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than his Lauro. He places Ariosto above Tasso, and Voltaire above both. He applies the same canons to conduct. No generous traits, no noble or elevated instincts, can compensate deficiency in grace and in a sense of the becoming. Thus he condemns Homer for making such a character as Achilles, whom he boldly denounces as a brute and a scoundrel, the hero of an Epic Poem. It is not surprising that his own countrymen should have found little favour in his eyes. And in truth he seldom speaks of them except in terms expressive of dislike and even abhorrence. Their uncouth vices, their equally uncouth virtues, their manners, their dress, their speech, form topics for endless ridicule. Throughout his letters he uses them as Horace tells us his father when educating him used his vicious neighbours, as examples of all that the decent should avoid. “I am informed,' he writes to his son, that there are now many English at Turin, and I fear there are just so many dangers for you to encounter.' No expression in his letters is more frequent than “would you wish to be,' or • I would not have you be a John Trot,' and John Trot is with him little more than a synonym for an ordinary Englishman. If we remember rightly, the only countrymen of his whom he has heartily praised are the Duke of Marlborough and Lord Bolingbroke, both men whose manners had been formed in the school of Versailles. With the good sense, however, which always distinguished him, he recognized that if there are French virtues there are English too. Thus in one of his letters to Madame Monconseil he says in reference to his son, ‘my idea is to unite in him what has never been found in one person before, I mean what is best in the two nations.' And in an admirable paper in 'Common Sense' (No. 93), he ridicules the indiscriminate aping of French
He anticipated Matthew Arnold in almost all those points in which Matthew Arnold's “Anti-Anglicanism' made itself most aggressive. He defined, he analysed, he delineated, he held up the mirror to Philistinism ; he showed its coarseness and ugliness, the vulgarity of its splendour, the meanness of its idols. Its vanity he insulted by proposing, as a pattern for its imitation, a people whose name was seldom mentioned without some epithet indicative of contempt. And the Philistines have had their revenge. The injustice of which he was undoubtedly guilty in not sufficiently recognizing their robust virtues, as well as their deficiencies, they have repaid by magnifying his foibles into vices and his vices into crimes.
But nothing has weighed so heavily against him as the charges to which we have already referred. And on one point we can offer no defence, The contempt with which he speaks of
women, and of the relation of women to life, has always appeared to us not merely the one great flaw in his writings, but indicative of the one unsound place in his judgment and temper. His misogyny goes far beyond that of Milton, it goes even beyond that of the Restoration Dramatists. The misogyny of Milton is that of a philosopher angry with Nature, and smarting from wounded pride. The misogyny of the Restoration Dramatists is that of mere libertines and wits. But the misogyny of Chesterfield resembles that of lago or Frederic the Great. He appears to regard women as occupying a sort of intermediate place, isolated between rational humanity and the animals. They are neither bound by the laws which bind men, nor are such laws binding in relation to them. They have their own morality, that is to say no morality at all, and a similar immunity is presumed in all who have dealings with them. As they tell no truth, so they exact no truth. “A man of sense therefore only trifles with them, plays with them, humours them, and flatters them, as he does with a spritely and forward child.' As they are incapable of sincerity and seriousness, sincerity and seriousness are utterly out of place in transactions with them. And yet, ' as they are necessary ingredients in all good company,' and as their suffrages go a great way in establishing a man's character in society, it is necessary to please and court them. This is easily done by remembering that they have only two passions, love and vanity. As 'no fattery is either too high or low for them,' for they will greedily swallow the highest and gratefully accept of the lowest,' their capture involves little trouble and no art. But it is well to bear in mind that those who are either indisputably beautiful or indisputably ugly are best flattered upon the score of their understandings; but those who are in a state of mediocrity, upon their beauty, or at least their graces.' In flattering them, however, on the store of their understanding care must be taken • not to drop one word about their experience, for experience implies age, and the suspicion of age, no woman, let her be ever so old, ever forgives.' Their chief use, apart from the pleasure of intriguing or philandering with them, lies in their being a means of culture. And for this
• The attentions which they require, and which are always paid them by well-bred men, keep up politeness, and give a habit of good breeding; whereas men, when they live together, and without the lenitive of women in company, are apt to grow careless, negligent, and rough among one another.' For the rest they are naught.
Their virtue is mere coquetry; their constancy and affections, fiction. And it was the same to the last. In a letter, for example, written not many years before
his death, after making a remark so coarse and brutal as to be quite unquotable, he says, 'to take a wife merely as an agreeable and rational companion will commonly be found a great mistake. Shakspeare seems to be' (it would have been more correct to say Iago) 'of my opinion when he allows them only this department
66 To suckle fools and chronicle small beer." ; Much of this is of course to be attributed to the age in which he lived and to the society in which he moved, and is to be regarded as simple deduction from his own experience. We have only to turn to such records as the Suffolk Papers' and Lord Hervey's • Memoirs,' to Walpole's Correspondence, to Hogarth's Cartoons, or to any of the Meinoirs merely descriptive of the fashionable life in Paris between the Regency and the Revolution, to such books as the Memoirs of the Duke de Richelieu,' the Memoirs of Madame Du Hausset,' the Collections of Bachaumont, the novelettes of Crebillon the younger, or the correspondence of that lady who, in Villemain's phrase, blended •la prostitution au Cardinal Dubois et l'amitié de Montesquieu,' and it becomes perfectly intelligible. There is every reason to believe that his own marriage was a very unhappy one, and in his wife, the illegitimate daughter of the coarse mistress of the coarsest of English kings, he certainly saw nothing calculated to give him a higher opinion of women, but much, on the other hand, to confirm him in his low one. But whatever may have been the reasons of Chesterfield's misogyny, it is undoubtedly a great blemish on his writings. It must not, however, mislead us. much in the habit of reading other ages in the light of our own, and of assuming that what would apply to a man who acted and thought in a particular way among ourselves, would apply to a man who acted and thought in the same way a century ago, that we very often arrive at most erroneous conclusions. A man, who in our day spoke and wrote of women as Chesterfield has done, would justly be set down as a scoundrel and a fool. But Chesterfield, so far from being a fool, was in some respects one of the wisest men who have ever lived ; and, so far from being a scoundrel, practised as well as preached a morality which every gentleman in the world would aspire to emulate. The truth is, as it is only just to him to say, that he was generalizing from his experience of women of fashion. of his papers in Common Sense' (No. 33) he has drawn a beautiful picture of what woman might be if she would only be true to nature. There are certain writings in the literature of every country
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which may have a message for the world, and may have value universally, but which to the country of their production have a particular message and a peculiar value. They are generally the work of men out of touch and out of sympathy with their surroundings : separated by differences of character, temper, intellect from their fellows, viewing things with other eyes, having other thoughts, other feelings ; aliens without being strangers. As ridicule is said to be the test of truth, so the judgments of these men are the tests of national life. They put to the proof its intellectual and moral currency. They call to account its creeds, its opinions, its sentiments, its manners, its fashions. For conventional touchstones and conventional standards they apply touchstones and standards of their own, derived, it may be, ideally from speculation, or derived, as is much more commonly the case, from those of other nations. They are not only the exorcists of the Idols of the Den which are as rife with communities as with individuals, but they are more. They are the upholders of the Ideal and of the Best. As the prophets of the first, the good they have done has been mingled with much mischief; in the inculcation of the second consists their greatest service. We mean of course by the best whatever has been carried by the human race to the highest conceivable point of perfection, and by one who inculcates the best, one who knows where to go to find it, how to understand and relish it, and how as a criterion to apply it. Such a man, for instance, would not go to Germany or Holland for his canons of the becoming in relation to manners, or for his canons of the beautiful in relation to Art, or of both in relation to the conduct of life. He would go to Ancient Greece and to Modern France. Now so solid and vigorous are our virtues as a nation, and so substantial and imposing are the results of them, that we are apt to ignore or perhaps not even to be conscious of the deficiencies compatible with them. But they exist for all that, and they are really serious; On the side of morality and feeling, coarseness ; on the side of taste and beauty, vulgarity; on the side of mind and spirit, unintelligence'-such is Matthew Arnold's indictment. And modify it as we may, much must remain which cannot in justice be deducted. To say that we have no due regard for the becoming and the beautiful, and as a rule no very clear perception of either, that 'to sacrifice to the Graces’ is to most of us little more than meaningless cant, that what may be called the minor morals have anything but definite significance, and that the practice of them, whenever they are practised, consists of a sort of haphazard application of principles derived casually from vague social traditions, is to say
nothing more than every one will acknowledge. And yet to admit this is to admit the existence of grievous defects, both in our temper and character, as well as in our systems of education. To no other teachers then ought we to pay more respectful attention than to those who would have us understand how much mischief and loss result from these defects, who would keep the proper standards steadily before us, and who would insist on our trying ourselves by them. Two such teachers we have had. One has been described as “a graceful poet whom no one took seriously'; the other as a complete master of the whole science of immorality'
Chesterfield's Letters have a threefold interest. They may be regarded as St. Beuve has regarded them, as a repertory of observations on life and manners, as 'a rich book, not a page of which can be read without our having to remember some happy remark,' full of fine discrimination and delicate analytical power, not indeed equal to such finished studies as La Bruyère and La Rochefoucauld have left us, but holding a sort of middle place between the Memoirs of the Chevalier de Grammont' and Telemachus.' Or they may be regarded in relation merely to the immediate purpose for which they were designed, as a manual of practical advice, as a treatise on the art of living becomingly under conventional conditions. From wbich point of view they may be compared to such works as Castiglione's Courtier, Guevara's Dial of Princes,' Peacham's 'Complete English Gentleman,' the Abbé de Bellegarde's L'Art de plaire dans la conversation,' to such works, in fine, as the literature of every civilized country in Europe abounds in. But it is not here that their true interest lies. It is in their philosophy of life, in their attempt to revive under modern conditions ancient ethical ideas. They not only bear a close resemblance to Cicero's . De Officiis ' in the circumstances under which they were written and in the tone and style of their composition, but their philosophy on its ethical side is in the main little more than a reproduction of the philosophy of Cicero's treatise. It is with constant reference to the first Book of the • De Officiis,' and more particularly to the chapters dealing with the fourth division of the honestum, that these letters should be read. The correspondence, the identity indeed of much of Chesterfield's ethical teaching with that of Cicero,* will be at once apparent if we examine it for a moment in detail. The perfection of character consists in the maintenance of an exquisite and absolute equilibrium of all the
* It is scarcely necessary to say that Cicero was himself only popularising, with certain modifications of his own, the teachings of the Greek Schools and particularly of Panætius.