Letters Written by Lord Chesterfield to His Son (With Notes)

Letters Written by Lord Chesterfield to His Son (With Notes)

by Lord Chesterfield
     
 

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This collection of letters comprises more than 400 letters written beginning in 1737 or 1738 and continuing until his son's death in 1768. The majority of the letters were written between 1746 and 1754. They are mostly instructive letters on such subjects as geography, history, and classical literature. Later letters, written when the author had become an established

Overview

This collection of letters comprises more than 400 letters written beginning in 1737 or 1738 and continuing until his son's death in 1768. The majority of the letters were written between 1746 and 1754. They are mostly instructive letters on such subjects as geography, history, and classical literature. Later letters, written when the author had become an established minor diplomat, deal largely with political matters.

The letters were first published by his son's widow Eugenia Stanhope in 1774. The Letters are brilliantly written, full of elegant wisdom, of keen wit, of admirable portrait-painting, of exquisite observation and deduction. In the Letters to his Son Chesterfield epitomises the restraint of polite 18th-century society.

It is a singular fate that has overtaken Lord Chesterfield. One of the more important figures in the political world of his time; one of the few Lord-Lieutenants of Ireland whose name was afterwards respected and admired; the first man to introduce Voltaire and Montesquieu to England; and the personal acquaintance of men like Addison and Swift, Pope and Bolingbroke; the ally of Pitt, and the enemy of three Georges; though he married a king's daughter and took up the task of the world's greatest emperor.

Yet, the record of his actions has passed away, and he is remembered now only by an accident. Lord Chesterfield lives by that which he never intended for publication, his letters, while that which he published has already passed from the thoughts of men. It is one more example of the fact that our best work is that which is our heart's production. We have Lord Chesterfield's secret, and it bears witness to the strength of that part of him in which an intellectual anatomist has declared him to be deficient a criticism which is but another proof of that which has been somewhere said of him, that he has had the fate to be generally misunderstood. Yet nothing is more certain than that Lord Chesterfield did not mean to be anything but inscrutable. "Dissimilation is a shield," he used to say, "as secrecy is armour." "A young fellow ought to be
wiser than he should seem to be, and an old fellow ought to seem wise whether he really be so or not."

It is still worth while attempting to solve the problem which is offered to us by his inscrutability, not only on its own account, but because Lord Chesterfield is a representative spirit of the eighteenth century.

Chesterfield, if we may make a comparison, is like one of those great trees that we see upon the banks of a river, which, while drawing its nurture half from its native soil and the stream by its side, and half from the sky above it, has had that very soil worn away by the current of the stream, so that the tree, by its own natural weight and under the force of adverse winds and circumstance, has bowed itself over towards the waves, losing its natural height and grandeur forever.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940015289749
Publisher:
Balefire Publishing
Publication date:
09/12/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
300
File size:
17 MB
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Meet the Author

Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield PC KG (22 September 1694 – 24 March 1773) was a British statesman and man of letters.

A Whig, Lord Stanhope, as he was known until his father's death in 1726, was born in London. After being educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he went on the Grand Tour of the continent. The death of Anne and the accession of George I opened up a career for him and brought him back to England. His relative James Stanhope, the king's favourite minister, procured for him the place of gentleman of the bedchamber to the Prince of Wales.

In 1715 he entered the House of Commons as Lord Stanhope of Shelford and member for St Germans, and when the impeachment of the Duke of Ormonde came before the House, he used the occasion (5 August 1715) to put to proof his old rhetorical studies.

His maiden speech was youthfully fluent and dogmatic; but on its conclusion the orator was reminded by an honorable member, with many compliments, that he was six weeks short of his majority, and consequently that he was liable to a fine of £500 for speaking in the House. Chesterfield left the Commons with a low bow and set out for the continent. From Paris he sent the government valuable information about the Jacobite plot; and in 1716 he returned to Britain, resumed his seat, and took frequent part in the debates. In that year came the quarrel between the king and the Prince of Wales. Stanhope, whose political instincts obliged him to worship the rising rather than the setting sun, remained faithful to the prince, though he was too cautious to break entirely with the king's party. He was on friendly terms with the prince's mistress, The Countess of Suffolk and he maintained a correspondence, which earned him the hatred of the Princess of Wales. In 1723 a vote for the government got him the place of captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners. In January 1725, on the revival of the Order of the Bath, the red ribbon was offered to him, but was declined.

He took his seat in the House of Lords, and his oratory, which had been ineffective in the Commons, was suddenly appreciated.

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