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been no idea of forming a model for imitation, but they are simply intended to bring up a pupil in the closest intimacy. They are confidential letters, which, suddenly produced in the light of day, have betrayed all the secrets and ingenious artifices of paternal solicitude. If, in reading them nowadays, we are struck with the excessive importance attached to accidental, and promiscuous circumstances, with pure details of costume, we are not less struck with the durable part, with that which belongs to human observation in all ages; and this last part is much more considerable than at a superficial glance would be imagined. In applying himself to the formation of his son as a polite man in society, Lord Chesterfield has not given us a treatise on duty as Cicero has ; but he has left letters which, by their mixture of justness and lightness, by certain lightsome airs which insensibly mingle with the serious graces, preserve the medium between the Mémoires of the Chevalier de Grammont and Télémaque.
Before going into detail, it will be necessary to know a little about Lord Chesterfield, one of the most brilliant English wits of his time, and one most closely allied to France. Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, was born in London on the 22d of September, 1694, the same year as Voltaire. The descendant of
an illustrious race, he knew the value of birth, and wished to sustain its honor; nevertheless, it was difficult for him not to laugh at genealogical pretensions when carried too far. To keep himself from this folly, he had placed amongst the portraits of his ancestors two old figures of a man and a woman : beneath one was written, “ Adam de Stanhope”; and beneath the other “ Eve de Stanhope.” Thus, while upholding the honor of race, he put his veto upon chimerical vanities arising from it..
His father paid no attention whatever to his education ; he was placed under the care of his grandmother, Lady Halifax. From a very early age he manifested a desire to excel in every thing, a desire which later he did his utmost to excite in the breast of his son, and which for good or ill is the principle of all that is great. It appears that, in his early youth, he was without guidance, he was deceived more than once in the objects of his emulation, and followed some ridiculous chimera. He confesses that at one period of inexperience he gave himself up to wine, and other excesses, for which he was not at all inclined by nature, but it flattered his vanity to hear himself cited as a man of pleasure. In this way he plunged into play (which he considered a necessary ingredient in the composition of a young man of
fashion), at first without passion, but afterwards without being able to withdraw himself from it, and by that means compromised his fortune for years. “Take warning by my conduct," said he to his son, “ choose your own pleasures, and do not let others choose them for you."
The desire to excel and to distinguish himself did not always lead him astray, and he often applied it rightly ; his first studies were the best. Placed at the University of Cambridge, he studied all that was there taught, civil law and philosophy; he attended the mathematical classes of Saunderson, the blind professor. He read Greek fluently, and sent accounts of his progress in French to his old tutor, M. Jouneau, a French clergyman and refugee. Lord Chesterfield had, when a child, learnt our tongue from a Norman nurse who attended him. When he visited Paris the last time, in 1744, M. de Fontenelle having remarked a slight Norman accent in his pronunciation, spoke of it to him, and asked him if he had not first been taught French by a person from Normandy, which turned out to be the case.
After two years of university life, he made his Continental tour, according to the custom of young Englishmen. He visited Holland, Italy, and France. He wrote from Paris to M. Jouneau, on the 7th of December, 1714, as follows ;
“I shall not tell you what I think of the French, because I am being often taken for a Frenchman, and more than one of them has paid me the highest possible compliment, by saying: 'Monsieur, you are quite one of ourselves. I shall only tell you that I am impudent; that I talk a great deal very loudly, and with an air of authority; that I sing ; that I dance in my walk ; and, finally, that I spend immense sums in powder, feathers, white gloves,
In this extract one recognizes the mocking, satirical, and slightly insolent wit, who makes his mark for the first time at the expense of the French; he will do justice later to our serious qualities. In his letters to his son, he has pictured himself the first day he made his entrée into good society, still covered with the rust of Cambridge, shamefaced, embarrassed, silent; and, finally, forcing his courage with both hands to say to a beautiful woman near him : “Madame, don't you find it very warm to-day ?” But Lord Chesterfield told his son that to encourage him, and to show what it is necessary to pass through. He makes himself an example to embolden him, and to draw the boy more readily to him. I shall be careful not to take his word for this anecdote. If he was for a moment embarrassed in the world, the moment
was assuredly very short, nor was he much concerned with it.
Immediately on the death of Queen Anne, Chesterfield hailed the accession of the house of Hanover, of which he became an avowed champion. He had at first a seat in the House of Commons, and made his debut there with fair credit. But a circumstance, in appearance frivolous, kept him, it is said, in check, and in some measure paralyzed his eloquence. One of the members of the House, who was distinguished by no talent of a superior order, had that of imitating and counterfeiting to perfection the orators to whom he replied. Chesterfield was afraid of ridicule; it was one of his weaknesses, and he kept silence more than he otherwise would have done for fear of giving occasion for the exercise of his colleague and opponent's talent. He inherited a large property on the death of his father, and was raised to the Upper House, which was, perhaps, a better setting for the grace, finish, and urbanity of his eloquence. He found no comparison between the two scenes with regard to the importance of the debates and the political influence to be acquired.
“It is surprising," he said later of Pitt, at the time when that great orator consented to enter the Upper House as Lord Chatham, “it is sur