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necessary for this, as indeed it is for every thing else ; and a man without attention is not fit to live in the world. When an awkward fellow first comes into a room it is highly probable that his sword gets between his legs, and throws him down, or makes him stumble at least; when he has recovered this accident, he goes and places himself in the very place of the whole room where he should not; there he soon lets his hat fall down, and, in taking it up again, throws down his cane; in recovering his cane, his hat falls a second time : so that he is a quarter of an hour before he is in order again. If he drinks tea or coffee, he certainly scalds his mouth, and lets either the cup or the saucer fall, and spills the the tea or coffee in his breeches. At dinner his awkwardness distinguishes itself particularly, as he has more to do; there he holds his knife, fork, and spoon differently from other people; eats with his knife to the great danger of his mouth, picks his teeth with his fork, and puts his spoon, which has been in his throat twenty times, into the dishes again. If he is to carve, he can never hit the joint; but, in his vain efforts to cut through the bone, scatters the sauce in everybody's face. He generally daubs himself with soup and grease, though his napkin is commonly stuck through a buttonhole, and tickles his chin. When he drinks, he infallibly coughs in his glass and besprinkles the company. Besides all this, he has strange tricks and gestures; such as snuffing up his nose, making faces, putting his fingers in his nose, or blowing it and looking afterwards in his handkerchief, so as to make the company sick. His hands are troublesome to him when he has not something in them, and he does not know where to put them ; but they are in perpetual motion between his bosom and his breeches; he does not wear his clothes, and, in short, does nothing like other people. All this, I own, is not in any degree criminal ; but it is highly disagreeable and ridiculous in company, and ought most carefully to be avoided by whoever desires to please.
From this account of what you should not do, you may easily judge what you should do; and a due attention to the manners of people of fashion, and who have seen the world will make it habitual and familiar to you.
There is, likewise, an awkwardness of expression and words, most carefully to be avoided; such as false English, bad pronunciation, old sayings, and common proverbs; which are so many proofs of having kept bad and low company. For example : if, instead of saying that tastes are different, and that every man has his
own peculiar one, you should let off a proverb, and say, that “What is one man's meat is another man's poison”; or else, “Every one as they like, as the good man said when he kissed his cow”; everybody would be persuaded that you had never kept company with anybody above footmen and housemaids.
Attention will do all this; and without attention nothing is to be done ; want of attention, which is really want of thought, is either folly or madness. You should not only have attention to every thing, but a quickness of attention, so as to observe, at once, all the people in the room ; their motions, their looks, and their words; and yet without staring at them, and seeming to be an observer. This quick and unobserved observation is of infinite advantage in life, and is to be acquired with care; and, on the contrary, what is called absence, which is a thoughtlessness and want of attention about what is doiug, makes a man so like either a fool or a madman, that, for my part, I see no real difference. A fool never has thought, a madman has lost it; and an absent man is, for the time, without it.* [Dated Spa, July 25, N. S. 1741.]
* In the compilation called "Lord Chesterfield's Maxims," wherein part of this letter is given, all the characteristic points are left out. Thus, where Chesterfield reminds his son that manner is of consequence in pleasing, especially the women, the purist has excised the words in italics.
TRUE PRAISE.—Laudari a viro laudato was always a commendable ambition; encourage that ambition and continue to deserve the praises of the praiseworthy. While you
do so you shall have every thing you will from me; and when you cease to do so you shall ave nothing
AN AWKWARD MIND.-I have warned you against odd motions, strange postures, and ungenteel carriage. But there is likewise an awkwardness of the mind that ought to be, and with care may be, avoided : as, for instance, to mistake or forget names ; to speak of Mr. Whatd'ye-call-him, or Mrs. Thingum, or How-d'yecall-her, is excessively awkward and ordinary. To call people by improper titles and appellations is so too; as my Lord for sir; and sir for
To begiu a story or narration, when you are not perfect in it, and cannot go through with it, but are forced, possibly, to say in the middle of it, “I have forgot the rest,” is very unpleasant and bungling. One must be extremely exact, clear, and perspicuous in every thing one says, otherwise, instead of entertaining or informing others, one only tires and puz
zles them. The voice and manner of speaking, too, are not to be neglected; some people almost shut their mouths when they speak, and mutter so, that they are not to be understood; others speak so fast and sputter so, that they are not to be understood neither ; some always speak as loud as if they were talking to deaf people; and others so low that one cannot hear them. All these habits are awkward and disagreeable; and are to be avoided by attention : they are the distinguishing marks of the ordinary people, who have had no care taken of their education. You cannot imagine how necessary it is to mind all these little things; for I have seen many people with great talents ill received, for want of having these talents, too; and others well received only from their little talents, and who had no great
ORATORY AND HARD WORK.-Demosthenes, the celebrated Greek orator, thought it so absolutely necessary to speak well, that though he naturally stuttered, and had weak lungs, he resolved, by application and care, to get the better of those disadvantages. Accordingly, he cured his stammering by putting small pebbles into his mouth; and strengthened his lungs gradually, by using himself every day to speak