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produced nothing more than an ordinary and insignificant man of the world, one of those about whom it suffices to say, there is nothing to be said of them; he had cause to be truly grieved and pity himself for his work if he were not a father.
Lord Chesterfield had early thought of France to polish his son, and to give him that courtesy which cannot be acquired late in life. In private letters written to a lady at Paris, whom I believe to be Madame de Monconseil,* we see that he had thought of sending him to France from his childhood.
“I have a boy,” he wrote to this friend, “who is now thirteen years old ; I freely confess to you that he is not legitimate ; but his mother was well born and was kinder to me than I deserved. As to the boy, perhaps it is partiality, but I think him amiable; he has a pretty face; he has much sprightliness, and I think intelligence, for his age. He speaks French perfectly;
he knows a good deal of Latin and Greek, and he has ancient and modern history at his fingers' ends. He is at school at present, but as they never dream here of forming the manners of young people, and they are almost all foolish, awkward, and unpolished, in short such as you see them when they come to Paris at the age of twenty or twenty-one, I do not wish my boy to remain here to acquire such bad habits ; for this reason, when he is fourteen I think of sending him to Paris. As I love the child dearly, and have set myself to make something good of him, as I believe he has the stuff in him, my idea is to unite in him what has never been found in one person before—I mean the best qualities of the two nations."
* This is no longer a conjecture, but a certainty, after what I read in the edition of “Lord Chesterfield's Letters” published in London by Lord Mahon in 1847 (4 vols.). See vol. iii., page 159. I was not acquainted with this edition when I wrote my article.-C. DE S. B.
And he enters into the details of his plan, and the means he thinks of using : a learned Englishman every morning, a French teacher after dinner, but above all the help of the fashionable world and good society. The war which broke out between France and England postponed this plan, and the young man did not make his début in Paris until 1751, when he was nineteen years old, and had finished his tour through Switzerland, Germany, and Italy.
Every thing has been arranged by the most attentive of fathers for his success and well-being upon this novel scene.
The young man is placed at the Academy with M. de la Guérinière; the morning he devotes to study, and the rest of the time is to be consecrated to the world. “Pleasure is now the last branch of your education,” this indulgent father writes; “it will soften and polish your manners; it will incite you to seek and finally to acquire graces." Upon this last point he is exacting, and shows no quarter. Graces, he returns continually to them, for without them all effort is vain. “If they are not natural to you, cultivate them,” he cries. He indeed speaks confidently; as if to cultivate graces, it is not necessary to have them already!
Three ladies, friends of his father, are especially charged to watch over and guide the young man at his début; they are his governantes : Madame de Monconseil, Lady Hervey, and Madame de Bocage. But these introducers appear essential for the first time only; the young man must afterwards depend upon himself, and choose some charming and more familiar guide. Upon this delicate subject of women, Lord Chesterfield breaks the ice: “I shall not talk to you on this subject like a theologian, or a moralist, or a father," he says; “I set aside my age, and only take yours into consideration. I wish to speak to you as one man of pleasure would to another if he has taste and spirit.” And he expresses himself in consequence, stimulating the young man as much as possible towards polite arrangements and delicate pleasures, to draw him from common and coarse habits. His principle is that “ a polite arrangement becomes a gallant man." A11 his morality on this point is summed up in a line of Voltaire :
"Il n'est jamais de mal en bonne compagnie.”
It is at these sentences more especially that the modesty of the grave Johnson is put to the blush ; ours is content to smile at them.
The serious and the frivolous are perpetually mingling in these letters. Marcel, the dancingmaster, is very often recommended, Montesquieu no less. The Abbé de Guasco, a sort of toady to Montesquieu, is a useful personage for introductions. “Between you and me," writes Chesterfield, “he has more knowledge than genius; but a clever man knows how to make use of every thing, and every man is good for something. As to the Président of Montesquieu, he is in all respects a precious acquaintance : He has genius, with the most extensive reading in the world. Drink of this fountain as much as possible.”
Of authors, those whom Chesterfield particularly recommends at this time, and those whose names occur most frequently in his counsels, are La Rochefoucauld and La Bruyère. “If you read some of La Rochefoucauld's maxims in the morning, consider them, examine them
well, and compare them with the originals you meet in the evening. Read La Bruyère in the morning, and see in the evening if his portraits are correct.” But these guides, excellent as they are, have no other use by themselves than that of a map. Without personal observation and experience, they would be useless, and would even be conducive to error, as a map might be if one thought to get from it a complete knowledge of towns and provinces. Better read one man than ten books. “The world is a country that no one has ever known by means of descriptions; each of us must traverse it in person to be thoroughly initiated into its ways.”
Here are some precepts or remarks which are worthy of those masters of human morality :
“The most essential of all knowledge, I mean the knowledge of the world, is never acquired without great attention, and I know a great many aged persons who, after having had an extensive acquaintance, are still mere children in the knowledge of the world.”
“Human nature is the same all over the world; but its operations are so varied by education and custom that we ought to see it in all its aspects to get an intimate knowledge of it."
“Almost all men are born with every passion to some extent, but there is hardly a man who