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helped Mr. Fitz-Adam in his weekly paper called “ The World." - Ibid. Vol. 111. p. 257.
He seems at this period to have contemplated writing historical tracts of his own time, but he had little hope that he should accomplish any thing. His health was broken, long before the weight of years alone would account for his withdrawing from public business and remitting his literary projects. And, though he lived to nearly fourscore, yet for the last twenty-five years of his life, the care of his health, and contrivances for resisting the languor and depression of vertigo and deafness, allowed but brief intervals of repose for mental effort, and little of that "flow of active spirits,” he says, " which is so necessary to enable one to do any thing well.” Accordingly, we do not find that he left any thing at his death for the printer, and he probably had no thought of posthumous renown for any thing he had written.
The Correspondence on which his fame rests, was published by others, as they could collect it, and probably comprises but a small part of his letters. We are not aware, that he left any directions on the subject, or had any hand in making the collection; and there is good reason to suppose, that he rarely made copies. As he says, that he never rewrote a letter, we presume that we have his most familiar correspondence in the first draught ; and there is no cause to regret this. Probably, in point of literary excellence, it would have been the worse for retouching ; and, in point of trustworthiness, the difference is great, let the writer be ever so honest, between the first unpremeditated expression, and the carefully corrected and guarded copy which is offered to the general reader. Dr. Maty wishes, that the Earl had lived to publish his letters to his son, as he might then have had an opportunity of expunging some obnoxious passages. The Editor, though a lady, felt no scruples on the subject ; and it might have been difficult for any one, not excepting Chesterfield, to heal a general, lurking disease, by removing eruptions. Dr. Maty's apology is worth something, if intended to screen the Earl from the charge of a deliberate purpose to corrupt the whole body of English youth ; but when he calls the obnoxious passages
confined to a period of three or four years,” the period may seem preity long to instill poison into a young mind; and the Earl's character will gain little by the apology, when it is considered that the vicious passages were addressed to his own child.
16 transient errors,
The recent publication of Chesterfield's Letters, in this country, has led us to inquire into his history and writings, with more curiosity than we had ever felt on either subject. We had heard of him in our youth as the great master of manners, the lawgiver and authority on all points of exterior propriety. The name alone, when uttered in a tone of warning, conveyed a censure of all rudeness, and hinted every thing that became a well-bred man. We had read in our school-books several of his excellent letters on good behaviour, and in due time we had learned, that he who could condescend to a boy's civilization, was a peer of England, who had declined a pension and dukedom, and a minister. of state, who had retired of his own accord. We might have suspected, and with safety, that much of the sententious wisdom which we had listened to from our elders, was a repetition of the practical sayings of one whom we had regarded, with trembling, as our master of ceremonies. The teacher of accomplishments was also a sage. There was an oracle among
the Graces. There can be no doubt of his authority with two generations at least, both here and in Europe, whatever it may be now. The character of his influence we will consider hereafter.
We have spoken of him as indebted for his literary name to the accident that a part of his correspondence was preserved. He was by choice, and upon system, a man of business, of pleasure, and of the world. At the age of nineteen, after passing two years at Cambridge, he set out upon his travels, alone. The custom of gross pleasures at the University, he had deemed a proper accomplishment for an English gentleman ; and during his first absence from home he seems not to have wholly freed himself from this rude prejudice. It was at a little later period, that he conceived his idea of a perfectly refined man, and learned to despise his coarse, awkward countrymen, of what rank soever, who herded together for company in foreign states, and sought their pleasures, as at home, in the lowest haunts of vice.
Upon the accession of George the First, he went into the House of Commons and made his first speech in support of the new government. He was yet under twenty-one, and it is said, that, to avoid the penalty of taking a seat in the House before the legal age, he went a second time to Paris. And here begins his noviciate as a man of fashion, or what he would call a pretty gentleman, one of those“ pretty fellows,” for whom we have devised another name. This training, however, is part of his system for moulding a man of action. He had no idea of becoming a beau or coxcomb for the sake of the accomplishment. His fine gentleman is to be a man of power in the highest callings of active life. When he has acquired all learning, and necessarily a great deal of rust with it, he must mix with those who are experienced in high life, that he may obtain the full use of his possessions. The whole body must be taught to serve the mind, and never be in its way; a noble doctrine, according to the object. He gives his son an account of his embarrassment on first going into company, and the method of relief which a foreign lady adopted for him.
“I remember, that when, with all the awkwardness and rust of Cambridge about me, I was first introduced into good company, I was frightened out of my wits. I was determined to be what I thought civil ; I made fine low bows, and placed myself below everybody ; but when I was spoken to or attempted to speak myself, obstupui, steteruntque comæ, et vox faucibus hæsit. If I saw people whisper, I was sure it was at me ; and I thought myself the sole object of either the ridicule or the censure of the whole company, who, God knows, did not trouble their heads about me.”—“If now and then soine charitable people, seeing my embarrassment, and being désaurrés themselves, came and spoke to me, I considered them as angels sent to comfort me, and that gave me a little courage. I got inore soon afterwards, and was intrepid enough to go up to a fine woman, and tell her that I thought it a warm day. She answered me very civilly, that she thought so too ; upon which the conversation ceased, on my part, for some time, till she, good-naturedly resuming it, spoke to me thus ; I see your embarrassment, and I am sure that the few words you said to me cost you a great deal ; but do not be discouraged for that reason, and avoid good company. We see that you desire to please, and that is the main point ; you want only the manner, and you think you want it still more than you do. You must go through your noviciate before you can profess good-breeding ; and, if you will be my novice, I will present you to my acquaintance as such.' 'As soon as I had fumbled out my answer, she called up three or four people to her, and said, 'Do you know that I have undertaken this young man, and he must be encouraged ? As for me, I think I have made a conquest of him ; for he just now ventured to tell me, although tremblingly, that it is warm. You will assist me in polishing him. He must necessarily have a passion for somebody ; if he does not think me worthy of being the object, we will seek out some other. However, my novice, do not disgrace yourself by frequenting opera girls and actresses,' &c. The company laughed at this lecture, and I was stunned with it. I did not know whether she was serious or in jest. By turns, I was pleased, ashamed, encouraged, and dejected. But when I found afterwards, that both she, and those to whom she had presented me, countenanced and protected me in company, I gradually got more assurance, and began not to be ashamed of endeavouring to be civil. I copied the best masters, at first servilely, afterwards more freely, and at last I joined habit and invention.” – Letters to his Son, Am. Edition, pp. 318, 319.
It might have been expected, that, after acquiring abroad all the defences and facilities which are to be derived from intercourse with the best society, he would be proof against annoyances in any shape, and able to set bimself down in any place and with every sort of people, as if it were his home. But Dr. Maty was told, that his Lordship failed of making a figure in the House of Commons, because of the chagrin he suffered from one of the members, who used to make him ridiculous by mimicking bis tone and action. “ Possibly,” adds the Doctor, “ this circumstance, had be remained long in the lower House, might have deprived his country of one of its finest orators.” This is almost enough to shake one's faith in the universal sufficiency of a thorough French training. But, fortunately for himself and his country, he was, upon the death of his father, removed to the House of Peers, and is now to be considered as in all respects prepared for a brilliant career as a statesman. Though a man of pleasure and fashion, he bad been a close observer of the times at home and abroad. He had applied himself to the study of public law, of foreign policy, institutions, and usages, and of British interests. He had lived in the midst of able public men and orators, and no man surpassed him in the power of turning his experience to good account.
He started with Whig principles of government and never deserted them ;
but, whether from ambition or virtue, he held himself at liberty to be a Whig of his own sort. He resisted Walpole, till he saw the prostration of his long-held power, and was disgusted with Pulteney for wavering at the moment when he stood before the nation, as “the arbiter between the crown and the people.” He would not be a slave to party names, nor defer to a great leader merely because of his position.
Chesterfield looked for power to his standing well with the people ; and his expressions of deference to the popular will would do honor to any democratic philanthropist of the present day. He takes office in despite of his sovereign's inclinations, and as if he were doing him a favor, and only glad of power as it may enable him to do more, than he could do out of place, for humanity and peace. Foreigners, whether they meet him as negotiators or companions, are delighted with this rare specimen of urbanity and polish from England. Cheerful, amiable, convivial, a perfect master of bimself, bis pride held in check by his prudence, bis fastidiousness softened by good-nature or cloaked by art, he was accessible to all, and able to impress every sort of men favorably. There was no weakness in his courtesy or conciliation. He was decided and plain-spoken in exacting fidelity from officers in his department, and not less so in apprizing his sovereign of what he expected as a condition of his continuing in office. And, last of all, this man of refined pleasure, and literary tastes, and carefully formed by himself to the most perfect observance of artificial manners, is a hardworking man of business. When he was setting out for Ireland as Lord-Lieutenant, he chose for the office of principal secretary, one whom he calls a very genteel, pretty young fellow, but not a man of business ; and he told him on his first visit, “ Sir, you will receive the emoluments of your place, but I will do the business myself, being determined to have no first minister.” And hence, perhaps, his great popularity and success, in that most difficult government.
Certainly, the view here given of Chesterfield presents no argument against his system of a fine gentleman's education, so far as the faithful discharge of public office, or general fitness for any work of civil lise, is concerned. There is not one mark of feebleness, indolence, or self-seeking. He is firm, energetic, honorable, fair-minded, and benevolent. And