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But, to conclude this long letter; all the above-mentioned rules, however carefully you may observe them, will lose half their effect if unaccompanied by the Graces. Whatever you say, if you say it with a supercilious, cynical face, or an embarrassed countenance, or a silly, disconcerted grin, will be ill received. If, into the bargain, you mutter it, or utter it indistinctly and ungracefully, it will be still worse received. If your air and address are vulgar, awkward, and gauche, you may be esteemed indeed, if you have great intrinsic merit; but you will never please, and, without pleasing, you will rise but heavily. Venus, among the ancients, was synonymous with the Graces, who were always supposed to accompany her ; and Horace tells us that even Youth, and Mercury, the god of arts and eloquence, would not do without her.
“-Parùm comis sine te Juventas,
They are not inexorable ladies, and may be had if properly and diligently pursued. Adieu. [Same date.]
THE DUTY OF A MENTOR.-I have long since done mentioning your great religious and moral duties; because I could not make your understanding so bad a compliment, as to suppose that you wanted, or could receive, any new instructions upon those two important points. Mr. Harte, I am sure, has not neglected them; besides, they are so obvious to common sense and reason, that commentators may (as they often do) perplex, but cannot make them clearer. My province, therefore, is to supply, by my experience, your, hitherto, inevitable inexperience in the ways of the world. People at your age are in a state of natural ebriety; and want rails, and gardefous, wherever they go, to hinder them from breaking their necks. This drunkenness of youth is not only tolerated, but even pleases, if kept within certain bounds of discretion and decency. Those bounds are the point which it is difficult for the drunken man himself to find out; and there it is that the experience of a friend may not only serve but save him.
Carry with you, and welcome, into company, all the gaiety and spirits, but as little of the giddiness, of youth as you can. The former will charnı ; but the latter will often, though innocently, implacably offend. Inform yourself of the characters and situations of the company, before you give way to what your imagination may prompt you to say. There are, in all companies, more wrong heads than
right ones, and many more who deserve than who like censure. [Oct. 29, 1748.]
EGOTISM.—Cautiously avoid talking of either your own or other people's domestic affairs. * Yours are nothing to them, but tedious ; theirs are nothing to you. The subject is a tender one; and it is odds but you touch somebody or other's sore place; for, in this case, there is no trusting to specious appearances; which may be, and often are, so contrary to the real situation of things, between men and their wives, parents and their children, seeming friends, etc., that, with the best intentions in the world, one often blunders disagreeably.
Remember, that the wit, humor, and jokes of most mixed companies are local. They thrive in that particular soil, but will not often bear transplanting. Every company is differently circumstanced, has its particular cant, and jargon; which may give occasion to wit and mirth, within that circle, but would seem flat and insipid in any other, and therefore will not bear repeating. [Same date.]
GOOD FELLOWS.—You will find, in most good company, some people who only keep their place there by a contemptible title enough; these are what we call very goodnatured fellows, and the French bons diables. The truth is, they are people without any parts or fancy, and who, having no will of their own, readily assent to, concur in, and applaud, whatever is said or done in the company; and adopt, with the same alacrity, the most virtuous or the most criminal, the wisest or the silliest scheme, that happens to be entertained by the majority of the company. This foolish, and often crimiinal, complaisance flows from a foolish cause; the want of any other merit. I hope you will hold your place in company by a nobler tenure, and that you will hold it (you can bear a quibble, I believe, yet) in capite. Have a will and an opinion of your own, and adhere to them steadily; but then do it with good humor, good breeding, and (if you have it) with urbanity; for you have not yet beard enough either to preach or censure. [Same date.]
* The author, as he says, often repeats himself, see ante, p. 150.
THE FINE GENTLEMAN.—What the French justly call les manières nobles, are only to be acquired in the very best companies. They are the distinguishing characteristics of men of fashion : people of low education never wear them so close, but that some part or other of the original vulgarism appears. Les manières nobles equally forbid insolent contempt, or low envy and jealousy. Low people, in good circumstances, fine clothes, and equipage, will insolently show contempt for all those who cannot afford as fine clothes, as good an equipage, and who have not (as they term it) as much money in their pockets : on the other hand, they are gnawed with envy, and cannot help discovering it, of those who surpass them in any of these articles; which are far from being sure criterions of merit. They are, likewise, jealous of being slighted; and, consequently, suspicious and captious: they are eager and hot about trifles; because trifles were, at first, their affairs of consequence. Les manières nobles imply exactly the reverse of all this. Study them early; you cannot make them too habitual and familiar to you. [Same date.]
I like the description of your pic-nic;* where, I take it for granted, that your cards are only to break the formality of a circle, and your symposium intended more to promote conversation than drinking. Such an amicable collision, as Lord Shaftesbury very prettily calls it, rubs
* Pic-nic. Johnson does not mention this word, nor do his predecessors, Ashe and Bailey. Richardson does not give it even in his supplement. Worcester cites Widegren, 1788; this then is the earliest use of the word by an author of weight.