The Qualifications of a Secretary of State. Every Man the Architect of his own Fortune.
Blackheath, 26th Augt 1766
My Dear little Boy.
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Your French letter was a very good one, considering how long you have been disused to write in that language. There are indeed some few faults in it, which I will show you when we meet next, for I keep your letter by me for that purpose. One cannot correct one's faults without knowing them, and I always looked upon those who told me of mine, as friends, instead of being displeased, or angry, as people in general are too apt to be. You say that I laugh at you when I tell you that you may very probably in time be Secretary of State. No, I am very serious in saying that you may if you please, if you take the proper methods to be so. Writing well, and speaking well in publick are the necessary qualifications for it, and they are very easily acquired by attention and application. In all events, aim at it, and if you do not get it, let it be said of you what was said of Phaethon, Magnis taincii excidit Ansis. Every man of a generous noble spirit, desires first to please, and then to shine ; Facere digna scribi vel scribere digna Legi. Fools and indolent people lay all their disappointments to the charge of their ill-fortune, but there is no such thing as good or ill-fortune. Every Man makes his own fortune in proportion to his merit. An ancient author whom you are not yet, but will in time, be acquainted with, says very justly — Nullum Niniicn abest si sit prudentia, Nos te fortuna Deam faciniiis cceloque Locamus. Prudence there means those qualifications and that conduct, that will command fortune. Let that be your motto, and have it always in your mind. I was sure that you would soon come to like your voluntary study, and I will appeal to yourself, could you employ that hour more agreably ? And is it not better, than what thoughtless Boys of your age commonly call play, which is running about, without any object or design, and only pour tuer le tems ? Faire des riens, is the most miserable abuse and loss of time, that can possibly be imagined. You must know, that I have in the main a great opinion of you ; therefore take great care and pains not to forfeit it. And so, God bless you. Noii progredi est regredi.
To Master Stanhope at Dr Dodd's House at Westham Essex. Penny Post.
Taken from Letters of Philip Dormer, fourth earl of Chesterfield, to his godson and successor (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1890), p. 216-217. Full book from HATHITRUST.
Image: Frontispiece of Philip Dormer Stanhope, Wit a-la-mode; or, Lord Chesterfield's witticisms: being the grand Pantheon of taste, sentiment, and genius. Containing An original and brilliant Assemblage of his Lordship's Genuine Bon Mots, Poignant Repartees, Striking Remarks, Shrewd Sayings, Facetious Anecdotes, Lively Flights, &c. &c. In which The real Dispositions and Manners of many of the most distinguished Persons in the Circles of Genius and Politeness are humorously displayed. To which is added a Choice Collection of Epigrams, Epitaphs, Songs, Conundrums, Riddles, Rebuses, Stories, Jests, &c. &c. And authentic Memoirs of his Lordship. The whole forming the most compleat Fund of Wit and Humour extant. Sld by R. Newport, and A. Mallard (London), 1778.