemency, what a contemptible figure would he make in the catalogue of
princes! I have always owned a great regard for King Log. From the
interview at Torgaw, between the two monarchs, they will be either a
great deal better or worse together; but I think rather the latter; for
our namesake, Philip de Co mines, observes, that he never knew any good
come from l'abouchement des Rois. The King of Prussia will exert all his
perspicacity to analyze his Imperial Majesty; and I would bet upon the
one head of his black eagle, against the two heads of the Austrian eagle;
though two heads are said, proverbially, to be better than one. I wish I
had the direction of both the monarchs, and they should, together with
some of their allies, take Lorraine and Alsace from France. You will call
me 'l'Abbe de St. Pierre'; but I only say what I wish; whereas he thought
everything that he wished practicable.

Now to come home. Here are great bustles at Court, and a great change of
persons is certainly very near. You will ask me, perhaps, who is to be
out, and who is to be in? To which I answer, I do not know. My conjecture
is that, be the new settlement what it will, Mr. Pitt will be at the head
of it. If he is, I presume, 'qu'il aura mis de l'eau dans son vin par
rapport a Mylord B - - -; when that shall come to be known, as known it
certainly will soon be, he may bid adieu to his popularity. A minister,
as minister, is very apt to be the object of public dislike; and a
favorite, as favorite, still more so. If any event of this kind happens,
which (if it happens at all) I conjecture will be some time next week,
you shall hear further from me.

I will follow your advice, and be as well as I can next winter, though I
know I shall never be free from my flying rheumatic pains, as long as I
live; but whether that will be more or less, is extremely indifferent to
me; in either case, God bless you!


BLACKHEATH, August 1, 1766.

MY DEAR FRIEND: The curtain was at last drawn up, the day before
yesterday, and discovered the new actors, together with some of the old
ones. I do not name them to you, because to-morrow's Gazette will do it
full as well as I could. Mr. Pitt, who had carte blanche given him, named
everyone of them: but what would you think he named himself for? Lord
Privy Seal; and (what will astonish you, as it does every mortal here)
Earl of Chatham. The joke here is, that he has had A FALL UP STAIRS, and
has done himself so much hurt, that he will never be able to stand upon
his leg's again. Everybody is puzzled how to account for this step;
though it would not be the first time that great abilities have been
duped by low cunning. But be it what it will, he is now certainly only
Earl of Chatham; and no longer Mr. Pitt, in any respect whatever. Such an
event, I believe, was never read nor heard of. To withdraw, in the
fullness of his power and in the utmost gratification of his ambition,
from the House of Commons (which procured him his power, and which could
alone insure it to him), and to go into that hospital of incurables, the
House of Lords, is a measure so unaccountable, that nothing but proof
positive could have made me believe it: but true it is. Hans Stanley is
to go Ambassador to Russia; and my nephew, Ellis, to Spain, decorated
with the red riband. Lord Shelburne is your Secretary of State, which I
suppose he has notified to you this post, by a circular letter. Charles
Townshend has now the sole management of the House of Commons; but how
long he will be content to be only Lord Chatham's vicegerent there, is a
question which I will not pretend to decide. There is one very bad sign
for Lord Chatham, in his new dignity; which is, that all his enemies,
without exception, rejoice at it; and all his friends are stupefied and
dumbfounded. If I mistake not much, he will, in the course of a year,
enjoy perfect 'otium cum dignitate'. Enough of politics.

Is the fair, or at least the fat, Miss C - - with you still? It must be
confessed that she knows the arts of courts, to be so received at
Dresden, and so connived at in Leicester-fields.

There never was so wet a summer as this has been, in the memory of man;
we have not had one single day, since March, without some rain; but most
days a great deal. I hope that does not affect your health, as great cold
does; for, with all these inundations, it has not been cold. God bless


BLACKHEATH, August 14, 1766.

MY DEAR FRIEND: I received yesterday your letter of the 30th past, and I
find by it that it crossed mine upon the road, where they had no time to
take notice of one another.

The newspapers have informed you, before now, of the changes actually
made; more will probably follow, but what, I am sure, I cannot tell you;
and I believe nobody can, not even those who are to make them: they will,
I suppose, be occasional, as people behave themselves. The causes and
consequences of Mr. Pitt's quarrel now appear in print, in a pamphlet
published by Lord T - - - ; and in a refutation of it, not by Mr. Pitt
himself, I believe, but by some friend of his, and under his sanction.
The former is very scurrilous and scandalous, and betrays private
conversation. My Lord says, that in his last conference, he thought he
had as good a right to nominate the new Ministry as Mr. Pitt, and
consequently named Lord G - - -, Lord L - - - , etc., for Cabinet Council
employments; which Mr. Pitt not consenting to, Lord T - - -broke up the
conference, and in his wrath went to Stowe; where I presume he may remain
undisturbed a great while, since Mr. Pitt will neither be willing nor
able to send for him again. The pamphlet, on the part of Mr. Pitt, gives
an account of his whole political life; and, in that respect, is tedious
to those who were acquainted with it before; but, at the latter end,
there is an article that expresses such supreme contempt of Lord T - - -,
and in so pretty a manner, that I suspect it to be Mr. Pitt's own: you
shall judge yourself, for I here transcribe the article: "But this I will
be bold to say, that had he (Lord T - - -) not fastened himself into Mr.
Pitt's train, and acquired thereby such an interest in that great man, he
might have crept out of life with as little notice as he crept in; and
gone off with no other degree of credit, than that of adding a single
unit to the bills of mortality" I wish I could send you all the pamphlets
and half-sheets that swarm here upon this occasion; but that is
impossible; for every week would make a ship's cargo. It is certain, that
Mr. Pitt has, by his dignity of Earl, lost the greatest part of his
popularity, especially in the city; and I believe the Opposition will be
very strong, and perhaps prevail, next session, in the House of Commons;
there being now nobody there who can have the authority and ascendant
over them that Pitt had.

People tell me here, as young Harvey told you at Dresden, that I look
very well; but those are words of course, which everyone says to
everybody. So far is true, that I am better than at my age, and with my
broken constitution, I could have expected to be. God bless you!


BLACKHEATH, September 12, 1766.

MY DEAR FRIEND: I have this moment received your letter of the 27th past.
I was in hopes that your course of waters this year at Baden would have
given you a longer reprieve from your painful complaint. If I do not
mistake, you carried over with you some of Dr. Monsey's powders. Have you
taken any of them, and have they done you any good? I know they did me a
great deal. I, who pretend to some skill in physic, advise a cool
regimen, and cooling medicines.

I do not wonder, that you do wonder, at Lord C - - -'s conduct. If he was
not outwitted into his peerage by Lord B - - , his accepting it is utterly
inexplicable. The instruments he has chosen for the great office, I
believe, will never fit the same case. It was cruel to put such a boy as
Lord G - -over the head of old Ligonier; and if I had been the former, I
would have refused that commission, during the life of that honest and
brave old general. All this to quiet the Duke of R - - to a resignation,
and to make Lord B - - Lieutenant of Ireland, where, I will venture to
prophesy, that he will not do. Ligonier was much pressed to give up his
regiment of guards, but would by no means do it; and declared that the
King might break him if he pleased, but that he would certainly not break

I have no political events to inform you of; they will not be ripe till
the meeting of the parliament. Immediately upon the receipt of this
letter, write me one, to acquaint me how you are.

God bless you; and, particularly, may He send you health, for that is the
greatest blessing!


BLACKHEATH, September 30, 1766.

MY DEAR FRIEND: I received, yesterday, with great pleasure, your letter
of the 18th, by which I consider this last ugly bout as over; and, to
prevent its return, I greatly approve of your plan for the south of
France, where I recommend for your principal residence, Pezenas Toulouse,
or Bordeaux; but do not be persuaded to go to Aix en Provence, which, by
experience, I know to be at once the hottest and the coldest place in the
world, from the ardor of the Provencal sun, and the sharpness of the
Alpine winds. I also earnestly recommend to you, for your complaint upon
your breast, to take, twice a-day, asses' or (what is better mares'
milk), and that for these six months at least. Mingle turnips, as much as
you can, with your diet.

I have written, as you desired, to Mr. Secretary Conway; but I will
answer for it that there will be no difficulty to obtain the leave you

There is no new event in the political world since my last; so God bless


LONDON, October 29, 7766.

MY DEAR FRIEND: The last mail brought me your letter of the 17th. I am
glad to hear that your breast is so much better. You will find both
asses' and mares' milk enough in the south of France, where it was much
drank when I was there. Guy Patin recommends to a patient to have no
doctor but a horse, and no apothecary but an ass. As for your pains and
weakness in your limbs, 'je vous en offre autant'; I have never been free
from them since my last rheumatism. I use my legs as much as I can, and
you should do so too, for disuse makes them worse. I cannot now use them
long at a time, because of the weakness of old age; but I contrive to
get, by different snatches, at least two hours' walking every day, either
in my garden or within doors, as the weather permits. I set out to-morrow
for Bath, in hopes of half repairs, for Medea's kettle could not give me
whole ones; the timbers of my wretched vessel are too much decayed to be
fitted out again for use. I shall see poor Harte there, who, I am told,
is in a miserable way, between some real and some imaginary distempers.

I send you no political news, for one reason, among others, which is that
I know none. Great expectations are raised of this session, which meets
the 11th of next month; but of what kind nobody knows, and consequently
everybody conjectures variously. Lord Chatham comes to town to-morrow
from Bath, where he has been to refit himself for the winter campaign; he
has hitherto but an indifferent set of aides-decamp; and where he will
find better, I do not know. Charles Townshend and he are already upon ill
terms. 'Enfin je n'y vois goutte'; and so God bless you!


BATH, November 15, 1766.

MY DEAR FRIEND: I have this moment received your letter of the 5th
instant from Basle. I am very glad to find that your breast is relieved,
though perhaps at the expense of your legs: for, if the humor be either
gouty or rheumatic, it had better be in your legs than anywhere else. I
have consulted Moisy, the great physician of this place, upon it; who
says, that at this distance he dares not prescribe anything, as there may
be such different causes for your complaint, which must be well weighed
by a physician upon the spot; that is, in short, that he knows nothing of
the matter. I will therefore tell you my own case, in 1732, which may be
something parallel to yours. I had that year been dangerously ill of a
fever in Holland; and when I was recovered of it, the febrific humor fell
into my legs, and swelled them to that degree, and chiefly in the
evening, that it was as painful to me as it was shocking to others. I
came to England with them in this condition; and consulted Mead,
Broxholme, and Arbuthnot, who none of them did me the least good; but, on
the contrary, increased the swelling, by applying poultices and
emollients. In this condition I remained near six months, till finding
that the doctors could do me no good, I resolved to consult Palmer, the
most eminent surgeon of St. Thomas's Hospital. He immediately told me
that the physicians had pursued a very wrong method, as the swelling of
my legs proceeded only from a relaxation and weakness of the cutaneous
vessels; and he must apply strengtheners instead of emollients.
Accordingly, he ordered me to put my legs up to the knees every morning
in brine from the salters, as hot as I could bear it; the brine must have
had meat salted in it. I did so; and after having thus pickled my legs
for about three weeks, the complaint absolutely ceased, and I have never
had the least swelling in them since. After what I have said, I must
caution you not to use the same remedy rashly, and without the most
skillful advice you can find, where you are; for if your swelling
proceeds from a gouty, or rheumatic humor, there may be great danger in
applying so powerful an astringent, and perhaps REPELLANT as brine. So go
piano, and not without the best advice, upon a view of the parts.

I shall direct all my letters to you 'Chez Monsieur Sarraxin', who by his
trade is, I suppose, 'sedentaire' at Basle, while it is not sure that you
will be at any one place in the south of France. Do you know that he is a
descendant of the French poet Sarrazin?

Poor Harte, whom I frequently go to see here, out of compassion, is in a
most miserable way; he has had a stroke of the palsy, which has deprived
him of the use of his right leg, affected his speech a good deal, and
perhaps his head a little. Such are the intermediate tributes that we are
forced to pay, in some shape or other, to our wretched nature, till we
pay the last great one of all. May you pay this very late, and as few
intermediate tributes as possible; and so 'jubeo te bene valere'. God
bless you!


BATH, December 9, 1766.

MY DEAR FRIEND: I received, two days ago, your letter of the 26th past. I
am very glad that you begin to feel the good effects of the climate where
you are; I know it saved my life, in 1741, when both the skillful and the
unskillful gave me over. In that ramble I stayed three or four days at
Nimes, where there are more remains of antiquity, I believe, than in any
town in Europe, Italy excepted. What is falsely called 'la maison
quarree', is, in my mind, the finest piece of architecture that I ever
saw; and the amphitheater the clumsiest and the ugliest: if it were in
England, everybody would swear it had been built by Sir John Vanbrugh.

This place is now, just what you have seen it formerly; here is a great
crowd of trifling and unknown people, whom I seldom frequent, in the
public rooms; so that I may pass my time 'tres uniment', in taking the
air in my post-chaise every morning, and in reading of evenings. And 'a
propos' of the latter, I shall point out a book, which I believe will
give you some pleasure; at least it gave me a great deal. I never read it
before. It is 'Reflexions sur la Poesie et la Peinture, par l'Abbee de
Bos', in two octavo volumes; and is, I suppose, to be had at every great
town in France. The criticisms and the reflections are just and lively.

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Online LibraryPhilip Dormer Stanhope ChesterfieldLetters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1766-71 → online text (page 1 of 3)