Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1752

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Author: Philip Dormer Stanhope

Letter CLXI

LONDON, March 2, O. S. 1752.

MY DEAR FRIEND: Whereabouts are you in Ariosto? Or have you gone through that most ingenious contexture of truth and lies, of serious and extravagant, of knights-errant, magicians, and all that various matter which he announces in the beginning of his poem:

Le Donne, I Cavalier, l’arme, gli amori,
Le cortesie, l’audaci impreso io canto.

I am by no means sure that Homer had superior invention, or excelled more in description than Ariosto. What can be more seducing and voluptuous, than the description of Alcina’s person and palace? What more ingeniously extravagant, than the search made in the moon for Orlando’s lost wits, and the account of other people’s that were found there? The whole is worth your attention, not only as an ingenious poem, but as the source of all modern tales, novels, fables, and romances; as Ovid’s "Metamorphoses;" was of the ancient ones; besides, that when you have read this work, nothing will be difficult to you in the Italian language. You will read Tasso’s ’Gierusalemme’, and the ’Decamerone di Boccacio’, with great facility afterward; and when you have read those three authors, you will, in my opinion, have read all the works of invention that are worth reading in that language; though the Italians would be very angry at me for saying so.

A gentleman should know those which I call classical works, in every language; such as Boileau, Corneille, Racine, Moliere, etc., in French; Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift, etc., in English; and the three authors above mentioned in Italian; whether you have any such in German I am not quite sure, nor, indeed, am I inquisitive. These sort of books adorn the mind, improve the fancy, are frequently alluded to by, and are often the subjects of conversations of the best companies. As you have languages to read, and memory to retain them, the knowledge of them is very well worth the little pains it will cost you, and will enable you to shine in company. It is not pedantic to quote and allude to them, which it would be with regard to the ancients.

Among the many advantages which you have had in your education, I do not consider your knowledge of several languages as the least. You need not trust to translations; you can go to the source; you can both converse and negotiate with people of all nations, upon equal terms; which is by no means the case of a man, who converses or negotiates in a language which those with whom he hath to do know much better than himself. In business, a great deal may depend upon the force and extent of one word; and, in conversation, a moderate thought may gain, or a good one lose, by the propriety or impropriety, the elegance or inelegance of one single word. As therefore you now know four modern languages well, I would have you study (and, by the way, it will be very little trouble to you) to know them correctly, accurately, and delicately. Read some little books that treat of them, and ask questions concerning their delicacies, of those who are able to answer you. As, for instance, should I say in French, ’la lettre que je vous ai ECRIT’, or, ’la lettre que je vous ai ECRITE’? in which, I think, the French differ among themselves. There is a short French grammar by the Port Royal, and another by Pere Bufiier, both which are worth your reading; as is also a little book called ’Les Synonymes Francois. There are books of that kind upon the Italian language, into some of which I would advise you to dip; possibly the German language may have something of the same sort, and since you already speak it, the more properly you speak it the better; one would, I think, as far as possible, do all one does correctly and elegantly. It is extremely engaging to people of every nation, to meet with a foreigner who hath taken pains enough to speak their language correctly; it flatters that local and national pride and prejudice of which everybody hath some share.

Francis’s "Eugenia," which I will send you, pleased most people of good taste here; the boxes were crowded till the sixth night, when the pit and gallery were totally deserted, and it was dropped. Distress, without death, was not sufficient to affect a true British audience, so long accustomed to daggers, racks, and bowls of poison: contrary to Horace’s rule, they desire to see Medea murder her children upon the stage. The sentiments were too delicate to move them; and their hearts are to be taken by storm, not by parley.

Have you got the things, which were taken from you at Calais, restored? and, among them, the little packet which my sister gave you for Sir Charles Hotham? In this case, have you forwarded it to him? If you have not had an opportunity, you will have one soon; which I desire you will not omit; it is by Monsieur d’Aillion, whom you will see in a few days at Paris, in his way to Geneva, where Sir Charles now is, and will remain some time. Adieu:

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Chicago: Philip Dormer Stanhope, "Letter CLXI," Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1752, trans. Paul, Eden, 1865-1944, and Paul, Cedar in Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1752 Original Sources, accessed April 26, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CKRAWBHN6JG8LSY.

MLA: Stanhope, Philip Dormer. "Letter CLXI." Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1752, translted by Paul, Eden, 1865-1944, and Paul, Cedar, in Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1752, Original Sources. 26 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CKRAWBHN6JG8LSY.

Harvard: Stanhope, PD, 'Letter CLXI' in Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1752, trans. . cited in , Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1752. Original Sources, retrieved 26 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CKRAWBHN6JG8LSY.