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dissimulation and attractiveness. In urging this favorite theory
his son, he seems to have been unconscious of the painful discipline involved in the process, the long and weary masquer
, ade, and the incessant danger of losing, in a moment, the influence gained by months of sycophancy; neither does he take into view the wholly unsatisfactory and untrustworthy nature of the relations thus established ; and lie fails to see the inevitable result of the short-sighted policy of detail, in the temporary sway thus acquired; the permanent is sacrificed to the immediate, and, by addressing the most insatiable and capricious of human properisities, his systemu entails not an hour, but a life, of social fawning. II recommends the study of character in order to discover the ruling passion, and then a skilful use of its key-note in order to play upon the whole for private benefit; forgetting that, as in the case of the indignant prince, a suspicion of such base friendship will lead to scorn and rejection : " Do you think I am easier to be played upon than a pipe ?”
To this watchful observation he would have united a power to conceal our own emotions in order to give no advantage to our companion, and a facility in appealing to self-love as the best means of throwing him off his guard. The temper, the opinions, the tastes, and even the most gentle and noble sentiments, are to be kept in uniform abeyance ; self-possession and adroit flattery are the two great requisites, in his view, for success in life; distrust of others, the guarantee of personal safety; and the art of pleasing, the science of the world. History, philosophy, and the prevailing instincts of enlightened humanity, teach another lesson. These maxims, so often quoted as sagacious, are, in faet, extremely shallow ; instead of seeing more deeply into human nature, Chesterfield only saw its superficial action. II there were no sphere for character but promiscuously filled, elegant drawing-rooms, no more stable law operating on society than fashion, and no method of acting on human affairs but that of diplomacy, such advice would have a higher degree of signifi
It applies to but few of the actual exigencies of life, anu has reference only to partial interests. All men should be social adventurers, and all women aim exclusively at social distinction, to give any general utility to precepts like these. They are
essentially temporary and occasional even when true, and utterly false when elevated into principles of action.
llence we deny Dr. Johnson's assertion that, setting the immorality of Chesterfield's letters aside, they form the best manual for gentlemen. The character repudiates the term ; its elements are no more to be "set in a note-book” than the spirit of honor or the inspiration of art. The views of Chesterfield, practically carried out, would make a pedantic courtier or a courteous pedant; they trench too much upon the absolute qualities of manhood to leave substance enough in character upon which to rear enduring graces; they omit frankness and moral courage, two of the most attractive and commanding of human attributes, -- and substitute an elegant chicanery, incompatible with self-respect, upon which the highest grace of manner rests; their logic is that of intrigue, not of reason ; their charms are those of the dancing-master, not of the knight. Their relation to a true philosophy of life is no more intimate than the concetti of the Italians to the highest poetry, or the scenery of a theatre to that of nature; for to cultivate grace of manners is not to supersede, but only to give expression to nature in a certain way; it is not imitation from without, but development from within.
“For God's sake," writes Chesterfield, " sacrifice to the graces; keep out of all scrapes and quarrels; know all ceremonies; maintain a seeming frankness, but a real reserve; have address enough to refuse without offending; some people are to be reasoned, some flattered, some intimidated, and some teased into a thing." By his own statement, this course secured him only a life of refined servitude and a desolate old age, for the official dignity he enjoyed was pettishly abandoned from disappointment as to its incidental benefits. It is not, however, in a moral, but in a philosophical view, as a question of enlightened self-interest, that we demur to the authenticity of his doctrine. Its real defect is narrowness, the exaggeration of certain principles of action, an inharmonious view of the relation between character and behavior, an undue importance attached to secondary interests — in a word, an artificial system in absolute contradiction to prevalent natural laws; and it is chiefly worthy of refutation, because, instead of being advanced as a judicious formula in specific instances, or
details of conduct to be acquired once and habitually exercised afterwards, it is presented as a great leading principle, and a regular system altogether expedient and universally applicable; which can be true of no theory either in literature, art, or life, which is based on mere dexterity and address; for Jesuitism can no more permanently advance the interests of society than it can those of religion, science, or any real branch of human welfare.
Chesterfield's editor dwells upon his classical learning, and his benevolent policy while Lord Lieutenant in Ireland, where his rule is declared to have been second only, in its benign influence, to that of Lord Ormond; but neither of these graces seems to have originated in a disinterested impulse. His acquisitions were chiefly valued as a means of display, and sources of an efficient culture; and he advocated schools and villages to civilize the Highlands after the rebellion, instead of more cruel measures, because, on the whole, clemency was the most politic course to pursue. It was this barrenness of soul, this absence of manly enthusiasm, and fanatical reliance on the technical facilities of society, that deprive both the career and the precepts of Chesterfield of all claim to cordial recognition. A friend may have spoken of him with literal truth when he declared that he possessed "a head to contrive, a tongue to persuade, and a hand to execute" in masterly style what he attempted ; but the beauty and desirableness of these endowments are much lessened when we perceive that the exquisite machinery was set in motion by motives so entirely selfish, and its action regulated by views destitute of intellectual scope and generous sympathies; when we hear the man thus gifted declare that “a never-failing desire to pleise” is the great incentive of his mind, and that the finest mental and moral qualities cannot win his love to one awkward or deformed.
Chesterfield, like all votaries of detail, repeats himself continually; he announces, with oracular emphasis, in almost every letter, proverbs of worldly wisdom and economical shrewdness, with an entire confidence in their sufficiency worthy of old Polonius, of which character he is but a refined prototype. The essence of these precepts is only a timid foresight utterly alien to a noble spirit. What, for instance, can be more servile than the maxims, never to give the tone to conversation, but adopt it from the company, and that no business can be transacted without dissimulation ? Conformity and adaptation were his avowed means of success, the alpha and omega of his creed; both useful and sometimes necessary alternatives in social intercourse, but always inferior and secondary, never primal and enduring. When allowed to supersede the loftier and more genuine instincts, they not only fail of their end, but are absolutely incompatible with the character of a gentleman. Not by such a course did Sidney, Raleigh, Mackintosh, Robert Burns, or any one of nature's nobility, impress and win their fellow-creatures, but rather by ingenuous self-assertion, mellowed and harmonized by kindly and sympathetic feelings, that gave a grace “ beyond the reach of art” to their conversation and manners.
But Chesterfield's disloyalty to nature and devotion to artifice are more signally betrayed in his views of the two great sources of actual refinement in social life, music and women. The first may be considered as the natural language of the soul, the cultivation of which is one of the most available means of acquiring that harmonious development and sense of the beautiful, which round her angles and elicit the gentle influences of human intercourse. Chesterfield peremptorily forbade his son to cultivate music, at the same time that he strove to preach boorislıness out of him by rules of breeding; a process which might have been vastly facilitated by the study of any one of the fine arts for which he had the least tendency. But even in gallantry,
not to profane love by thus designating his idea of the relation of the sexes, - even in that which owes its zest and utility to gratified sympathies, he leans on the broken reed of prescription and expediency, counselling his son to choose a fair companion, not as a being to inspire, through natural affinity, his sentiments and conduct, but as an approved model and guide in fashionable life. How little did this shrewd man of the world know of the benefit, even to the manners of an intelligent youth, derivable from even one reality in his social relations! Indeed, from the affectionate disposition that appears to have belonged to Philip Stanhope, his good sense and general acquirements, the only chance for
him to have realized his father's hopes, in point of expression, bearing, costume, address, and all the externals of character, would seem to have been a genuine attachment. He was so organized as to be unable to attach that importance to the graces his father adored, which would lead him to court their favors; for this he needed the stimulus of a powerful motive, and such a one would have been naturally supplied by real devotion to a fine woman; or the effect of such a feeling would have gradually softened and elevated his tone and air so that he would have become as insinuating as his elegant parent desired, and that, too, from instinct, and not by rule. The great evil of teaching the details of behavior is that, even when acquired in all their perfection, there is a want of unity in the result; they are exercised without the crowning grace of all manner, from the rhetorician's gesture to the courtier's salutations - unconsciousness. There is no happy fusion between manhood and manner; the one hangs objectively on the other, like two parts of an ill-adjusted machine.
Nature is apt to vindicate herself upon the ultra-conventional by entailing disappointment upon their dearest hopes. Her laws are as inexorable as they are benign. Chesterfield seems to have been more in earnest in the education of his son than in any other object in life; but truc parental affection had little to do with this assiduity; he constantly reminds him that he has no weak attachment to his person, that his pecuniary supplies depend upon the respect paid to the instruction he receives, and that the estimation he will hereafter enjoy from his father, will depend upon the degree in which he realizes the expectations formed of him. In all this we see only a modification of selflove, but no true parental feeling. The object of all this solicitude well repaid the care lavished upon his mental cultivation, but he never became either elegant or fascinating; his good qualities were solid, not shining, and his advancement was owing to his father's personal influence. The latter's will is characteristic; he provides that, if his son ever engages in the vulgar amusement of horse-racing, he shall forfeit five thousand pounds to the Dean of Westminster, who is satirized in the compliment; for Chesterfield thought himself overcharged by him in a pecu