Mr. Grevenkop has just received Mr. Harte's letter of the 19th N. S.
Young as you are, I hope you are in haste to live; by living, I mean living with lustre and honor to yourself, with utility to society; doing what may deserve to be written, or writing what may deserve to be read; I should wish both. Those who consider life in that light, will not idly lavish one moment. The present moments are the only ones we are sure of, and as such the most valuable; but yours are doubly so at your age; for the credit, the dignity, the comfort, and the pleasure of all your future moments, depend upon the use you make of your present ones.
I am extremely satisfied with your present manner of employing your time; but will you always employ it as well? I am far from meaning always in the same way; but I mean as well in proportion, in the variation of age and circumstances. You now, study five hours every morning; I neither suppose that you will, nor desire that you should do so for the rest of your life. Both business and pleasure will justly and equally break in upon those hours. But then, will you always employ the leisure they leave you in useful studies? If you have but an hour, will you improve that hour, instead of idling it away? While you have such a friend and monitor with you as Mr. Harte, I am sure you will. But suppose that business and situations should, in six or seen months, call Mr. Harte away from you; tell me truly, what may I expect and depend upon from you, when left to yourself ? May I be sure that you will employ some part of every day, in adding something to that stock of knowledge which he will have left you? May I hope that you will allot one hour in the week to the care of your own affairs, to keep them in that order and method which every prudent man does? But, above all, may I be convinced that your pleasures, whatever they may be, will be confined within the circle of good company, and people of fashion? Those pleasures I recommend to you; I will promote them I will pay for them; but I will neither pay for, nor suffer, the unbecoming, disgraceful, and degrading pleasures (they should not be called pleasures), of low and profligate company. I confess the pleasures of high life are not always strictly philosophical; and I believe a Stoic would blame, my indulgence; but I am yet no Stoic, though turned of five-and-fifty; and I am apt to think that you are rather less so, at eighteen. The pleasures of the table, among people of the first fashion, may indeed sometimes, by accident, run into excesses: but they will never sink into a continued course of gluttony and drunkenness. The gallantry of high life, though not strictly justifiable, carries, at least, no external marks of infamy about it. Neither the heart nor the constitution is corrupted by it; neither nose nor character lost by it; manners, possibly, improved. Play, in good company, is only play, and not gaming; not deep, and consequently not dangerous nor dishonorable. It is only the interacts of other amusements.
This, I am sure, is not talking to you like an old man, though it is talking to you like an old friend; these are not hard conditions to ask of you. I am certain you have sense enough to know how reasonable they are on my part, how advantageous they are on yours: but have you resolution enough to perform them? Can you withstand the examples, and the invitations, of the profligate, and their infamous missionaries? For I have known many a young fellow seduced by a 'mauvaise honte', that made him ashamed to refuse. These are resolutions which you must form, and steadily execute for yourself, whenever you lose the friendly care and assistance of your Mentor. In the meantime, make a greedy use of him; exhaust him, if you can, of all his knowledge; and get the prophet's mantle from him, before he is taken away himself.
You seem to like Rome. How do you go on there? Are you got into the inside of that extraordinary government? Has your Abbate Foggini discovered many of those mysteries to you? Have you made an acquaintance with some eminent Jesuits? I know no people in the world more instructive. You would do very well to take one or two such sort of people home with you to dinner every day. It would be only a little 'minestra' and 'macaroni' the more; and a three or four hours' conversation 'de suite' produces a thousand useful informations, which short meetings and snatches at third places do not admit of; and many of those gentlemen are by no means unwilling to dine 'gratis'. Whenever you meet with a man eminent in any way, feed him, and feed upon him at the same time; it will not only improve you, but give you a reputation of knowledge, and of loving it in others.
I have been lately informed of an Italian book, which I believe may be of use to you, and which, I dare say, you may get at Rome, written by one Alberti, about fourscore or a hundred years ago, a thick quarto. It is a classical description of Italy; from whence, I am assured, that Mr. Addison, to save himself trouble, has taken most of his remarks and classical references. I am told that it is an excellent book for a traveler in Italy.
What Italian books have you read, or are you reading? Ariosto. I hope, is one of them. Pray apply yourself diligently to Italian; it is so easy a language, that speaking it constantly, and reading it often, must, in six months more, make you perfect master of it: in which case you will never forget it; for we only forget those things of which we know but little.
But, above all things, to all that you learn, to all that you say, and to all that you do, remember to join the Graces. All is imperfect without them; with them everything is at least tolerable. Nothing could hurt me more than to find you unattended by them. How cruelly should I be shocked, if, at our first meeting, you should present yourself to me without them! Invoke them, and sacrifice to them every moment; they are always kind, where they are assiduously courted. For God's sake, aim at perfection in everything: 'Nil actum reputans si quid superesset agendum. Adieu. Yours most tenderly.
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