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being, but for our being at all. The Christian Religion carries our moral duties to greater perfection, and orders us to love our enemies, and to do good to those who use us ill. Now as love or hate is not in our power, though our actions are, this commandment means no more than that we should forgive those who use us ill, and that instead of resenting or revenging injuries, we should return good for evil.'
How admirable too are his remarks in the 125th Letter, in which he comments on the folly of glorying in distinctions originating only from the accidents of fortune
Scavez-vous qui sont vos superieurs, vos egaux, et vos inferieurs? Expliquons un peu cela. Vos superieurs sont ceux à qui la fortune a donné beaucoup plus de rang et de richesses qu'à vous. sont ce qui s'appelle Gentilhommes, ou honnêtes gens. inferieurs sont ceux à qui la fortune a refusé tout rang et tout bien, sans souvent qu'il y ait de leur faute, et qui sont obligés de travailler pour gagner leur vie. Selon la nature la servante de Monsieur Robert, est aussi bien née que vous, elle a eu un Père et une Mere, un Grandpere et une Grandmere et des ancêtres jusqu’Adam: mais malheureusement pour elle, ils non pas été si riches que les votres et par consequent n'ont pu lui donner une education comme la votre. Et voilà toute la difference entre elle et vous, elle vous donne son travail, et vous lui donnez de l'argent.'*
The letters comprised in the second group are represented by the fourteen (129-142) on the Duty, Utility, and Means of Pleasing, by thirteen designed to cram you full of the most shining thoughts of the Ancients and Moderns. After this the letters, as a series, go to pieces, and are in the main repetitions of what had been said in Letters 129–140, or merely gossiping trifles. The letters on the Art of Pleasing are the only ones in this group
which stand on the same level as the Letters to the Son. Some of the others appear to us to show evident traces of senility. The same remarks are repeated over and over again. The story of Dido, with the wretched epigrams on her death, is twice narrated, so also is the trash of Atterbury about Flavia's fan. The selection of the most shining thoughts of the Ancients and Moderns' is worthy of Ned Softly himself, and in some cases the comments too, We think Lord Carnarvon would, here at least, have done well had he exercised a little less indulgently his discretion as an editor.
But to turn to Chesterfield's own shining passages.' The
* These sentiments find an interesting illustration in his Will: 'I give to all my menial or household servants that shall have lived with me five years or upwards whom I consider as unfortunate friends, my equals by nature and my inferiors only by the difference of our fortune, two years' wages,' &c. See his Will, printed in Gentleman's Magazine,' for July 1773.
shrewd good sense of such remarks as these will be at once apparent.
Vanity is a great inducement to keep low company, for a man of quality is sure to be the first man in it, and to be admired and flattered, though perhaps the greatest fool in it.'-Letter cxxxiv.
Again, on the same subject :
"I know of nothing more difficult in common behaviour than to fix due bounds to familiarity; too little implies an unsociable formality, too much destroys all friendly and social intercourse. The best rule I can give you to manage familiarity is never to be more familiar with anybody than you would be willing and even glad that he should be with you.'—CXIII. The remarks about wit are excellent:
you have real wit it will flow spontaneously, and you need not aim at it, for in that case the rule of the Gospel is reversed, and it will prove, seek and you shall not find. Wit is so shining a quality that everybody admires it, most people aim at it, all people fear it, and few love it except in theinselves. A wise man will live as much within his wit as within his income.”
La Rochefoucauld himself has nothing better than this remark on Vanity :
Vanity is the more odious and shocking to everybody, because everybody without exception has vanity; and two vanities can never love one another, any more than according to the vulgar saying, two of a trade can. If you desire to please universally men and women, address yourself to their passions and weaknesses, gain their hearts, and then let their reason do their worst against you.'—CXLI.
How fine and exquisite, with the precision and subtilty of La Bruyère at his best, is this :
• Judgment is not upon all occasions required, but discretion always is. Never affect nor assume a particular character, for it will never fit you, but will probably give you a ridicule, but leave it to your conduct, your virtues, your morals, and your manners to give you one. Discretion will teach you to have particular attention to your mours, which we have no one word in our language to express exactly. Morals are too much, manners too little, decency comes the nearest to it, though rather short of it.'--OXLII.
Well worth pausing over are remarks like these :
• There is as much difference between Pride and Dignity as there is between Power and Authority.'—Cxcvi.
'A vicious character may and will alter if there is good sense at bottom, but a frivolous one is condemned to eternal ridicule and contempt.'-Coxxxv.
A certain degree of ceremony is a necessary outwork of manners as well as of religion.'—CXXXI.
'Il faut l'avouer il y a des coutumes bien ridicules qui ont été inventées par des sots, mais auxquelles les sages sont obligés de se conformer.'—CCVI.
The literary fame of Chesterfield must rest on the · Letters to the Son ;' but to these letters, about a third of what is comprised in the present volume is well worthy of being added, and is indeed a substantial contribution to the work by which he will be remembered.
Nothing is so natural, but assuredly nothing is so delusive as the desire to make others wise—wise vicariously, with the wisdom of experience. It is perhaps the last illusion of old age.
But it is an illusion for which the world has reason to be thankful. Generation after generation have men, whose profound acquaintance with human nature and human affairs would make even their slightest reflections precious, devoted their leisure or their decline to summing up, for the benefit of those dear to them, the lessons which life had taught them. Such was the occupation of the leisure of Cato the Censor, and of our own Alfred.
The letters of the elder Wyatt to the younger are in our opinion of more value than the poems to which he owes his fame. Thus too we have the instructions drawn up by Lord Burleigh for the guidance of his son Robert, and excellent they are-so excellent and so characteristic of their eminent author, that we wonder they have not been reprinted in our own time. Of Raleigh’s voluminous writings the 'Advice to his Son,' or, as he entitles it, “Instructions to his Son and to Posterity,' is one of the few which still maintains its interest. The only work of James I. which deserves to be remembered is the Basilicon Doron.' Cardinal Sermonetta's Instructions to his Cousin,' and the Manual attributed to Walsingham-not the Minister of Elizabeth, but the Secretary to Lord Digbyare perhaps more curious than important; but Francis Osborn's • Letters to his Son' deserve a better fate than they have met with. Nothing that Chesterfield's own ancestor, George Saville, Marquis of Halifax, has left us, and he has left us two essays which are masterpieces, is comparable to his *Advice to a Daughter,' a little manual which ought not only to be reprinted, but to be placed in the hands of every young lady in England. Coming down more nearly to Chesterfield's time, we have the letters written by Lord Chatham to his nephew at Cambridge, and it is curious to note how close a resemblance, so far as direct instruction is concerned, they bear to Chesterfield's letters. There is the same insistence throughout on
Religion and Morality being the pillars on which life rests; on the necessity of a sound, as distinguished from a pedantic classical training forming the basis of literary culture; on the fact that the use of learning is to render a man more wise and virtuous, not merely more learned ;' on the importance of the study of modern history and modern languages in conjunction with ancient. Among the many minor coincidences two are well worth noticing. Perhaps nothing has been more ridiculed in Chesterfield than his remarks about the ungracefulness of laughter. But Chatham has made exactly the same remarks:— Avoid contracting any peculiar gesticulations of the body, or movements of the muscles of the face. It is rare to see in any one a graceful laughter; it is generally better to smile than to laugh out.' * Both indeed were but repeating what had been said before by Plato, Isocrates, Cicero, and Epictetus. t No one will accuse Lord Chatham of any sympathy with lax morality; but unless we greatly misread a passage in one of his letters, he thought there was nothing indecorous in banter, quite indistinguishable from Chesterfield's. I
But no serious comparison can be drawn between these letters and the letters of which we are speaking. Interesting and valuable as the greater portion of them are, the best of them have no pretensions to be classical. In their matter there is an immense preponderance of what is only not platitude, because of the authority that enforces it. In none of them is there any attempt at a regular system of instruction. They are simply didactic, and didactic in the sense of being, as a rule, simply admonitory. In point of style, the great criterion, they are all essentially deficient, and that for various reasons and in various degrees.
The unpopularity of Chesterfield among his countrymen is not difficult to understand. In the first place he is the most aristocratic of writers. He wrote, to employ his own words, not for the herd of mankind, who, though useful in their way, are but the candle-snuffers and scene-shifters of the universal theatre,' but for those whom Nature, education, and industry, have qualified to act the great parts.' It ought always to be remembered, and is almost always forgotten, that these letters were not intended for publication. They were neither addressed
* • Letters written by the late Earl of Chatham to his nephew Thomas Pitt,' Letter v. p. 34.
+ • Republic, 1. p. 338; “Ad Demonicum,' 15; 'De Officiis,' lib. 1. 29 ; • Enchiridiou, cap. xxx. 4. | Chatham's Letters, XIX. p. 92.
to the multitude, nor have they application to the multitude. They were designed for the guidance of a young English aristocrat. They have therefore to ordinary men, who regard them as addressed to the world in general, all the irritating effect of a continued strain of irony. Neither writer nor reader, or to speak more correctly, neither teacher nor pupil, understand one another. The teacher is assuming that the pupil is moving in a sphere in which fortune has not placed him, and the pupil insensibly takes the assumption for a satire on the sphere in which fortune has placed him. He is perpetually being admonished to become something which he can never be, and warned against becoming what in truth he cannot help being. In the amusements, in the serious occupations, in the aims for the guidance of which instruction is being given, his own appear to be superciliously ignored, or made to seem contemptible by
Few men care to be reminded, honourable as such occupations may be, that they belong to the candle-snuffers and scene-shifters of the universal theatre.'
In the second place Chesterfield is, of all English writers, if we except perhaps Horace Walpole, the most essentially unEnglish. Nothing pleased him so much as a compliment paid to him when a very young man by a French gentleman at Paris :
Monsieur, vous êtes tout comme nous,' and it was simple truth. In genius, in sympathy, in culture, he was far more French than English. In the French character and temper he saw the foundation of human perfection. I have often,' he writes, said and do think that a Frenchman, who, with a fund of virtue, learning, and good sense, has the manners and good breeding of his country, is the perfection of human nature.' His manners were French. He gave his house at Blackheath a French name. His favourite authors were French. He delighted to converse and write in French, and he both wrote and spoke it with the same purity and facility as English. On French canons his own critical canons were formed, on French models his taste. He thought the "Henriade' finer poem than the “Iliad' and the Æneid.'
He preferred Racine and Corneille to Shakspeare. It is always in accordance with characteristic French taste, and with reference to characteristic French models that his judgments are formed. Good sense combined with grace and lucidity of expression are, as he has insisted repeatedly, the first requisites of poets.
The passion and intensity of Dante were unintelsigible to him. He could not read him, he said. Milton he found tedious. The transcendentalism of Petrarch disgusted him, he is 'a sing-song love poet who deserved his Laura better