Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1749

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Author: Philip Dormer Stanhope

Letter LXXIX

LONDON, August 21, O. S. 1749.

DEAR BOY: By the last letter that I received from Mr. Harte, of the 31st July, N. S., I suppose you are now either at Venice or Verona, and perfectly re covered of your late illness: which I am daily more and more convinced had no consumptive tendency; however, for some time still, ’faites comme s’il y en avoit’, be regular, and live pectorally.

You will soon be at courts, where, though you will not be concerned, yet reflection and observation upon what you see and hear there may be of use to you, when hereafter you may come to be concerned in courts yourself. Nothing in courts is exactly as it appears to be; often very different; sometimes directly contrary. Interest, which is the real spring of everything there, equally creates and dissolves friendship, produces and reconciles enmities: or, rather, allows of neither real friendships nor enmities; for, as Dryden very justly observes, POLITICIANS NEITHER LOVE NOR HATE. This is so true, that you may think you connect yourself with two friends to-day, and be obliged tomorrow to make your option between them as enemies; observe, therefore, such a degree of reserve with your friends as not to put yourself in their power, if they should become your enemies; and such a degree of moderation with your enemies, as not to make it impossible for them to become your friends.

Courts are, unquestionably, the seats of politeness and good-breeding; were they not so, they would be the seats of slaughter and desolation. Those who now smile upon and embrace, would affront and stab each other, if manners did not interpose; but ambition and avarice, the two prevailing passions at courts, found dissimulation more effectual than violence; and dissimulation introduced that habit of politeness, which distinguishes the courtier from the country gentleman. In the former case the strongest body would prevail; in the latter, the strongest mind.

A man of parts and efficiency need not flatter everybody at court; but he must take great care to offend nobody personally; it being in the power of every man to hurt him, who cannot serve him. Homer supposes a chain let down from Jupiter to the earth, to connect him with mortals. There is, at all courts, a chain which connects the prince or the minister with the page of the back stairs, or the chamber-maid. The king’s wife, or mistress, has an influence over him; a lover has an influence over her; the chambermaid, or the valet de chambre, has an influence over both, and so ad infinitum. You must, therefore, not break a link of that chain, by which you hope to climb up to the prince.

You must renounce courts if you will not connive at knaves, and tolerate fools. Their number makes them considerable. You should as little quarrel as connect yourself with either.

Whatever you say or do at court, you may depend upon it, will be known; the business of most of those, who crowd levees and antichambers, being to repeat all that they see or hear, and a great deal that they neither see nor hear, according as they are inclined to the persons concerned, or according to the wishes of those to whom they hope to make their court. Great caution is therefore necessary; and if, to great caution, you can join seeming frankness and openness, you will unite what Machiavel reckons very difficult but very necessary to be united; ’volto sciolto e pensieri stretti’.

Women are very apt to be mingled in court intrigues; but they deserve attention better than confidence; to hold by them is a very precarious tenure.

I am agreeably interrupted in these reflections by a letter which I have this moment received from Baron Firmian. It contains your panegyric, and with the strongest protestations imaginable that he does you only justice. I received this favorable account of you with pleasure, and I communicate it to you with as much. While you deserve praise, it is reasonable you should know that you meet with it; and I make no doubt, but that it will encourage you in persevering to deserve it. This is one paragraph of the Baron’s letter: Ses moeurs dans un age si tendre, reglees selon toutes les loix d’une morale exacte et sensee; son application (that is what I like) a tout ce qui s’appelle etude serieuse, et Belles Lettres,---- ["Notwithstanding his great youth, his manners are regulated by the most unexceptionable rules of sense and of morality. His application THAT IS WHAT I LIKE to every kind of serious study, as well as to polite literature, without even the least appearance of ostentatious pedantry, render him worthy of your most tender affection; and I have the honor of assuring you, that everyone cannot but be pleased with the acquisition of his acquaintance or of his friendship. I have profited of it, both here and at Vienna; and shall esteem myself very happy to make use of the permission he has given me of continuing it by letter." Reputation, like health, is preserved and increased by the same means by which it is acquired. Continue to desire and deserve praise, and you will certainly find it. Knowledge, adorned by manners, will infallibly procure it. Consider, that you have but a little way further to get to your journey’s end; therefore, for God’s sake, do not slacken your pace; one year and a half more of sound application, Mr. Harte assures me, will finish this work; and when this work is finished well, your own will be very easily done afterward. ’Les Manieres et les Graces’ are no immaterial parts of that work; and I beg that you will give as much of your attention. to them as to your books. Everything depends upon them; ’senza di noi ogni fatica e vana’. The various companies you now go into will procure them you, if you will carefully observe, and form yourself upon those who have them.

Adieu! God bless you! and may you ever deserve that affection with which I am now, Yours.

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Chicago: Philip Dormer Stanhope, "Letter LXXIX," Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1749, 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, 1749 Original Sources, accessed August 25, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QCMIHS7Z4G6MYAP.

MLA: Stanhope, Philip Dormer. "Letter LXXIX." Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1749, 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, 1749, Original Sources. 25 Aug. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QCMIHS7Z4G6MYAP.

Harvard: Stanhope, PD, 'Letter LXXIX' in Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1749, trans. . cited in , Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1749. Original Sources, retrieved 25 August 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QCMIHS7Z4G6MYAP.