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 CLXXXIII

BATH, November 28, 1752

MY DEAR FRIEND: Since my last to you, I have read Madame Maintenon’s "Letters"; I am sure they are genuine, and they both entertained and informed me. They have brought me acquainted with the character of that able and artful lady; whom I am convinced that I now know much better than her directeur the Abby de Fenelon (afterward Archbishop of Cambray) did, when he wrote her the 185th letter; and I know him the better too for that letter. The Abby, though brimful of the divine love, had a great mind to be first minister, and cardinal, in order, NO DOUBT, to have an opportunity of doing the more good. His being ’directeur’ at that time to Madame Maintenon, seemed to be a good step toward those views. She put herself upon him for a saint, and he was weak enough to believe it; he, on the other hand, would have put himself upon her for a saint too, which, I dare say, she did not believe; but both of them knew that it was necessary for them to appear saints to Lewis the Fourteenth, who they were very sure was a bigot. It is to be presumed, nay, indeed, it is plain by that 185th letter that Madame Maintenon had hinted to her directeur some scruples of conscience, with relation to her commerce with the King; and which I humbly apprehend to have been only some scruples of prudence, at once to flatter the bigot character, and increase the desires of the King. The pious Abbe, frightened out of his wits, lest the King should impute to the ’directeur’ any scruples or difficulties which he might meet with on the part of the lady, writes her the abovementioned letter; in which he not only bids her not tease the King by advice and exhortations, but to have the utmost submission to his will; and, that she may not mistake the nature of that submission, he tells her it is the same that Sarah had for Abraham; to which submission Isaac perhaps was owing. No bawd could have written a more seducing letter to an innocent country girl, than the ’directeur’ did to his ’penitente’; who I dare say had no occasion for his good advice. Those who would justify the good ’directeur’, alias the pimp, in this affair, must not attempt to do it by saying that the King and Madame Maintenon were at that time privately married; that the directeur knew it; and that this was the meaning of his ’enigme’. That is absolutely impossible; for that private marriage must have removed all scruples between the parties; nay, could not have been contracted upon any other principle, since it was kept private, and consequently prevented no public scandal. It is therefore extremely evident that Madame Maintenon could not be married to the King at the time when she scrupled granting, and when the ’directeur’ advised her to grant, those favors which Sarah with so much submission granted to Abraham: and what the ’directeur’ is pleased to call ’le mystere de Dieu’, was most evidently a state of concubinage. The letters are very well worth your reading; they throw light upon many things of those times.

I have just received a letter from Sir William Stanhope, from Lyons; in which he tells me that he saw you at Paris, that he thinks you a little grown, but that you do not make the most of it, for that you stoop still: ’d’ailleurs’ his letter was a panegyric of you.

The young Comte de Schullemburg, the Chambellan whom you knew at Hanover, is come over with the King, ’et fait aussi vos eloges’.

Though, as I told you in my last, I have done buying pictures, by way of ’virtu’, yet there are some portraits of remarkable people that would tempt me. For instance, if you could by chance pick up at Paris, at a reasonable price, and undoubted originals (whether heads, half lengths, or whole lengths, no matter) of Cardinals Richelieu, Mazarin, and Retz, Monsieur de Turenne, le grand Prince de Condo; Mesdames de Montespan, de Fontanges, de Montbazon, de Sevigne, de Maintenon, de Chevreuse, de Longueville, d’Olonne, etc., I should be tempted to purchase them. I am sensible that they can only be met with, by great accident, at family sales and auctions, so I only mention the affair to you eventually.

I do not understand, or else I do not remember, what affair you mean in your last letter; which you think will come to nothing, and for which, you say, I had once a mind that you should take the road again. Explain it to me.

I shall go to town in four or five days, and carry back with me a little more hearing than I brought; but yet, not half enough for common wants. One wants ready pocket-money much oftener than one wants great sums; and to use a very odd expression, I want to hear at sight. I love every-day senses, every-day wit and entertainment; a man who is only good on holydays is good for very little. Adieu.

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Chicago: Philip Dormer Stanhope, "Letter CLXXXIII," Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1752, trans. Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853- in Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1752 Original Sources, accessed January 20, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Q7VZYFLNPAK8BXU.

MLA: Stanhope, Philip Dormer. "Letter CLXXXIII." Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1752, translted by Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853-, in Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1752, Original Sources. 20 Jan. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Q7VZYFLNPAK8BXU.

Harvard: Stanhope, PD, 'Letter CLXXXIII' 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 20 January 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Q7VZYFLNPAK8BXU.