MY DEAR FRIEND: The new year is the season in which custom seems more particularly to authorize civil and harmless lies, under the name of compliments. People reciprocally profess wishes which they seldom form; and concern, which they seldom feel. This is not the case between you and me, where truth leaves no room for compliments.
'Dii tibi dent annos, de to nam caetera sumes', was said formerly to one by a man who certainly did not think it. With the variation of one word only, I will with great truth say it to you. I will make the first part conditional by changing, in the second, the 'nam' into 'si'. May you live as long as you are fit to live, but no longer! or may you rather die before you cease to be fit to live, than after! My true tenderness for you makes me think more of the manner than of the length of your life, and forbids me to wish it prolonged, by a single day, that should bring guilt, reproach, and shame upon you. I have not malice enough in my nature, to wish that to my greatest enemy. You are the principal object of all my cares, the only object of all my hopes; I have now reason to believe, that you will reward the former, and answer the latter; in that case, may you live long, for you must live happy; 'de te nam caetera sumes'. Conscious virtue is the only solid foundation of all happiness; for riches, power, rank, or whatever, in the common acceptation of the word, is supposed to constitute happiness, will never quiet, much less cure, the inward pangs of guilt. To that main wish, I will add those of the good old nurse of Horace, in his epistle to Tibullus: 'Sapere', you have it in a good degree already. 'Et fari ut possit quae sentiat'. Have you that? More, much more is meant by it, than common speech or mere articulation. I fear that still remains to be wished for, and I earnestly wish it to you. 'Gratia and Fama' will inevitably accompany the above-mentioned qualifications. The 'Valetudo' is the only one that is not in your own power; Heaven alone can grant it you, and may it do so abundantly! As for the 'mundus victus, non deficiente crumena', do you deserve, and I will provide them.
It is with the greatest pleasure that I consider the fair prospect which you have before you. You have seen, read, and learned more, at your age, than most young fellows have done at two or three-and-twenty. Your destination is a shining one, and leads to rank, fortune, and distinction. Your education has been calculated for it; and, to do you justice, that education has not been thrown away upon you. You want but two things, which do not want conjuration, but only care, to acquire: eloquence and manners; that is, the graces of speech, and the graces of behavior. You may have them; they are as much in your power as powdering your hair is; and will you let the want of them obscure (as it certainly will do) that shining prospect which presents itself to you. I am sure you will not. They are the sharp end, the point of the nail that you are driving, which must make way first for the larger and more solid parts to enter. Supposing your moral character as pure, and your knowledge as sound, as I really believe them both to be; you want nothing for that perfection, which I have so constantly wished you, and taken so much pains to give you, but eloquence and politeness. A man who is not born with a poetical genius, can never be a poet, or at best an extremely bad one; but every man, who can speak at all, can speak elegantly and correctly if he pleases, by attending to the best authors and orators; and, indeed, I would advise those who do not speak elegantly, not to speak at all; for I am sure they will get more by their silence than by their speech. As for politeness: whoever keeps good company, and is not polite, must have formed a resolution, and take some pains not to be so; otherwise he would naturally and insensibly take the air, the address, and the turn of those he converses with. You will, probably, in the course of this year, see as great a variety of good company in the several capitals you will be at, as in any one year of your life; and consequently must (I should hope) catch some of their manners, almost whether you will or not; but, as I dare say you will endeavor to do it, I am convinced you will succeed, and that I shall have pleasure of finding you, at your return here, one of the best-bred men in Europe.
I imagine, that when you receive my letters, and come to those parts of them which relate to eloquence and politeness, you say, or at least think, What, will he never have done upon those two subjects? Has he not said all he can say upon them? Why the same thing over and over again? If you do think or say so, it must proceed from your not yet knowing the infinite importance of these two accomplishments, which I cannot recommend to you too often, nor inculcate too strongly. But if, on the contrary, you are convinced of the utility, or rather the necessity of those two accomplishments, and are determined to acquire them, my repeated admonitions are only unnecessary; and I grudge no trouble which can possibly be of the least use to you.
I flatter myself, that your stay at Rome will go a great way toward answering all my views: I am sure it will, if you employ your time, and your whole time, as you should. Your first morning hours, I would have you devote to your graver studies with Mr. Harte; the middle part of the day I would have employed in seeing things; and the evenings in seeing people. You are not, I hope, of a lazy, inactive turn, in either body or mind; and, in that case, the day is full long enough for everything; especially at Rome, where it is not the fashion, as it is here and at Paris, to embezzle at least half of it at table. But if, by accident, two or three hours are sometimes wanting for some useful purpose, borrow them from your sleep. Six, or at most seven hours sleep is, for a constancy, as much as you or anybody can want; more is only laziness and dozing; and is, I am persuaded, both unwholesome and stupefying. If, by chance, your business, or your pleasures, should keep you up till four or five o'clock in the morning, I would advise you, however, to rise exactly at your usual time, that you may not lose the precious morning hours; and that the want of sleep may force you to go to bed earlier the next night. This is what I was advised to do when very young, by a very wise man; and what, I assure you, I always did in the most dissipated part of my life. I have very often gone to bed at six in the morning and rose, notwithstanding, at eight; by which means I got many hours in the morning that my companions lost; and the want of sleep obliged me to keep good hours the next, or at least the third night. To this method I owe the greatest part of my reading: for, from twenty to forty, I should certainly have read very little, if I had not been up while my acquaintances were in bed. Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination; never put off till to-morrow what you can do today. That was the rule of the famous and unfortunate Pensionary De Witt; who, by strictly following it, found time, not only to do the whole business of the republic, but to pass his evenings at assemblies and suppers, as if he had had nothing else to do or think of.
Adieu, my dear friend, for such I shall call you, and as such I shall, for the future, live with you; for I disclaim all titles which imply an authority, that I am persuaded you will never give me occasion to exercise.
'Multos et felices', most sincerely, to Mr. Harte.
DEAR BOY: I have seldom or never written to you upon the subject of religion and morality; your own reason, I am persuaded, has given you true notions of both; they speak best for themselves; but if they wanted assistance, you have Mr. Harte at hand, both for precept and example; to your own reason, therefore, and to Mr. Harte, shall I refer you for the reality of both, and confine myself in this letter to the decency, the utility, and the necessity of scrupulously preserving the appearances of both. When I say the appearances of religion, I do not mean that you should talk or act like a missionary or an enthusiast, nor that you should take up a controversial cudgel against whoever attacks the sect you are of; this would be both useless and unbecoming your age; but I mean that you should by no means seem to approve, encourage, or applaud, those libertine notions, which strike at religions equally, and which are the poor threadbare topics of halfwits and minute philosophers. Even those who are silly enough to laugh at their jokes, are still wise enough to distrust and detest their characters; for putting moral virtues at the highest, and religion at the lowest, religion must still be allowed to be a collateral security, at least, to virtue, and every prudent man will sooner trust to two securities than to one. Whenever, therefore, you happen to be in company with those pretended 'Esprits forts', or with thoughtless libertines, who laugh at all religion to show their wit, or disclaim it, to complete their riot, let no word or look of yours intimate the least approbation; on the contrary, let a silent gravity express your dislike: but enter not into the subject and decline such unprofitable and indecent controversies. Depend upon this truth, that every man is the worse looked upon, and the less trusted for being thought to have no religion; in spite of all the pompous and specious epithets he may assume, of , 'Esprit fort', freethinker, or moral philosopher; and a wise atheist (if such a thing there is) would, for his own interest and character in this world, pretend to some religion.
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