Pray tell Mr. Harte that I have received his letter of the 27th May, N. S., and that I advise him never to take the English newswriters literally, who never yet inserted any one thing quite right. I have both his patent and his mandamus, in both which he is Walter, let the newspapers call him what they please.
MY DEAR FRIEND: I should not deserve that appellation in return from you, if I did not freely and explicitly inform you of every corrigible defect which I may either hear of, suspect, or at any time discover in you. Those who, in the common course of the world, will call themselves your friends; or whom, according to the common notions of friendship, you may possibly think such, will never tell you of your faults, still less of your weaknesses. But, on the contrary, more desirous to make you their friend, than to prove themselves yours, they will flatter both, and, in truth, not be sorry for either. Interiorly, most people enjoy the inferiority of their best friends. The useful and essential part of friendship, to you, is reserved singly for Mr. Harte and myself: our relations to you stand pure and unsuspected of all private views. In whatever we say to you, we can have no interest but yours. We are therefore authorized to represent, advise, and remonstrate; and your reason must tell you that you ought to attend to and believe us.
I am credibly informed, that there is still a considerable hitch or hobble in your enunciation; and that when you speak fast you sometimes speak unintelligibly. I have formerly and frequently laid my thoughts before you so fully upon this subject, that I can say nothing new upon it now. I must therefore only repeat, that your whole depends upon it. Your trade is to speak well, both in public and in private. The manner of your speaking is full as important as the matter, as more people have ears to be tickled, than understandings to judge. Be your productions ever so good, they will be of no use, if you stifle and strangle them in their birth. The best compositions of Corelli, if ill executed and played out of tune, instead of touching, as they do when well performed, would only excite the indignation of the hearer's, when murdered by an unskillful performer. But to murder your own productions, and that 'coram Populo', is a MEDEAN CRUELTY, which Horace absolutely forbids. Remember of what importance Demosthenes, and one of the Gracchi, thought ENUNCIATION; and read what stress Cicero and Quintilian lay upon it; even the herb-women at Athens were correct judges of it. Oratory, with all its graces, that of enunciation in particular, is full as necessary in our government as it ever was in Greece or Rome. No man can make a fortune or a figure in this country, without speaking, and speaking well in public. If you will persuade, you must first please; and if you will please, you must tune your voice to harmony, you must articulate every syllable distinctly, your emphasis and cadences must be strongly and properly marked; and the whole together must be graceful and engaging: If you do not speak in that manner, you had much better not speak at all. All the learning you have, or ever can have, is not worth one groat without it. It may be a comfort and an amusement to you in your closet, but can be of no use to you in the world. Let me conjure you, therefore, to make this your only object, till you have absolutely conquered it, for that is in your power; think of nothing else, read and speak for nothing else. Read aloud, though alone, and read articulately and distinctly, as if you were reading in public, and on the most important occasion. Recite pieces of eloquence, declaim scenes of tragedies to Mr. Harte, as if he were a numerous audience. If there is any particular consonant which you have a difficulty in articulating, as I think you had with the R, utter it millions and millions of times, till you have uttered it right. Never speak quick, till you have first learned to speak well. In short, lay aside every book, and every thought, that does not directly tend to this great object, absolutely decisive of your future fortune and figure.
The next thing necessary in your destination, is writing correctly, elegantly, and in a good hand too; in which three particulars, I am sorry to tell you, that you hitherto fail. Your handwriting is a very bad one, and would make a scurvy figure in an office-book of letters, or even in a lady's pocket-book. But that fault is easily cured by care, since every man, who has the use of his eyes and of his right hand, can write whatever hand he pleases. As to the correctness and elegance of your writing, attention to grammar does the one, and to the best authors the other. In your letter to me of the 27th June, N. S., you omitted the date of the place, so that I only conjectured from the contents that you were at Rome.
Thus I have, with the truth and freedom of the tenderest affection, told you all your defects, at least all that I know or have heard of. Thank God, they are all very curable; they must be cured, and I am sure, you will cure them. That once done, nothing remains for you to acquire, or for me to wish you, but the turn, the manners, the address, and the GRACES, of the polite world; which experience, observation, and good company; will insensibly give you. Few people at your age have read, seen, and known, so much as you have; and consequently few are so near as yourself to what I call perfection, by which I only, mean being very near as well as the best. Far, therefore, from being discouraged by what you still want, what you already have should encourage you to attempt, and convince you that by attempting you will inevitably obtain it. The difficulties which you have surmounted were much greater than any you have now to encounter. Till very lately, your way has been only through thorns and briars; the few that now remain are mixed with roses. Pleasure is now the principal remaining part of your education. It will soften and polish your manners; it will make you pursue and at last overtake the GRACES. Pleasure is necessarily reciprocal; no one feels, who does not at the same time give it. To be pleased one must please. What pleases you in others, will in general please them in you. Paris is indisputably the seat of the GRACES; they will even court you, if you are not too coy. Frequent and observe the best companies there, and you will soon be naturalized among them; you will soon find how particularly attentive they are to the correctness and elegance of their language, and to the graces of their enunciation: they would even call the understanding of a man in question, who should neglect or not know the infinite advantages arising from them. 'Narrer, reciter, declamer bien', are serious studies among them, and well deserve to be so everywhere. The conversations, even among the women, frequently turn upon the elegancies and minutest delicacies of the French language. An 'enjouement', a gallant turn, prevails in all their companies, to women, with whom they neither are, nor pretend to be, in love; but should you (as may very possibly happen) fall really in love there with some woman of fashion and sense (for I do not suppose you capable of falling in love with a strumpet), and that your rival, without half your parts or knowledge, should get the better of you, merely by dint of manners, 'enjouement, badinage', etc., how would you regret not having sufficiently attended to those accomplishments which you despised as superficial and trifling, but which you would then find of real consequence in the course of the world! And men, as well as women, are taken by those external graces. Shut up your books, then, now as a business, and open them only as a pleasure; but let the great book of the world be your serious study; read it over and over, get it by heart, adopt its style, and make it your own.
When I cast up your account as it now stands, I rejoice to see the balance so much in your favor; and that the items per contra are so few, and of such a nature, that they may be very easily cancelled. By way of debtor and creditor, it stands thus:
Creditor. By French Debtor. To English German Enunciation Italian Manners Latin Greek Logic Ethics History |Naturae Jus |Gentium |Publicum
This, my dear friend, is a very true account; and a very encouraging one for you. A man who owes so little can clear it off in a very little time, and, if he is a prudent man, will; whereas a man who, by long negligence, owes a great deal, despairs of ever being able to pay; and therefore never looks into his account at all.
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