Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1750

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Author: Philip Dormer Stanhope

Letter CXI

LONDON, April 30, O. S. 1750

MY DEAR FRIEND: Mr. Harte, who in all his letters gives you some dash of panegyric, told me in his last a thing that pleases me extremely; which was that at Rome you had constantly preferred the established Italian assemblies to the English conventicles setup against them by dissenting English ladies. That shows sense, and that you know what you are sent abroad for. It is of much more consequence to know the ’mores multorem hominum’ than the ’urbes’. Pray continue this judicious conduct wherever you go, especially at Paris, where, instead of thirty, you will find above three hundred English, herding together and conversing with no one French body.

The life of ’les Milords Anglois’ is regularly, or, if you will, irregularly, this. As soon as they rise, which is very late, they breakfast together, to the utter loss of two good morning hours. Then they go by coachfuls to the Palais, the Invalides, and Notre-Dame; from thence to the English coffee-house, where they make up their tavern party for dinner. From dinner, where they drink quick, they adjourn in clusters to the play, where they crowd up the stage, dressed up in very fine clothes, very ill-made by a Scotch or Irish tailor. From the play to the tavern again, where they get very drunk, and where they either quarrel among themselves, or sally forth, commit some riot in the streets, and are taken up by the watch. Those who do not speak French before they go, are sure to learn none there. Their tender vows are addressed to their Irish laundress, unless by chance some itinerant Englishwoman, eloped from her husband, or her creditors, defrauds her of them. Thus they return home, more petulant, but not more informed, than when they left it; and show, as they think, their improvement by affectedly both speaking and dressing in broken French:—

"Hunc to Romane caveito."

Connect yourself, while you are in France, entirely with the French; improve yourself with the old, divert yourself with the young; conform cheerfully to their customs, even to their little follies, but not to their vices. Do not, however, remonstrate or preach against them, for remonstrances do not suit with your age. In French companies in general you will not find much learning, therefore take care not to brandish yours in their faces. People hate those who make them feel their own inferiority. Conceal all your learning carefully, and reserve it for the company of les Gens d’Eglise, or les Gens de Robe; and even then let them rather extort it from you, than find you over-willing to draw it. Your are then thought, from that seeming unwillingness, to have still more knowledge than it may be you really have, and with the additional merit of modesty into the bargain. A man who talks of, or even hints at, his ’bonnes fortunes’, is seldom believed, or, if believed, much blamed; whereas a man who conceals with care is often supposed to have more than he has, and his reputation of discretion gets him others. It is just so with a man of learning; if he affects to show it, it is questioned, and he is reckoned only superficial; but if afterward it appears that he really has it, he is pronounced a pedant. Real merit of any kind, ’ubi est non potest diu celari’; it will be discovered, and nothing can depreciate it but a man’s exhibiting it himself. It may not always be rewarded as it ought, but it will always be known. You will in general find the women of the beau monde at Paris more instructed than the men, who are bred up singly for the army, and thrown into it at twelve or thirteen years old; but then that sort of education, which makes them ignorant of books, gives them a great knowledge of the world, an easy address, and polite manners.

Fashion is more tyrannical at Paris than in any other place in the world; it governs even more absolutely than their king, which is saying a great deal. The least revolt against it is punished by proscription. You must observe, and conform to all the ’minutiae’ of it, if you will be in fashion there yourself; and if you are not in fashion, you are nobody. Get, therefore, at all events, into the company of those men and women ’qui donnent le ton’; and though at first you should be admitted upon that shining theatre only as a ’persona muta’, persist, persevere, and you will soon have a part given you. Take great care never to tell in one company what you see or hear in another, much less to divert the present company at the expense of the last; but let discretion and secrecy be known parts of your character. They will carry you much further, and much safer than more shining talents. Be upon your guard against quarrels at Paris; honor is extremely nice there, though the asserting of it is exceedingly penal. Therefore, ’point de mauvaises plaisanteries, point de jeux de main, et point de raillerie piquante’.

Paris is the place in the world where, if you please, you may the best unite the ’utile’ and the ’dulce’. Even your pleasures will be your improvements, if you take them with the people of the place, and in high life. From what you have hitherto done everywhere else, I have just reason to believe, that you will do everything that you ought at Paris. Remember that it is your decisive moment; whatever you do there will be known to thousands here, and your character there, whatever it is, will get before you here. You will meet with it at London. May you and I both have reason to rejoice at that meeting! Adieu.

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Chicago: Philip Dormer Stanhope, "Letter CXI," Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1750, 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, 1750 Original Sources, accessed August 22, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBAIRVSKKF8PLZT.

MLA: Stanhope, Philip Dormer. "Letter CXI." Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1750, 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, 1750, Original Sources. 22 Aug. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBAIRVSKKF8PLZT.

Harvard: Stanhope, PD, 'Letter CXI' in Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1750, trans. . cited in , Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1750. Original Sources, retrieved 22 August 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBAIRVSKKF8PLZT.