S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.
[Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield, courtier, orator, and wit, called by Sainte-Beuve the La Rochefoucauld of England; born in London, September, 1694; educated at Cambridge; entered Parliament, 1715, where his speeches were greatly admired; passed to the House of Lords, 1726; ambassador to Holland, 1728; Lord lieutenant of Ireland, 1745; principal secretary of state for two years from 1746; was intimate with Pope, Swift, and the other wits of the day; his Letters to His Son were published in 1774, the year after his death.]
Will your majesty command the insertion of the usual formula: To our trusty and well-beloved cousin?
The question with which Chesterfield received the angry exclamation of George II., when the name of a person he disliked was suggested for an appointment: I would rather have the Devil! Laughing at the turn his minister gave to it, the king replied, My lord, do as you please.
When asked how he got through so much work, he replied, Because I never put off until to-morrow what I can do to-day. De Witt, pensionary of Holland, answered the same question: Nothing is more easy: never do but one thing at a time, and never put off until to-morrow what can be done to-day.
Being asked, when lord lieutenant, whom he thought the greatest man in Ireland, he replied, The last man who arrived from England, be he who he might.
When walking in the street one day, Chesterfield was pushed off the flags by an impudent fellow, who said to him, I never give the wall to a scoundrel. The great master of courtesy immediately took off his hat, and, making him a low bow, replied, Sir, I always do. This has also been told of John Randolph of Roanoke, in an encounter with the editor of The Richmond Whig.
Men, as well as women, are much oftener led by their hearts than by their understandings.
Ibid., Jan. 21, 1748.
He also wrote, May 15, 1749: Nine times in ten, the heart governs the understanding. Mazarin used to say, The heart is every thing (Quand on a le cur, on a tout). It was the secret of his power over Anne of Austria.
He [the Duke of Marlborough] could refuse more gracefully than other people could grant.
The following anecdote is related of the eccentric Earl of Peterborough, and illustrates the popular idea of the great dukes avarice and parsimony. The earl was one day returning from the House of Lords, and was vigorously hooted by a mob, which mistook him for Marlborough, then at the height of his unpopularity. I will convince you that I am not the duke, he said: in the first place, I have but five guineas in my pocket; and in the second place, here they are, much to your service, throwing them to the mob. The earl was a distinguished soldier, but was of opinion that a general is only a hangman-in-chief.
For the parties affected by it (scandal) always look upon the receiver to be almost as bad as the thief.
Ibid., Jan. 15, 1753.
Dean Swift made a witty use of this proverb, when he said, of William the Thirds motto applied to his succession, recipit non rapuit (he received, he did not seize, the crown of England), The partaker is as bad as the thief.
Tyrawley and I have been dead these two years, but we dont choose to have it known.
Of Lord Tyrawley and himself, when both were very old and infirm.BOSWELLS Johnson, 1772.
His last words, his good-breeding quitting him only with life, were, Give Dayrolles a chair.
Dr. Johnson addressed to Lord Chesterfield the plan of the Dictionary; but no attention was paid to it until within a short time of publication, when the earl, flattered with the expectation that it would be dedicated to him, wrote two papers in The World in commendation of it. The device failed of effect; for Johnson wrote him a letter, Feb. 7, 1775, expressed, as he said, in civil terms, but such as might show him that I did not mind what he said or wrote, and that I had done with him. In it occurred the celebrated sentence: Seven years, my lord, have now passed, since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door. Johnson said in it that he did not expect the treatment he had received, for I never had a patron before. The shepherd in Virgil grows at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks. He afterwards exchanged the word garret for patron, in his translation of Juvenals Tenth Satire, so that it stands:
Yet think what ills the scholars life assail,
Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail.
Dante amplifies the thought of dependence upon the patronage of the great:
And thou shalt prove how salt a savor hath
The bread of others, and how hard a path
To climb and to descend the strangers stairs!
Paradiso, XVII. 58.
Johnsons opinion of Lord Chesterfield was subsequently expressed with great freedom. This man, he said, I thought had been a lord among wits, but I find he is only a wit among lords. Of Chesterfields Letters to his Son, Johnson declared that they teach the morals of a harlot, and the manners of a dancing-master. But he subsequently thought that they might be made a very pretty book. Take out the immorality, and it should be put into the hands of every young gentleman. On another occasion, when the Letters were mentioned at dinner in a gentlemans house, Johnson asserted that every man of any education would rather be called a rascal than accused of deficiency in the graces.BOSWELL: 1776.