Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield.

Letters written by the late Right Honorable Philip Dormer Stanhope, earl of Chesterfield, to his son, during a course of polite education; with his life and miscellaneous pieces; to which is appended a copious index online

. (page 23 of 96)
Online LibraryPhilip Dormer Stanhope ChesterfieldLetters written by the late Right Honorable Philip Dormer Stanhope, earl of Chesterfield, to his son, during a course of polite education; with his life and miscellaneous pieces; to which is appended a copious index → online text (page 23 of 96)
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you are master of, or think proper to exert. If
you give yourself time to think, and have sense
enough to think right, two reflections must ne-
cessarily occur to you; the one is, that I have a
g^eat deal of experience, and that you have
none: the other is, that I am the only man liv-
ing who cannot have, directly or indirectly,
any interest concerning you, but your own.
From which two undeniable principles, the ob-
vious and necessary conclusion is, that you
ought, for your own sake, to attend and follow
my advice.

If, by the application which 1 commend to
you, you acquire great knowledge, you alone
are the gainer; I pay for it. If you should de-
serve either a good or a bad character, mine
will be exactly what it is now, and will neither
be the better in the first case, nor the worse in
the latter. You alone will be the gainer or
the loser.

Whatever your pleasures may be, I neither
can nor shall envy you them, as old people are
sometimes suspected by young people to do:
and I shall only lament, if they should prove
such as are unbecoming a man of honour, or
below a man of sense: but you will be the real
sufferer, if they are such. As, therefore, it is
plain that 1 can have no other motive than that
of afl^ection in whatever I say to you, you ought
to look upon me as your best, and, for some
years to come, your only friend.

True friendship requires certain proportions
of age and manners, and can never subsist
where they are extremely different, except in
the relations of p.-irent and child; where aftec-
tion on one side, and regard on the other,
make up the difl"erence. The friendship which
you may contract with people of your own age,
may be sincere, may be warm; but mast be, for
some time reciprocally unprofitable, as tliere
can be no experience on either side. The
young leading the young, is like the blind
leading the blind: ' they will both fall into the
ditch.' The only sure guide is he, who has
often gone the road which you want to go. Let
me be that guide, who have gone all roads, and
■who can consequently point out to you the best.
If you ask me why I went any of the bad roads
myself? 1 will answer you very truly, that it
was for want of a good guide: ill-example in-
vited me one way, and a good guide was want-
ing to show me a better. But if any body, ca-
pable of advising me, had taken the same pains
with me, which I have taken and will continue
to take, with you, I should have avoided ma-
ny follies and inconveniences, which undirected
youth run me into. My father was neither
desirous nor able to advise me, which is what,
I hope, you cannot say of yours. You see that
I make use only of the word advice; because
1 would much rather have the assent of your

reason to my advice, than the submission of
your will to my authority. This, 1 persuade
myself, will happen, from that degree of sense
which I think you have, and therefore I will
go on advising, and with hopes of success.

You are now settled for some time at Leip-
sig; the principle object of your stay there is
the knowledge of books and sciences; which if
you do not, by attention and application, make
yourself master of while you are there, you
will be ignorant of them all the rest of your life;
and take my word for it, a life of ignoranceja
not only a very contemptible, but a very til^P
some one. Redouble your attention, then, to
Mr. Harte, in your private studies of the
Liters Humamores, especially Greek. State
your difliculties, whenever you have any; and
do not suppress them, either from mistaken
shame, lazy indifterence, or in order to have
done the sooner. Do the same when you are
at lectures with Professor Mascow, or any
other professor; let nothing pass till you are
sure that you understand it thoroughly; and
accustom yourself to write down the capital
points of what you Jearn. When you have
thus usefully employed your mornings, you
may with a safe conscience divert yourself in
the evenings, and make those evenings very
useful too, by passing them in good company,
and by observation and attention, learning as
much of the world as Leipsig can teach you.
You will observe and imitate the manners of the
people of best fashion there; not that they are
(it may be) the best manners in the world; but
because they are the best manners of the place
where you are, to which a man of sense always
conforms. The nature of things (as I have of-
ten told you) is always and every where the
same: but the modes of thera vary, more or
less, in every couiitry; and an easy and genteel
conformity to them, or rather the assuming of
them at proper times and in proper places, is
what principally constitutes a man of the world,
and a well-bred man.

Here is advice enough,! tliink, and too much,
it may be, you will think, for one letter: if you
follow it you will get knowledge, character, and
pleasure by it; if you do not, I only lose ope-
ram et o'.eum, which, in all events, I do not
grudge you.

I send you, by a person who sets out this day
for Leipsig, a small packet from your mamma,
containing some valuable things wliichyou left
behind: to which I have added, by way of New-
year's gift, a very pretty toothpick case; and, by
the way, pray take great care of your teeth, and
keep them extremely clean. I have likewise
sent you the Greek roots, lately translated into
English from the French of the Port Royal.
Inform yourself what the Port Royal is. To
conclude with a quibble; I hope you will not
only feed upon these Greek roots, but likewise
digest them perfectlj'. Adieu.

London, December 11, 0. S. 1747,


There is nothing which I more wish that
you should know, and which fewer people do



know, than the true use and value of time. It
is in every body's mouth; but in few people's
practice. Every fool, who slatterns away his
whole time in nothings, ultei'S, however, some
trite common-place sentence, of which there are
millions, to prove at once, the value and the
fleetness of time. The smi-dials, likewise, all
over Europe, have some ingenious inscription
to that effect, so that nobody squanders away
their time,witliout hearing and seeing daily how
necessary it is to employ it well, and how iiTe-
coverable it is if lost. But all these admonitions
Ijluseless, where there is not a fund of good
sense and reason to suggest them, rather tiian
receive them. By the manner in which you
now tell me that you employ your time, I flatter
myself that you have that fund; that is the fund
which will make you rich indeed. I do not,there-
fore, mean to give you a critical essay upon the
use and abuse of time; I will only give you
some hints with regard to the use of one parti-
cular period of that long time, which I hope you
have before you; I mean the next two years.
Remember then, that whatever knowledge you
do not solidly lay the foundation of before you
are eighteen, you will ne^%r be master of while
you breathe. Knowledge is a comfortable and
necessaiy retreat and shelter for us in an ad-
vanced age; and if we do not plant it while
young, it will give us no shade when we grow
old. I neither requii-e nor expect from you
great application to books, after you are once
thrown out into the great world. I know it is
impossible: and it may even, in some cases, be
improper; this, therefore, is your time, and
your only time, for unwearied and uninterrupted
application. If you should sometimes think it
a little laborious, consider, that labour is the
unavoidable fatigue of a necessai-y journey. The
more hours a day you travel, the sooner you will
be at your journey's end. The sooner you are
qualified for your liberty, the sooner you shall
have it; and your manumission will entirely de-
pend upon the manner in which you employ the
intermediate time. I think I offer you a very
good bargain, -vshen I promise you, upon my
word,that if you will do every thing that I would
have you do, till you are eighteen, I will do
every thing that you would have me do, ever

I knew a gentleman who was so good a mana-
ger of his time, that he would not even lose that
small portion of it which the calls of nature
obliged him to pass in the necessary-house; but
gradually went through all the Latin Poets in
those moments. He bought, for example, a com-
mon edition of Horace, of which he tore off gra-
dually a couple of pages, carried them with him
to that necessary place, read them first, and then
sent them down as a sacrifice to Cloacina: this was
so much time fairly gained; and Irecomraend to
you to follow his example. It is better than only
doing what you cannot help doing at those mo-
ments; and it will make any book which you
shall read in that manner, very present in ;four
mind. Books of science, and of a gi-ave sort,
must be read with continuity; but there are vei-y
many, and even veiy useful ones, which may be
read with advantage by snatches, and unconnec-
tedly; such are all the good Latin poets, except

Virgil in his ^neid; and such are most of the
modern poets, in which you will find many pieces
worth reading, that will not take up above seven
or eight minutes. Bayle's Moreri's, and other
dictionaries, are proper books to take and shut
up for the little intervals of (otherwise) idle time,
that every body has in the course of the day, be-
tween either their studies or their pleasures.


London, Dec. 18, 0. S. 1747.


As two mails are now due from Holland, I-'
have no letter of yours or Mr. Harte's to ac-
knowledge, so tlwt this letter is the effect of
that scribendi cacoethes, which my fears, my
hopes, and my doubts, concerning you, give me.
When I have wrote you a very long letter upon
any subject, it is no sooner gone, but I think 1
have omitted something in it which might be of
use to you; and then I prepare the supplement
for the next post; or else some new subject oc-
curs to me upon which I fancy that I can give you
some information, or point out some rules which
may be advantageous to you. This sets me wri-
ting again, though God knows whether to any
purpose or not, a few years more can only as-
certain that. But whatever my success may be,
my anxiety and my care can only be the effects
of that tender affection which I have for you; and
which you cannot represent to yourself greater
than it really is. But do not mistake the nature
of that affection, and think it of a kind that yon
may widi impunity abuse. It is not natural af-
fection; tliere being in reality no such thing; foi"
if there were, some inward sentiment must ne-
cessarily and reciprocally discover the parent to
the child, and the child to the parent, without
any exterior indications, knowledge, or acquain-
tance whatsoever; which never happened since
the creation of the world, whatever poets, ro-
mance or novel writers, and Such sentiment-
mongers may be pleased to say to the contrary.
Neither is my affection for you that of a mother,
of whicli the onl}', or at least the chief objects,
are health and life; I wish you them both most
heartily; but at the same time I confess they
are by no means my principal care.

My object is, to have you fit to live; which if
you are not, I do not desire that you should live
at all. My affection for you then is, and only
will be, proportioned to your merit; which is
the only affection that one rational being ought
to have for another. Hitherto I have discovered
notliing wrong in your heart, or your head; on
the contrary, I think I see sense in the one, and
sentiments in the oUier. This persuasion is the
only motive of my present affection; which will
eitlier increase or diminish, according to your
merit or demerit. If you have the knowledge,
the honour, and the probity which you may have,
the mai'ks and warmth of my affection shall
amply reward tliem; but if you have them not,



rny aversion and indi,^iationwill rise in the same
proportion; and in that case remember, that I
am luidur no fartlier obligation, than to give you
the necessary means of subsisting. If ever we
quarrel, do not expect or depend upon anj'
weakness in my nature, for a reconciliation,
as children frequently do, and often meet
with, from silly parents: I have no sucli
Meakness about me: and, as I will never quar-
rel with you, but upon some essential points
if once we quarrel, 1 will never forgive. But I
hope and believe, that this declaration (for it is
no threat) will prove unnecessary. You are no
stranger to the principles of virtue; and surely,
whoever knows virtue, must love it. As for
knowledge, you have already enough of it, to
engage you to acquire more. The ignorant only
either despise it, or think that they have
enough: those who have the most are always
desirous to have more, and know that the most
the}' can have is, alas ! but too little.

Re-consider from time to time, andi-etain the :
friendly advice which I send you. The advan-
tage will be all your own.



London, Dec. 29, 0. & 1747.


I HAVE received two letters from you, of the
17th and 22d, N. S. by the last of which I find
that some of mine to you must have miscarried;
for I have never been above two posts without
writing to you or to Mr. Harte, and even very
long letters. I have also received a letter from
Mr. Harte, which gave me great satisfaction:
it is full of praises; and he answers for you,
that in two years more, you will deserve your
manumission; and be fit to go into the world,
upon a footing that will do you honour, and give
me pleasure.

I thank you for your offer of the new edition
of Adamus Adami, but I do not want it, having
a good edition of it at present. "When you have
read that, you will do well to follow it with
Pere Bougeant's Histoire du Traité de Munster,
in two volumes quarto; which contains many
important anecdotes concerning that famous
treaty, that are not in Adamus Adami.

You tell me that your lectures upon the Jus
Publicum will be ended at Easter; but then I
hope that Monsieur Mascow will begin them
again; for I would not have you discontinue that
etudy one day while you are at Leipsig. I sup-
pose that Monsieur Mascow will likewise give
you lectures upon the Instrumentum Pacis, and
upon the capitulations of the late emperor. —
Your German will go on of course; and I take
it for granted, that your stay at Leipsig will
make you perfect master of that language, both
as to speaking and wTiting; for remember, that
knowing any language imperfectly, is very little
better than not knowing it at all; people being
as unwilling to speak in a lang^uage they do not
possess thoroughly, as others are to hear them.

Your thoughts are cramped, and appear to great
disadvantage, in any language of which you are
not perfect master. Let modern history share
part of your time, and that always accompanied
with the maps of the places in question; geo-
graphy and history are very imperfect separate-
ly, and to be useful must be joined.

Go to the Dutchess of Courland's as often as
she and vour leisure will permit. The compa-
ny of women of fashion will improve your man-
ners, though not your understanding; and that
complaisance and politeness, which are so useful
in men's company, can only be acquired in wo-

Remember always, what I have told you a
thousand times, that all the talents in the world
will want all their lustre, and some part of their
use too, if they are not adorned with that easy
good-breeding, that engaging manner, and those
graces, which seduce and prepossess people in
your favour at first sight. A proper care of
your person is by no means to be neglected; al-
ways extremely clean; upon proper occasions,
fine. Your carriage genteel, and your motions
graceful. Take particular care of your manner
and address when you present yourself in com-
pany. Let them be respectful without mean-
ness, easy without too much familiarity, gen-
teel without affectation, and insinuating without
any seeming art or design.

You need not send me any more extracts of
the German constitution: which, by the course
of your present studies, I know you must soon
be acquainted with: but I would now rather that
your letters should be a sort of journal of your
own life. As for instance; what company you
keep, what new acquaintances you make, what
your pleasures are; with your own reflections
upon the whole: likewise what Greek and Latin
books you read and understand. Adieu.


.' '. [\ . ■'■•■ January 2, O. S. 17*8.


I AM edified with the allotment of your time
at Leipsig; which is so well employed from
morning till night, that a fool would say yoa
had none left for yourself; whereas I am sure
you have sense enough to know, that such a
right use of your time is having it all to your-
self; nay, it is even more, for it is laying it out
to immense interest, which in a very few years
will amount to a prodigious sum.

Though twelve of your fourteen commensaux
may not be the liveliest people in the world,and
may want, (as I easily conceive they do) le ton
de la bonne compagnie, et les graces, which I
wish you, yet pray take care not to express any
contempt, or throw out any ridicule; which I
can assure you is not more contrary to good
manners than to good sense; but endeavour ra-
ther to get all the good you can out of them; and
something or other is to be got out of every bo-



dy. They will at least improve you in the Ger-
man language; and, as they come from diffei-ent
countries, you may put them upon subjects,
concerning which they must necessarily be able
to give you some useful information, let them
be ever so dull or disagreeable in general: they
will know something at least of the laws, cus-
toms, government and considerable families of
their respective countries: all which are better
known than not, and consequently worth in-
quiring into. There is hardly any body good
for every thing, and there is scarcely any body
■who is absolutely good for nothing. A good
chymist will extract some spirit or other out of
eveiy substance; and a man of parts will, by his
dexteritj' and management, elicit something
worth knowing out of every being he converses

As you have been introduced to the Dutchess
Courland, pray go there as often as ever 3'our
more necessary occupations will allow you. I
am told she is extremely well-bred, and has
parts. Now, though I would not recommend
to you, to go into women's company in search
of solid knowledge or judgment, yet it has its
use in other respects; for it certainly polishes
the manners, and gives wie certaine tounmre,
■which is very necessary in the course of the
■world; and which Englishmen have generally
less of than any people in the world.

I cannot say that your suppers are luxurious,
but you must own they are solid; and a quart of
soup, and two pounds of potatoes, will enable
you to pass the night without great impatience
for your breakfast next morning. One part of
your supper (tlie potatoes) is the constant diet
of my old friends and countrymen,* the Irish,
■who are the healthiest and the strongest bodies
of men that I know in Europe.

As I believe that many of my letters to you
and Mr. Ilarte have miscarried, as well as some
of yours and his to me; particularly one of his
from Leipsig, to which he refers in a subsequent
one, and wiiich I never received, I would have
you, for the future, acknowledge the dates of all
the letters which either of you shall receive fi-om
me; and I will do the same on my pai't.

That which I received by the last, mail from
you, was of the 25th November, N..S.; the mail
before that brought me yours of which I have
forgot the date, but which enclosed one to Ladj-^
Chesterfield : she will answer it soon, and, in the
mean time, thanks you for it.

My disorder was only a very great cold, of
•which I am entirely recovered. You shall not
complain for want of accounts from Mr. Gre-
venkop, who will frequently write you whatever
passes here, in the German language and cha-
lacter, Avhich will improve you in both. Adieu.


London, January \5, 0. S. 1748.


I WILLINGLY accept the New-year's gift which
you promise me for next year: and the more

* Lord Chesterfield, from the time he was appointed Lord
lieutenant of Ireland, 1745, used ajways to call the IriBli
hi» countrymen.

valuable you make it the more thankful 1 shall
be. That depends entirely upon you, and there-
fore I hope to be presented every year with a
new edition of you, more correct than the for-
mer, and considerably enlarged and amended.

Since you do not care to be an assessor of the
imperial chamber, and desire an establishment
in England, what do you think of being Greek
professor at one of our universities? It is a veiy
pretty sinecure, and requires very little know-
ledge (much less than I hope, you have already)
of that language. If you do not approve of this,
I am at a loss to know what else to propose to
you; and therefore desii-e that you will inform
me what sort of destination you propose for
yourself; for it is now time to fix it, and to take
our measures accordingly. Mr.Harte tells me
that you set up for a Uo\tTtx.cç ctvxg; if so, I
presume it is witli a view of succeeding me in
my office,* which I will very willingly resign to
you whenever you call upon me for it. But if you
intend to be the tloxiriKOç, or the BouAxçogc?
otvxgj there are some trifling circumstances,
upon v/hich you should previously take your re-
solution. The first of which is, to be fit for it;
and then, in order to be so, make yourself mas-
ter of ancient and modern history, and langua-
ges. To know perfectly the constitution and
form of government of every nation; the growth
and the decline of ancient and modern empires;
and to trace out and reflect upon the causes of
both; to know the strength, the riches, and the
commerce of every country; tliese little things,
trifling as fhey may seem, are yet very necessary
for a politician to know; and which therefore, I
presume, you will condescend to apply yourself
to. There are some additional qualifications
necessar}', in tlie practical part of the business,
which may deserve some considei-ation in your
leisure moments, such as an absolute command
of your temper, so as not to be provoked to pas-
sion upon any account: patience, to hear frivo-
lous,impertinent, and unreasonable applications,
with address enough to refuse without oflTend-
ing, or, by your manner of granting, to double
the obligation: dexterity enough to conceal a
truth, without telling a lie: sagacity enough to
read other people's countenances, and serenity
enough not to let them discover any thing by
yours; a seeming frankness, with a real reserve.
These are the rudiments of a politician; the
world must be your grammar.

Three mails are now due from Holland; so
that I have no letters from you to acknowledge.
I therefore conclude with recommending myself
to your favour and protection, when you suc-
ceed. Yours.

London, January 29, O. S. 1748.


I FIND, by Mr. Harte's last letter, that many
of my letters to you and him have been frozen
up in their way to Leipsig: the thaw has, I sup-
pose, by this time, set tiiem at liberty to ptu-sue

* Secretary of State.



their journey to you, and you will receive a glut
of them at once. Hudibras alludes, in this verse,

like words congeal'd In Northern air.

to a vulgar notion, that in Greenland, words
were frozen in their utterance; and that, upon
a thaw, a veiy mixed conversation was heard in
the air, of all those words set at liberty. This
conversation was, I presume, too various and
extensive to be much attended to; and may not
that be the case of half a dozen of my long let-
ters when you receive them all at once. I think
that I can, eventually, answer that question,
thus: If you consider my letters in their true
light, as conveying to you the advice of a friend,
who sincerely wirhes you happiness, and de-
sires to promote your pleasures, you will both
read and attend to them; but, if you consider
them in their opposite and very false light, as
the dictates of a morose and sermonizing father,
I am sure they will be not only unattended to,
but unread. Which is the case, you can best
tell me. Advice is seldom welcome; and those
who want it the most, always like it the least.

Online LibraryPhilip Dormer Stanhope ChesterfieldLetters written by the late Right Honorable Philip Dormer Stanhope, earl of Chesterfield, to his son, during a course of polite education; with his life and miscellaneous pieces; to which is appended a copious index → online text (page 23 of 96)