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

Author: Philip Dormer Stanhope


LONDON, July 21, O. S. 1752

MY DEAR FRIEND: By my calculation this letter may probably arrive at Hanover three or four days before you; and as I am sure of its arriving there safe, it shall contain the most material points that I have mentioned in my several letters to you since you left Paris, as if you had received but few of them, which may very probably be the case.

As for your stay at Hanover, it must not IN ALL EVENTS be less than a month; but if things turn out to Your SATISFACTION, it may be just as long as you please. From thence you may go wherever you like; for I have so good an opinion of your judgment, that I think you will combine and weigh all circumstances, and choose the properest places. Would you saunter at some of the small courts, as Brunswick, Cassel, etc., till the Carnival at Berlin? You are master. Would you pass a couple of months at Ratisbon, which might not be ill employed? ’A la bonne heure’. Would you go to Brussels, stay a month or two there with Dayrolles, and from thence to Mr. Yorke, at The Hague? With all my heart. Or, lastly, would you go to Copenhagen and Stockholm? ’Lei e anche Padrone’: choose entirely for yourself, without any further instructions from me; only let me know your determination in time, that I may settle your credit, in case you go to places where at present you have none. Your object should be to see the ’mores multorum hominum et urbes’; begin and end it where you please.

By what you have already seen of the German courts, I am sure you must have observed that they are much more nice and scrupulous, in points of ceremony, respect and attention, than the greater courts of France and England. You will, therefore, I am persuaded, attend to the minutest circumstances of address and behavior, particularly during your stay at Hanover, which (I will repeat it, though I have said it often to you already) is the most important preliminary period of your whole life. Nobody in the world is more exact, in all points of good-breeding, than the King; and it is the part of every man’s character, that he informs himself of first. The least negligence, or the slightest inattention, reported to him, may do you infinite prejudice: as their contraries would service.

If Lord Albemarle (as I believe he did) trusted you with the secret affairs of his department, let the Duke of Newcastle know that he did so; which will be an inducement to him to trust you too, and possibly to employ you in affairs of consequence. Tell him that, though you are young, you know the importance of secrecy in business, and can keep a secret; that I have always inculcated this doctrine into you, and have, moreover, strictly forbidden you ever to communicate, even to me, any matters of a secret nature, which you may happen to be trusted with in the course of business.

As for business, I think I can trust you to yourself; but I wish I could say as much for you with regard to those exterior accomplishments, which are absolutely necessary to smooth and shorten the way to it. Half the business is done, when one has gained the heart and the affections of those with whom one is to transact it. Air and address must begin, manners and attention must finish that work. I will let you into one secret concerning myself; which is, that I owe much more of the success which I have had in the world to my manners, than to any superior degree of merit or knowledge. I desired to please, and I neglected none of the means. This, I can assure you, without any false modesty, is the truth: You have more knowledge than I had at your age, but then I had much more attention and good-breeding than you. Call it vanity, if you please, and possibly it was so; but my great object was to make every man I met with like me, and every woman love me. I often succeeded; but why? By taking great pains, for otherwise I never should: my figure by no means entitled me to it; and I had certainly an up-hill game; whereas your countenance would help you, if you made the most of it, and proscribed for ever the guilty, gloomy, and funereal part of it. Dress, address, and air, would become your best countenance, and make your little figure pass very well.

If you have time to read at Hanover, pray let the books you read be all relative to the history and constitution of that country; which I would have you know as correctly as any Hanoverian in the whole Electorate. Inform yourself of the powers of the States, and of the nature and extent of the several judicatures; the particular articles of trade and commerce of Bremen, Harburg, and Stade; the details and value of the mines of the Hartz. Two or three short books will give you the outlines of all these things; and conversation turned upon those subjects will do the rest, and better than books can.

Remember of all things to speak nothing but German there; make it (to express myself pedantically) your vernacular language; seem to prefer it to any other; call it your favorite language, and study to speak it with purity and elegance, if it has any. This will not only make you perfect in it, but will please, and make your court there better than anything. A propos of languages: Did you improve your Italian while you were at Paris, or did you forget it? Had you a master there? and what Italian books did you read with him? If you are master of Italian, I would have you afterward, by the first convenient opportunity, learn Spanish, which you may very easily, and in a very little time do; you will then, in the course of your foreign business, never be obliged to employ, pay, or trust any translator for any European language.

As I love to provide eventually for everything that can possibly happen, I will suppose the worst that can befall you at Hanover. In that case I would have you go immediately to the Duke of Newcastle, and beg his Grace’s advice, or rather orders, what you should do; adding, that his advice will always be orders to you. You will tell him that though you are exceedingly mortified, you are much less so than you should otherwise be, from the consideration that being utterly unknown to his M-----, his objection could not be personal to you, and could only arise from circumstances which it was not in your power either to prevent or remedy; that if his Grace thought that your continuing any longer there would be disagreeable, you entreated him to tell you so; and that upon the whole, you referred yourself entirely to him, whose orders you should most scrupulously obey. But this precaution, I dare say, is ’ex abundanti’, and will prove unnecessary; however, it is always right to be prepared for all events, the worst as well as the best; it prevents hurry and surprise, two dangerous, situations in business; for I know no one thing so useful, so necessary in all business, as great coolness, steadiness, and sangfroid: they give an incredible advantage over whoever one has to do with.

I have received your letter of the 15th, N. S., from Mayence, where I find that you have diverted yourself much better than I expected. I am very well acquainted with Comte Cobentzel’s character, both of parts and business. He could have given you letters to Bonn, having formerly resided there himself. You will not be so agreeably ELECTRIFIED where this letter will find you, as you were both at Manheim and Mayence; but I hope you may meet with a second German Mrs. F-----d, who may make you forget the two former ones, and practice your German. Such transient passions will do you no harm; but, on the contrary, a great deal of good; they will refine your manners and quicken your attention; they give a young fellow ’du brillant’, and bring him into fashion; which last is a great article at setting out in the world.

I have wrote, about a month ago, to Lord Albemarle, to thank him for all his kindnesses to you; but pray have you done as much? Those are the necessary attentions which should never be omitted, especially in the beginning of life, when a character is to be established.

That ready wit; which you so partially allow me, and so justly Sir Charles Williams, may create many admirers; but, take my word for it, it makes few friends. It shines and dazzles like the noon-day sun, but, like that too, is very apt to scorch; and therefore is always feared. The milder morning and evening light and heat of that planet soothe and calm our minds. Good sense, complaisance, gentleness of manners, attentions and graces are the only things that truly engage, and durably keep the heart at long run. Never seek for wit; if it presents itself, well and good; but, even in that case, let your judgment interpose; and take care that it be not at the expense of anybody. Pope says very truly:

"There are whom heaven has blest with store of wit;
Yet want as much again to govern it."

And in another place, I doubt with too much truth:

"For wit and judgment ever are at strife
Though meant each other’s aid, like man and wife."

The Germans are very seldom troubled with any extraordinary ebullitions or effervescenses of wit, and it is not prudent to try it upon them; whoever does, ’ofendet solido’.

Remember to write me very minute accounts of all your transactions at Hanover, for they excite both my impatience and anxiety. Adieu!


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Chicago: Philip Dormer Stanhope, "Letter CLXXIII," 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 21, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CNYTG7U9G6MESCE.

MLA: Stanhope, Philip Dormer. "Letter CLXXIII." 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. 21 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CNYTG7U9G6MESCE.

Harvard: Stanhope, PD, 'Letter CLXXIII' 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 21 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CNYTG7U9G6MESCE.