Works of Lord Chesterfield

Date: 1863

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Letters of an English Nobleman



The Duke of Marlborough


Of all the men that ever I knew in my life (and I knew him extremely well), the late duke of Marlborough3 possessed the graces in the highest degree, not to say engrossed them; and indeed he got the most by them; for I will venture (contrary to the custom of profound historians, who always assign deep causes for great events), to ascribe the better half of the duke of Marlborough’s greatness and riches to those graces. He was eminently illiterate; wrote bad English and spelled it still worse. He had no share of what is commonly called parts; that is, he had no brightness, nothing shining in his genius. He had, most undoubtedly, an excellent good plain understanding, with sound judgment. But these alone would probably have raised him but something higher than they found him; which was page to King James the Second’s queen. There the Graces protected and promoted him; for, while he was an ensign of the Guards, the duchess of Cleveland,1 . . . struck by those very graces, gave him five thousand pounds, with which he immediately bought an annuity for his life, of five hundred pounds a year, of my grandfather, Halifax; which was the foundation of his subsequent fortune. His figure was beautiful; but his manner was irresistible, by either man or woman. It was by this engaging, graceful manner that he was enabled, during all his wars, to connect the various and jarring powers of the Grand Alliance, and to carry them on to the main object of the war, notwithstanding their private and separate views, jealousies, and wrongheadednesses. Whatever court he went to (and he was often obliged to go himself to some restive and refractory ones), he as constantly prevailed, and brought them in to his measures. Heinsius, a venerable old minister, grown gray in business, and who had governed the republic of the United Provinces2 for more than forty years, was absolutely governed by the duke of Marlborough, as that republic feels to this day. He was always cool; and nobody ever observed the least variation in his countenance: he could refuse more gracefully than other people could grant; and those who went away from him the most dissatisfied as to the substances of their business were yet personally charmed with him, and, in some degree, comforted by his manner. With all his gentleness and gracefulness, no man living was more conscious of his situation, nor maintained his dignity better.

1 . New York, 1863. Harper and Brothers.

2 , pp. 230–231.

3 Marlborough died in 1722. This letter was written in 1748.

1 A favorite of Charles II.

2 The Dutch Netherlands.


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Chicago: "The Duke of Marlborough," Works of Lord Chesterfield in Readings in Modern European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: D.C. Heath, 1926), 71–72. Original Sources, accessed February 28, 2020,

MLA: . "The Duke of Marlborough." Works of Lord Chesterfield, in Readings in Modern European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, D.C. Heath, 1926, pp. 71–72. Original Sources. 28 Feb. 2020.

Harvard: , 'The Duke of Marlborough' in Works of Lord Chesterfield. cited in 1926, Readings in Modern European History, ed. , D.C. Heath, Boston, pp.71–72. Original Sources, retrieved 28 February 2020, from