LONDON, January 10, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I have received your letter of the 31st December, N. S. Your thanks for my present, as you call it, exceed the value of the present; but the use, which you assure me that you will make of it, is the thanks which I desire to receive. Due attention to the inside of books, and due contempt for the outside, is the proper relation between a man of sense and his books.
Now that you are going a little more into the world; I will take this occasion to explain my intentions as to your future expenses, that you may know what you have to expect from me, and make your plan accordingly. I shall neither deny nor grudge you any money, that may be necessary for either your improvement or your pleasures: I mean the pleasures of a rational being. Under the head of improvement, I mean the best books, and the best masters, cost what they will; I also mean all the expense of lodgings, coach, dress; servants, etc., which, according to the several places where you may be, shall be respectively necessary to enable you to keep the best company. Under the head of rational pleasures, I comprehend, first, proper charities, to real and compassionate objects of it; secondly, proper presents to those to whom you are obliged, or whom you desire to oblige; thirdly, a conformity of expense to that of the company which you keep; as in public spectacles; your share of little entertainments; a few pistoles at games of mere commerce; and other incidental calls of good company. The only two articles which I will never supply, are the profusion of low riot, and the idle lavishness of negligence and laziness. A fool squanders away, without credit or advantage to himself, more than a man of sense spends with both. The latter employs his money as he does his time, and never spends a shilling of the one, nor a minute of the other, but in something that is either useful or rationally pleasing to himself or others. The former buys whatever he does not want, and does not pay for what he does want. He cannot withstand the charms of a toyshop; snuff-boxes, watches, heads of canes, etc., are his destruction. His servants and tradesmen conspire with his own indolence to cheat him; and, in a very little time, he is astonished, in the midst of all the ridiculous superfluities, to find himself in want of all the real comforts and necessaries of life. Without care and method, the largest fortune will not, and with them, almost the smallest will, supply all necessary expenses. As far as you can possibly, pay ready money for everything you buy and avoid bills. Pay that money, too, yourself, and not through the hands of any servant, who always either stipulates poundage, or requires a present for his good word, as they call it. Where you must have bills (as for meat and drink, clothes, etc.), pay them regularly every month, and with your own hand. Never, from a mistaken economy, buy a thing you do not want, because it is cheap; or from a silly pride, because it is dear. Keep an account in a book of all that you receive, and of all that you pay; for no man who knows what he receives and what he pays ever runs out. I do not mean that you should keep an account of the shillings and half-crowns which you may spend in chair-hire, operas, etc.: they are unworthy of the time, and of the ink that they would consume; leave such minutia to dull, penny-wise fellows; but remember, in economy, as well as in every other part of life, to have the proper attention to proper objects, and the proper contempt for little ones. A strong mind sees things in their true proportions; a weak one views them through a magnifying medium, which, like the microscope, makes an elephant of a flea: magnifies all little objects, but cannot receive great ones. I have known many a man pass for a miser, by saving a penny and wrangling for twopence, who was undoing himself at the same time by living above his income, and not attending to essential articles which were above his portee. The sure characteristic of a sound and strong mind, is to find in everything those certain bounds, quos ultra citrave nequit consistere rectum. These boundaries are marked out by a very fine line, which only good sense and attention can discover; it is much too fine for vulgar eyes. In manners, this line is good-breeding; beyond it, is troublesome ceremony; short of it, is unbecoming negligence and inattention. In morals, it divides ostentatious puritanism from criminal relaxation; in religion, superstition from impiety: and, in short, every virtue from its kindred vice or weakness. I think you have sense enough to discover the line; keep it always in your eye, and learn to walk upon it; rest upon Mr. Harte, and he will poise you till you are able to go alone. By the way, there are fewer people who walk well upon that line, than upon the slack rope; and therefore a good performer shines so much the more.
Your friend Comte Pertingue, who constantly inquires after you, has written to Comte Salmour, the Governor of the Academy at Turin, to prepare a room for you there immediately after the Ascension: and has recommended you to him in a manner which I hope you will give him no reason to repent or be ashamed of. As Comte Salmour’s son, now residing at The Hague, is my particular acquaintance, I shall have regular and authentic accounts of all that you do at Turin.
During your stay at Berlin, I expect that you should inform yourself thoroughly of the present state of the civil, military, and ecclesiastical government of the King of Prussia’s dominions; particularly of the military, which is upon a better footing in that country than in any other in Europe.
You will attend at the reviews, see the troops exercised, and inquire into the numbers of troops and companies in the respective regiments of horse, foot, and dragoons; the numbers and titles of the commissioned and non-commissioned officers in the several troops and companies; and also take care to learn the technical military terms in the German language; for though you are not to be a military man, yet these military matters are so frequently the subject of conversation, that you will look very awkwardly if you are ignorant of them. Moreover, they are commonly the objects of negotiation, and, as such, fall within your future profession. You must also inform yourself of the reformation which the King of Prussia has lately made in the law; by which he has both lessened the number, and shortened the duration of law-suits; a great work, and worthy of so great a prince! As he is indisputably the ablest prince in Europe, every part of his government deserves your most diligent inquiry, and your most serious attention. It must be owned that you set out well, as a young politician, by beginning at Berlin, and then going to Turin, where you will see the next ablest monarch to that of Prussia; so that, if you are capable of making political reflections, those two princes will furnish you with sufficient matter for them.
I would have you endeavor to get acquainted with Monsieur de Maupertuis, who is so eminently distinguished by all kinds of learning and merit, that one should be both sorry and ashamed of having been even a day in the same place with him, and not to have seen him. If you should have no other way of being introduced to him, I will send you a letter from hence. Monsieur Cagenoni, at Berlin, to whom I know you are recommended, is a very able man of business, thoroughly informed of every part of Europe; and his acquaintance, if you deserve and improve it as you should do, may be of great use to you.
Remember to take the best dancing-master at Berlin, more to teach you to sit, stand, and walk gracefully, than to dance finely. The Graces, the Graces; remember the Graces! Adieu!
LONDON, January 24, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I have received your letter of the 12th, N. S., in which I was surprised to find no mention of your approaching journey to Berlin, which, according to the first plan, was to be on the 20th, N. S., and upon which supposition I have for some time directed my letters to you, and Mr. Harte, at Berlin. I should be glad that yours were more minute with regard to your motions and transactions; and I desire that, for the future, they may contain accounts of what and who you see and hear, in your several places of residence; for I interest myself as much in the company you keep, and the pleasures you take, as in the studies you pursue; and therefore, equally desire to be informed of them all. Another thing I desire, which is, that you will acknowledge my letters by their dates, that I may know which you do, and which you do not receive.
As you found your brain considerably affected by the cold, you were very prudent not to turn it to poetry in that situation; and not less judicious in declining the borrowed aid of a stove, whose fumigation, instead of inspiration, would at best have produced what Mr. Pope calls a souterkin of wit. I will show your letter to Duval, by way of justification for not answering his challenge; and I think he must allow the validity of it; for a frozen brain is as unfit to answer a challenge in poetry, as a blunt sword is for a single combat.
You may if you please, and therefore I flatter myself that you will, profit considerably by your stay at Berlin, in the article of manners and useful knowledge. Attention to what you will see and hear there, together with proper inquiries, and a little care and method in taking notes of what is more material, will procure you much useful knowledge. Many young people are so light, so dissipated, and so incurious, that they can hardly be said to see what they see, or hear what they hear: that is, they hear in so superficial and inattentive a manner, that they might as well not see nor hear at all. For instance, if they see a public building, as a college, an hospital, an arsenal, etc., they content themselves with the first coup d’oeil, and neither take the time nor the trouble of informing themselves of the material parts of them; which are the constitution, the rules, and the order and economy in the inside. You will, I hope, go deeper, and make your way into the substance of things. For example, should you see a regiment reviewed at Berlin or Potsdam, instead of contenting yourself with the general glitter of the collective corps, and saying, par maniere d’acquit, that is very fine, I hope you will ask what number of troops or companies it consists of; what number of officers of the Etat Major, and what number of subalternes; how many bas officiers, or non-commissioned officers, as sergeants, corporals, anspessades, frey corporals, etc., their pay, their clothing, and by whom; whether by the colonels, or captains, or commissaries appointed for that purpose; to whom they are accountable; the method of recruiting, completing, etc.
The same in civil matters: inform yourself of the jurisdiction of a court of justice; of the rules and numbers and endowments of a college, or an academy, and not only of the dimensions of the respective edifices; and let your letters to me contain these informations, in proportion as you acquire them.
I often reflect, with the most flattering hopes, how proud I shall be of you, if you should profit, as you may, of the opportunities which you have had, still have, and will have, of arriving at perfection; and, on the other hand, with dread of the grief and shame you will give me if you do not. May the first be the case! God bless you!
LONDON, February 7, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: You are now come to an age capable of reflection, and I hope you will do, what, however, few people at your age do, exert it for your own sake in the search of truth and sound knowledge. I will confess (for I am not unwilling to discover my secrets to you) that it is not many years since I have presumed to reflect for myself. Till sixteen or seventeen I had no reflection; and for many years after that, I made no use of what I had. I adopted the notions of the books I read, or the company I kept, without examining whether they were just or not; and I rather chose to run the risk of easy error, than to take the time and trouble of investigating truth. Thus, partly from laziness, partly from dissipation, and partly from the mauvaise honte of rejecting fashionable notions, I was (as I have since found) hurried away by prejudices, instead of being guided by reason; and quietly cherished error, instead of seeking for truth. But since I have taken the trouble of reasoning for myself, and have had the courage to own that I do so, you cannot imagine how much my notions of things are altered, and in how different a light I now see them, from that in which I formerly viewed them, through the deceitful medium of prejudice or authority. Nay, I may possibly still retain many errors, which, from long habit, have perhaps grown into real opinions; for it is very difficult to distinguish habits, early acquired and long entertained, from the result of our reason and reflection.
My first prejudice (for I do not mention the prejudices of boys, and women, such as hobgoblins, ghosts, dreams, spilling salt, etc.) was my classical enthusiasm, which I received from the books I read, and the masters who explained them to me. I was convinced there had been no common sense nor common honesty in the world for these last fifteen hundred years; but that they were totally extinguished with the ancient Greek and Roman governments. Homer and Virgil could have no faults, because they were ancient; Milton and Tasso could have no merit, because they were modern. And I could almost have said, with regard to the ancients, what Cicero, very absurdly and unbecomingly for a philosopher, says with regard to Plato, Cum quo errare malim quam cum aliis recte sentire. Whereas now, without any extraordinary effort of genius, I have discovered that nature was the same three thousand years ago as it is at present; that men were but men then as well as now; that modes and customs vary often, but that human nature is always the same. And I can no more suppose that men were better, braver, or wiser, fifteen hundred or three thousand years ago, than I can suppose that the animals or vegetables were better then than they are now. I dare assert too, in defiance of the favorers of the ancients, that Homer’s hero, Achilles, was both a brute and a scoundrel, and consequently an improper character for the hero of an epic poem; he had so little regard for his country, that he would not act in defense of it, because he had quarreled with Agamemnon about a w — e; and then afterward, animated by private resentment only, he went about killing people basely, I will call it, because he knew himself invulnerable; and yet, invulnerable as he was, he wore the strongest armor in the world; which I humbly apprehend to be a blunder; for a horse-shoe clapped to his vulnerable heel would have been sufficient. On the other hand, with submission to the favorers of the moderns, I assert with Mr. Dryden, that the devil is in truth the hero of Milton’s poem; his plan, which he lays, pursues, and at last executes, being the subject of the poem. From all which considerations I impartially conclude that the ancients had their excellencies and their defects, their virtues and their vices, just like the moderns; pedantry and affectation of learning decide clearly in favor of the former; vanity and ignorance, as peremptorily in favor of the latter. Religious prejudices kept pace with my classical ones; and there was a time when I thought it impossible for the honestest man in the world to be saved out of the pale of the Church of England, not considering that matters of opinion do not depend upon the will; and that it is as natural, and as allowable, that another man should differ in opinion from me, as that I should differ from him; and that if we are both sincere, we are both blameless; and should consequently have mutual indulgence for each other.
The next prejudices that I adopted were those of the beau monde, in which as I was determined to shine, I took what are commonly called the genteel vices to be necessary. I had heard them reckoned so, and without further inquiry I believed it, or at least should have been ashamed to have denied it, for fear of exposing myself to the ridicule of those whom I considered as the models of fine gentlemen. But I am now neither ashamed nor afraid to assert that those genteel vices, as they are falsely called, are only so many blemishes in the character of even a man of the world and what is called a fine gentleman, and degrade him in the opinions of those very people, to whom he, hopes to recommend himself by them. Nay, this prejudice often extends so far, that I have known people pretend to vices they had not, instead of carefully concealing those they had.
Use and assert your own reason; reflect, examine, and analyze everything, in order to form a sound and mature judgment; let no (authority) impose upon your understanding, mislead your actions, or dictate your conversation. Be early what, if you are not, you will when too late wish you had been. Consult your reason betimes: I do not say that it will always prove an unerring guide; for human reason is not infallible; but it will prove the least erring guide that you can follow. Books and conversation may assist it; but adopt neither blindly and implicitly; try both by that best rule, which God has given to direct us, reason. Of all the troubles, do not decline, as many people do, that of thinking. The herd of mankind can hardly be said to think; their notions are almost all adoptive; and, in general, I believe it is better that it should be so, as such common prejudices contribute more to order and quiet than their own separate reasonings would do, uncultivated and unimproved as they are. We have many of those useful prejudices in this country, which I should be very sorry to see removed. The good Protestant conviction, that the Pope is both Antichrist and the Whore of Babylon, is a more effectual preservative in this country against popery, than all the solid and unanswerable arguments of Chillingworth.
The idle story of the pretender’s having been introduced in a warming pan into the queen’s bed, though as destitute of all probability as of all foundation, has been much more prejudicial to the cause of Jacobitism than all that Mr. Locke and others have written, to show the unreasonableness and absurdity of the doctrines of indefeasible hereditary right, and unlimited passive obedience. And that silly, sanguine notion, which is firmly entertained here, that one Englishman can beat three Frenchmen, encourages, and has sometimes enabled, one Englishman in reality to beat two.
A Frenchman ventures, his life with alacrity pour l’honneur du Roi; were you to change the object, which he has been taught to have in view, and tell him that it was pour le bien de la Patrie, he would very probably run away. Such gross local prejudices prevail with the herd of mankind, and do not impose upon cultivated, informed, and reflecting minds. But then they are notions equally false, though not so glaringly absurd, which are entertained by people of superior and improved understandings, merely for want of the necessary pains to investigate, the proper attention to examine, and the penetration requisite to determine the truth. Those are the prejudices which I would have you guard against by a manly exertion and attention of your reasoning faculty. To mention one instance of a thousand that I could give you: It is a general prejudice, and has been propagated for these sixteen hundred years, that arts and sciences cannot flourish under an absolute government; and that genius must necessarily be cramped where freedom is restrained. This sounds plausible, but is false in fact. Mechanic arts, as agriculture, etc., will indeed be discouraged where the profits and property are, from the nature of the government, insecure. But why the despotism of a government should cramp the genius of a mathematician, an astronomer, a poet, or an orator, I confess I never could discover. It may indeed deprive the poet or the orator of the liberty of treating of certain subjects in the manner they would wish, but it leaves them subjects enough to exert genius upon, if they have it. Can an author with reason complain that he is cramped and shackled, if he is not at liberty to publish blasphemy, bawdry, or sedition? all which are equally prohibited in the freest governments, if they are wise and well regulated ones. This is the present general complaint of the French authors; but indeed chiefly of the bad ones. No wonder, say they, that England produces so many great geniuses; people there may think as they please, and publish what they think. Very true, but what hinders them from thinking as they please? If indeed they think in manner destructive of all religion, morality, or good manners, or to the disturbance of the state, an absolute government will certainly more effectually prohibit them from, or punish them for publishing such thoughts, than a free one could do. But how does that cramp the genius of an epic, dramatic, or lyric poet? or how does it corrupt the eloquence of an orator in the pulpit or at the bar? The number of good French authors, such as Corneille, Racine, Moliere, Boileau, and La Fontaine, who seemed to dispute it with the Augustan age, flourished under the despotism of Lewis XIV.; and the celebrated authors of the Augustan age did not shine till after the fetters were riveted upon the Roman people by that cruel and worthless Emperor. The revival of letters was not owing, neither, to any free government, but to the encouragement and protection of Leo X. and Francis I; the one as absolute a pope, and the other as despotic a prince, as ever reigned. Do not mistake, and imagine that while I am only exposing a prejudice, I am speaking in favor of arbitrary power; which from my soul I abhor, and look upon as a gross and criminal violation of the natural rights of mankind. Adieu.
LONDON, February 28, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I was very much pleased with the account that you gave me of your reception at Berlin; but I was still better pleased with the account which Mr. Harte sent me of your manner of receiving that reception; for he says that you behaved yourself to those crowned heads with all the respect and modesty due to them; but at the same time, without being any more embarrassed than if you had been conversing with your equals. This easy respect is the perfection of good-breeding, which nothing but superior good sense, or a long usage of the world, can produce, and as in your case it could not be the latter, it is a pleasing indication to me of the former.
You will now, in the course of a few months, have been rubbed at three of the considerable courts of Europe,-Berlin, Dresden, and Vienna; so that I hope you will arrive at Turin tolerably smooth and fit for the last polish. There you may get the best, there being no court I know of that forms more well-bred, and agreeable people. Remember now, that good-breeding, genteel carriage, address, and even dress (to a certain degree), are become serious objects, and deserve a part of your attention.
The day, if well employed, is long enough for them all. One half of it bestowed upon your studies and your exercises, will finish your mind and your body; the remaining part of it, spent in good company, will form your manners, and complete your character. What would I not give to have you read Demosthenes critically in the morning, and understand him better than anybody; at noon, behave yourself better than any person at court; and in the evenings, trifle more agreeably than anybody in mixed companies? All this you may compass if you please; you have the means, you have the opportunities. Employ them, for God’s sake, while you may, and make yourself that all-accomplished man that I wish to have you. It entirely depends upon these two years; they are the decisive ones.
I send you here inclosed a letter of recommendation to Monsieur Capello, at Venice, which you will deliver him immediately upon your arrival, accompanying it with compliments from me to him and Madame, both of whom you have seen here. He will, I am sure, be both very civil and very useful to you there, as he will also be afterward at Rome, where he is appointed to go ambassador. By the way, wherever you are, I would advise you to frequent, as much as you can, the Venetian Ministers; who are always better informed of the courts they reside at than any other minister; the strict and regular accounts, which they are obliged to give to their own government, making them very diligent and inquisitive.
You will stay at Venice as long as the Carnival lasts; for though I am impatient to have you at Turin, yet I would wish you to see thoroughly all that is to be seen at so singular a place as Venice, and at so showish a time as the Carnival. You will take also particular care to view all those meetings of the government, which strangers are allowed to see; as the Assembly of the Senate, etc., and also to inform yourself of that peculiar and intricate form of government. There are books which give an account of it, among which the best is Amelot de la Houssaye, which I would advise you to read previously; it will not only give you a general notion of that constitution, but also furnish you with materials for proper questions and oral informations upon the place, which are always the best. There are likewise many very valuable remains, in sculpture and paintings, of the best masters, which deserve your attention.
I suppose you will be at Vienna as soon as this letter will get thither; and I suppose, too, that I must not direct above one more to you there. After which, my next shall be directed to you at Venice, the only place where a letter will be likely to find you, till you are at Turin; but you may, and I desire that you will write to me, from the several places in your way, from whence the post goes.
I will send you some other letters for Venice, to Vienna, or to your banker at Venice, to whom you will, upon your arrival there, send for them: For I will take care to have you so recommended from place to place, that you shall not run through them, as most of your countrymen do, without the advantage of seeing and knowing what best deserves to be seen and known; I mean the men and the manners.
God bless you, and make you answer my wishes: I will now say, my hopes! Adieu.
DEAR BOY: I direct this letter to your banker at Venice, the surest place for you to meet with it, though I suppose that it will be there some time before you; for, as your intermediate stay anywhere else will be short, and as the post from hence, in this season of easterly winds is uncertain, I direct no more letters to Vienna; where I hope both you and Mr. Harte will have received the two letters which I sent you respectively; with a letter of recommendation to Monsieur Capello, at Venice, which was inclosed in mine to you. I will suppose too, that the inland post on your side of the water has not done you justice; for I received but one single letter from you, and one from Mr. Harte, during your whole stay at Berlin; from whence I hoped for, and expected very particular accounts.
I persuade myself, that the time you stay at Venice will be properly employed, in seeing all that is to be seen in that extraordinary place: and in conversing with people who can inform you, not of the raree-shows of the town, but of the constitution of the government; for which purpose I send you the inclosed letters of recommendation from Sir James Grey, the King’s Resident at Venice, but who is now in England. These, with mine to Monsieur Capello, will carry you, if you will go, into all the best company at Venice.
But the important point; and the important place, is Turin; for there I propose your staying a considerable time, to pursue your studies, learn your exercises, and form your manners. I own, I am not without my anxiety for the consequence of your stay there, which must be either very good or very bad. To you it will be entirely a new scene. Wherever you have hitherto been, you have conversed, chiefly, with people wiser and discreeter than yourself; and have been equally out of the way of bad advice or bad example; but in the Academy at Turin you will probably meet with both, considering the variety of young fellows about your own age; among whom it is to be expected that some will be dissipated and idle, others vicious and profligate. I will believe, till the contrary appears, that you have sagacity enough to distinguish the good from the bad characters; and both sense and virtue enough to shun the latter, and connect yourself with the former: but however, for greater security, and for your sake alone, I must acquaint you that I have sent positive orders to Mr. Harte to carry you off, instantly, to a place which I have named to him, upon the very first symptom which he shall discover in you, of drinking, gaming, idleness, or disobedience to his orders; so that, whether Mr. Harte informs me or not of the particulars, I shall be able to judge of your conduct in general by the time of your stay at Turin. If it is short, I shall know why; and I promise you, that you shall soon find that I do; but if Mr. Harte lets you continue there, as long as I propose that you should, I shall then be convinced that you make the proper use of your time; which is the only thing I have to ask of you. One year is the most that I propose you should stay at Turin; and that year, if you employ it well, perfects you. One year more of your late application, with Mr. Harte, will complete your classical studies. You will be likewise master of your exercises in that time; and will have formed yourself so well at that court, as to be fit to appear advantageously at any other. These will be the happy effects of your year’s stay at Turin, if you behave, and apply yourself there as you have done at Leipsig; but if either ill advice, or ill example, affect and seduce you, you are ruined forever. I look upon that year as your decisive year of probation; go through it well, and you will be all accomplished, and fixed in my tenderest affection forever; but should the contagion of vice of idleness lay hold of you there, your character, your fortune, my hopes, and consequently my favor are all blasted, and you are undone. The more I love you now, from the good opinion I have of you, the greater will be my indignation if I should have reason to change it. Hitherto you have had every possible proof of my affection, because you have deserved it; but when you cease to deserve it, you may expect every possible mark of my resentment. To leave nothing doubtful upon this important point I will tell you fairly, beforehand, by what rule I shall judge of your conduct — by Mr. Harte’s accounts. He will not I am sure, nay, I will say more, he cannot be in the wrong with regard to you. He can have no other view but your good; and you will, I am sure, allow that he must be a better judge of it than you can possibly be at your age. While he is satisfied, I shall be so too; but whenever he is dissatisfied with you, I shall be much more so. If he complains, you must be guilty; and I shall not have the least regard for anything that you may allege in your own defense.
I will now tell you what I expect and insist upon from you at Turin: First, that you pursue your classical and other studies every morning with Mr. Harte, as long and in whatever manner Mr. Harte shall be pleased to require; secondly, that you learn, uninterruptedly, your exercises of riding, dancing, and fencing; thirdly, that you make yourself master of the Italian language; and lastly, that you pass your evenings in the best company. I also require a strict conformity to the hours and rules of the Academy. If you will but finish your year in this manner at Turin, I have nothing further to ask of you; and I will give you everything that you can ask of me. You shall after that be entirely your own master; I shall think you safe; shall lay aside all authority over you, and friendship shall be our mutual and only tie. Weigh this, I beg of you, deliberately in your own mind; and consider whether the application and the degree of restraint which I require but for one year more, will not be amply repaid by all the advantages, and the perfect liberty, which you will receive at the end of it. Your own good sense will, I am sure, not allow you to hesitate one moment in your choice. God bless you! Adieu.
P. S. Sir James Grey’s letters not being yet sent to me, as I thought they would, I shall inclose them in my next, which I believe will get to Venice as soon as you.
LONDON, April 12, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I received, by the last mail, a letter from Mr. Harte, dated Prague, April the 1st, N. S., for which I desire you will return him my thanks, and assure him that I extremely approve of what he has done, and proposes eventually to do, in your way to Turin. Who would have thought you were old enough to have been so well acquainted with the heroes of the Bellum Tricennale, as to be looking out for their great-grandsons in Bohemia, with that affection with which, I am informed, you seek for the Wallsteins, the Kinskis, etc. As I cannot ascribe it to your age, I must to your consummate knowledge of history, that makes every country, and every century, as it were, your own. Seriously, I am told, that you are both very strong and very correct in history; of which I am extremely glad. This is useful knowledge.
Comte du Perron and Comte Lascaris are arrived here: the former gave me a letter from Sir Charles Williams, the latter brought me your orders. They are very pretty men, and have both knowledge and manners; which, though they always ought, seldom go together. I examined them, particularly Comte Lascaris, concerning you; their report is a very favorable one, especially on the side of knowledge; the quickness of conception which they allow you I can easily credit; but the attention which they add to it pleases me the more, as I own I expected it less. Go on in the pursuit and the increase of knowledge; nay, I am sure you will, for you now know too much to stop; and, if Mr. Harte would let you be idle, I am convinced you would not. But now that you have left Leipsig, and are entered into the great world, remember there is another object that must keep pace with, and accompany knowledge; I mean manners, politeness, and the Graces; in which Sir Charles Williams, though very much your friend, owns that you are very deficient. The manners of Leipsig must be shook off; and in that respect you must put on the new man. No scrambling at your meals, as at a German ordinary; no awkward overturns of glasses, plates, and salt-cellars; no horse play. On the contrary, a gentleness of manners, a graceful carriage, and an insinuating address, must take their place. I repeat, and shall never cease repeating to you, THE GRACES, THE GRACES.
I desire that as soon as ever you get to Turin you will apply yourself diligently to the Italian language; that before you leave that place, you may know it well enough to be able to speak tolerably when you get to Rome; where you will soon make yourself perfectly master of Italian, from the daily necessity you will be under of speaking it. In the mean time, I insist upon your not neglecting, much less forgetting, the German you already know; which you may not only continue but improve, by speaking it constantly to your Saxon boy, and as often as you can to the several Germans you will meet in your travels. You remember, no doubt, that you must never write to me from Turin, but in the German language and character.
I send you the inclosed letter of recommendation to Mr. Smith the King’s Consul at Venice; who can, and I daresay will, be more useful to you there than anybody. Pray make your court, and behave your best, to Monsieur and Madame Capello, who will be of great use to you at Rome. Adieu! Yours tenderly.
LONDON, April 19, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: This letter will, I believe, still find you at Venice in all the dissipation of masquerades, ridottos, operas, etc. With all my heart; they are decent evening’s amusements, and very properly succeed that serious application to which I am sure you devote your mornings. There are liberal and illiberal pleasures as well as liberal and illiberal arts: There are some pleasures that degrade a gentleman as much as some trades could do. Sottish drinking, indiscriminate gluttony, driving coaches, rustic sports, such as fox-chases, horse-races, etc., are in my opinion infinitely below the honest and industrious profession of a tailor and a shoemaker, which are said to deroger.
As you are now in a musical country, where singing, fiddling, and piping, are not only the common topics of conversation, but almost the principal objects of attention, I cannot help cautioning you against giving in to those (I will call them illiberal) pleasures (though music is commonly reckoned one of the liberal arts) to the degree that most of your countrymen do, when they travel in Italy. If you love music, hear it; go to operas, concerts, and pay fiddlers to play to you; but I insist upon your neither piping nor fiddling yourself. It puts a gentleman in a very frivolous, contemptible light; brings him into a great deal of bad company; and takes up a great deal of time, which might be much better employed. Few things would mortify me more, than to see you bearing a part in a concert, with a fiddle under your chin, or a pipe in your mouth.
I have had a great deal of conversation with Comte du Perron and Comte Lascaris upon your subject: and I will tell you, very truly, what Comte du Perron (who is, in my opinion, a very pretty man) said of you: Il a de l’esprit, un savoir peu commun a son age, une grande vivacite, et quand il aura pris des manieres il sera parfait; car il faut avouer qu’il sent encore le college; mars cela viendra. I was very glad to hear, from one whom I think so good a judge, that you wanted nothing but des manieres, which I am convinced you will now soon acquire, in the company which henceforward you are likely to keep. But I must add, too, that if you should not acquire them, all the rest will be of little use to you. By manieres, I do not mean bare common civility; everybody must have that who would not be kicked out of company; but I mean engaging, insinuating, shining manners; distinguished politeness, an almost irresistible address; a superior gracefulness in all you say and do. It is this alone that can give all your other talents their full lustre and value; and, consequently, it is this which should now be thy principal object of your attention. Observe minutely, wherever you go, the allowed and established models of good-breeding, and form yourself upon them. Whatever pleases you most in others, will infallibly please others in you. I have often repeated this to you; now is your time of putting it in practice.
Pray make my compliments to Mr. Harte, and tell him I have received his letter from Vienna of the 16th N. S., but that I shall not trouble him with an answer to it till I have received the other letter which he promises me, upon the subject of one of my last. I long to hear from him after your settlement at Turin: the months that you are to pass there will be very decisive ones for you. The exercises of the Academy, and the manners of courts must be attended to and acquired; and, at the same time, your other studies continued. I am sure you will not pass, nor desire, one single idle hour there: for I do not foresee that you can, in any part of your life, put out six months to greater interest, than those next six at Turin.
We will talk hereafter about your stay at Rome and in other parts of Italy. This only I will now recommend to you; which is, to extract the spirit of every place you go to. In those places which are only distinguished by classical fame, and valuable remains of antiquity, have your classics in your hand and in your head; compare the ancient geography and descriptions with the modern, and never fail to take notes. Rome will furnish you with business enough of that sort; but then it furnishes you with many other objects well deserving your attention, such as deep ecclesiastical craft and policy. Adieu.
LONDON, April 27, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I have received your letter from Vienna, of the 19th N. S., which gives me great uneasiness upon Mr. Harte’s account. You and I have reason to interest ourselves very particularly in everything that relates to him. I am glad, however, that no bone is broken or dislocated; which being the case, I hope he will have been able to pursue his journey to Venice. In that supposition I direct this letter to you at Turin; where it will either find, or at least not wait very long for you, as I calculate that you will be there by the end of next month, N. S. I hope you reflect how much you have to do there, and that you are determined to employ every moment of your time accordingly. You have your classical and severer studies to continue with Mr. Harte; you have your exercises to learn; the turn and manners of a court to acquire; reserving always some time for the decent amusements and pleasures of a gentleman. You see I am never against pleasures; I loved them myself when I was of your age, and it is as reasonable that you should love them now. But I insist upon it that pleasures are very combinable with both business and studies, and have a much better relish from the mixture. The man who cannot join business and pleasure is either a formal coxcomb in the one, or a sensual beast in the other. Your evenings I therefore allot for company, assemblies, balls, and such sort of amusements, as I look upon those to be the best schools for the manners of a gentleman; which nothing can give but use, observation, and experience. You have, besides, Italian to learn, to which I desire you will diligently apply; for though French is, I believe, the language of the court at Turin, yet Italian will be very necessary for you at Rome, and in other parts of Italy; and if you are well grounded in it while you are at Turin (as you easily may, for it is a very easy language), your subsequent stay at Rome will make you perfect in it. I would also have you acquire a general notion of fortification; I mean so far as not to be ignorant of the terms, which you will often hear mentioned in company, such as ravelin, bastion; glacis, contrescarpe, etc. In order to this, I do not propose that you should make a study of fortification, as if you were to be an engineer, but a very easy way of knowing as much as you need know of them, will be to visit often the fortifications of Turin, in company with some old officer or engineer, who will show and explain to you the several works themselves; by which means you will get a clearer notion of them than if you were to see them only upon paper for seven years together. Go to originals whenever you can, and trust to copies and descriptions as little as possible. At your idle hours, while you are at Turin, pray read the history of the House of Savoy, which has produced a great many very great men. The late king, Victor Amedee, was undoubtedly one, and the present king is, in my opinion, another. In general, I believe that little princes are more likely to be great men than those whose more extensive dominions and superior strength flatter them with a security, which commonly produces negligence and indolence. A little prince, in the neighborhood of great ones, must be alert and look out sharp, if he would secure his own dominions: much more still if he would enlarge them. He must watch for conjunctures or endeavor to make them. No princes have ever possessed this art better than those of the House of Savoy; who have enlarged their dominions prodigiously within a century by profiting of conjunctures.
I send you here inclosed a letter from Comte Lascaris, who is a warm friend of yours: I desire that you will answer it very soon and cordially, and remember to make your compliments in it to Comte du Perron. A young man should never be wanting in those attentions; they cost little and bring in a great deal, by getting you people’s good word and affection. They gain the heart, to which I have always advised you to apply yourself particularly; it guides ten thousand for one that, reason influences.
I cannot end this letter or (I believe) any other, without repeating my recommendation of THE GRACES. They are to be met with at Turin: for God’s sake, sacrifice to them, and they will be propitious. People mistake grossly, to imagine that the least awkwardness, either in matter or manner, mind or body, is an indifferent thing and not worthy of attention. It may possibly be a weakness in me, but in short we are all so made: I confess to you fairly, that when you shall come home and that I first see you, if I find you ungraceful in your address, and awkward in your person and dress, it will be impossible for me to love you half so well as I should otherwise do, let your intrinsic merit and knowledge be ever so great. If that would be your case with me, as it really would, judge how much worse it might be with others, who have not the same affection and partiality for you, and to whose hearts you must make your own way.
Remember to write to me constantly while you are in Italy, in the German language and character, till you can write to me in Italian; which will not be till you have been some time at Rome.
Adieu, my dear boy: may you turn out what Mr. Harte and I wish you. I must add that if you do not, it will be both your own fault and your own misfortune.
LONDON, May 15, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: This letter will, I hope, find you settled to your serious studies, and your necessary exercises at Turin, after the hurry and the dissipation of the Carnival at Venice. I mean that your stay at Turin should, and I flatter myself that it will, be an useful and ornamental period of your education; but at the same time I must tell you, that all my affection for you has never yet given me so much anxiety, as that which I now feel. While you are in danger, I shall be in fear; and you are in danger at Turin. Mr. Harte will by his care arm you as well as he can against it; but your own good sense and resolution can alone make you invulnerable. I am informed, there are now many English at the Academy at Turin; and I fear those are just so many dangers for you to encounter. Who they are, I do not know; but I well know the general ill conduct, the indecent behavior, and the illiberal views, of my young countrymen. abroad; especially wherever they are in numbers together. Ill example is of itself dangerous enough; but those who give it seldom stop there; they add their infamous exhortations and invitations; and, if they fail, they have recourse to ridicule, which is harder for one of your age and inexperience to withstand than either of the former. Be upon your guard, therefore, against these batteries, which will all be played upon you. You are not sent abroad to converse with your own countrymen: among them, in general, you will get, little knowledge, no languages, and, I am sure, no manners. I desire that you will form no connections, nor (what they impudently call) friendships with these people; which are, in truth, only combinations and conspiracies against good morals and good manners. There is commonly, in young people, a facility that makes them unwilling to refuse anything that is asked of them; a mauvaise honte that makes them ashamed to refuse; and, at the same time, an ambition of pleasing and shining in the company they keep: these several causes produce the best effect in good company, but the very worst in bad. If people had no vices but their own, few would have so many as they have. For my own part, I would sooner wear other people’s clothes than their vices; and they would sit upon me just as well. I hope you will have none; but if ever you have, I beg, at least, they may be all your own. Vices of adoption are, of all others, the most disgraceful and unpardonable. There are degrees in vices, as well as in virtues; and I must do my countrymen the justice to say, that they generally take their vices in the lower degree. Their gallantry is the infamous mean debauchery of stews, justly attended and rewarded by the loss of their health, as well as their character. Their pleasures of the table end in beastly drunkenness, low riot, broken windows, and very often (as they well deserve), broken bones. They game for the sake of the vice, not of the amusement; and therefore carry it to excess; undo, or are undone by their companions. By such conduct, and in such company abroad, they come home, the unimproved, illiberal, and ungentlemanlike creatures that one daily sees them, that is, in the park and in the streets, for one never meets them in good company; where they have neither manners to present themselves, nor merit to be received. But, with the manners of footmen and grooms, they assume their dress too; for you must have observed them in the streets here, in dirty blue frocks, with oaken sticks in their ends, and their hair greasy and unpowdered, tucked up under their hats of an enormous size. Thus finished and adorned by their travels, they become the disturbers of play-houses; they break the windows, and commonly the landlords, of the taverns where they drink; and are at once the support, the terror, and the victims, of the bawdy-houses they frequent. These poor mistaken people think they shine, and so they do indeed; but it is as putrefaction shines in the dark.
I am not now preaching to you, like an old fellow, upon their religious or moral texts; I am persuaded that you do not want the best instructions of that kind: but I am advising you as a friend, as a man of the world, as one who would not have you old while you are young, but would have you to take all the pleasures that reason points out, and that decency warrants. I will therefore suppose, for argument’s sake (for upon no other account can it be supposed), that all the vices above mentioned were perfectly innocent in themselves: they would still degrade, vilify, and sink those who practiced them; would obstruct their rising in the world by debasing their characters; and give them low turn of mind, and manners absolutely inconsistent with their making any figure in upper life and great business.
What I have now said, together with your own good sense, is, I hope, sufficient to arm you against the seduction, the invitations, or the profligate exhortations (for I cannot call them temptations) of those unfortunate young people. On the other hand, when they would engage you in these schemes, content yourself with a decent but steady refusal; avoid controversy upon such plain points. You are too young to convert them; and, I trust, too wise to be converted by them. Shun them not only in reality, but even in appearance, if you would be well received in good company; for people will always be shy of receiving a man who comes from a place where the plague rages, let him look ever so healthy. There are some expressions, both in French and English, and some characters, both in those two and in other countries, which have, I dare say, misled many young men to their ruin. Une honnete debauche, une jolie debauche; “An agreeable rake, a man of pleasure.” Do not think that this means debauchery and profligacy; nothing like it. It means, at most, the accidental and unfrequent irregularities of youth and vivacity, in opposition to dullness, formality, and want of spirit. A commerce galant, insensibly formed with a woman of fashion; a glass of wine or two too much, unwarily taken in the warmth and joy of good company; or some innocent frolic, by which nobody is injured, are the utmost bounds of that life of pleasure, which a man of sense and decency, who has a regard for his character, will allow himself, or be allowed by others. Those who transgress them in the hopes of shining, miss their aim, and become infamous, or at least, contemptible.
The length or shortness of your stay at Turin will sufficiently inform me (even though Mr. Harte should not) of your conduct there; for, as I have told you before, Mr. Harte has the strictest orders to carry you away immediately from thence, upon the first and least symptom of infection that he discovers about you; and I know him to be too conscientiously scrupulous, and too much your friend and mine not to execute them exactly. Moreover, I will inform you, that I shall have constant accounts of your behavior from Comte Salmour, the Governor of the Academy, whose son is now here, and my particular friend. I have, also, other good channels of intelligence, of which I do not apprise you. But, supposing that all turns out well at Turin, yet, as I propose your being at Rome for the jubilee, at Christmas, I desire that you will apply yourself diligently to your exercises of dancing, fencing, and riding at the Academy; as well for the sake of your health and growth, as to fashion and supple you. You must not neglect your dress neither, but take care to be bien mis. Pray send for the best operator for the teeth at Turin, where I suppose there is some famous one; and let him put yours in perfect order; and then take care to keep them so, afterward, yourself. You had very good teeth, and I hope they are so still; but even those who have bad ones, should keep them clean; for a dirty mouth is, in my mind, ill manners. In short, neglect nothing that can possibly please. A thousand nameless little things, which nobody can describe, but which everybody feels, conspire to form that WHOLE of pleasing; as the several pieces of a Mosaic work though, separately, of little beauty or value, when properly joined, form those beautiful figures which please everybody. A look, a gesture, an attitude, a tone of voice, all bear their parts in the great work of pleasing. The art of pleasing is more particularly necessary in your intended profession than perhaps in any other; it is, in truth, the first half of your business; for if you do not please the court you are sent to, you will be of very little use to the court you are sent from. Please the eyes and the ears, they will introduce you to the heart; and nine times in ten, the heart governs the understanding.
Make your court particularly, and show distinguished attentions to such men and women as are best at court, highest in the fashion, and in the opinion of the public; speak advantageously of them behind their backs, in companies whom you have reason to believe will tell them again. Express your admiration of the many great men that the House of Savoy has produced; observe that nature, instead of being exhausted by those efforts, seems to have redoubled them, in the person of the present King, and the Duke of Savoy; wonder, at this rate, where it will end, and conclude that it must end in the government of all Europe. Say this, likewise, where it will probably be repeated; but say it unaffectedly, and, the last especially, with a kind of enjouement. These little arts are very allowable, and must be made use of in the course of the world; they are pleasing to one party, useful to the other, and injurious to nobody.
What I have said with regard to my countrymen in general, does not extend to them all without exception; there are some who have both merit and manners. Your friend, Mr. Stevens, is among the latter; and I approve of your connection with him. You may happen to meet with some others, whose friendship may be of great use to you hereafter, either from their superior talents, or their rank and fortune; cultivate them; but then I desire that Mr. Harte may be the judge of those persons.
Adieu my dear child! Consider seriously the importance of the two next years to your character, your figure, and your fortune.
LONDON, May 22, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I recommended to you, in my last, an innocent piece of art; that of flattering people behind their backs, in presence of those who, to make their own court, much more than for your sake, will not fail to repeat and even amplify the praise to the party concerned. This is, of all flattery, the most pleasing, and consequently the most effectual. There are other, and many other, inoffensive arts of this kind, which are necessary in the course of the world, and which he who practices the earliest, will please the most, and rise the soonest. The spirits and vivacity of youth are apt to neglect them as useless, or reject them as troublesome. But subsequent knowledge and experience of the world reminds us of their importance, commonly when it is too late. The principal of these things is the mastery of one’s temper, and that coolness of mind, and serenity of countenance, which hinders us from discovering by words, actions, or even looks, those passions or sentiments by which we are inwardly moved or agitated; and the discovery of which gives cooler and abler people such infinite advantages over us, not only in great business, but in all the most common occurrences of life. A man who does not possess himself enough to hear disagreeable things without visible marks of anger and change of countenance, or agreeable ones, without sudden bursts of joy and expansion of countenance, is at the mercy of every artful knave or pert coxcomb; the former will provoke or please you by design, to catch unguarded words or looks by which he will easily decipher the secrets of your heart, of which you should keep the key yourself, and trust it with no man living. The latter will, by his absurdity, and without intending it, produce the same discoveries of which other people will avail themselves. You will say, possibly, that this coolness must be constitutional, and consequently does not depend upon the will: and I will allow that constitution has some power over us; but I will maintain, too, that people very often, to excuse themselves, very unjustly accuse their constitutions. Care and reflection, if properly used, will get the better: and a man may as surely get a habit of letting his reason prevail over his constitution, as of letting, as most people do, the latter prevail over the former. If you find yourself subject to sudden starts of passion or madness (for I see no difference between them but in their duration), resolve within yourself, at least, never to speak one word while you feel that emotion within you. Determine, too, to keep your countenance as unmoved and unembarrassed as possible; which steadiness you may get a habit of, by constant attention. I should desire nothing better, in any negotiation, than to have to do with one of those men of warm, quick passions; which I would take care to set in motion. By artful provocations I would extort rash unguarded expressions; and, by hinting at all the several things that I could suspect, infallibly discover the true one, by the alteration it occasioned in the countenance of the person. Volto sciolto con pensieri stretti, is a most useful maxim in business. It is so necessary at some games, such as Berlan Quinze, etc., that a man who had not the command of his temper and countenance, would infallibly be outdone by those who had, even though they played fair. Whereas, in business, you always play with sharpers; to whom, at least, you should give no fair advantages. It may be objected, that I am now recommending dissimulation to you; I both own and justify it. It has been long said, Qui nescit dissimulare nescit regnare: I go still further, and say, that without some dissimulation no business can be carried on at all. It is SIMULATION that is false, mean, and criminal: that is the cunning which Lord Bacon calls crooked or left-handed wisdom, and which is never made use of but by those who have not true wisdom. And the same great man says, that dissimulation is only to hide our own cards, whereas simulation is put on, in order to look into other people’s. Lord Bolingbroke, in his “Idea of a Patriot King,” which he has lately published, and which I will send you by the first opportunity, says very justly that simulation is a STILETTO — not only an unjust but an unlawful weapon, and the use of it very rarely to be excused, never justified. Whereas dissimulation is a shield, as secrecy is armor; and it is no more possible to preserve secrecy in business, without same degree of dissimulation, than it is to succeed in business without secrecy. He goes on, and says, that those two arts of dissimulation and secrecy are like the alloy mingled with pure ore: a little is necessary, and will not debase the coin below its proper standard; but if more than that little be employed (that is, simulation and cunning), the coin loses its currency, and the coiner his credit.
Make yourself absolute master, therefore, of your temper and your countenance, so far, at least, as that no visible change do appear in either, whatever you may feel inwardly. This may be difficult, but it is by no means impossible; and, as a man of sense never attempts impossibilities on one hand, on the other, he is never discouraged by difficulties: on the contrary, he redoubles his industry and his diligence; he perseveres, and infallibly prevails at last. In any point which prudence bids you pursue, and which a manifest utility attends, let difficulties only animate your industry, not deter you from the pursuit. If one way has failed, try another; be active, persevere, and you will conquer. Some people are to be reasoned, some flattered, some intimidated, and some teased into a thing; but, in general, all are to be brought into it at last, if skillfully applied to, properly managed, and indefatigably attacked in their several weak places. The time should likewise be judiciously chosen; every man has his mollia tempora, but that is far from being all day long; and you would choose your time very ill, if you applied to a man about one business, when his head was full of another, or when his heart was full of grief, anger, or any other disagreeable sentiment.
In order to judge of the inside of others, study your own; for men in general are very much alike; and though one has one prevailing passion, and another has another, yet their operations are much the same; and whatever engages or disgusts, pleases or offends you, in others will, mutatis mutandis, engage, disgust, please, or offend others, in you. Observe with the utmost attention all the operations of your own mind, the nature of your passions, and the various motives that determine your will; and you may, in a great degree, know all mankind. For instance, do you find yourself hurt and mortified when another makes you feel his superiority, and your own inferiority, in knowledge, parts, rank, or fortune? You will certainly take great care not to make a person whose good will, good word, interest, esteem, or friendship, you would gain, feel that superiority in you, in case you have it. If disagreeable insinuations, sly sneers, or repeated contradictions, tease and irritate you, would you use them where you wish to engage and please? Surely not, and I hope you wish to engage and please, almost universally. The temptation of saying a smart and witty thing, or bon mot; and the malicious applause with which it is commonly received, has made people who can say them, and, still oftener, people who think they can, but cannot, and yet try, more enemies, and implacable ones too, than any one other thing that I know of: When such things, then, shall happen to be said at your expense (as sometimes they certainly will), reflect seriously upon the sentiments of uneasiness, anger, and resentment which they excite in you; and consider whether it can be prudent, by the same means, to excite the same sentiments in others against you. It is a decided folly to lose a friend for a jest; but, in my mind, it is not a much less degree of folly to make an enemy of an indifferent and neutral person, for the sake of a bon mot. When things of this kind happen to be said of you, the most prudent way is to seem not to suppose that they are meant at you, but to dissemble and conceal whatever degree of anger you may feel inwardly; but, should they be so plain that you cannot be supposed ignorant of their meaning, to join in the laugh of the company against yourself; acknowledge the hit to be a fair one, and the jest a good one, and play off the whole thing in seeming good humor; but by no means reply in the same way; which only shows that you are hurt, and publishes the victory which you might have concealed. Should the thing said, indeed injure your honor or moral character, there is but one proper reply; which I hope you never will have occasion to make.
As the female part of the world has some influence, and often too much, over the male, your conduct with regard to women (I mean women of fashion, for I cannot suppose you capable of conversing with any others) deserves some share in your reflections. They are a numerous and loquacious body: their hatred would be more prejudicial than their friendship can be advantageous to you. A general complaisance and attention to that sex is therefore established by custom, and certainly necessary. But where you would particularly please anyone, whose situation, interest, or connections, can be of use to you, you must show particular preference. The least attentions please, the greatest charm them. The innocent but pleasing flattery of their persons, however gross, is greedily swallowed and kindly digested: but a seeming regard for their understandings, a seeming desire of, and deference for, their advice, together with a seeming confidence in their moral virtues, turns their heads entirely in your favor. Nothing shocks them so much as the least appearance of that contempt which they are apt to suspect men of entertaining of their capacities; and you may be very sure of gaining their friendship if you seem to think it worth gaining. Here dissimulation is very often necessary, and even simulation sometimes allowable; which, as it pleases them, may, be useful to you, and is injurious to nobody.
This torn sheet, which I did not observe when I began upon it, as it alters the figure, shortens, too, the length of my letter. It may very well afford it: my anxiety for you carries me insensibly to these lengths. I am apt to flatter myself, that my experience, at the latter end of my life, may be of use to you at the beginning of yours; and I do not grudge the greatest trouble, if it can procure you the least advantage. I even repeat frequently the same things, the better to imprint them on your young, and, I suppose, yet giddy mind; and I shall think that part of my time the best employed, that contributes to make you employ yours well. God bless you, child!
LONDON, June 16, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I do not guess where this letter will find you, but I hope it will find you well: I direct it eventually to Laubach; from whence I suppose you have taken care to have your letters sent after you. I received no account from Mr. Harte by last post, and the mail due this day is not yet come in; so that my informations come down no lower than the 2d June, N. S., the date of Mr, Harte’s last letter. As I am now easy about your health, I am only curious about your motions, which I hope have been either to Inspruck or Verona; for I disapprove extremely of your proposed long and troublesome journey to Switzerland. Wherever you may be, I recommend to you to get as much Italian as you can, before you go either to Rome or Naples: a little will be of great use to you upon the road; and the knowledge of the grammatical part, which you can easily acquire in two or three months, will not only facilitate your progress, but accelerate your perfection in that language, when you go to those places where it is generally spoken; as Naples, Rome, Florence, etc.
Should the state of your health not yet admit of your usual application to books, you may, in a great degree, and I hope you will, repair that loss by useful and instructive conversations with Mr. Harte: you may, for example, desire him to give you in conversation the outlines, at least, of Mr. Locke’s logic; a general notion of ethics, and a verbal epitome of rhetoric; of all which Mr. Harte will give you clearer ideas in half an hour, by word of mouth, than the books of most of the dull fellows who have written upon those subjects would do in a week.
I have waited so long for the post, which I hoped would come, that the post, which is just going out, obliges me to cut this letter short. God bless you, my dear child! and restore you soon to perfect health!
My compliments to Mr. Harte; to whose care your life is the least thing that you owe.
LONDON, June 22, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: The outside of your letter of the 7th N. S., directed by your own hand, gave me more pleasure than the inside of any other letter ever did. I received it yesterday at the same time with one from Mr. Harts of the 6th. They arrived at a very proper time, for they found a consultation of physicians in my room, upon account of a fever which I had for four or five days, but which has now entirely left me. As Mr. Harte Says THAT YOUR LUNGS NOW AND THEN GIVE YOU A LITTLE PAIN, and that YOUR SWELLINGS COME AND GO VARIABLY, but as he mentions nothing of your coughing, spitting, or sweating, the doctors take it for granted that you are entirely free from those three bad symptoms: and from thence conclude, that, the pain which you sometimes feel upon your lungs is only symptomatical of your rheumatic disorder, from the pressure of the muscles which hinders the free play of the lungs. But, however, as the lungs are a point of the utmost importance and delicacy, they insist upon your drinking, in all events, asses’ milk twice a day, and goats’ whey as often as you please, the oftener the better: in your common diet, they recommend an attention to pectorals, such as sago, barley, turnips, etc. These rules are equally good in rheumatic as in consumptive cases; you will therefore, I hope, strictly observe them; for I take it for granted that you are above the silly likings or dislikings, in which silly people indulge their tastes, at the expense of their health.
I approve of your going to Venice, as much as I disapproved of your going to Switzerland. I suppose that you are by this time arrived; and, in that supposition, I direct this letter there. But if you should find the heat too great, or the water offensive, at this time of the year, I would have you go immediately to Verona, and stay there till the great heats are over, before you return to Venice.
The time which you will probably pass at Venice will allow you to make yourself master of that intricate and singular form of government, of which few of our travelers know anything. Read, ask, and see everything that is relative to it. There are likewise many valuable remains of the remotest antiquity, and many fine pieces of the Antico-moderno, all which deserve a different sort of attention from that which your countrymen commonly give them. They go to see them, as they go to see the lions, and kings on horseback, at the Tower here, only to say that they have seen them. You will, I am sure, view them in another light; you will consider them as you would a poem, to which indeed they are akin. You will observe whether the sculptor has animated his stone, or the painter his canvas, into the just expression of those sentiments and passions which should characterize and mark their several figures. You will examine, likewise, whether in their groups there be a unity of action, or proper relation; a truth of dress and manners. Sculpture and painting are very justly called liberal arts; a lively and strong imagination, together with a just observation, being absolutely necessary to excel in either; which, in my opinion, is by no means the case of music, though called a liberal art, and now in Italy placed even above the other two; a proof of the decline of that country. The Venetian school produced many great painters, such as Paul Veronese, Titian, Palma, etc., of whom you will see, as well in private houses as in churches, very fine pieces. The Last Supper, of Paul Veronese, in the church of St. George, is reckoned his capital performance, and deserves your attention; as does also the famous picture of the Cornaro Family, by Titian. A taste for sculpture and painting is, in my mind, as becoming as a taste for fiddling and piping is unbecoming, a man of fashion. The former is connected with history and poetry; the latter, with nothing that I know of but bad company.
Learn Italian as fast as ever you can, that you may be able to understand it tolerably, and speak it a little before you go to Rome and Naples: There are many good historians in that language, and excellent translations of the ancient Greek and Latin authors; which are called the Collana; but the only two Italian poets that deserve your acquaintance are Ariosto and Tasso; and they undoubtedly have great merit.
Make my compliments to Mr. Harte, and tell him that I have consulted about his leg, and that if it was only a sprain, he ought to keep a tight bandage about the part, for a considerable time, and do nothing else to it. Adieu! Jubeo te bene valere.
LONDON, July 6, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: As I am now no longer in pain about your health, which I trust is perfectly restored; and as, by the various accounts I have had of you, I need not be in pain about your learning, our correspondence may, for the future, turn upon less important points, comparatively; though still very important ones: I mean, the knowledge of the world, decorum, manners, address, and all those (commonly called little) accomplishments, which are absolutely necessary to give greater accomplishments their full, value and lustre.
Had I the admirable ring of Gyges, which rendered the wearer invisible; and had I, at the same time, those magic powers, which were very common formerly, but are now very scarce, of transporting myself, by a wish, to any given place, my first expedition would be to Venice, there to RECONNOITRE you, unseen myself. I would first take you in the morning, at breakfast with Mr. Harte, and attend to your natural and unguarded conversation with him; from whence, I think, I could pretty well judge of your natural turn of mind. How I should rejoice if I overheard you asking him pertinent questions upon useful subjects! or making judicious reflections upon the studies of that morning, or the occurrences of the former day! Then I would follow you into the different companies of the day, and carefully observe in what manner you presented yourself to, and behaved yourself with, men of sense and dignity; whether your address was respectful, and yet easy; your air modest, and yet unembarrassed; and I would, at the same time, penetrate into their thoughts, in order to know whether your first abord made that advantageous impression upon their fancies, which a certain address, air, and manners, never fail doing. I would afterward follow you to the mixed companies of the evening; such as assemblies, suppers, etc., and there watch if you trifled gracefully and genteelly: if your good-breeding and politeness made way for your parts and knowledge. With what pleasure should I hear people cry out, Che garbato cavaliere, com e pulito, disinvolto, spiritoso! If all these things turned out to my mind, I would immediately assume my own shape, become visible, and embrace you: but if the contrary happened, I would preserve my invisibility, make the best of my way home again, and sink my disappointment upon you and the world. As, unfortunately, these supernatural powers of genii, fairies, sylphs, and gnomes, have had the fate of the oracles they succeeded, and have ceased for some time, I must content myself (till we meet naturally, and in the common way) with Mr. Harte’s written accounts of you, and the verbal ones which I now and then receive from people who have seen you. However, I believe it would do you no harm, if you would always imagine that I were present, and saw and heard everything you did and said.
There is a certain concurrence of various little circumstances which compose what the French call l’aimable; and which, now that you are entering into the world, you ought to make it your particular study to acquire. Without them, your learning will be pedantry, your conversation often improper, always unpleasant, and your figure, however good in itself, awkward and unengaging. A diamond, while rough, has indeed its intrinsic value; but, till polished, is of no use, and would neither be sought for nor worn. Its great lustre, it is true, proceeds from its solidity and strong cohesion of parts; but without the last polish, it would remain forever a dirty, rough mineral, in the cabinets of some few curious collectors. You have; I hope, that solidity and cohesion of parts; take now as much pains to get the lustre. Good company, if you make the right use of it, will cut you into shape, and give you the true brilliant polish. A propos of diamonds: I have sent you by Sir James Gray, the King’s Minister, who will be at Venice about the middle of September, my own diamond buckles; which are fitter for your young feet than for my old ones: they will properly adorn you; they would only expose me. If Sir James finds anybody whom he can trust, and who will be at Venice before him, he will send them by that person; but if he should not, and that you should be gone from Venice before he gets there, he will in that case give them to your banker, Monsieur Cornet, to forward to you, wherever you may then be. You are now of an age, at which the adorning your person is not only not ridiculous, but proper and becoming. Negligence would imply either an indifference about pleasing, or else an insolent security of pleasing, without using those means to which others are obliged to have recourse. A thorough cleanliness in your person is as necessary for your own health, as it is not to be offensive to other people. Washing yourself, and rubbing your body and limbs frequently with a fleshbrush, will conduce as much to health as to cleanliness. A particular attention to the cleanliness of your mouth, teeth, hands, and nails, is but common decency, in order not to offend people’s eyes and noses.
I send you here inclosed a letter of recommendation to the Duke of Nivernois, the French Ambassador at Rome; who is, in my opinion, one of the prettiest men I ever knew in my life. I do not know a better model for you to form yourself upon; pray observe and frequent him as much as you can. He will show you what manners and graces are. I shall, by successive posts, send you more letters, both for Rome and Naples, where it will be your own fault entirely if you do not keep the very best company.
As you will meet swarms of Germans wherever you go, I desire that you will constantly converse with them in their own language, which will improve you in that language, and be, at the same time, an agreeable piece of civility to them.
Your stay in Italy will, I do not doubt, make you critically master of Italian; I know it may, if you please, for it is a very regular, and consequently a very easy language. Adieu! God bless you!
LONDON, July 20, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I wrote to Mr. Harte last Monday, the 17th, O. S., in answer to his letter of the 20th June, N. S., which I had received but the day before, after an interval of eight posts; during which I did not know whether you or he existed, and indeed I began to think that you did not. By that letter you ought at this time to be at Venice; where I hope you are arrived in perfect health, after the baths of Tiefler, in case you have made use of them. I hope they are not hot baths, if your lungs are still tender.
Your friend, the Comte d’Einsiedlen, is arrived here: he has been at my door, and I have been at his; but we have not yet met. He will dine with me some day this week. Comte Lascaris inquires after you very frequently, and with great affection; pray answer the letter which I forwarded to you a great while ago from him. You may inclose your answer to me, and I will take care to give it him. Those attentions ought never to be omitted; they cost little, and please a great deal; but the neglect of them offends more than you can yet imagine. Great merit, or great failings, will make you be respected or despised; but trifles, little attentions, mere nothings, either done, or neglected, will make you either liked or disliked, in the general run of the world. Examine yourself why you like such and such people, and dislike such and such others; and you will find, that those different sentiments proceed from very slight causes. Moral virtues are the foundation of society in general, and of friendship in particular; but attentions, manners, and graces, both adorn and strengthen them. My heart is so set upon your pleasing, and consequently succeeding in the world, that possibly I have already (and probably shall again) repeat the same things over and over to you. However, to err, if I do err, on the surer side, I shall continue to communicate to you those observations upon the world which long experience has enabled me to make, and which I have generally found to hold true. Your youth and talents, armed with my experience, may go a great way; and that armor is very much at your service, if you please to wear it. I premise that it is not my imagination, but my memory, that gives you these rules: I am not writing pretty; but useful reflections. A man of sense soon discovers, because he carefully observes, where, and how long, he is welcome; and takes care to leave the company, at least as soon as he is wished out of it. Fools never perceive where they are either ill-timed or illplaced.
I am this moment agreeably stopped, in the course of my reflections, by the arrival of Mr. Harte’s letter of the 13th July, N. S., to Mr. Grevenkop, with one inclosed for your Mamma. I find by it that many of his and your letters to me must have miscarried; for he says that I have had regular accounts of you: whereas all those accounts have been only his letter of the 6th and yours of the 7th June, N. S.; his of the 20th June, N. S., to me; and now his of the 13th July, N. S., to Mr. Grevenkop. However, since you are so well, as Mr. Harte says you are, all is well. I am extremely glad that you have no complaint upon your lungs; but I desire that you will think you have, for three or four months to come. Keep in a course of asses’ or goats’ milk, for one is as good as the other, and possibly the latter is the best; and let your common food be as pectoral as you can conveniently make it. Pray tell Mr. Harte that, according to his desire, I have wrote a letter of thanks to Mr. Firmian. I hope you write to him too, from time to time. The letters of recommendation of a man of his merit and learning will, to be sure, be of great use to you among the learned world in Italy; that is, provided you take care to keep up to the character he gives you in them; otherwise they will only add to your disgrace.
Consider that you have lost a good deal of time by your illness; fetch it up now that you are well. At present you should be a good economist of your moments, of which company and sights will claim a considerable share; so that those which remain for study must be not only attentively, but greedily employed. But indeed I do not suspect you of one single moment’s idleness in the whole day. Idleness is only the refuge of weak minds, and the holiday of fools. I do not call good company and liberal pleasures, idleness; far from it: I recommend to you a good share of both.
I send you here inclosed a letter for Cardinal Alexander Albani, which you will give him, as soon as you get to Rome, and before you deliver any others; the Purple expects that preference; go next to the Duc de Nivernois, to whom you are recommended by several people at Paris, as well as by myself. Then you may carry your other letters occasionally.
Remember to pry narrowly into every part of the government of Venice: inform yourself of the history of that republic, especially of its most remarkable eras; such as the Ligue de eambray, in 1509, by which it had like to have been destroyed; and the conspiracy formed by the Marquis de Bedmar, the Spanish Ambassador, to subject it to the Crown of Spain. The famous disputes between that republic and the Pope are worth your knowledge; and the writings of the celebrated and learned Fra Paolo di Sarpi, upon that occasion, worth your reading. It was once the greatest commercial power in Europe, and in the 14th and 15th centuries made a considerable figure; but at present its commerce is decayed, and its riches consequently decreased; and, far from meddling now with the affairs of the Continent, it owes its security to its neutrality and inefficiency; and that security will last no longer than till one of the great Powers in Europe engrosses the rest of Italy; an event which this century possibly may, but which the next probably will see.
Your friend Comte d’Ensiedlen and his governor, have been with me this moment, and delivered me your letter from Berlin, of February the 28th, N. S. I like them both so well that I am glad you did; and still gladder to hear what they say of you. Go on, and continue to deserve the praises of those who deserve praises themselves. Adieu.
I break open this letter to acknowledge yours of the 30th June, N. S., which I have but this instant received, though thirteen days antecedent in date to Mr. Harte’s last. I never in my life heard of bathing four hours a day; and I am impatient to hear of your safe arrival at Venice, after so extraordinary an operation.
LONDON, July 30, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: Mr. Harte’s letters and yours drop in upon me most irregularly; for I received, by the last post, one from Mr. Harte, of the 9th, N. S., and that which Mr. Grevenkop had received from him, the post before, was of the 13th; at last, I suppose, I shall receive them all.
I am very glad that my letter, with Dr. Shaw’s opinion, has lessened your bathing; for since I was born, I never heard of bathing four hours a-day; which would surely be too much, even in Medea’s kettle, if you wanted (as you do not yet) new boiling.
Though, in that letter of mine, I proposed your going to Inspruck, it was only in opposition to Lausanne, which I thought much too long and painful a journey for you; but you will have found, by my subsequent letters, that I entirely approved of Venice; where I hope you have now been some time, and which is a much better place for you to reside at, till you go to Naples, than either Tieffer or Laubach. I love capitals extremely; it is in capitals that the best company is always to be found; and consequently, the best manners to be learned. The very best provincial places have some awkwardness, that distinguish their manners from those of the metropolis. A propos of capitals, I send you here two letters of recommendation to Naples, from Monsieur Finochetti, the Neapolitan Minister at The Hague; and in my next I shall send you two more, from the same person, to the same place.
I have examined Comte d’Einsiedlen so narrowly concerning you, that I have extorted from him a confession that you do not care to speak German, unless to such as understand no other language. At this rate, you will never speak it well, which I am very desirous that you should do, and of which you would, in time, find the advantage. Whoever has not the command of a language, and does not speak it with facility, will always appear below himself when he converses in that language; the want of words and phrases will cramp and lame his thoughts. As you now know German enough to express yourself tolerably, speaking it very often will soon make you speak it very well: and then you will appear in it whatever you are. What with your own Saxon servant and the swarms of Germans you will meet with wherever you go, you may have opportunities of conversing in that language half the day; and I do very seriously desire that you will, or else all the pains that you have already taken about it are lost. You will remember likewise, that, till you can write in Italian, you are always to write to me in German.
Mr. Harte’s conjecture concerning your distemper seems to be a very reasonable one; it agrees entirely with mine, which is the universal rule by which every man judges of another man’s opinion. But, whatever may have been the cause of your rheumatic disorder, the effects are still to be attended to; and as there must be a remaining acrimony in your blood, you ought to have regard to that, in your common diet as well as in your medicines; both which should be of a sweetening alkaline nature, and promotive of perspiration. Rheumatic complaints are very apt to return, and those returns would be very vexatious and detrimental to you; at your age, and in your course of travels. Your time is, now particularly, inestimable; and every hour of it, at present, worth more than a year will be to you twenty years hence. You are now laying the foundation of your future character and fortune; and one single stone wanting in that foundation is of more consequence than fifty in the superstructure; which can always be mended and embellished if the foundation is solid. To carry on the metaphor of building: I would wish you to be a Corinthian edifice upon a Tuscan foundation; the latter having the utmost strength and solidity to support, and the former all possible ornaments to decorate. The Tuscan column is coarse, clumsy, and unpleasant; nobody looks at it twice; the Corinthian fluted column is beautiful and attractive; but without a solid foundation, can hardly be seen twice, because it must soon tumble down. Yours affectionately.
LONDON, August 7, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: By Mr. Harte’s letter to me of the 18th July N. S., which I received by the last post, I am at length informed of the particulars both of your past distemper, and of your future motions. As to the former, I am now convinced, and so is Dr. Shaw, that your lungs were only symptomatically affected; and that the rheumatic tendency is what you are chiefly now to guard against, but (for greater security) with due attention still to your lungs, as if they had been, and still were, a little affected. In either case, a cooling, pectoral regimen is equally good. By cooling, I mean cooling in its consequences, not cold to the palate; for nothing is more dangerous than very cold liquors, at the very time that one longs for them the most; which is, when one is very hot. Fruit, when full ripe, is very wholesome; but then it must be within certain bounds as to quantity; for I have known many of my countrymen die of bloody-fluxes, by indulging in too great a quantity of fruit, in those countries where, from the goodness and ripeness of it, they thought it could do them no harm. Ne quid nimis, is a most excellent rule in everything; but commonly the least observed, by people of your age, in anything.
As to your future motions, I am very well pleased with them, and greatly prefer your intended stay at Verona to Venice, whose almost stagnating waters must, at this time of the year, corrupt the air. Verona has a pure and clear air, and, as I am informed, a great deal of good company. Marquis Maffei, alone, would be worth going there for. You may, I think, very well leave Verona about the middle of September, when the great heats will be quite over, and then make the best of your way to Naples; where, I own, I want to have you by way of precaution (I hope it is rather over caution) in case of the last remains of a pulmonic disorder. The amphitheatre at Verona is worth your attention; as are also many buildings there and at Vicenza, of the famous Andrea Palladio, whose taste and style of buildings were truly antique. It would not be amiss, if you employed three or four days in learning the five orders of architecture, with their general proportions; and you may know all that you need know of them in that time. Palladio’s own book of architecture is the best you can make use of for that purpose, skipping over the mechanical part of it, such as the materials, the cement, etc.
Mr. Harte tells me, that your acquaintance with the classics is renewed; the suspension of which has been so short, that I dare say it has produced no coldness. I hope and believe, you are now so much master of them, that two hours every day, uninterruptedly, for a year or two more, will make you perfectly so; and I think you cannot now allot them a greater share than that of your time, considering the many other things you have to learn and to do. You must know how to speak and write Italian perfectly; you must learn some logic, some geometry, and some astronomy; not to mention your exercises, where they are to be learned; and, above all, you must learn the world, which is not soon learned; and only to be learned by frequenting good and various companies.
Consider, therefore, how precious every moment of time is to you now. The more you apply to your business, the more you will taste your pleasures. The exercise of the mind in the morning whets the appetite for the pleasures of the evening, as much as the exercise of the body whets the appetite for dinner. Business and pleasure, rightly understood, mutually assist each other, instead of being enemies, as silly or dull people often think them. No man tastes pleasures truly, who does not earn them by previous business, and few people do business well, who do nothing else. Remember that when I speak of pleasures, I always mean the elegant pleasures of a rational being, and, not the brutal ones of a swine. I mean la bonne Chere, short of gluttony; wine, infinitely short of drunkenness; play, without the least gaming; and gallantry without debauchery. There is a line in all these things which men of sense, for greater security, take care to keep a good deal on the right side of; for sickness, pain, contempt and infamy, lie immediately on the other side of it. Men of sense and merit, in all other respects, may have had some of these failings; but then those few examples, instead of inviting us to imitation, should only put us the more upon our guard against such weaknesses: and whoever thinks them fashionable, will not be so himself; I have often known a fashionable man have some one vice; but I never in my life knew a vicious man a fashionable man. Vice is as degrading as it is criminal. God bless you, my dear child!
LONDON, August 20, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: Let us resume our reflections upon men, their characters, their manners, in a word, our reflections upon the world. They may help you to form yourself, and to know others; a knowledge very useful at all ages, very rare at yours. It seems as if it were nobody’s business to communicate it to young men. Their masters teach them, singly, the languages or the sciences of their several departments; and are indeed generally incapable of teaching them the world: their parents are often so too, or at least neglect doing it, either from avocations, indifference, or from an opinion that throwing them into the world (as they call it) is the best way of teaching it them. This last notion is in a great degree true; that is, the world can doubtless never be well known by theory: practice is absolutely necessary; but surely it is of great use to a young man, before he sets out for that country full of mazes, windings, and turnings, to have at least a general map of it, made by some experienced traveler.
There is a certain dignity of manners absolutely necessary, to make even the most valuable character either respected or respectable. [Meaning worthy of respect.]
Horse-play, romping, frequent and loud fits of laughter, jokes, waggery, and indiscriminate familiarity, will sink both merit and knowledge into a degree of contempt. They compose at most a merry fellow; and a merry fellow was never yet a respectable man. Indiscriminate familiarity either offends your superiors, or else dubbs you their dependent and led captain. It gives your inferiors just, but troublesome and improper claims of equality. A joker is near akin to a buffoon; and neither of them is the least related to wit. Whoever is admitted or sought for, in company, upon any other account than that of his merit and manners, is never respected there, but only made use of. We will have such-a-one, for he sings prettily; we will invite such-a-one to a ball, for he dances well; we will have such-a-one at supper, for he is always joking and laughing; we will ask another, because he plays deep at all games, or because he can drink a great deal. These are all vilifying distinctions, mortifying preferences, and exclude all ideas of esteem and regard. Whoever is HAD (as it is called) in company for the sake of any one thing singly, is singly that thing and will never be considered in any other light; consequently never respected, let his merits be what they will.
This dignity of manners, which I recommend so much to you, is not only as different from pride, as true courage is from blustering, or true wit from joking; but is absolutely inconsistent with it; for nothing vilifies and degrades more than pride. The pretensions of the proud man are oftener treated with sneer and contempt, than with indignation; as we offer ridiculously too little to a tradesman, who asks ridiculously too much for his goods; but we do not haggle with one who only asks a just and reasonable price.
Abject flattery and indiscriminate assentation degrade as much as indiscriminate contradiction and noisy debate disgust. But a modest assertion of one’s own opinion, and a complaisant acquiescence to other people’s, preserve dignity.
Vulgar, low expressions, awkward motions and address, vilify, as they imply either a very low turn of mind, or low education and low company.
Frivolous curiosity about trifles, and a laborious attention to little objects which neither require nor deserve a moment’s thought, lower a man; who from thence is thought (and not unjustly) incapable of greater matters. Cardinal de Retz, very sagaciously, marked out Cardinal Chigi for a little mind, from the moment that he told him he had wrote three years with the same pen, and that it was an excellent good one still.
A certain degree of exterior seriousness in looks and motions gives dignity, without excluding wit and decent cheerfulness, which are always serious themselves. A constant smirk upon the face, and a whifing activity of the body, are strong indications of futility. Whoever is in a hurry, shows that the thing he is about is too big for him. Haste and hurry are very different things.
I have only mentioned some of those things which may, and do, in the opinion of the world, lower and sink characters, in other respects valuable enough — but I have taken no notice of those that affect and sink the moral characters. They are sufficiently obvious. A man who has patiently been kicked may as well pretend to courage, as a man blasted by vices and crimes may to dignity of any kind. But an exterior decency and dignity of manners will even keep such a man longer from sinking, than otherwise he would be: of such consequence is the [ . . . ], even though affected and put on! Pray read frequently, and with the utmost attention, nay, get by heart, if you can, that incomparable chapter in Cicero’s “Offices,” upon the [ . . . ], or the Decorum. It contains whatever is necessary for the dignity of manners.
In my next I will send you a general map of courts; a region yet unexplored by you, but which you are one day to inhabit. The ways are generally crooked and full of turnings, sometimes strewed with flowers, sometimes choked up with briars; rotten ground and deep pits frequently lie concealed under a smooth and pleasing surface; all the paths are slippery, and every slip is dangerous. Sense and discretion must accompany you at your first setting out; but, notwithstanding those, till experience is your guide, you will every now and then step out of your way, or stumble.
Lady Chesterfield has just now received your German letter, for which she thanks you; she says the language is very correct; and I can plainly see that the character is well formed, not to say better than your English character. Continue to write German frequently, that it may become quite familiar to you. Adieu.
LONDON, August 21, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: By the last letter that I received from Mr. Harte, of the 31st July, N. S., I suppose you are now either at Venice or Verona, and perfectly re covered of your late illness: which I am daily more and more convinced had no consumptive tendency; however, for some time still, faites comme s’il y en avoit, be regular, and live pectorally.
You will soon be at courts, where, though you will not be concerned, yet reflection and observation upon what you see and hear there may be of use to you, when hereafter you may come to be concerned in courts yourself. Nothing in courts is exactly as it appears to be; often very different; sometimes directly contrary. Interest, which is the real spring of everything there, equally creates and dissolves friendship, produces and reconciles enmities: or, rather, allows of neither real friendships nor enmities; for, as Dryden very justly observes, POLITICIANS NEITHER LOVE NOR HATE. This is so true, that you may think you connect yourself with two friends today, and be obliged tomorrow to make your option between them as enemies; observe, therefore, such a degree of reserve with your friends as not to put yourself in their power, if they should become your enemies; and such a degree of moderation with your enemies, as not to make it impossible for them to become your friends.
Courts are, unquestionably, the seats of politeness and good-breeding; were they not so, they would be the seats of slaughter and desolation. Those who now smile upon and embrace, would affront and stab each other, if manners did not interpose; but ambition and avarice, the two prevailing passions at courts, found dissimulation more effectual than violence; and dissimulation introduced that habit of politeness, which distinguishes the courtier from the country gentleman. In the former case the strongest body would prevail; in the latter, the strongest mind.
A man of parts and efficiency need not flatter everybody at court; but he must take great care to offend nobody personally; it being in the power of every man to hurt him, who cannot serve him. Homer supposes a chain let down from Jupiter to the earth, to connect him with mortals. There is, at all courts, a chain which connects the prince or the minister with the page of the back stairs, or the chamber-maid. The king’s wife, or mistress, has an influence over him; a lover has an influence over her; the chambermaid, or the valet de chambre, has an influence over both, and so ad infinitum. You must, therefore, not break a link of that chain, by which you hope to climb up to the prince.
You must renounce courts if you will not connive at knaves, and tolerate fools. Their number makes them considerable. You should as little quarrel as connect yourself with either.
Whatever you say or do at court, you may depend upon it, will be known; the business of most of those, who crowd levees and antichambers, being to repeat all that they see or hear, and a great deal that they neither see nor hear, according as they are inclined to the persons concerned, or according to the wishes of those to whom they hope to make their court. Great caution is therefore necessary; and if, to great caution, you can join seeming frankness and openness, you will unite what Machiavel reckons very difficult but very necessary to be united; volto sciolto e pensieri stretti.
Women are very apt to be mingled in court intrigues; but they deserve attention better than confidence; to hold by them is a very precarious tenure.
I am agreeably interrupted in these reflections by a letter which I have this moment received from Baron Firmian. It contains your panegyric, and with the strongest protestations imaginable that he does you only justice. I received this favorable account of you with pleasure, and I communicate it to you with as much. While you deserve praise, it is reasonable you should know that you meet with it; and I make no doubt, but that it will encourage you in persevering to deserve it. This is one paragraph of the Baron’s letter: Ses moeurs dans un age si tendre, reglees selon toutes les loix d’une morale exacte et sensee; son application (that is what I like) a tout ce qui s’appelle etude serieuse, et Belles Lettres — “Notwithstanding his great youth, his manners are regulated by the most unexceptionable rules of sense and of morality. His application THAT IS WHAT I LIKE to every kind of serious study, as well as to polite literature, without even the least appearance of ostentatious pedantry, render him worthy of your most tender affection; and I have the honor of assuring you, that everyone cannot but be pleased with the acquisition of his acquaintance or of his friendship. I have profited of it, both here and at Vienna; and shall esteem myself very happy to make use of the permission he has given me of continuing it by letter.” Reputation, like health, is preserved and increased by the same means by which it is acquired. Continue to desire and deserve praise, and you will certainly find it. Knowledge, adorned by manners, will infallibly procure it. Consider, that you have but a little way further to get to your journey’s end; therefore, for God’s sake, do not slacken your pace; one year and a half more of sound application, Mr. Harte assures me, will finish this work; and when this work is finished well, your own will be very easily done afterward. Les Manieres et les Graces are no immaterial parts of that work; and I beg that you will give as much of your attention to them as to your books. Everything depends upon them; senza di noi ogni fatica e vana. The various companies you now go into will procure them you, if you will carefully observe, and form yourself upon those who have them.
Adieu! God bless you! and may you ever deserve that affection with which I am now, Yours.
LONDON, September 5, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I have received yours from Laubach, of the 17th of August, N. S., with the inclosed for Comte Lascaris; which I have given him, and with which he is extremely pleased, as I am with your account of Carniola. I am very glad that you attend to, and inform yourself of, the political objects of the country you go through. Trade and manufactures are very considerable, not to say the most important ones; for, though armies and navies are the shining marks of the strength of countries, they would be very ill paid, and consequently fight very ill, if manufactures and commerce did not support them. You have certainly observed in Germany the inefficiency of great powers, with great tracts of country and swarms of men; which are absolutely useless, if not paid by other powers who have the resources of manufactures and commerce. This we have lately experienced to be the case of the two empresses of Germany and Russia: England, France, and Spain, must pay their respective allies, or they may as well be without them.
I have not the least objection to your taking, into the bargain, the observation of natural curiosities; they are very welcome, provided they do not take up the room of better things. But the forms of government, the maxims of policy, the strength or weakness, the trade and commerce, of the several countries you see or hear of are the important objects, which I recommend to your most minute inquiries, and most serious attention. I thought that the republic of Venice had by this time laid aside that silly and frivolous piece of policy, of endeavoring to conceal their form of government; which anybody may know, pretty nearly, by taking the pains to read four or five books, which explain all the great parts of it; and as for some of the little wheels of that machine, the knowledge of them would be as little useful to others as dangerous to themselves. Their best policy (I can tell them) is to keep quiet, and to offend no one great power, by joining with another. Their escape, after the Ligue of Cambray, should prove a useful lesson to them.
I am glad you frequent the assemblies at Venice. Have you seen Monsieur and Madame Capello, and how did they receive you? Let me know who are the ladies whose houses you frequent the most. Have you seen the Comptesse d’Orselska, Princess of Holstein? Is Comte Algarotti, who was the TENANT there, at Venice?
You will, in many parts of Italy, meet with numbers of the Pretender’s people (English, Scotch, and Irish fugitives), especially at Rome; probably the Pretender himself. It is none of your business to declare war to these people, as little as it is your interest, or, I hope, your inclination, to connect yourself with them; and therefore I recommend to you a perfect neutrality. Avoid them as much as you can with decency and good manners; but when you cannot, avoid any political conversation or debates with them; tell them that you do not concern yourself with political matters: that you are neither maker nor a deposer of kings; that when you left England, you left a king in it, and have not since heard either of his death, or of any revolution that has happened; and that you take kings and kingdoms as you find them; but enter no further into matters with them, which can be of no use, and might bring on heats and quarrels. When you speak of the old Pretender, you will call him only the Chevalier de St. George; — but mention him as seldom as possible. Should he chance to speak to you at any assembly (as, I am told, he sometimes does to the English), be sure that you seem not to know him; and answer him civilly, but always either in French or in Italian; and give him, in the former, the appellation of Monsieur, and in the latter, of Signore. Should you meet with the Cardinal of York, you will be under no difficulty; for he has, as Cardinal, an undoubted right to Eminenza. Upon the whole, see any of those people as little as possible; when you do see them, be civil to them, upon the footing of strangers; but never be drawn into any altercations with them about the imaginary right of their king, as they call him.
It is to no sort of purpose to talk to those people of the natural rights of mankind, and the particular constitution of this country. Blinded by prejudices, soured by misfortunes, and tempted by their necessities, they are as incapable of reasoning rightly, as they have hitherto been of acting wisely. The late Lord Pembroke never would know anything that he had not a mind to know; and, in this case, I advise you to follow his example. Never know either the father or the two sons, any otherwise than as foreigners; and so, not knowing their pretensions, you have no occasion to dispute them.
I can never help recommending to you the utmost attention and care, to acquire les Manieres, la Tournure, et les Graces, d’un galant homme, et d’un homme de cour. They should appear in every look, in every action; in your address, and even in your dress, if you would either please or rise in the world. That you may do both (and both are in your power) is most ardently wished you, by Yours.
P. S. I made Comte Lascaris show me your letter, which I liked very well; the style was easy and natural, and the French pretty correct. There were so few faults in the orthography, that a little more observation of the best French authors would make you a correct master of that necessary language.
I will not conceal from you, that I have lately had extraordinary good accounts of you, from an unexpected and judicious person, who promises me that, with a little more of the world, your manners and address will equal your knowledge. This is the more pleasing to me, as those were the two articles of which I was the most doubtful. These commendations will not, I am persuaded, make you vain and coxcomical, but only encourage you to go on in the right way.
LONDON, September 12, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: It seems extraordinary, but it is very true, that my anxiety for you increases in proportion to the good accounts which I receive of you from all hands. I promise myself so much from you, that I dread the least disappointment. You are now so near the port, which I have so long wished and labored to bring you safe into, that my concern would be doubled, should you be shipwrecked within sight of it. The object, therefore, of this letter is (laying aside all the authority of a parent) to conjure you as a friend, by the affection you have for me (and surely you have reason to have some), and by the regard you have for yourself, to go on, with assiduity and attention, to complete that work which, of late, you have carried on so well, and which is now so near being finished. My wishes and my plan were to make you shine and distinguish yourself equally in the learned and the polite world. Few have been able to do it. Deep learning is generally tainted with pedantry, or at least unadorned by manners: as, on the other hand, polite manners and the turn of the world are too often unsupported by knowledge, and consequently end contemptibly, in the frivolous dissipation of drawing-rooms and ruelles. You are now got over the dry and difficult parts of learning; what remains requires much more time than trouble. You have lost time by your illness; you must regain it now or never. I therefore most earnestly desire, for your own sake, that for these next six months, at least six hours every morning, uninterruptedly, may be inviolably sacred to your studies with Mr. Harte. I do not know whether he will require so much; but I know that I do, and hope you will, and consequently prevail with him to give you that time; I own it is a good deal: but when both you and he consider that the work will be so much better, and so much sooner done, by such an assiduous and continued application, you will, neither of you, think it too much, and each will find his account in it. So much for the mornings, which from your own good sense, and Mr. Harte’s tenderness and care of you, will, I am sure, be thus well employed. It is not only reasonable, but useful too, that your evenings should be devoted to amusements and pleasures: and therefore I not only allow, but recommend, that they should be employed at assemblies, balls, SPECTACLES, and in the best companies; with this restriction only, that the consequences of the evening’s diversions may not break in upon the morning’s studies, by breakfastings, visits, and idle parties into the country. At your age, you need not be ashamed, when any of these morning parties are proposed, to say that you must beg to be excused, for you are obliged to devote your mornings to Mr. Harte; that I will have it so; and that you dare not do otherwise. Lay it all upon me; though I am persuaded it will be as much your own inclination as it is mine. But those frivolous, idle people, whose time hangs upon their own hands, and who desire to make others lose theirs too, are not to be reasoned with: and indeed it would be doing them too much honor. The shortest civil answers are the best; I CANNOT, I DARE NOT, instead of I WILL NOT; for if you were to enter with them into the necessity of study end the usefulness of knowledge, it would only furnish them with matter for silly jests; which, though I would not have you mind, I would not have you invite. I will suppose you at Rome studying six hours uninterruptedly with Mr. Harte, every morning, and passing your evenings with the best company of Rome, observing their manners and forming your own; and I will suppose a number of idle, sauntering, illiterate English, as there commonly is there, living entirely with one another, supping, drinking, and sitting up late at each other’s lodgings; commonly in riots and scrapes when drunk, and never in good company when sober. I will take one of these pretty fellows, and give you the dialogue between him and yourself; such as, I dare say, it will be on his side; and such as, I hope, it will be on yours:—
Englishman. Will you come and breakfast with me tomorrow? there will be four or five of our countrymen; we have provided chaises, and we will drive somewhere out of town after breakfast.
Stanhope. I am very sorry I cannot; but I am obliged to be at home all morning.
Englishman. Why, then, we will come and breakfast with you.
Stanhope. I can’t do that neither; I am engaged.
Englishman. Well, then, let it be the next day.
Stanhope. To tell you the truth, it can be no day in the morning; for I neither go out, nor see anybody at home before twelve.
Englishman. And what the devil do you do with yourself till twelve o’clock?
Stanhope. I am not by myself; I am with Mr. Harte.
Englishman. Then what the devil do you do with him?
Stanhope. We study different things; we read, we converse.
Englishman. Very pretty amusement indeed! Are you to take orders then?
Stanhope. Yes, my father’s orders, I believe I must take.
Englishman. Why hast thou no more spirit, than to mind an old fellow a thousand miles off?
Stanhope. If I don’t mind his orders he won’t mind my draughts.
Englishman. What, does the old prig threaten then? threatened folks live long; never mind threats.
Stanhope. No, I can’t say that he has ever threatened me in his life; but I believe I had best not provoke him.
Englishman. Pooh! you would have one angry letter from the old fellow, and there would be an end of it.
Stanhope. You mistake him mightily; he always does more than he says. He has never been angry with me yet, that I remember, in his life; but if I were to provoke him, I am sure he would never forgive me; he would be coolly immovable, and I might beg and pray, and write my heart out to no purpose.
Englishman. Why, then, he is an old dog, that’s all I can say; and pray are you to obey your dry-nurse too, this same, and what’s his name — Mr. Harte?
Englishman. So he stuffs you all morning with Greek, and Latin, and Logic, and all that. Egad I have a dry-nurse too, but I never looked into a book with him in my life; I have not so much as seen the face of him this week, and don’t care a louse if I never see it again.
Stanhope. My dry-nurse never desires anything of me that is not reasonable, and for my own good; and therefore I like to be with him.
Englishman. Very sententious and edifying, upon my word! at this rate you will be reckoned a very good young man.
Stanhope. Why, that will do me no harm.
Englishman. Will you be with us tomorrow in the evening, then? We shall be ten with you; and I have got some excellent good wine; and we’ll be very merry.
Stanhope. I am very much obliged to you, but I am engaged for all the evening, tomorrow; first at Cardinal Albani’s; and then to sup at the Venetian Ambassadress’s.
Englishman. How the devil can you like being always with these foreigners? I never go among them with all their formalities and ceremonies. I am never easy in company with them, and I don’t know why, but I am ashamed.
Stanhope. I am neither ashamed nor afraid; I am very, easy with them; they are very easy with me; I get the language, and I see their characters, by conversing with them; and that is what we are sent abroad for, is it not?
Englishman. I hate your modest women’s company; your women of fashion as they call ’em; I don’t know what to say to them, for my part.
Stanhope. Have you ever conversed with them?
Englishman. No; I never conversed with them; but have been sometimes in their company, though much against my will.
Stanhope. But at least they have done you no hurt; which is, probably, more than you can say of the women you do converse with.
Englishman. That’s true, I own; but for all that, I would rather keep company with my surgeon half the year, than with your women of fashion the year round.
Stanhope. Tastes are different, you know, and every man follows his own.
Englishman. That’s true; but thine’s a devilish odd one, Stanhope. All morning with thy dry-nurse; all the evening in formal fine company; and all day long afraid of Old Daddy in England. Thou art a queer fellow, and I am afraid there is nothing to be made of thee.
Stanhope. I am afraid so too.
Englishman. Well, then, good night to you; you have no objection, I hope, to my being drunk to-night, which I certainly will be.
Stanhope. Not in the least; nor to your being sick tomorrow, which you as certainly will be; and so good night, too.
You will observe, that I have not put into your mouth those good arguments which upon such an occasion would, I am sure, occur to you; as piety and affection toward me; regard and friendship for Mr. Harte; respect for your own moral character, and for all the relative duties of man, son, pupil, and citizen. Such solid arguments would be thrown away upon such shallow puppies. Leave them to their ignorance and to their dirty, disgraceful vices. They will severely feel the effects of them, when it will be too late. Without the comfortable refuge of learning, and with all the sickness and pains of a ruined stomach, and a rotten carcass, if they happen to arrive at old age, it is an uneasy and ignominious one. The ridicule which such fellows endeavor to throw upon those who are not like them, is, in the opinion of all men of sense, the most authentic panegyric. Go on, then, my dear child, in the way you are in, only for a year and a half more: that is all I ask of you. After that, I promise that you shall be your own master, and that I will pretend to no other title than that of your best and truest friend. You shall receive advice, but no orders, from me; and in truth you will want no other advice but such as youth and inexperience must necessarily require. You shall certainly want nothing that is requisite, not only for your conveniency, but also for your pleasures; which I always desire shall be gratified. You will suppose that I mean the pleasures d’un honnete homme.
While you are learning Italian, which I hope you do with diligence, pray take care to continue your German, which you may have frequent opportunities of speaking. I would also have you keep up your knowledge of the Jus Publicum Imperii, by looking over, now and then, those INESTIMABLE MANUSCRIPTS which Sir Charles Williams, who arrived here last week, assures me you have made upon that subject. It will be of very great use to you, when you come to be concerned in foreign affairs; as you shall be (if you qualify yourself for them) younger than ever any other was: I mean before you are twenty. Sir Charles tells me, that he will answer for your learning; and that, he believes, you will acquire that address, and those graces, which are so necessary to give it its full lustre and value. But he confesses, that he doubts more of the latter than of the former. The justice which he does Mr. Harte, in his panegyrics of him, makes me hope that there is likewise a great deal of truth in his encomiums of you. Are you pleased with, and proud of the reputation which you have already acquired? Surely you are, for I am sure I am. Will you do anything to lessen or forfeit it? Surely you will not. And will you not do all you can to extend and increase it? Surely you will. It is only going on for a year and a half longer, as you have gone on for the two years last past, and devoting half the day only to application; and you will be sure to make the earliest figure and fortune in the world, that ever man made. Adieu.
LONDON, September 22, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: If I had faith in philters and love potions, I should suspect that you had given Sir Charles Williams some, by the manner in which he speaks of you, not only to me, but to everybody else. I will not repeat to you what he says of the extent and correctness of your knowledge, as it might either make you vain, or persuade you that you had already enough of what nobody can have too much. You will easily imagine how many questions I asked, and how narrowly I sifted him upon your subject; he answered me, and I dare say with truth, just as I could have wished; till satisfied entirely with his accounts of your character and learning, I inquired into other matters, intrinsically indeed of less consequence, but still of great consequence to every man, and of more to you than to almost any man: I mean, your address, manners, and air. To these questions, the same truth which he had observed before, obliged him to give me much less satisfactory answers. And as he thought himself, in friendship both to you and me, obliged to tell me the disagreeable as well as the agreeable truths, upon the same principle I think myself obliged to repeat them to you.
He told me then, that in company you were frequently most PROVOKINGLY inattentive, absent; and distrait; that you came into a room, and presented yourself, very awkwardly; that at table you constantly threw down knives, forks, napkins, bread, etc., and that you neglected your person and dress, to a degree unpardonable at any age, and much more so at yours.
These things, howsoever immaterial they may seem to people who do not know the world, and the nature of mankind, give me, who know them to be exceedingly material, very great concern. I have long distrusted you, and therefore frequently admonished you, upon these articles; and I tell you plainly, that I shall not be easy till I hear a very different account of them. I know no one thing more offensive to a company than that inattention and DISTRACTION. It is showing them the utmost contempt; and people never forgive contempt. No man is distrait with the man he fears, or the woman he loves; which is a proof that every man can get the better of that DISTRACTION, when he thinks it worth his while to do so; and, take my word for it, it is always worth his while. For my own part, I would rather be in company with a dead man, than with an absent one; for if the dead man gives me no pleasure; at least he shows me no contempt; whereas, the absent man, silently indeed, but very plainly, tells me that he does not think me worth his attention. Besides, can an absent man make any observations upon the characters customs, and manners of the company? No. He may be in the best companies all his lifetime (if they will admit him, which, if I were they, I would not) and never be one jot the wiser. I never will converse with an absent man; one may as well talk to a deaf one. It is, in truth, a practical blunder, to address ourselves to a man who we see plainly neither hears, minds, or understands us. Moreover, I aver that no man is, in any degree, fit for either business or conversation, who cannot and does not direct and command his attention to the present object, be that what it will. You know, by experience, that I grudge no expense in your education, but I will positively not keep you a Flapper. You may read, in Dr. Swift, the description of these flappers, and the use they were of to your friends the Laputans; whose minds (Gulliver says) are so taken up with intense speculations, that they neither can speak nor attend to the discourses of others, without being roused by some external traction upon the organs of speech and hearing; for which reason, those people who are able to afford it, always keep a flapper in their family, as one of their domestics; nor ever walk about, or make visits without him. This flapper is likewise employed diligently to attend his master in his walks; and, upon occasion, to give a soft flap upon his eyes, because he is always so wrapped up in cogitation, that he is in manifest danger of falling down every precipice, and bouncing his head against every post, and, in the streets, of jostling others, or being jostled into the kennel himself. If CHRISTIAN will undertake this province into the bargain, with all my heart; but I will not allow him any increase of wages upon that score. In short, I give you fair warning, that, when we meet, if you are absent in mind, I will soon be absent in body; for it will be impossible for me to stay in the room; and if at table you throw down your knife, plate, bread, etc., and hack the wing of a chicken for half an hour, without being able to cut it off, and your sleeve all the time in another dish, I must rise from the table to escape the fever you would certainly give me. Good God! how I should be shocked, if you came into my room, for the first time, with two left legs, presenting yourself with all the graces and dignity of a tailor, and your clothes hanging upon you, like those in Monmouth street, upon tenter-hooks! whereas, I expect, nay, require, to see you present yourself with the easy and genteel air of a man of fashion, who has kept good company. I expect you not only well dressed but very well dressed; I expect a gracefulness in all your motions, and something particularly engaging in your address, All this I expect, and all this it is in your power, by care and attention, to make me find; but to tell you the plain truth, if I do not find it, we shall not converse very much together; for I cannot stand inattention and awkwardness; it would endanger my health. You have often seen, and I have as often made you observe L——’s distinguished inattention and awkwardness. Wrapped up, like a Laputan, in intense thought, and possibly sometimes in no thought at all (which, I believe, is very often the case with absent people), he does not know his most intimate acquaintance by sight, or answers them as if he were at cross purposes. He leaves his hat in one room, his sword in another, and would leave his shoes in a third, if his buckles, though awry, did not save them: his legs and arms, by his awkward management of them, seem to have undergone the question extraordinaire; and his head, always hanging upon one or other of his shoulders, seems to have received the first stroke upon a block. I sincerely value and esteem him for his parts, learning, and virtue; but, for the soul of me, I cannot love him in company. This will be universally the case, in common life, of every inattentive, awkward man, let his real merit and knowledge be ever so great. When I was of your age, I desired to shine, as far as I was able, in every part of life; and was as attentive to my manners, my dress, and my air, in company of evenings, as to my books and my tutor in the mornings. A young fellow should be ambitious to shine in everything — and, of the two, always rather overdo than underdo. These things are by no means trifles: they are of infinite consequence to those who are to be thrown into the great world, and who would make a figure or a fortune in it. It is not sufficient to deserve well; one must please well too. Awkward, disagreeable merit will never carry anybody far. Wherever you find a good dancing-master, pray let him put you upon your haunches; not so much for the sake of dancing, as for coming into a room, and presenting yourself genteelly and gracefully. Women, whom you ought to endeavor to please, cannot forgive vulgar and awkward air and gestures; il leur faut du brillant. The generality of men are pretty like them, and are equally taken by the same exterior graces.
I am very glad that you have received the diamond buckles safe; all I desire in return for them is, that they may be buckled even upon your feet, and that your stockings may not hide them. I should be sorry that you were an egregious fop; but, I protest, that of the two, I would rather have you a fop than a sloven. I think negligence in my own dress, even at my age, when certainly I expect no advantages from my dress, would be indecent with regard to others. I have done with fine clothes; but I will have my plain clothes fit me, and made like other people’s: In the evenings, I recommend to you the company of women of fashion, who have a right to attention and will be paid it. Their company will smooth your manners, and give you a habit of attention and respect, of which you will find the advantage among men.
My plan for you, from the beginning, has been to make you shine equally in the learned and in the polite world; the former part is almost completed to my wishes, and will, I am persuaded, in a little time more, be quite so. The latter part is still in your power to complete; and I flatter myself that you will do it, or else the former part will avail you very little; especially in your department, where the exterior address and graces do half the business; they must be the harbingers of your merit, or your merit will be very coldly received; all can, and do judge of the former, few of the latter.
Mr. Harte tells me that you have grown very much since your illness; if you get up to five feet ten, or even nine inches, your figure will probably be a good one; and if well dressed and genteel, will probably please; which is a much greater advantage to a man than people commonly think. Lord Bacon calls it a letter of recommendation.
I would wish you to be the omnis homo, l’homme universel. You are nearer it, if you please, than ever anybody was at your age; and if you will but, for the course of this next year only, exert your whole attention to your studies in the morning, and to your address, manners, air and tournure in the evenings, you will be the man I wish you, and the man that is rarely seen.
Our letters go, at best, so irregularly, and so often miscarry totally, that for greater security I repeat the same things. So, though I acknowledged by last post Mr. Harte’s letter of the 8th September, N. S., I acknowledge it again by this to you. If this should find you still at Verona, let it inform you that I wish you would set out soon for Naples; unless Mr. Harte should think it better for you to stay at Verona, or any other place on this side Rome, till you go there for the Jubilee. Nay, if he likes it better, I am very willing that you should go directly from Verona to Rome; for you cannot have too much of Rome, whether upon account of the language, the curiosities, or the company. My only reason for mentioning Naples, is for the sake of the climate, upon account of your health; but if Mr. Harte thinks that your health is now so well restored as to be above climate, he may steer your course wherever he thinks proper: and, for aught I know, your going directly to Rome, and consequently staying there so much the longer, may be as well as anything else. I think you and I cannot put our affairs in better hands than in Mr. Harte’s; and I will stake his infallibility against the Pope’s, with some odds on his side. Apropos of the Pope: remember to be presented to him before you leave Rome, and go through the necessary ceremonies for it, whether of kissing his slipper or his b — h; for I would never deprive myself of anything that I wanted to do or see, by refusing to comply with an established custom. When I was in Catholic countries, I never declined kneeling in their churches at the elevation, nor elsewhere, when the Host went by. It is a complaisance due to the custom of the place, and by no means, as some silly people have imagined, an implied approbation of their doctrine. Bodily attitudes and situations are things so very indifferent in themselves, that I would quarrel with nobody about them. It may, indeed, be improper for Mr. Harte to pay that tribute of complaisance, upon account of his character.
This letter is a very long, and possibly a very tedious one; but my anxiety for your perfection is so great, and particularly at this critical and decisive period of your life, that I am only afraid of omitting, but never of repeating, or dwelling too long upon anything that I think may be of the least use to you. Have the same anxiety for yourself, that I have for you, and all will do well. Adieu! my dear child.
LONDON, September 27, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: A vulgar, ordinary way of thinking, acting, or speaking, implies a low education, and a habit of low company. Young people contract it at school, or among servants, with whom they are too often used to converse; but after they frequent good company, they must want attention and observation very much, if they do not lay it quite aside; and, indeed, if they do not, good company will be very apt to lay them aside. The various kinds of vulgarisms are infinite; I cannot pretend to point them out to you; but I will give some samples, by which you may guess at the rest.
A vulgar man is captious and jealous; eager and impetuous about trifles. He suspects himself to be slighted, thinks everything that is said meant at him: if the company happens to laugh, he is persuaded they laugh at him; he grows angry and testy, says something very impertinent, and draws himself into a scrape, by showing what he calls a proper spirit, and asserting himself. A man of fashion does not suppose himself to be either the sole or principal object of the thoughts, looks, or words of the company; and never suspects that he is either slighted or laughed at, unless he is conscious that he deserves it. And if (which very seldom happens) the company is absurd or ill-bred enough to do either, he does not care twopence, unless the insult be so gross and plain as to require satisfaction of another kind. As he is above trifles, he is never vehement and eager about them; and, wherever they are concerned, rather acquiesces than wrangles. A vulgar man’s conversation always savors strongly of the lowness of his education and company. It turns chiefly upon his domestic affairs, his servants, the excellent order he keeps in his own family, and the little anecdotes of the neighborhood; all which he relates with emphasis, as interesting matters. He is a man gossip.
Vulgarism in language is the next and distinguishing characteristic of bad company and a bad education. A man of fashion avoids nothing with more care than that. Proverbial expressions and trite sayings are the flowers of the rhetoric of a vulgar man. Would he say that men differ in their tastes; he both supports and adorns that opinion by the good old saying, as he respectfully calls it, that WHAT IS ONE MAN’S MEAT, IS ANOTHER MAN’S POISON. If anybody attempts being SMART, as he calls it, upon him, he gives them TIT FOR TAT, aye, that he does. He has always some favorite word for the time being; which, for the sake of using often, he commonly abuses. Such as VASTLY angry, VASTLY kind, VASTLY handsome, and VASTLY ugly. Even his pronunciation of proper words carries the mark of the beast along with it. He calls the earth YEARTH; he is OBLEIGED, not OBLIGED to you. He goes TO WARDS, and not TOWARDS, such a place. He sometimes affects hard words, by way of ornament, which he always mangles like a learned woman. A man of fashion never has recourse to proverbs and vulgar aphorisms; uses neither favorite words nor hard words; but takes great care to speak very correctly and grammatically, and to pronounce properly; that is, according to the usage of the best companies.
An awkward address, ungraceful attitudes and actions, and a certain left-handedness (if I may use that word), loudly proclaim low education and low company; for it is impossible to suppose that a man can have frequented good company, without having catched something, at least, of their air and motions. A new raised man is distinguished in a regiment by his awkwardness; but he must be impenetrably dull, if, in a month or two’s time, he cannot perform at least the common manual exercise, and look like a soldier. The very accoutrements of a man of fashion are grievous encumbrances to a vulgar man. He is at a loss what to do with his hat, when it is not upon his head; his cane (if unfortunately he wears one) is at perpetual war with every cup of tea or coffee he drinks; destroys them first, and then accompanies them in their fall. His sword is formidable only to his own legs, which would possibly carry him fast enough out of the way of any sword but his own. His clothes fit him so ill, and constrain him so much, that he seems rather, their prisoner than their proprietor. He presents himself in company like a criminal in a court of justice; his very air condemns him; and people of fashion will no more connect themselves with the one, than people of character will with the other. This repulse drives and sinks him into low company; a gulf from whence no man, after a certain age, ever emerged.
Les manieres nobles et aisees, la tournure d’un homme de condition, le ton de la bonne compagnie, les graces, le jeune sais quoi, qui plait, are as necessary to adorn and introduce your intrinsic merit and knowledge, as the polish is to the diamond; which, without that polish, would never be worn, whatever it might weigh. Do not imagine that these accomplishments are only useful with women; they are much more so with men. In a public assembly, what an advantage has a graceful speaker, with genteel motions, a handsome figure, and a liberal air, over one who shall speak full as much good sense, but destitute of these ornaments? In business, how prevalent are the graces, how detrimental is the want of them? By the help of these I have known some men refuse favors less offensively than others granted them. The utility of them in courts and negotiations is inconceivable. You gain the hearts, and consequently the secrets, of nine in ten, that you have to do with, in spite even of their prudence; which will, nine times in ten, be the dupe of their hearts and of their senses. Consider the importance of these things as they deserve, and you will not lose one minute in the pursuit of them.
You are traveling now in a country once so famous both for arts and arms, that (however degenerate at present) it still deserves your attention and reflection. View it therefore with care, compare its former with its present state, and examine into the causes of its rise and its decay. Consider it classically and politically, and do not run through it, as too many of your young countrymen do, musically, and (to use a ridiculous word) KNICK-KNACKICALLY. No piping nor fiddling, I beseech you; no days lost in poring upon almost imperceptible intaglios and cameos: and do not become a virtuoso of small wares. Form a taste of painting, sculpture, and architecture, if you please, by a careful examination of the works of the best ancient and modern artists; those are liberal arts, and a real taste and knowledge of them become a man of fashion very well. But, beyond certain bounds, the man of taste ends, and the frivolous virtuoso begins.
Your friend Mendes, the good Samaritan, dined with me yesterday. He has more good-nature and generosity than parts. However, I will show him all the civilities that his kindness to you so justly deserves. He tells me that you are taller than I am, which I am very glad of: I desire that you may excel me in everything else too; and, far from repining, I shall rejoice at your superiority. He commends your friend Mr. Stevens extremely; of whom too I have heard so good a character from other people, that I am very glad of your connection with him. It may prove of use to you hereafter. When you meet with such sort of Englishmen abroad, who, either from their parts or their rank, are likely to make a figure at home, I would advise you to cultivate them, and get their favorable testimony of you here, especially those who are to return to England before you. Sir Charles Williams has puffed you (as the mob call it) here extremely. If three or four more people of parts do the same, before you come back, your first appearance in London will be to great advantage. Many people do, and indeed ought, to take things upon trust; many more do, who need not; and few dare dissent from an established opinion. Adieu!
LONDON, October 2, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I received by the last post your letter of the 22d September, N. S., but I have not received that from Mr. Harte to which you refer, and which you say contained your reasons for leaving Verona, and returning to Venice; so that I am entirely ignorant of them. Indeed the irregularity and negligence of the post provoke me, as they break the thread of the accounts I want to receive from you, and of the instructions and orders which I send you, almost every post. Of these last twenty posts.
I am sure that I have wrote eighteen, either to you or to Mr. Harte, and it does not appear by your letter, that all or even any of my letters have been received. I desire for the future, that both you and Mr. Harte will constantly, in your letters, mention the dates of mine. Had it not been for their miscarriage, you would not have, been in the uncertainty you seem to be in at present, with regard to your future motions. Had you received my letters, you would have been by this time at Naples: but we must now take things where they are.
Upon the receipt, then, of this letter, you will as soon as conveniently you can, set out for Rome; where you will not arrive too long before the jubilee, considering the difficulties of getting lodgings, and other accommodations there at this time. I leave the choice of the route to you; but I do by no means intend that you should leave Rome after the jubilee, as you seem to hint in your letter: on the contrary, I will have Rome your headquarters for six months at least; till you shall have, in a manner, acquired the Jus Civitatis there. More things are to be seen and learned there, than in any other town in Europe; there are the best masters to instruct, and the best companies to polish you. In the spring you may make (if you please) frequent excursions to Naples; but Rome must still be your headquarters, till the heats of June drive you from thence to some other place in Italy, which we shall think of by that time. As to the expense which you mention, I do not regard it in the least; from your infancy to this day, I never grudged any expense in your education, and still less do it now, that it is become more important and decisive: I attend to the objects of your expenses, but not to the sums. I will certainly not pay one shilling for your losing your nose, your money, or your reason; that is, I will not contribute to women, gaming, and drinking. But I will most cheerfully supply, not only every necessary, but every decent expense you can make. I do not care what the best masters cost. I would have you as well dressed, lodged, and attended, as any reasonable man of fashion is in his travels. I would have you have that pocket-money that should enable you to make the proper expense d’un honnete homme. In short, I bar no expense, that has neither vice nor folly for its object; and under those two reasonable restrictions, draw, and welcome.
As for Turin, you may go there hereafter, as a traveler, for a month or two; but you cannot conveniently reside there as an academician, for reasons which I have formerly communicated to Mr. Harte, and which Mr. Villettes, since his return here, has shown me in a still stronger light than he had done by his letters from Turin, of which I sent copies to Mr. Harte, though probably he never received them.
After you have left Rome, Florence is one of the places with which you should be thoroughly acquainted. I know that there is a great deal of gaming there; but, at the same time, there are in every place some people whose fortunes are either too small, or whose understandings are too good to allow them to play for anything above trifles; and with those people you will associate yourself, if you have not (as I am assured you have not, in the least) the spirit of gaming in you. Moreover, at suspected places, such as Florence, Turin, and Paris, I shall be more attentive to your draughts, and such as exceed a proper and handsome expense will not be answered; for I can easily know whether you game or not without being told.
Mr. Harte will determine your route to Rome as he shall think best; whether along the coast of the Adriatic, or that of the Mediterranean, it is equal to me; but you will observe to come back a different way from that you went.
Since your health is so well restored, I am not sorry that you have returned to Venice, for I love capitals. Everything is best at capitals; the best masters, the best companions, and the best manners. Many other places are worth seeing, but capitals only are worth residing at. I am very glad that Madame Capello received you so well. Monsieur I was sure would: pray assure them both of my respects, and of my sensibility of their kindness to you. Their house will be a very good one for you at Rome; and I would advise you to be domestic in it if you can. But Madame, I can tell you, requires great attentions. Madame Micheli has written a very favorable account of you to my friend the Abbe Grossa Testa, in a letter which he showed me, and in which there are so many civil things to myself, that I would wish to tell her how much I think myself obliged to her. I approve very much of the allotment of your time at Venice; pray go on so for a twelvemonth at least, wherever you are. You will find your own account in it.
I like your last letter, which gives me an account of yourself, and your own transactions; for though I do not recommend the EGOTISM to you, with regard to anybody else, I desire that you will use it with me, and with me only. I interest myself in all that you do; and as yet (excepting Mr. Harte) nobody else does. He must of course know all, and I desire to know a great deal.
I am glad you have received, and that you like the diamond buckles. I am very willing that you should make, but very unwilling that you should CUT a figure with them at the jubilee; the CUTTING A FIGURE being the very lowest vulgarism in the English language; and equal in elegancy to Yes, my Lady, and No, my Lady. The word VAST and VASTLY, you will have found by my former letter that I had proscribed out of the diction of a gentleman, unless in their proper signification of sizes and BULK. Not only in language, but in everything else, take great care that the first impressions you give of yourself may be not only favorable, but pleasing, engaging, nay, seducing. They are often decisive; I confess they are a good deal so with me: and I cannot wish for further acquaintance with a man whose first abord and address displease me.
So many of my letters have miscarried, and I know so little which, that I am forced to repeat the same thing over and over again eventually. This is one. I have wrote twice to Mr. Harte, to have your picture drawn in miniature, while you were at Venice; and send it me in a letter: it is all one to me whether in enamel or in watercolors, provided it is but very like you. I would have you drawn exactly as you are, and in no whimsical dress: and I lay more stress upon the likeness of the picture, than upon the taste and skill of the painter. If this be not already done, I desire that you will have it done forthwith before you leave Venice; and inclose it in a letter to me, which letter, for greater security, I would have you desire Sir James Gray to inclose in his packet to the office; as I, for the same, reason, send this under his cover. If the picture be done upon vellum, it will be the most portable. Send me, at the same time, a thread of silk of your own length exactly. I am solicitous about your figure; convinced, by a thousand instances, that a good one is a real advantage. Mens sana in corpore sano, is the first and greatest blessing. I would add et pulchro, to complete it. May you have that and every other! Adieu.
Have you received my letters of recommendation to Cardinal Albani and the Duke de Nivernois, at Rome?
LONDON, October 9, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: If this letter finds you at all, of which I am very doubtful, it will find you at Venice, preparing for your journey to Rome; which, by my last letter to Mr. Harte, I advised you to make along the coast of the Adriatic, through Rimini, Loretto, Ancona, etc., places that are all worth seeing; but not worth staying at. And such I reckon all places where the eyes only are employed. Remains of antiquity, public buildings, paintings, sculptures, etc., ought to be seen, and that with a proper degree of attention; but this is soon done, for they are only outsides. It is not so with more important objects; the insides of which must be seen; and they require and deserve much more attention. The characters, the heads, and the, hearts of men, are the useful science of which I would have you perfect master. That science is best taught and best learned in capitals, where every human passion has its object, and exerts all its force or all its art in the pursuit. I believe there is no place in the world, where every passion is busier, appears in more shapes, and is conducted with more art, than at Rome. Therefore, when you are there, do not imagine that the Capitol, the Vatican, and the Pantheon, are the principal objects of your curiosity. But for one minute that you bestow upon those, employ ten days in informing yourself of the nature of that government, the rise and decay of the papal power, the politics of that court, the Brigues of the cardinals, the tricks of the Conclaves; and, in general, everything that relates to the interior of that extraordinary government, founded originally upon the ignorance and superstition of mankind, extended by the weakness of some princes, and the ambition of others; declining of late in proportion as knowledge has increased; and owing its present precarious security, not to the religion, the affection, or the fear of the temporal powers, but to the jealousy of each other. The Pope’s excommunications are no longer dreaded; his indulgences little solicited, and sell very cheap; and his territories formidable to no power, are coveted by many, and will, most undoubtedly, within a century, be scantled out among the great powers, who have now a footing in Italy, whenever they can agree upon the division of the bear’s skin. Pray inform yourself thoroughly of the history of the popes and the popedom; which, for many centuries, is interwoven with the history of all Europe. Read the best authors who treat of these matters, and especially Fra Paolo, De Beneficiis, a short, but very material book. You will find at Rome some of all the religious orders in the Christian world. Inform yourself carefully of their origin, their founders, their rules, their reforms, and even their dresses: get acquainted with some of all of them, but particularly with the Jesuits; whose society I look upon to be the most able and best governed society in the world. Get acquainted, if you can, with their General, who always resides at Rome; and who, though he has no seeming power out of his own society, has (it may be) more real influence over the whole world, than any temporal prince in it. They have almost engrossed the education of youth; they are, in general, confessors to most of the princes of Europe; and they are the principal missionaries out of it; which three articles give them a most extensive influence and solid advantages; witness their settlement in Paraguay. The Catholics in general declaim against that society; and yet are all governed by individuals of it. They have, by turns, been banished, and with infamy, almost every country in Europe; and have always found means to be restored, even with triumph. In short, I know no government in the world that is carried on upon such deep principles of policy, I will not add morality. Converse with them, frequent them, court them; but know them.
Inform yourself, too, of that infernal court, the Inquisition; which, though not so considerable at Rome as in Spain and Portugal, will, however, be a good sample to you of what the villainy of some men can contrive, the folly of others receive, and both together establish, in spite of the first natural principles of reason, justice, and equity.
These are the proper and useful objects of the attention of a man of sense, when he travels; and these are the objects for which I have sent you abroad; and I hope you will return thoroughly informed of them.
I receive this very moment Mr. Harte’s letter of the 1st October, N. S., but I never received his former, to which he refers in this, and you refer in your last; in which he gave me the reasons for your leaving Verona so soon; nor have I ever received that letter in which your case was stated by your physicians. Letters to and from me have worse luck than other people’s; for you have written to me, and I to you, for these last three months, by way of Germany, with as little success as before.
I am edified with your morning applications, and your evening gallantries at Venice, of which Mr. Harte gives me an account. Pray go on with both there, and afterward at Rome; where, provided you arrive in the beginning of December, you may stay at Venice as much longer as you please.
Make my compliments to Sir James Gray and Mr. Smith, with my acknowledgments for the great civilities they show you.
I wrote to Mr. Harte by the last post, October the 6th, O. S., and will write to him in a post or two upon the contents of his last. Adieu! Point de distractions; and remember the GRACES.
LONDON, October 17, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: I have at last received Mr. Harte’s letter of the 19th September, N. S., from Verona. Your reasons for leaving that place were very good ones; and as you stayed there long enough to see what was to be seen, Venice (as a capital) is, in my opinion, a much better place for your residence. Capitals are always the seats of arts and sciences, and the best companies. I have stuck to them all my lifetime, and I advise you to do so too.
You will have received in my three or four last letters my directions for your further motions to another capital, where I propose that your stay shall be pretty considerable. The expense, I am well aware, will be so too; but that, as I told you before, will have no weight when your improvement and advantage are in the other scale. I do not care a groat what it is, if neither vice nor folly are the objects of it, and if Mr. Harte gives his sanction.
I am very well pleased with your account of Carniola; those are the kind of objects worthy of your inquiries and knowledge. The produce, the taxes, the trade, the manufactures, the strength, the weakness, the government of the several countries which a man of sense travels through, are the material points to which he attends; and leaves the steeples, the market-places, and the signs, to the laborious and curious researches of Dutch and German travelers.
Mr. Harte tells me, that he intends to give you, by means of Signor Vicentini, a general notion of civil and military architecture; with which I am very well pleased. They are frequent subjects of conversation; and it is very right that you should have some idea of the latter, and a good taste of the former; and you may very soon learn as much as you need know of either. If you read about one-third of Palladio’s book of architecture with some skillful person, and then, with that person, examine the best buildings by those rules, you will know the different proportions of the different orders; the several diameters of their columns; their intercolumniations, their several uses, etc. The Corinthian Order is chiefly used in magnificent buildings, where ornament and decoration are the principal objects; the Doric is calculated for strength, and the Ionic partakes of the Doric strength, and of the Corinthian ornaments. The Composite and the Tuscan orders are more modern, and were unknown to the Greeks; the one is too light, the other too clumsy. You may soon be acquainted with the considerable parts of civil architecture; and for the minute and mechanical parts of it, leave them to masons, bricklayers, and Lord Burlington, who has, to a certain extent, lessened himself by knowing them too well. Observe the same method as to military architecture; understand the terms, know the general rules, and then see them in execution with some skillful person. Go with some engineer or old officer, and view with care the real fortifications of some strong place; and you will get a clearer idea of bastions, half-moons, horn-works, ravelins, glacis, etc., than all the masters in the world could give you upon paper. And thus much I would, by all means, have you know of both civil and military architecture.
I would also have you acquire a liberal taste of the two liberal arts of painting and sculpture; but without descending into those minutia, which our modern virtuosi most affectedly dwell upon. Observe the great parts attentively; see if nature be truly represented; if the passions are strongly expressed; if the characters are preserved; and leave the trifling parts, with their little jargon, to affected puppies. I would advise you also, to read the history of the painters and sculptors, and I know none better than Felibien’s. There are many in Italian; you will inform yourself which are the best. It is a part of history very entertaining, curious enough, and not quite useless. All these sort of things I would have you know, to a certain degree; but remember, that they must only be the amusements, and not the business of a man of parts.
Since writing to me in German would take up so much of your time, of which I would not now have one moment wasted, I will accept of your composition, and content myself with a moderate German letter once a fortnight, to Lady Chesterfield or Mr. Gravenkop. My meaning was only that you should not forget what you had already learned of the German language and character; but, on the contrary, that by frequent use it should grow more easy and familiar. Provided you take care of that, I do not care by what means: but I do desire that you will every day of your life speak German to somebody or other (for you will meet with Germans enough), and write a line or two of it every day to keep your hand in. Why should you not (for instance) write your little memorandums and accounts in that language and character? by which, too, you would have this advantage into the bargain, that, if mislaid, few but yourself could read them.
I am extremely glad to hear that you like the assemblies at Venice well enough to sacrifice some suppers to them; for I hear that you do not dislike your suppers neither. It is therefore plain, that there is somebody or something at those assemblies, which you like better than your meat. And as I know that there is none but good company at those assemblies, I am very glad to find that you like good company so well. I already imagine that you are a little, smoothed by it; and that you have either reasoned yourself, or that they have laughed you out of your absences and DISTRACTIONS; for I cannot suppose that you go there to insult them. I likewise imagine, that you wish to be welcome where you wish to go; and consequently, that you both present and behave yourself there en galant homme, et pas in bourgeois.
If you have vowed to anybody there one of those eternal passions which I have sometimes known, by great accident, last three months, I can tell you that without great attention, infinite politeness, and engaging air and manners, the omens will be sinister, and the goddess unpropitious. Pray tell me what are the amusements of those assemblies? Are they little commercial play, are they music, are they la belle conversation, or are they all three? Y file-t-on le parfait amour? Y debite-t-on les beaux sentimens? Ou est-ce yu’on y parle Epigramme? And pray which is your department? Tutis depone in auribus. Whichever it is, endeavor to shine and excel in it. Aim at least at the perfection of everything that is worth doing at all; and you will come nearer it than you would imagine; but those always crawl infinitely short of it whose aim is only mediocrity. Adieu.
P. S. By an uncommon diligence of the post, I have this moment received yours of the 9th, N. S.
LONDON, October 24, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: By my last I only acknowledged, by this I answer, your letter of the 9th October, N. S.
I am very glad that you approved of my letter of September the 12th, O. S., because it is upon that footing that I always propose living with you. I will advise you seriously, as a friend of some experience, and I will converse with you cheerfully as a companion; the authority of a parent shall forever be laid aside; for, wherever it is exerted, it is useless; since, if you have neither sense nor sentiments enough to follow my advice as a friend, your unwilling obedience to my orders as a father will be a very awkward and unavailing one both to yourself and me. Tacitus, speaking of an army that awkwardly and unwillingly obeyed its generals only from the fear of punishment, says, they obeyed indeed, Sed ut qua mallent jussa Imperatorum interpretari, quam exequi. For my own part, I disclaim such obedience.
You think, I find, that you do not understand Italian; but I can tell you, that, like the Bourgeois Gentilhomme, who spoke prose without knowing it, you understand a great deal, though you do not know that you do; for whoever understands French and Latin so well as you do, understands at least half the Italian language, and has very little occasion for a dictionary. And for the idioms, the phrases, and the delicacies of it, conversation and a little attention will teach them you, and that soon; therefore, pray speak it in company, right or wrong, a tort ou a travers, as soon as ever you have got words enough to ask a common question, or give a common answer. If you can only say buon giorno, say it, instead of saying bon jour, I mean to every Italian; the answer to it will teach you more words, and insensibly you will be very soon master of that easy language. You are quite right in not neglecting your German for it, and in thinking that it will be of more use to you; it certainly will, in the course of your business; but Italian has its use too, and is an ornament into the bargain; there being many very polite and good authors in that language. The reason you assign for having hitherto met with none of my swarms of Germans in Italy, is a very solid one; and I can easily conceive, that the expense necessary for a traveler must amount to a number of thalers, groschen, and kreutzers, tremendous to a German fortune. However, you will find several at Rome, either ecclesiastics, or in the suite of the Imperial Minister; and more, when you come into the Milanese, among the Queen of Hungary’s officers. Besides, you have a Saxon servant, to whom I hope you speak nothing but German.
I have had the most obliging letter in the world from Monsieur Capello, in which he speaks very advantageously of you, and promises you his protection at Rome. I have wrote him an answer by which I hope I have domesticated you at his hotel there; which I advise you to frequent as much as you can. Il est vrai qui’il ne paie pas beaucaup de sa figure; but he has sense and knowledge at bottom, with a great experience of business, having been already Ambassador at Madrid, Vienna, and London. And I am very sure that he will be willing to give you any informations, in that way, that he can.
Madame was a capricious, whimsical, fine lady, till the smallpox, which she got here, by lessening her beauty, lessened her humors too; but, as I presume it did not change her sex, I trust to that for her having such a share of them left, as may contribute to smooth and polish you. She, doubtless, still thinks that she has beauty enough remaining to entitle her to the attentions always paid to beauty; and she has certainly rank enough to require respect. Those are the sort of women who polish a young man the most, and who give him that habit of complaisance, and that flexibility and versatility of manners which prove of great use to him with men, and in the course of business.
You must always expect to hear, more or less, from me, upon that important subject of manners, graces, address, and that undefinable je ne sais quoi that ever pleases. I have reason to believe that you want nothing else; but I have reason to fear too, that you want those: and that want will keep you poor in the midst of all the plenty of knowledge which you may have treasured up. Adieu.
LONDON, November 3, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: From the time that you have had life, it has been the principle and favorite object of mine, to make you as perfect as the imperfections of human nature will allow: in this view, I have grudged no pains nor expense in your education; convinced that education, more than nature, is the cause of that great difference which you see in the characters of men. While you were a child, I endeavored to form your heart habitually to virtue and honor, before your understanding was capable of showing you their beauty and utility. Those principles, which you then got, like your grammar rules, only by rote, are now, I am persuaded, fixed and confirmed by reason. And indeed they are so plain and clear, that they require but a very moderate degree of understanding, either to comprehend or practice them. Lord Shaftesbury says, very prettily, that he would be virtuous for his own sake, though nobody were to know it; as he would be clean for his own sake, though nobody were to see him. I have therefore, since you have had the use of your reason, never written to you upon those subjects: they speak best for themselves; and I should now just as soon think of warning you gravely not to fall into the dirt or the fire, as into dishonor or vice. This view of mine, I consider as fully attained. My next object was sound and useful learning. My own care first, Mr. Harte’s afterward, and OF LATE (I will own it to your praise) your own application, have more than answered my expectations in that particular; and, I have reason to believe, will answer even my wishes. All that remains for me then to wish, to recommend, to inculcate, to order, and to insist upon, is good-breeding; without which, all your other qualifications will be lame, unadorned, and to a certain degree unavailing. And here I fear, and have too much reason to believe, that you are greatly deficient. The remainder of this letter, therefore, shall be (and it will not be the last by a great many) upon that subject.
A friend of yours and mine has very justly defined good-breeding to be, THE RESULT OF MUCH GOOD SENSE, SOME GOOD NATURE, AND A LITTLE SELF-DENIAL FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS, AND WITH A VIEW TO OBTAIN THE SAME INDULGENCE FROM THEM. Taking this for granted (as I think it cannot be disputed), it is astonishing to me that anybody who has good sense and good nature (and I believe you have both), can essentially fail in good-breeding. As to the modes of it, indeed, they vary according to persons, and places, and circumstances; and are only to be acquired by observation and experience: but the substance of it is everywhere and eternally the same. Good manners are, to particular societies, what good morals are to society in general; their cement and their security. And, as laws are enacted to enforce good morals, or at least to prevent the ill effects of bad ones; so there are certain rules of civility, universally implied and received, to enforce good manners and punish bad ones. And, indeed, there seems to me to be less difference, both between the crimes and between the punishments than at first one would imagine. The immoral man, who invades another man’s property, is justly hanged for it; and the ill-bred man, who, by his ill-manners, invades and disturbs the quiet and comforts of private life, is by common consent as justly banished society. Mutual complaisances, attentions, and sacrifices of little conveniences, are as natural an implied compact between civilized people, as protection and obedience are between kings and subjects; whoever, in either case, violates that compact, justly forfeits all advantages arising from it. For my own part, I really think, that next to the consciousness of doing a good action, that of doing a civil one is the most pleasing; and the epithet which I should covet the most, next to that of Aristides, would be that of well-bred. Thus much for good-breeding in general; I will now consider some of the various modes and degrees of it.
Very few, scarcely any, are wanting in the respect which they should show to those whom they acknowledge to be infinitely their superiors; such as crowned heads, princes, and public persons of distinguished and eminent posts. It is the manner of showing that respect which is different. The man of fashion and of the world, expresses it in its fullest extent; but naturally, easily, and without concern: whereas a man, who is not used to keep good company, expresses it awkwardly; one sees that he is not used to it, and that it costs him a great deal: but I never saw the worst-bred man living guilty of lolling, whistling, scratching his head, and such-like indecencies, in company that he respected. In such companies, therefore, the only point to be attended to is to show that respect, which everybody means to show, in an easy, unembarrassed, and graceful manner. This is what observation and experience must teach you.
In mixed companies, whoever is admitted to make part of them, is, for the time at least, supposed to be upon a footing of equality with the rest: and consequently, as there is no one principal object of awe and respect, people are apt to take a greater latitude in their behavior, and to be less upon their guard; and so they may, provided it be within certain bounds, which are upon no occasion to be transgressed. But, upon these occasions, though no one is entitled to distinguished marks of respect, everyone claims, and very justly, every mark of civility and good-breeding. Ease is allowed, but carelessness and negligence are strictly forbidden. If a man accosts you, and talks to you ever so dully or frivolously, it is worse than rudeness, it is brutality, to show him, by a manifest inattention to what he says, that you think him a fool or a blockhead, and not worth hearing. It is much more so with regard to women; who, of whatever rank they are, are entitled, in consideration of their sex, not only to an attentive, but an officious good-breeding from men. Their little wants, likings, dislikes, preferences, antipathies, fancies, whims, and even impertinencies, must be officiously attended to, flattered, and, if possible, guessed at and anticipated by a well-bred man. You must never usurp to yourself those conveniences and agremens which are of common right; such as the best places, the best dishes, etc., but on the contrary, always decline them yourself, and offer them to others; who, in their turns, will offer them to you; so that, upon the whole, you will in your turn enjoy your share of the common right. It would be endless for me to enumerate all the particular instances in which a well-bred man shows his good-breeding in good company; and it would be injurious to you to suppose that your own good sense will not point them out to you; and then your own good-nature will recommend, and your self-interest enforce the practice.
There is a third sort of good-breeding, in which people are the most apt to fail, from a very mistaken notion that they cannot fail at all. I mean with regard to one’s most familiar friends and acquaintances, or those who really are our inferiors; and there, undoubtedly, a greater degree of ease is not only allowed, but proper, and contributes much to the comforts of a private, social life. But that ease and freedom have their bounds too, which must by no means be violated. A certain degree of negligence and carelessness becomes injurious and insulting, from the real or supposed inferiority of the persons: and that delightful liberty of conversation among a few friends is soon destroyed, as liberty often has been, by being carried to licentiousness. But example explains things best, and I will put a pretty strong case. Suppose you and me alone together; I believe you will allow that I have as good a right to unlimited freedom in your company, as either you or I can possibly have in any other; and I am apt to believe too, that you would indulge me in that freedom as far as anybody would. But, notwithstanding this, do you imagine that I should think there were no bounds to that freedom? I assure you, I should not think so; and I take myself to be as much tied down by a certain degree of good manners to you, as by other degrees of them to other people. Were I to show you, by a manifest inattention to what you said to me, that I was thinking of something else the whole time; were I to yawn extremely, snore, or break wind in your company, I should think that I behaved myself to you like a beast, and should not expect that you would care to frequent me. No. The most familiar and intimate habitudes, connections, and friendships, require a degree of good-breeding, both to preserve and cement them. If ever a man and his wife, or a man and his mistress, who pass nights as well as days together, absolutely lay aside all good-breeding, their intimacy will soon degenerate into a coarse familiarity, infallibly productive of contempt or disgust. The best of us have our bad sides, and it is as imprudent, as it is ill-bred, to exhibit them. I shall certainly not use ceremony with you; it would be misplaced between us: but I shall certainly observe that degree of good-breeding with you, which is, in the first place, decent, and which I am sure is absolutely necessary to make us like one another’s company long.
I will say no more, now, upon this important subject of good-breeding, upon which I have already dwelt too long, it may be, for one letter; and upon which I shall frequently refresh your memory hereafter; but I will conclude with these axioms:
That the deepest learning, without good-breeding, is unwelcome and tiresome pedantry, and of use nowhere but in a man’s own closet; and consequently of little or no use at all.
That a man, Who is not perfectly well-bred, is unfit for good company and unwelcome in it; will consequently dislike it soon, afterward renounce it; and be reduced to solitude, or, what is worse, low and bad company.
That a man who is not well-bred, is full as unfit for business as for company.
Make then, my dear child, I conjure you, good-breeding the great object of your thoughts and actions, at least half the day. Observe carefully the behavior and manners of those who are distinguished by their good-breeding; imitate, nay, endeavor to excel, that you may at least reach them; and be convinced that good-breeding is, to all worldly qualifications, what charity is to all Christian virtues. Observe how it adorns merit, and how often it covers the want of it. May you wear it to adorn, and not to cover you! Adieu.
LONDON, November 14, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: There is a natural good-breeding which occurs to every man of common sense, and is practiced by every man, of common good-nature. This good-breeding is general, independent of modes, and consists in endeavors to please and oblige our fellow-creatures by all good offices, short of moral duties. This will be practiced by a good-natured American savage, as essentially as by the best-bred European. But then, I do not take it to extend to the sacrifice of our own conveniences, for the sake of other people’s. Utility introduced this sort of good-breeding as it introduced commerce; and established a truck of the little agremens and pleasures of life. I sacrifice such a conveniency to you, you sacrifice another to me; this commerce circulates, and every individual finds his account in it upon the whole. The third sort of good-breeding is local, and is variously modified, in not only different countries, but in different towns of the same country. But it must be founded upon the two former sorts; they are the matter to which, in this case, fashion and custom only give the different shapes and impressions. Whoever has the two first sorts will easily acquire this third sort of good-breeding, which depends singly upon attention and observation. It is, properly, the polish, the lustre, the last finishing stroke of good-breeding. It is to be found only in capitals, and even there it varies; the good-breeding of Rome differing, in some things, from that of Paris; that of Paris, in others, from that of Madrid; and that of Madrid, in many things, from that of London. A man of sense, therefore, carefully attends to the local manners of the respective places where he is, and takes for his models those persons whom he observes to be at the head of fashion and good-breeding. He watches how they address themselves to their superiors, how they accost their equals, and how they treat their inferiors; and lets none of those little niceties escape him which are to good-breeding what the last delicate and masterly touches are to a good picture; and of which the vulgar have no notion, but by which good judges distinguish the master. He attends even to their air, dress, and motions, and imitates them, liberally, and not servilely; he copies, but does not mimic. These personal graces are of very great consequence. They anticipate the sentiments, before merit can engage the understanding; they captivate the heart, and give rise, I believe, to the extravagant notions of charms and philters. Their effects were so surprising, that they were reckoned supernatural. The most graceful and best-bred men, and the handsomest and genteelest women, give the most philters; and, as I verily believe, without the least assistance of the devil. Pray be not only well dressed, but shining in your dress; let it have du brillant. I do not mean by a clumsy load of gold and silver, but by the taste and fashion of it. The women like and require it; they think it an attention due to them; but, on the other hand, if your motions and carriage are not graceful, genteel, and natural, your fine clothes will only display your awkwardness the more. But I am unwilling to suppose you still awkward; for surely, by this time, you must have catched a good air in good company. When you went from hence you were naturally awkward; but your awkwardness was adventitious and Westmonasterial. Leipsig, I apprehend, is not the seat of the Graces; and I presume you acquired none there. But now, if you will be pleased to observe what people of the first fashion do with their legs and arms, heads and bodies, you will reduce yours to certain decent laws of motion. You danced pretty well here, and ought to dance very well before you come home; for what one is obliged to do sometimes, one ought to be able to do well. Besides, la belle danse donne du brillant a un jeune homme. And you should endeavor to shine. A calm serenity, negative merit and graces, do not become your age. You should be alerte, adroit, vif; be wanted, talked of, impatiently expected, and unwillingly parted with in company. I should be glad to hear half a dozen women of fashion say, Ou est donc le petit Stanhope? due ne vient-il? Il faut avouer qu’il est aimable. All this I do not mean singly with regard to women as the principal object; but, with regard to men, and with a view of your making yourself considerable. For with very small variations, the same things that please women please men; and a man whose manners are softened and polished by women of fashion, and who is formed by them to an habitual attention and complaisance, will please, engage, and connect men, much easier and more than he would otherwise. You must be sensible that you cannot rise in the world, without forming connections, and engaging different characters to conspire in your point. You must make them your dependents without their knowing it, and dictate to them while you seem to be directed by them. Those necessary connections can never be formed, or preserved, but by an uninterrupted series of complaisance, attentions, politeness, and some constraint. You must engage their hearts, if you would have their support; you must watch the mollia tempora, and captivate them by the agremens and charms of conversation. People will not be called out to your service, only when you want them; and, if you expect to receive strength from them, they must receive either pleasure or advantage from you.
I received in this instant a letter from Mr. Harte, of the 2d N. S., which I will answer soon; in the meantime, I return him my thanks for it, through you. The constant good accounts which he gives me of you, will make me suspect him of partiality, and think him le medecin tant mieux. Consider, therefore, what weight any future deposition of his against you must necessarily have with me. As, in that case, he will be a very unwilling, he must consequently be a very important witness. Adieu!
DEAR Boy: My last was upon the subject of good-breeding; but I think it rather set before you the unfitness and disadvantages of ill-breeding, than the utility and necessity of good; it was rather negative than positive. This, therefore, should go further, and explain to you the necessity, which you, of all people living, lie under, not only of being positively and actively well-bred, but of shining and distinguishing yourself by your good-breeding. Consider your own situation in every particular, and judge whether it is not essentially your interest, by your own good-breeding to others, to secure theirs to you and that, let me assure you, is the only way of doing it; for people will repay, and with interest too, inattention with inattention, neglect with neglect, and ill manners with worse: which may engage you in very disagreeable affairs. In the next place, your profession requires, more than any other, the nicest and most distinguished good-breeding. You will negotiate with very little success, if you do not previously, by your manners, conciliate and engage the affections of those with whom you are to negotiate. Can you ever get into the confidence and the secrets of the courts where you may happen to reside, if you have not those pleasing, insinuating manners, which alone can procure them? Upon my word, I do not say too much, when I say that superior good-breeding, insinuating manners, and genteel address, are half your business. Your knowledge will have but very little influence upon the mind, if your manners prejudice the heart against you; but, on the other hand, how easily will you DUPE the understanding, where you have first engaged the heart? and hearts are by no means to be gained by that mere common civility which everybody practices. Bowing again to those who bow to you, answering dryly those who speak to you, and saying nothing offensive to anybody, is such negative good-breeding that it is only not being a brute; as it would be but a very poor commendation of any man’s cleanliness to say that he did not stink. It is an active, cheerful, officious, seducing, good-breeding that must gain you the good-will and first sentiments of men, and the affections of the women. You must carefully watch and attend to their passions, their tastes, their little humors and weaknesses, and aller au devant. You must do it at the same time with alacrity and empressement, and not as if you graciously condescended to humor their weaknesses.
For instance, suppose you invited anybody to dine or sup with you, you ought to recollect if you had observed that they had any favorite dish, and take care to provide it for them; and when it came you should say, You SEEMED TO ME, AT SUCH AND SUCH A PLACE, TO GIVE THIS DISH A PREFERENCE, AND THEREFORE I ORDERED IT; THIS IS THE WINE THAT I OBSERVED YOU LIKED, AND THEREFORE I PROCURED SOME. The more trifling these things are, the more they prove your attention for the person, and are consequently the more engaging. Consult your own breast, and recollect how these little attentions, when shown you by others, flatter that degree of self-love and vanity from which no man living is free. Reflect how they incline and attract you to that person, and how you are propitiated afterward to all which that person says or does. The same causes will have the same effects in your favor. Women, in a great degree, establish or destroy every man’s reputation of good-breeding; you must, therefore, in a manner, overwhelm them with these attentions: they are used to them, they expect them, and, to do them justice, they commonly requite them. You must be sedulous, and rather over officious than under, in procuring them their coaches, their chairs, their conveniences in public places: not see what you should not see; and rather assist, where you cannot help seeing. Opportunities of showing these attentions present themselves perpetually; but if they do not, make them. As Ovid advises his lover, when he sits in the Circus near his mistress, to wipe the dust off her neck, even if there be none: Si nullus, tamen excute nullum. Your conversation with women should always be respectful; but, at the same time, enjoue, and always addressed to their vanity. Everything you say or do should convince them of the regard you have (whether you have it or not) for their beauty, their wit, or their merit. Men have possibly as much vanity as women, though of another kind; and both art and good-breeding require, that, instead of mortifying, you should please and flatter it, by words and looks of approbation. Suppose (which is by no means improbable) that, at your return to England, I should place you near the person of some one of the royal family; in that situation, good-breeding, engaging address, adorned with all the graces that dwell at courts, would very probably make you a favorite, and, from a favorite, a minister; but all the knowledge and learning in the world, without them, never would. The penetration of princes seldom goes deeper than the surface.
It is the exterior that always engages their hearts; and I would never advise you to give yourself much trouble about their understanding. Princes in general (I mean those Porphyrogenets who are born and bred in purple) are about the pitch of women; bred up like them, and are to be addressed and gained in the same manner. They always see, they seldom weigh. Your lustre, not your solidity, must take them; your inside will afterward support and secure what your outside has acquired. With weak people (and they undoubtedly are three parts in four of mankind) good-breeding, address, and manners are everything; they can go no deeper; but let me assure you that they are a great deal even with people of the best understandings. Where the eyes are not pleased, and the heart is not flattered, the mind will be apt to stand out. Be this right or wrong, I confess I am so made myself. Awkwardness and ill-breeding shock me to that degree, that where I meet with them, I cannot find in my heart to inquire into the intrinsic merit of that person — I hastily decide in myself that he can have none; and am not sure that I should not even be sorry to know that he had any. I often paint you in my imagination, in your present lontananza, and, while I view you in the light of ancient and modern learning, useful and ornamental knowledge, I am charmed with the prospect; but when I view you in another light, and represent you awkward, ungraceful, ill-bred, with vulgar air and manners, shambling toward me with inattention and DISTRACTIONS, I shall not pretend to describe to you what I feel; but will do as a skillful painter did formerly — draw a veil before the countenance of the father.
I dare say you know already enough of architecture, to know that the Tuscan is the strongest and most solid of all the orders; but at the same time, it is the coarsest and clumsiest of them. Its solidity does extremely well for the foundation and base floor of a great edifice; but if the whole building be Tuscan, it will attract no eyes, it will stop no passengers, it will invite no interior examination; people will take it for granted that the finishing and furnishing cannot be worth seeing, where the front is so unadorned and clumsy. But if, upon the solid Tuscan foundation, the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian orders rise gradually with all their beauty, proportions, and ornaments, the fabric seizes the most incurious eye, and stops the most careless passenger; who solicits admission as a favor, nay, often purchases it. Just so will it fare with your, tittle fabric, which, at present, I fear, has more of the Tuscan than of the Corinthian order. You must absolutely change the whole front, or nobody will knock at the door. The several parts, which must compose this new front, are elegant, easy, natural, superior good-breeding; an engaging address; genteel motions; an insinuating softness in your looks, words, and actions; a spruce, lively air, fashionable dress; and all the glitter that a young fellow should have.
I am sure you would do a great deal for my sake; and therefore consider at your return here, what a disappointment and concern it would be to me, if I could not safely depute you to do the honors of my house and table; and if I should be ashamed to present you to those who frequent both. Should you be awkward, inattentive, and distrait, and happen to meet Mr. L—— at my table, the consequences of that meeting must be fatal; you would run your heads against each other, cut each other’s fingers, instead of your meat, or die by the precipitate infusion of scalding soup.
This is really so copious a subject, that there is no end of being either serious or ludicrous upon it. It is impossible, too, to enumerate or state to you the various cases in good-breeding; they are infinite; there is no situation or relation in the world so remote or so intimate, that does not require a degree of it. Your own good sense must point it out to you; your own good-nature must incline, and your interest prompt you to practice it; and observation and experience must give you the manner, the air and the graces which complete the whole.
This letter will hardly overtake you, till you are at or near Rome. I expect a great deal in every way from your six months’ stay there. My morning hopes are justly placed in Mr. Harte, and the masters he will give you; my evening ones, in the Roman ladies: pray be attentive to both. But I must hint to you, that the Roman ladies are not les femmes savantes, et ne vous embrasseront point pour Pamour du Grec. They must have ilgarbato, il leggiadro, it disinvolto, il lusinghiero, quel non so che, che piace, che alletta, che incanta.
I have often asserted, that the profoundest learning and the politest manners were by no means incompatible, though so seldom found united in the same person; and I have engaged myself to exhibit you, as a proof of the truth of this assertion. Should you, instead of that, happen to disprove me, the concern indeed would be mine, but the loss will be yours. Lord Bolingbroke is a strong instance on my side of the question; he joins to the deepest erudition, the most elegant politeness and good-breeding that ever any courtier and man of the world was adorned with. And Pope very justly called him “All-accomplished St. John,” with regard to his knowledge and his manners. He had, it is true, his faults; which proceeded from unbounded ambition, and impetuous passions; but they have now subsided by age and experience; and I can wish you nothing better than to be, what he is now, without being what he has been formerly. His address pre-engages, his eloquence persuades, and his knowledge informs all who approach him. Upon the whole, I do desire, and insist, that from after dinner till you go to bed, you make good-breeding, address, and manners, your serious object and your only care. Without them, you will be nobody; with them, you may be anything.
Adieu, my dear child! My compliments to Mr. Harte.
LONDON, November 24, O. S. 1749.
DEAR Boy: Every rational being (I take it for granted) proposes to himself some object more important than mere respiration and obscure animal existence. He desires to distinguish himself among his fellow-creatures; and, alicui negotio intentus, prreclari facinoris, aut artis bonae, faman quaerit. Caesar, when embarking in a storm, said, that it was not necessary he should live; but that it was absolutely necessary he should get to the place to which he was going. And Pliny leaves mankind this only alternative; either of doing what deserves to be written, or of writing what deserves to be read. As for those who do neither, eorum vitam mortemque juxta aestumo; quoniam de utraque siletur. You have, I am convinced, one or both of these objects in view; but you must know and use the necessary means, or your pursuit will be vain and frivolous. In either case, Sapere est princihium et fons; but it is by no means all. That knowledge must be adorned, it must have lustre as well as weight, or it will be oftener taken, for lead than for gold. Knowledge you have, and will have: I am easy upon that article. But my business, as your friend, is not to compliment you upon what you have, but to tell you with freedom what you want; and I must tell you plainly, that I fear you want everything but knowledge.
I have written to you so often, of late, upon good-breeding, address, les manieres liantes, the Graces, etc., that I shall confine this letter to another subject, pretty near akin to them, and which, I am sure, you are full as deficient in; I mean Style.
Style is the dress of thoughts; and let them be ever so just, if your style is homely, coarse, and vulgar, they will appear to as much disadvantage, and be as ill received as your person, though ever so well proportioned, would, if dressed in rags, dirt, and tatters. It is not every understanding that can judge of matter; but every ear can and does judge, more or less, of style: and were I either to speak or write to the public, I should prefer moderate matter, adorned with all the beauties and elegancies of style, to the strongest matter in the world, ill-worded and ill-delivered. Your business is negotiation abroad, and oratory in the House of Commons at home. What figure can you make, in either case, if your style be inelegant, I do not say bad? Imagine yourself writing an office-letter to a secretary of state, which letter is to be read by the whole Cabinet Council, and very possibly afterward laid before parliament; any one barbarism, solecism, or vulgarism in it, would, in a very few days, circulate through the whole kingdom, to your disgrace and ridicule. For instance, I will suppose you had written the following letter from The Hague to the Secretary of State at London; and leave you to suppose the consequences of it:
MY LORD: I HAD, last night, the honor of your Lordship’s letter of the 24th; and will SET ABOUT DOING the orders contained THEREIN; and IF so BE that I can get that affair done by the next post, I will not fail FOR TO give your Lordship an account of it by NEXT POST. I have told the French Minister, AS HOW THAT IF that affair be not soon concluded, your Lordship would think it ALL LONG OF HIM; and that he must have neglected FOR TO have wrote to his court about it. I must beg leave to put your Lordship in mind AS HOW, that I am now full three quarter in arrear; and if SO BE that I do not very soon receive at least one half year, I shall CUT A VERY BAD FIGURE; FOR THIS HERE place is very dear. I shall be VASTLY BEHOLDEN to your Lordship for THAT THERE mark of your favor; and so I REST or REMAIN, Your, etc.
You will tell me, possibly, that this is a caricatura of an illiberal and inelegant style: I will admit it; but assure you, at the same time, that a dispatch with less than half these faults would blow you up forever. It is by no means sufficient to be free from faults, in speaking and writing; but you must do both correctly and elegantly. In faults of this kind, it is not ille optimus qui minimis arguetur; but he is unpardonable who has any at all, because it is his own fault: he need only attend to, observe, and imitate the best authors.
It is a very true saying, that a man must be born a poet, but that he may make himself an orator; and the very first principle of an orator is to speak his own language, particularly, with the utmost purity and elegance. A man will be forgiven even great errors in a foreign language; but in his own, even the least slips are justly laid hold of and ridiculed.
A person of the House of Commons, speaking two years ago upon naval affairs; asserted, that we had then the finest navy UPON THE FACE OF THE YEARTH. This happy mixture of blunder and vulgarism, you may easily imagine, was matter of immediate ridicule; but I can assure you that it continues so still, and will be remembered as long as he lives and speaks. Another, speaking in defense of a gentleman, upon whom a censure was moved, happily said that he thought that gentleman was more LIABLE to be thanked and rewarded, than censured. You know, I presume, that LIABLE can never be used in a good sense.
You have with you three or four of the best English authors, Dryden, Atterbury, and Swift; read them with the utmost care, and with a particular view to their language, and they may possibly correct that CURIOUS INFELICITY OF DICTION, which you acquired at Westminster. Mr. Harte excepted, I will admit that you have met with very few English abroad, who could improve your style; and with many, I dare say, who speak as ill as yourself, and, it may be, worse; you must, therefore, take the more pains, and consult your authors and Mr. Harte the more. I need not tell you how attentive the Romans and Greeks, particularly the Athenians, were to this object. It is also a study among the Italians and the French; witness their respective academies and dictionaries for improving and fixing their languages. To our shame be it spoken, it is less attended to here than in any polite country; but that is no reason why you should not attend to it; on the contrary, it will distinguish you the more. Cicero says, very truly, that it is glorious to excel other men in that very article, in which men excel brutes; SPEECH.
Constant experience has shown me, that great purity and elegance of style, with a graceful elocution, cover a multitude of faults, in either a speaker or a writer. For my own part, I confess (and I believe most people are of my mind) that if a speaker should ungracefully mutter or stammer out to me the sense of an angel, deformed by barbarism and solecisms, or larded with vulgarisms, he should never speak to me a second time, if I could help it. Gain the heart, or you gain nothing; the eyes and the ears are the only roads to the heart. Merit and knowledge will not gain hearts, though they will secure them when gained. Pray, have that truth ever in your mind. Engage the eyes by your address, air, and motions; soothe the ears by the elegance and harmony of your diction; the heart will certainly follow; and the whole man, or woman, will as certainly follow the heart. I must repeat it to you, over and over again, that with all the knowledge which you may have at present, or hereafter acquire, and with all merit that ever man had, if you have not a graceful address, liberal and engaging manners, a prepossessing air, and a good degree of eloquence in speaking and writing; you will be nobody; but will have the daily mortification of seeing people, with not one-tenth part of your merit or knowledge, get the start of you, and disgrace you, both in company and in business.
You have read “Quintilian,” the best book in the world to form an orator; pray read Cicero de Oratore, the best book in the world to finish one. Translate and retranslate from and to Latin, Greek, and English; make yourself a pure and elegant English style: it requires nothing but application. I do not find that God has made you a poet; and I am very glad that he has not: therefore, for God’s sake, make yourself an orator, which you may do. Though I still call you boy, I consider you no longer as such; and when I reflect upon the prodigious quantity of manure that has been laid upon you, I expect that you should produce more at eighteen, than uncultivated soils do at eight-and-twenty.
Pray tell Mr. Harte that I have received his letter of the 13th, N. S. Mr. Smith was much in the right not to let you go, at this time of the year, by sea; in the summer you may navigate as much as you please; as, for example, from Leghorn to Genoa, etc. Adieu.
LONDON, November 27, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: While the Roman Republic flourished, while glory was pursued, and virtue practiced, and while even little irregularities and indecencies, not cognizable by law, were, however, not thought below the public care, censors were established, discretionally to supply, in particular cases, the inevitable defects of the law, which must and can only be general. This employment I assume to myself with regard to your little republic, leaving the legislative power entirely to Mr. Harte; I hope, and believe, that he will seldom, or rather never, have occasion to exert his supreme authority; and I do by no means suspect you of any faults that may require that interposition. But, to tell you the plain truth, I am of opinion that my censorial power will not be useless to you, nor a sinecure to me. The sooner you make it both, the better for us both. I can now exercise this employment only upon hearsay, or, at most, written evidence; and therefore shall exercise it with great lenity and some diffidence; but when we meet, and that I can form my judgment upon ocular and auricular evidence, I shall no more let the least impropriety, indecorum, or irregularity pass uncensured, than my predecessor Cato did. I shall read you with the attention of a critic, not with the partiality of an author: different in this respect, indeed, from most critics, that I shall seek for faults only to correct and not to expose them. I have often thought, and still think, that there are few things which people in general know less, than how to love and how to hate. They hurt those they love by a mistaken indulgence, by a blindness, nay, often by a partiality to their faults. Where they hate they hurt themselves, by ill-timed passion and rage. Fortunately for you, I never loved you in that mistaken manner. From your infancy, I made you the object of my most serious attention, and not my plaything. I consulted your real good, not your humors or fancies; and I shall continue to do so while you want it, which will probably be the case during our joint lives; for, considering the difference of our ages, in the course of nature, you will hardly have acquired experience enough of your own, while I shall be in condition of lending you any of mine. People in general will much better bear being, told of their vices or crimes, than of their little failings and weaknesses. They, in some degree, justify or excuse (as they think) the former, by strong passions, seductions, and artifices of others, but to be told of, or to confess, their little failings and weaknesses, implies an inferiority of parts, too mortifying to that self-love and vanity, which are inseparable from our natures. I have been intimate enough with several people to tell them that they had said or done a very criminal thing; but I never was intimate enough with any man, to tell him, very seriously, that he had said or done a very foolish one. Nothing less than the relation between you and me can possibly authorize that freedom; but fortunately for you, my parental rights, joined to my censorial powers, give it me in its fullest extent, and my concern for you will make me exert it. Rejoice, therefore, that there is one person in the world who can and will tell you what will be very useful to you to know, and yet what no other man living could or would tell you. Whatever I shall tell you of this kind, you are very sure, can have no other motive than your interest; I can neither be jealous nor envious of your reputation or fortune, which I must be both desirous and proud to establish and promote; I cannot be your rival either in love or in business; on the contrary, I want the rays of your rising to reflect new lustre upon my setting light. In order to this, I shall analyze you minutely, and censure you freely, that you may not (if possible) have one single spot, when in your meridian.
There is nothing that a young fellow, at his first appearance in the world, has more reason to dread, and consequently should take more pains to avoid, than having any ridicule fixed upon him. It degrades him with the most reasonable part of mankind; but it ruins him with the rest; and I have known many a man undone by acquiring a ridiculous nickname: I would not, for all the riches in the world, that you should acquire one when you return to England. Vices and crimes excite hatred and reproach; failings, weaknesses, and awkwardnesses, excite ridicule; they are laid hold of by mimics, who, though very contemptible wretches themselves, often, by their buffoonery, fix ridicule upon their betters. The little defects in manners, elocution, address, and air (and even of figure, though very unjustly), are the objects of ridicule, and the causes of nicknames. You cannot imagine the grief it would give me, and the prejudice it would do you, if, by way of distinguishing you from others of your name, you should happen to be called Muttering Stanhope, Absent Stanhope, Ill-bred Stanhope, or Awkward, Left-legged Stanhope: therefore, take great care to put it out of the power of Ridicule itself to give you any of these ridiculous epithets; for, if you get one, it will stick to you, like the envenomed shirt. The very first day that I see you, I shall be able to tell you, and certainly shall tell you, what degree of danger you are in; and I hope that my admonitions, as censor, may prevent the censures of the public. Admonitions are always useful; is this one or not? You are the best judge; it is your own picture which I send you, drawn, at my request, by a lady at Venice: pray let me know how far, in your conscience, you think it like; for there are some parts of it which I wish may, and others, which I should be sorry were. I send you, literally, the copy of that part of her letter, to her friend here, which relates to you.<./p>
In compliance to your orders, I have examined young Stanhope carefully, and think I have penetrated into his character. This is his portrait, which I take to be a faithful one. His face is pleasing, his countenance sensible, and his look clever. His figure is at present rather too square; but if he shoots up, which he has matter and years for, he will then be of a good size. He has, undoubtedly, a great fund of acquired knowledge; I am assured that he is master of the learned languages. As for French, I know he speaks it perfectly, and, I am told, German as well. The questions he asks are judicious; and denote a thirst after knowledge. I cannot say that he appears equally desirous of pleasing, for he seems to neglect attentions and the graces. He does not come into a room well, nor has he that easy, noble carriage, which would be proper for him. It is true, he is as yet young and inexperienced; one may therefore reasonably hope that his exercises, which he has not yet gone through, and good company, in which he is still a novice, will polish, and give all that is wanting to complete him. What seems necessary for that purpose, would, be an attachment to some woman of fashion, and who knows the world. Some Madame de l’Ursay would be the proper person. In short, I can assure you, that he has everything which Lord Chesterfield can wish him, excepting that carriage, those graces, and the style used in the best company; which he will certainly acquire in time, and by frequenting the polite world. If he should not, it would be great pity, since he so well deserves to possess them. You know their importance. My Lord, his father, knows it too, he being master of them all. To conclude, if little Stanhope acquires the graces, I promise you he will make his way; if not, he will be stopped in a course, the goal of which he might attain with honor.
Tell Mr. Harte that I have this moment received his letter of the 22d, N. S., and that I approve extremely of the long stay you have made at Venice. I love long residences at capitals; running post through different places is a most unprofitable way of traveling, and admits of no application. Adieu.
You see, by this extract, of what consequence other people think these things. Therefore, I hope you will no longer look upon them as trifles. It is the character of an able man to despise little things in great business: but then he knows what things are little, and what not. He does not suppose things are little, because they are commonly called so: but by the consequences that may or may not attend them. If gaining people’s affections, and interesting their hearts in your favor, be of consequence, as it undoubtedly is, he knows very well that a happy concurrence of all those, commonly called little things, manners, air, address, graces, etc., is of the utmost consequence, and will never be at rest till he has acquired them. The world is taken by the outside of things, and we must take the world as it is; you nor I cannot set it right. I know, at this time, a man of great quality and station, who has not the parts of a porter; but raised himself to the station he is in, singly by having a graceful figure, polite manners, and an engaging address; which, by the way, he only acquired by habit; for he had not sense enough to get them by reflection. Parts and habit should conspire to complete you. You will have the habit of good company, and you have reflection in your power.
LONDON, December 5, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: Those who suppose that men in general act rationally, because they are called rational creatures, know very little of the world, and if they act themselves upon that supposition, will nine times in ten find themselves grossly mistaken. That man is, animal bipes, implume, risibile, I entirely agree; but for the rationale, I can only allow it him in actu primo (to talk logic) and seldom in actu secundo. Thus, the speculative, cloistered pedant, in his solitary cell, forms systems of things as they should be, not as they are; and writes as decisively and absurdly upon war, politics, manners, and characters, as that pedant talked, who was so kind as to instruct Hannibal in the art of war. Such closet politicians never fail to assign the deepest motives for the most trifling actions; instead of often ascribing the greatest actions to the most trifling causes, in which they would be much seldomer mistaken. They read and write of kings, heroes, and statesmen, as never doing anything but upon the deepest principles of sound policy. But those who see and observe kings, heroes, and statesmen, discover that they have headaches, indigestions, humors, and passions, just like other people; everyone of which, in their turns, determine their wills, in defiance of their reason. Had we only read in the “Life of Alexander,” that he burned Persepolis, it would doubtless have been accounted for from deep policy: we should have been told, that his new conquest could not have been secured without the destruction of that capital, which would have been the constant seat of cabals, conspiracies, and revolts. But, luckily, we are informed at the same time, that this hero, this demi-god, this son and heir of Jupiter Ammon, happened to get extremely drunk with his w — e; and, by way of frolic, destroyed one of the finest cities in the world. Read men, therefore, yourself, not in books but in nature. Adopt no systems, but study them yourself. Observe their weaknesses, their passions, their humors, of all which their understandings are, nine times in ten, the dupes. You will then know that they are to be gained, influenced, or led, much oftener by little things than by great ones; and, consequently, you will no longer think those things little, which tend to such great purposes.
Let us apply this now to the particular object of this letter; I mean, speaking in, and influencing public assemblies. The nature of our constitution makes eloquence more useful, and more necessary, in this country than in any other in Europe. A certain degree of good sense and knowledge is requisite for that, as well as for everything else; but beyond that, the purity of diction, the elegance of style, the harmony of periods, a pleasing elocution, and a graceful action, are the things which a public speaker should attend to the most; because his audience certainly does, and understands them the best; or rather indeed understands little else. The late Lord Chancellor Cowper’s strength as an orator lay by no means in his reasonings, for he often hazarded very weak ones. But such was the purity and elegance of his style, such the propriety and charms of his elocution, and such the gracefulness of his action, that he never spoke without universal applause; the ears and the eyes gave him up the hearts and the understandings of the audience. On the contrary, the late Lord Townshend always spoke materially, with argument and knowledge, but never pleased. Why? His diction was not only inelegant, but frequently ungrammatical, always vulgar; his cadences false, his voice unharmonious, and his action ungraceful. Nobody heard him with patience; and the young fellows used to joke upon him, and repeat his inaccuracies. The late Duke of Argyle, though the weakest reasoner, was the most pleasing speaker I ever knew in my life. He charmed, he warmed, he forcibly ravished the audience; not by his matter certainly, but by his manner of delivering it. A most genteel figure, a graceful, noble air, an harmonious voice, an elegance of style, and a strength of emphasis, conspired to make him the most affecting, persuasive, and applauded speaker I ever saw. I was captivated like others; but when I came home, and coolly considered what he had said, stripped of all those ornaments in which he had dressed it, I often found the matter flimsy, the arguments weak, and I was convinced of the power of those adventitious concurring circumstances, which ignorance of mankind only calls trifling ones. Cicero, in his book De Oratore, in order to raise the dignity of that profession which he well knew himself to be at the head of, asserts that a complete orator must be a complete everything, lawyer, philosopher, divine, etc. That would be extremely well, if it were possible: but man’s life is not long enough; and I hold him to be the completest orator, who speaks the best upon that subject which occurs; whose happy choice of words, whose lively imagination, whose elocution and action adorn and grace his matter, at the same time that they excite the attention and engage the passions of his audience.
You will be of the House of Commons as soon as you are of age; and you must first make a figure there, if you would make a figure, or a fortune, in your country. This you can never do without that correctness and elegance in your own language, which you now seem to neglect, and which you have entirely to learn. Fortunately for you, it is to be learned. Care and observation will do it; but do not flatter yourself, that all the knowledge, sense, and reasoning in the world will ever make you a popular and applauded speaker, without the ornaments and the graces of style, elocution, and action. Sense and argument, though coarsely delivered, will have their weight in a private conversation, with two or three people of sense; but in a public assembly they will have none, if naked and destitute of the advantages I have mentioned. Cardinal de Retz observes, very justly, that every numerous assembly is a mob, influenced by their passions, humors, and affections, which nothing but eloquence ever did or ever can engage. This is so important a consideration for everybody in this country, and more particularly for you, that I earnestly recommend it to your most serious care and attention. Mind your diction, in whatever language you either write or speak; contract a habit of correctness and elegance. Consider your style, even in the freest conversation and most familiar letters. After, at least, if not before, you have said a thing, reflect if you could not have said it better. Where you doubt of the propriety or elegance of a word or a phrase, consult some good dead or living authority in that language. Use yourself to translate, from various languages into English; correct those translations till they satisfy your ear, as well as your understanding. And be convinced of this truth, that the best sense and reason in the world will be as unwelcome in a public assembly, without these ornaments, as they will in public companies, without the assistance of manners and politeness. If you will please people, you must please them in their own way; and, as you cannot make them what they should be, you must take them as they are. I repeat it again, they are only to be taken by agremens, and by what flatters their senses and their hearts. Rabelais first wrote a most excellent book, which nobody liked; then, determined to conform to the public taste, he wrote Gargantua and Pantagruel, which everybody liked, extravagant as it was. Adieu.
LONDON, December 9, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: It is now above forty years since I have never spoken nor written one single word, without giving myself at least one moment’s time to consider whether it was a good or a bad one, and whether I could not find out a better in its place. An unharmonious and rugged period, at this time, shocks my ears; and I, like all the rest of the world, will willingly exchange and give up some degree of rough sense, for a good degree of pleasing sound. I will freely and truly own to you, without either vanity or false modesty, that whatever reputation I have acquired as a speaker, is more owing to my constant attention to my diction than to my matter, which was necessarily just the same as other people’s. When you come into parliament, your reputation as a speaker will depend much more upon your words, and your periods, than upon the subject. The same matter occurs equally to everybody of common sense, upon the same question; the dressing it well, is what excites the attention and admiration of the audience.
It is in parliament that I have set my heart upon your making a figure; it is there that I want to have you justly proud of yourself, and to make me justly proud of you. This means that you must be a good speaker there; I use the word MUST, because I know you may if you will. The vulgar, who are always mistaken, look upon a speaker and a comet with the same astonishment and admiration, taking them both for preternatural phenomena. This error discourages many young men from attempting that character; and good speakers are willing to have their talent considered as something very extraordinary, if not, a peculiar gift of God to his elect. But let you and me analyze and simplify this good speaker; let us strip him of those adventitious plumes with which his own pride, and the ignorance of others, have decked him, and we shall find the true definition of him to be no more than this: A man of good common sense who reasons justly and expresses himself elegantly on that subject upon which he speaks. There is, surely, no witchcraft in this. A man of sense, without a superior and astonishing degree of parts, will not talk nonsense upon any subject; nor will he, if he has the least taste or application, talk inelegantly. What then does all this mighty art and mystery of speaking in parliament amount to? Why, no more than this: that the man who speaks in the House of Commons, speaks in that House, and to four hundred people, that opinion upon a given subject which he would make no difficulty of speaking in any house in England, round the fire, or at table, to any fourteen people whatsoever; better judges, perhaps, and severer critics of what he says, than any fourteen gentlemen of the House of Commons.
I have spoken frequently in parliament, and not always without some applause; and therefore I can assure you, from my experience, that there is very little in it. The elegance of the style, and the turn of the periods, make the chief impression upon the hearers. Give them but one or two round and harmonious periods in a speech, which they will retain and repeat; and they will go home as well satisfied as people do from an opera, humming all the way one or two favorite tunes that have struck their ears, and were easily caught. Most people have ears, but few have judgment; tickle those ears, and depend upon it, you will catch their judgments, such as they are.
Cicero, conscious that he was at the top of his profession (for in his time eloquence was a profession), in order to set himself off, defines in his treatise De Oratore, an orator to be such a man as never was, nor never will be; and, by his fallacious argument, says that he must know every art and science whatsoever, or how shall he speak upon them? But, with submission to so great an authority, my definition of an orator is extremely different from, and I believe much truer than his. I call that man an orator, who reasons justly, and expresses himself elegantly, upon whatever subject he treats. Problems in geometry, equations in algebra, processes in chemistry, and experiments in anatomy, are never, that I have heard of, the object of eloquence; and therefore I humbly conceive, that a man may be a very fine speaker, and yet know nothing of geometry, algebra, chemistry, or anatomy. The subjects of all parliamentary debates are subjects of common sense singly.
Thus I write whatever occurs to me, that I think may contribute either to form or inform you. May my labor not be in vain! and it will not, if you will but have half the concern for yourself that I have for you. Adieu.
LONDON; December 12, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: Lord Clarendon in his history says of Mr. John Hampden THAT HE HAD A HEAD TO CONTRIVE, A TONGUE TO PERSUADE, AND A HAND TO EXECUTE ANY MISCHIEF. I shall not now enter into the justness of this character of Mr. Hampden, to whose brave stand against the illegal demand of ship-money we owe our present liberties; but I mention it to you as the character, which with the alteration of one single word, GOOD, instead of MISCHIEF, I would have you aspire to, and use your utmost endeavors to deserve. The head to contrive, God must to a certain degree have given you; but it is in your own power greatly to improve it, by study, observation, and reflection. As for the TONGUE TO PERSUADE, it wholly depends upon yourself; and without it the best head will contrive to very little purpose. The hand to execute depends likewise, in my opinion, in a great measure upon yourself. Serious reflection will always give courage in a good cause; and the courage arising from reflection is of a much superior nature to the animal and constitutional courage of a foot soldier. The former is steady and unshaken, where the nodus is dignus vindice; the latter is oftener improperly than properly exerted, but always brutally.
The second member of my text (to speak ecclesiastically) shall be the subject of my following discourse; THE TONGUE TO PERSUADE— as judicious, preachers recommend those virtues, which they think their several audiences want the most; such as truth and continence, at court; disinterestedness, in the city; and sobriety, in the country.
You must certainly, in the course of your little experience, have felt the different effects of elegant and inelegant speaking. Do you not suffer, when people accost you in a stammering or hesitating manner, in an untuneful voice, with false accents and cadences; puzzling and blundering through solecisms, barbarisms, and vulgarisms; misplacing even their bad words, and inverting all method? Does not this prejudice you against their matter, be it what it will; nay, even against their persons? I am sure it does me. On the other hand, do you not feel yourself inclined, prepossessed, nay, even engaged in favor of those who address you in the direct contrary manner? The effects of a correct and adorned style of method and perspicuity, are incredible toward persuasion; they often supply the want of reason and argument, but, when used in the support of reason and argument, they are irresistible. The French attend very much to the purity and elegance of their style, even in common conversation; insomuch that it is a character to say of a man qu’il narre bien. Their conversations frequently turn upon the delicacies of their language, and an academy is employed in fixing it. The Crusca, in Italy, has the same object; and I have met with very few Italians, who did not speak their own language correctly and elegantly. How much more necessary is it for an Englishman to do so, who is to speak it in a public assembly, where the laws and liberties of his country are the subjects of his deliberation? The tongue that would persuade there, must not content itself with mere articulation. You know what pains Demosthenes took to correct his naturally bad elocution; you know that he declaimed by the seaside in storms, to prepare himself for the noise of the tumultuous assemblies he was to speak to; and you can now judge of the correctness and elegance of his style. He thought all these things of consequence, and he thought right; pray do you think so too? It is of the utmost consequence to you to be of that opinion. If you have the least defect in your elocution, take the utmost care and pains to correct it. Do not neglect your style, whatever language you speak in, or whoever you speak to, were it your footman. Seek always for the best words and the happiest expressions you can find. Do not content yourself with being barely understood; but adorn your thoughts, and dress them as you would your person; which, however well proportioned it might be, it would be very improper and indecent to exhibit naked, or even worse dressed than people of your sort are.
I have sent you in a packet which your Leipsig acquaintance, Duval, sends to his correspondent at Rome, Lord Bolingbroke’s book, [8220;Letters on the Spirit of Patriotism,”] on the Idea of a Patriot King which he published about a year ago. I desire that you will read it over and over again, with particular attention to the style, and to all those beauties of oratory with which it is adorned. Till I read that book, I confess I did not know all the extent and powers of the English language. Lord Bolingbroke has both a tongue and a pen to persuade; his manner of speaking in private conversation is full as elegant as his writings; whatever subject he either speaks or writes upon, he adorns with the most splendid eloquence; not a studied or labored eloquence, but such a flowing happiness of diction, which (from care perhaps at first) is become so habitual to him, that even his most familiar conversations, if taken down in writing, would bear the press, without the least correction either as to method or style. If his conduct, in the former part of his life, had been equal to all his natural and acquired talents, he would most justly have merited the epithet of all-accomplished. He is himself sensible of his past errors: those violent passions which seduced him in his youth, have now subsided by age; and take him as he is now, the character of all-accomplished is more his due than any man’s I ever knew in my life.
But he has been a most mortifying instance of the violence of human passions and of the weakness of the most exalted human reason. His virtues and his vices, his reason and his passions, did not blend themselves by a gradation of tints, but formed a shining and sudden contrast. Here the darkest, there the most splendid colors; and both rendered more shining from their proximity. Impetuosity, excess, and almost extravagance, characterized not only his passions, but even his senses. His youth was distinguished by all the tumult and storm of pleasures, in which he most licentiously triumphed, disdaining all decorum. His fine imagination has often been heated and exhausted, with his body, in celebrating and deifying the prostitute of the night; and his convivial joys were pushed to all the extravagance of frantic Bacchanals. Those passions were interrupted but by a stronger ambition. The former impaired both his constitution and his character, but the latter destroyed both his fortune and his reputation.
He has noble and generous sentiments, rather than fixed reflected principles of good nature and friendship; but they are more violent than lasting, and suddenly and often varied to their opposite extremes, with regard to the same persons. He receives the common attentions of civility as obligations, which he returns with interest; and resents with passion the little inadvertencies of human nature, which he repays with interest too. Even a difference of opinion upon a philosophical subject would provoke, and prove him no practical philosopher at least.
Notwithstanding the dissipation of his youth, and the tumultuous agitation of his middle age, he has an infinite fund of various and almost universal knowledge, which, from the clearest and quickest conception, and happiest memory, that ever man was blessed with, he always carries about him. It is his pocket-money, and he never has occasion to draw upon a book for any sum. He excels more particularly in history, as his historical works plainly prove. The relative political and commercial interests of every country in Europe, particularly of his own, are better known to him, than perhaps to any man in it; but how steadily he has pursued the latter, in his public conduct, his enemies, of all parties and denominations, tell with joy.
He engaged young, and distinguished himself in business; and his penetration was almost intuition. I am old enough to have heard him speak in parliament. And I remember that, though prejudiced against him by party, I felt all the force and charms of his eloquence. Like Belial in Milton, “he made the worse appear the better cause.” All the internal and external advantages and talents of an orator are undoubtedly his. Figure, voice, elocution, knowledge, and, above all, the purest and most florid diction, with the justest metaphors and happiest images, had raised him to the post of Secretary at War, at four-and-twenty years old, an age at which others are hardly thought fit for the smallest employments.
During his long exile in France, he applied himself to study with his characteristical ardor; and there he formed and chiefly executed the plan of a great philosophical work. The common bounds of human knowledge are too narrow for his warm and aspiring imagination. He must go extra flammantia maenia Mundi, and explore the unknown and unknowable regions of metaphysics; which open an unbounded field for the excursion of an ardent imagination; where endless conjectures supply the defect of unattainable knowledge, and too often usurp both its name and its influence.
He has had a very handsome person, with a most engaging address in his air and manners; he has all the dignity and good-breeding which a man of quality should or can have, and which so few, in this country at least, really have.
He professes himself a deist; believing in a general Providence, but doubting of, though by no means rejecting (as is commonly supposed) the immortality of the soul and a future state.
Upon the whole, of this extraordinary man, what can we say, but, alas, poor human nature!
In your destination, you will have frequent occasions to speak in public; to princes and states abroad; to the House of Commons at home; judge, then, whether eloquence is necessary for you or not; not only common eloquence, which is rather free from faults than adorned by beauties; but the highest, the most shining degree of eloquence. For God’s sake, have this object always in your view and in your thoughts. Tune your tongue early to persuasion; and let no jarring, dissonant accents ever fall from it, Contract a habit of speaking well upon every occasion, and neglect yourself in no one. Eloquence and good-breeding, alone, with an exceeding small degree of parts and knowledge, will carry a man a great way; with your parts and knowledge, then, how far will they not carry you? Adieu.
LONDON, December 16, O. S. 1749.
DEAR Boy: This letter will, I hope, find you safely arrived and well settled at Rome, after the usual distresses and accidents of a winter journey; which are very proper to teach you patience. Your stay there I look upon as a very important period of your life; and I do believe that you will fill it up well. I hope you will employ the mornings diligently with Mr. Harte, in acquiring weight; and the evenings in the best companies at Rome, in acquiring lustre. A formal, dull father, would recommend to you to plod out the evenings, too, at home, over a book by a dim taper; but I recommend to you the evenings for your pleasures, which are as much a part of your education, and almost as necessary a one, as your morning studies. Go to whatever assemblies or SPECTACLES people of fashion go to, and when you are there do as they do. Endeavor to outshine those who shine there the most, get the Garbo, the Gentilezza, the Leggeadria of the; Italians; make love to the most impertinent beauty of condition that you meet with, and be gallant with all the rest. Speak Italian, right or wrong, to everybody; and if you do but laugh at yourself first for your bad Italian, nobody else will laugh at you for it. That is the only way to speak it perfectly; which I expect you will do, because I am sure you may, before you leave Rome. View the most curious remains of antiquity with a classical spirit; and they will clear up to you many passages of the classical authors; particularly the Trajan and Antonine Columns; where you find the warlike instruments, the dresses, and the triumphal ornaments of the Romans. Buy also the prints and explanations of all those respectable remains of Roman grandeur, and compare them with the originals. Most young travelers are contented with a general view of those things, say they are very fine, and then go about their business. I hope you will examine them in a very different way. Approfondissez everything you see or hear; and learn, if you can, the WHY and the WHEREFORE. Inquire into the meaning and the objects of the innumerable processions, which you will see at Rome at this time. Assist at all the ceremonies, and know the reason, or at least the pretenses of them, and however absurd they may be, see and speak of them with great decency. Of all things, I beg of you not to herd with your own countrymen, but to be always either with the Romans, or with the foreign ministers residing at Rome. You are sent abroad to see the manners and characters, and learn the languages of foreign countries; and not to converse with English, in English; which would defeat all those ends. Among your graver company, I recommend (as I have done before) the Jesuits to you; whose learning and address will both please and improve you; inform yourself, as much as you can, of the history, policy, and practice of that society, from the time of its founder, Ignatius of Loyola, who was himself a madman. If you would know their morality, you will find it fully and admirably stated in Les Lettres d’un Provincial, by the famous Monsieur Pascal; and it is a book very well worth your reading. Few people see what they see, or hear what they hear; that is, they see and hear so inattentively and superficially, that they are very little the better for what they do see and hear. This, I dare say, neither is, nor will be your case. You will understand, reflect upon, and consequently retain, what you see and hear. You have still two years good, but no more, to form your character in the world decisively; for, within two months after your arrival in England, it will be finally and irrevocably determined, one way or another, in the opinion of the public. Devote, therefore, these two years to the pursuit of perfection; which ought to be everybody’s object, though in some particulars unattainable; those who strive and labor the most, will come the nearest to it. But, above all things, aim at it in the two important arts of speaking and pleasing; without them all your other talents are maimed and crippled. They are the wings upon which you must soar above other people; without them you will only crawl with the dull mass of mankind. Prepossess by your air, address, and manners; persuade by your tongue; and you will easily execute what your head has contrived. I desire that you will send me very minute accounts from Rome, not of what you see, but, of who you see; of your pleasures and entertainments. Tell me what companies you frequent most, and how you are received.
LONDON, December 19, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: The knowledge of mankind is a very use ful knowledge for everybody; a most necessary one for you, who are destined to an active, public life. You will have to do with all sorts of characters; you should, therefore, know them thoroughly, in order to manage them ably. This knowledge is not to be gotten systematically; you must acquire it yourself by your own observation and sagacity; I will give you such hints as I think may be useful land-marks in your intended progress.
I have often told you (and it is most true) that, with regard to mankind, we must not draw general conclusions from certain particular principles, though, in the main, true ones. We must not suppose that, because a man is a rational animal, he will therefore always act rationally; or, because he has such or such a predominant passion, that he will act invariably and consequentially in the pursuit of it. No. We are complicated machines: and though we have one main-spring, that gives motion to the whole, we have an infinity of little wheels, which, in their turns, retard, precipitate, and sometimes stop that motion. Let us exemplify. I will suppose ambition to be (as it commonly is) the predominant passion of a minister of state; and I will suppose that minister to be an able one. Will he, therefore, invariably pursue the object of that predominant passion? May I be sure that he will do so and so, because he ought? Nothing less. Sickness or low spirits, may damp this predominant passion; humor and peevishness may triumph over it; inferior passions may, at times, surprise it and prevail. Is this ambitious statesman amorous? Indiscreet and unguarded confidences, made in tender moments, to his wife or his mistress, may defeat all his schemes. Is he avaricious? Some great lucrative object, suddenly presenting itself, may unravel all the work of his ambition. Is he passionate? Contradiction and provocation (sometimes, it may be, too, artfully intended) may extort rash and inconsiderate expressions, or actions destructive of his main object. Is he vain, and open to flattery? An artful, flattering favorite may mislead him; and even laziness may, at certain moments, make him neglect or omit the necessary steps to that height at which he wants to arrive. Seek first, then, for the predominant passion of the character which you mean to engage and influence, and address yourself to it; but without defying or despising the inferior passions; get them in your interest too, for now and then they will have their turns. In many cases, you may not have it in your power to contribute to the gratification of the prevailing passion; then take the next best to your aid. There are many avenues to every man; and when you cannot get at him through the great one, try the serpentine ones, and you will arrive at last.
There are two inconsistent passions, which, however, frequently accompany each other, like man and wife; and which, like man and wife too, are commonly clogs upon each other. I mean ambition and avarice: the latter is often the true cause of the former, and then is the predominant passion. It seems to have been so in Cardinal Mazarin, who did anything, submitted to anything, and forgave anything, for the sake of plunder. He loved and courted power, like a usurer, because it carried profit along with it. Whoever should have formed his opinion, or taken his measures, singly, from the ambitious part of Cardinal Mazarin’s character, would have found himself often mistaken. Some who had found this out, made their fortunes by letting him cheat them at play. On the contrary, Cardinal Richelieu’s prevailing passion seems to have been ambition, and his immense riches only the natural consequences of that ambition gratified; and yet, I make no doubt, but that ambition had now and then its turn with the former, and avarice with the latter. Richelieu (by the way) is so strong a proof of the inconsistency of human nature, that I cannot help observing to you, that while he absolutely governed both his king and his country, and was, in a great degree, the arbiter of the fate of all Europe, he was more jealous of the great reputation of Corneille than of the power of Spain; and more flattered with being thought (what he was not) the best poet, than with being thought (what he certainly was) the greatest statesman in Europe; and affairs stood still while he was concerting the criticism upon the Cid. Could one think this possible, if one did not know it to be true? Though men are all of one composition, the several ingredients are so differently proportioned in each individual, that no two are exactly alike; and no one at all times like himself. The ablest man will sometimes do weak things; the proudest man, mean things; the honestest man, ill things; and the wickedest man, good ones. Study individuals then, and if you take (as you ought to do,) their outlines from their prevailing passion, suspend your last finishing strokes till you have attended to, and discovered the operations of their inferior passions, appetites, and humors. A man’s general character may be that of the honestest man of the world: do not dispute it; you might be thought envious or ill-natured; but, at the same time, do not take this probity upon trust to such a degree as to put your life, fortune, or reputation in his power. This honest man may happen to be your rival in power, in interest, or in love; three passions that often put honesty to most severe trials, in which it is too often cast; but first analyze this honest man yourself; and then only you will be able to judge how far you may, or may not, with safety trust him.
Women are much more like each other than men: they have, in truth, but two passions, vanity and love; these are their universal characteristics. An Agrippina may sacrifice them to ambition, or a Messalina to lust; but those instances are rare; and, in general, all they say, and all they do, tends to the gratification of their vanity or their love. He who flatters them most, pleases them best; and they are the most in love with him, who they think is the most in love with them. No adulation is too strong for them; no assiduity too great; no simulation of passion too gross; as, on the other hand, the least word or action that can possibly be construed into a slight or contempt, is unpardonable, and never forgotten. Men are in this respect tender too, and will sooner forgive an injury than an insult. Some men are more captious than others; some are always wrongheaded; but every man living has such a share of vanity, as to be hurt by marks of slight and contempt. Every man does not pretend to be a poet, a mathematician, or a statesman, and considered as such; but every man pretends to common sense, and to fill his place in the world with common decency; and, consequently, does not easily forgive those negligences, inattentions and slights which seem to call in question, or utterly deny him both these pretensions.
Suspect, in general, those who remarkably affect any one virtue; who raise it above all others, and who, in a manner, intimate that they possess it exclusively. I say suspect them, for they are commonly impostors; but do not be sure that they are always so; for I have sometimes known saints really religious, blusterers really brave, reformers of manners really honest, and prudes really chaste. Pry into the recesses of their hearts yourself, as far as you are able, and never implicitly adopt a character upon common fame; which, though generally right as to the great outlines of characters, is always wrong in some particulars.
Be upon your guard against those who upon very slight acquaintance, obtrude their unasked and unmerited friendship and confidence upon you; for they probably cram you with them only for their own eating; but, at the same time, do not roughly reject them upon that general supposition. Examine further, and see whether those unexpected offers flow from a warm heart and a silly head, or from a designing head and a cold heart; for knavery and folly have often the same symptoms. In the first case, there is no danger in accepting them, valeant quantum valere possunt. In the latter case, it may be useful to seem to accept them, and artfully to turn the battery upon him who raised it.
There is an incontinency of friendship among young fellows, who are associated by their mutual pleasures only, which has, very frequently, bad consequences. A parcel of warm hearts and inexperienced heads, heated by convivial mirth, and possibly a little too much wine, vow, and really mean at the time, eternal friendships to each other, and indiscreetly pour out their whole souls in common, and without the least reserve. These confidences are as indiscreetly repealed as they were made; for new pleasures and new places soon dissolve this ill-cemented connection; and then very ill uses are made of these rash confidences. Bear your part, however, in young companies; nay, excel, if you can, in all the social and convivial joy and festivity that become youth. Trust them with your love tales, if you please; but keep your serious views secret. Trust those only to some tried friend, more experienced than yourself, and who, being in a different walk of life from you, is not likely to become your rival; for I would not advise you to depend so much upon the heroic virtue of mankind, as to hope or believe that your competitor will ever be your friend, as to the object of that competition.
These are reserves and cautions very necessary to have, but very imprudent to show; the volto sciolto should accompany them. Adieu.
DEAR BOY: Great talents and great virtues (if you should have them) will procure you the respect and the admiration of mankind; but it is the lesser talents, the leniores virtutes, which must procure you their love and affection. The former, unassisted and unadorned by the latter, will extort praise; but will, at the same time, excite both fear and envy; two sentiments absolutely incompatible with love and affection.
Caesar had all the great vices, and Cato all the great virtues, that men could have. But Caesar had the leniores virtutes which Cato wanted, and which made him beloved, even by his enemies, and gained him the hearts of mankind, in spite of their reason: while Cato was not even beloved by his friends, notwithstanding the esteem and respect which they could not refuse to his virtues; and I am apt to think, that if Caesar had wanted, and Cato possessed, those leniores virtutes, the former would not have attempted (at least with success), and the latter could have protected, the liberties of Rome. Mr. Addison, in his “Cato,” says of Caesar (and I believe with truth),
“Curse on his virtues, they’ve undone his country.”
By which he means those lesser, but engaging virtues of gentleness, affability, complaisance, and good humor. The knowledge of a scholar, the courage of a hero, and the virtue of a Stoic, will be admired; but if the knowledge be accompanied with arrogance, the courage with ferocity, and the virtue with inflexible severity, the man will never be loved. The heroism of Charles XII. of Sweden (if his brutal courage deserves that name) was universally admired, but the man nowhere beloved. Whereas Henry IV. of France, who had full as much courage, and was much longer engaged in wars, was generally beloved upon account of his lesser and social virtues. We are all so formed, that our understandings are generally the DUPES of our hearts, that is, of our passions; and the surest way to the former is through the latter, which must be engaged by the leniores virtutes alone, and the manner of exerting them. The insolent civility of a proud man is (for example) if possible, more shocking than his rudeness could be; because he shows you by his manner that he thinks it mere condescension in him; and that his goodness alone bestows upon you what you have no pretense to claim. He intimates his protection, instead of his friendship, by a gracious nod, instead of a usual bow; and rather signifies his consent that you may, than his invitation that you should sit, walk, eat, or drink with him.
The costive liberality of a purse-proud man insults the distresses it sometimes relieves; he takes care to make you feel your own misfortunes, and the difference between your situation and his; both which he insinuates to be justly merited: yours, by your folly; his, by his wisdom. The arrogant pedant does not communicate, but promulgates his knowledge. He does not give it you, but he inflicts it upon you; and is (if possible) more desirous to show you your own ignorance than his own learning. Such manners as these, not only in the particular instances which I have mentioned, but likewise in all others, shock and revolt that little pride and vanity which every man has in his heart; and obliterate in us the obligation for the favor conferred, by reminding us of the motive which produced, and the manner which accompanied it.
These faults point out their opposite perfections, and your own good sense will naturally suggest them to you.
But besides these lesser virtues, there are what may be called the lesser talents, or accomplishments, which are of great use to adorn and recommend all the greater; and the more so, as all people are judges of the one, and but few are of the other. Everybody feels the impression, which an engaging address, an agreeable manner of speaking, and an easy politeness, makes upon them; and they prepare the way for the favorable reception of their betters. Adieu.
LONDON, December 26, O. S. 1749.
MY DEAR FRIEND: The new year is the season in which custom seems more particularly to authorize civil and harmless lies, under the name of compliments. People reciprocally profess wishes which they seldom form; and concern, which they seldom feel. This is not the case between you and me, where truth leaves no room for compliments.
Dii tibi dent annos, de to nam caetera sumes, was said formerly to one by a man who certainly did not think it. With the variation of one word only, I will with great truth say it to you. I will make the first part conditional by changing, in the second, the nam into si. May you live as long as you are fit to live, but no longer! or may you rather die before you cease to be fit to live, than after! My true tenderness for you makes me think more of the manner than of the length of your life, and forbids me to wish it prolonged, by a single day, that should bring guilt, reproach, and shame upon you. I have not malice enough in my nature, to wish that to my greatest enemy. You are the principal object of all my cares, the only object of all my hopes; I have now reason to believe, that you will reward the former, and answer the latter; in that case, may you live long, for you must live happy; de te nam caetera sumes. Conscious virtue is the only solid foundation of all happiness; for riches, power, rank, or whatever, in the common acceptation of the word, is supposed to constitute happiness, will never quiet, much less cure, the inward pangs of guilt. To that main wish, I will add those of the good old nurse of Horace, in his epistle to Tibullus: Sapere, you have it in a good degree already. Et fari ut possit quae sentiat. Have you that? More, much more is meant by it, than common speech or mere articulation. I fear that still remains to be wished for, and I earnestly wish it to you. Gratia and Fama will inevitably accompany the above-mentioned qualifications. The Valetudo is the only one that is not in your own power; Heaven alone can grant it you, and may it do so abundantly! As for the mundus victus, non deficiente crumena, do you deserve, and I will provide them.
It is with the greatest pleasure that I consider the fair prospect which you have before you. You have seen, read, and learned more, at your age, than most young fellows have done at two or three-and-twenty. Your destination is a shining one, and leads to rank, fortune, and distinction. Your education has been calculated for it; and, to do you justice, that education has not been thrown away upon you. You want but two things, which do not want conjuration, but only care, to acquire: eloquence and manners; that is, the graces of speech, and the graces of behavior. You may have them; they are as much in your power as powdering your hair is; and will you let the want of them obscure (as it certainly will do) that shining prospect which presents itself to you. I am sure you will not. They are the sharp end, the point of the nail that you are driving, which must make way first for the larger and more solid parts to enter. Supposing your moral character as pure, and your knowledge as sound, as I really believe them both to be; you want nothing for that perfection, which I have so constantly wished you, and taken so much pains to give you, but eloquence and politeness. A man who is not born with a poetical genius, can never be a poet, or at best an extremely bad one; but every man, who can speak at all, can speak elegantly and correctly if he pleases, by attending to the best authors and orators; and, indeed, I would advise those who do not speak elegantly, not to speak at all; for I am sure they will get more by their silence than by their speech. As for politeness: whoever keeps good company, and is not polite, must have formed a resolution, and take some pains not to be so; otherwise he would naturally and insensibly take the air, the address, and the turn of those he converses with. You will, probably, in the course of this year, see as great a variety of good company in the several capitals you will be at, as in any one year of your life; and consequently must (I should hope) catch some of their manners, almost whether you will or not; but, as I dare say you will endeavor to do it, I am convinced you will succeed, and that I shall have pleasure of finding you, at your return here, one of the best-bred men in Europe.
I imagine, that when you receive my letters, and come to those parts of them which relate to eloquence and politeness, you say, or at least think, What, will he never have done upon those two subjects? Has he not said all he can say upon them? Why the same thing over and over again? If you do think or say so, it must proceed from your not yet knowing the infinite importance of these two accomplishments, which I cannot recommend to you too often, nor inculcate too strongly. But if, on the contrary, you are convinced of the utility, or rather the necessity of those two accomplishments, and are determined to acquire them, my repeated admonitions are only unnecessary; and I grudge no trouble which can possibly be of the least use to you.
I flatter myself, that your stay at Rome will go a great way toward answering all my views: I am sure it will, if you employ your time, and your whole time, as you should. Your first morning hours, I would have you devote to your graver studies with Mr. Harte; the middle part of the day I would have employed in seeing things; and the evenings in seeing people. You are not, I hope, of a lazy, inactive turn, in either body or mind; and, in that case, the day is full long enough for everything; especially at Rome, where it is not the fashion, as it is here and at Paris, to embezzle at least half of it at table. But if, by accident, two or three hours are sometimes wanting for some useful purpose, borrow them from your sleep. Six, or at most seven hours sleep is, for a constancy, as much as you or anybody can want; more is only laziness and dozing; and is, I am persuaded, both unwholesome and stupefying. If, by chance, your business, or your pleasures, should keep you up till four or five o’clock in the morning, I would advise you, however, to rise exactly at your usual time, that you may not lose the precious morning hours; and that the want of sleep may force you to go to bed earlier the next night. This is what I was advised to do when very young, by a very wise man; and what, I assure you, I always did in the most dissipated part of my life. I have very often gone to bed at six in the morning and rose, notwithstanding, at eight; by which means I got many hours in the morning that my companions lost; and the want of sleep obliged me to keep good hours the next, or at least the third night. To this method I owe the greatest part of my reading: for, from twenty to forty, I should certainly have read very little, if I had not been up while my acquaintances were in bed. Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today. That was the rule of the famous and unfortunate Pensionary De Witt; who, by strictly following it, found time, not only to do the whole business of the republic, but to pass his evenings at assemblies and suppers, as if he had had nothing else to do or think of.
Adieu, my dear friend, for such I shall call you, and as such I shall, for the future, live with you; for I disclaim all titles which imply an authority, that I am persuaded you will never give me occasion to exercise.
Multos et felices, most sincerely, to Mr. Harte.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:48