I am very glad that you approved of my letter of September the 12th, O. S., because it is upon that footing that I always propose living with you. I will advise you seriously, as a friend of some experience, and I will converse with you cheerfully as a companion; the authority of a parent shall forever be laid aside; for, wherever it is exerted, it is useless; since, if you have neither sense nor sentiments enough to follow my advice as a friend, your unwilling obedience to my orders as a father will be a very awkward and unavailing one both to yourself and me. Tacitus, speaking of an army that awkwardly and unwillingly obeyed its generals only from the fear of punishment, says, they obeyed indeed, 'Sed ut qua mallent jussa Imperatorum interpretari, quam exequi'. For my own part, I disclaim such obedience.
You think, I find, that you do not understand Italian; but I can tell you, that, like the 'Bourgeois Gentilhomme', who spoke prose without knowing it, you understand a great deal, though you do not know that you do; for whoever understands French and Latin so well as you do, understands at least half the Italian language, and has very little occasion for a dictionary. And for the idioms, the phrases, and the delicacies of it, conversation and a little attention will teach them you, and that soon; therefore, pray speak it in company, right or wrong, 'a tort ou a travers', as soon as ever you have got words enough to ask a common question, or give a common answer. If you can only say 'buon giorno', say it, instead of saying 'bon jour', I mean to every Italian; the answer to it will teach you more words, and insensibly you will be very soon master of that easy language. You are quite right in not neglecting your German for it, and in thinking that it will be of more use to you; it certainly will, in the course of your business; but Italian has its use too, and is an ornament into the bargain; there being many very polite and good authors in that language. The reason you assign for having hitherto met with none of my swarms of Germans in Italy, is a very solid one; and I can easily conceive, that the expense necessary for a traveler must amount to a number of thalers, groschen, and kreutzers, tremendous to a German fortune. However, you will find several at Rome, either ecclesiastics, or in the suite of the Imperial Minister; and more, when you come into the Milanese, among the Queen of Hungary's officers. Besides, you have a Saxon servant, to whom I hope you speak nothing but German.
I have had the most obliging letter in the world from Monsieur Capello, in which he speaks very advantageously of you, and promises you his protection at Rome. I have wrote him an answer by which I hope I have domesticated you at his hotel there; which I advise you to frequent as much as you can. 'Il est vrai qui'il ne paie pas beaucaup de sa figure'; but he has sense and knowledge at bottom, with a great experience of business, having been already Ambassador at Madrid, Vienna, and London. And I am very sure that he will be willing to give you any informations, in that way, that he can.
Madame was a capricious, whimsical, fine lady, till the smallpox, which she got here, by lessening her beauty, lessened her humors too; but, as I presume it did not change her sex, I trust to that for her having such a share of them left, as may contribute to smooth and polish you. She, doubtless, still thinks that she has beauty enough remaining to entitle her to the attentions always paid to beauty; and she has certainly rank enough to require respect. Those are the sort of women who polish a young man the most, and who give him that habit of complaisance, and that flexibility and versatility of manners which prove of great use to him with men, and in the course of business.
You must always expect to hear, more or less, from me, upon that important subject of manners, graces, address, and that undefinable 'je ne sais quoi' that ever pleases. I have reason to believe that you want nothing else; but I have reason to fear too, that you want those: and that want will keep you poor in the midst of all the plenty of knowledge which you may have treasured up. Adieu.
LONDON, November 3, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: From the time that you have had life, it has been the principle and favorite object of mine, to make you as perfect as the imperfections of human nature will allow: in this view, I have grudged no pains nor expense in your education; convinced that education, more than nature, is the cause of that great difference which you see in the characters of men. While you were a child, I endeavored to form your heart habitually to virtue and honor, before your understanding was capable of showing you their beauty and utility. Those principles, which you then got, like your grammar rules, only by rote, are now, I am persuaded, fixed and confirmed by reason. And indeed they are so plain and clear, that they require but a very moderate degree of understanding, either to comprehend or practice them. Lord Shaftesbury says, very prettily, that he would be virtuous for his own sake, though nobody were to know it; as he would be clean for his own sake, though nobody were to see him. I have therefore, since you have had the use of your reason, never written to you upon those subjects: they speak best for themselves; and I should now just as soon think of warning you gravely not to fall into the dirt or the fire, as into dishonor or vice. This view of mine, I consider as fully attained. My next object was sound and useful learning. My own care first, Mr. Harte's afterward, and OF LATE (I will own it to your praise) your own application, have more than answered my expectations in that particular; and, I have reason to believe, will answer even my wishes. All that remains for me then to wish, to recommend, to inculcate, to order, and to insist upon, is good-breeding; without which, all your other qualifications will be lame, unadorned, and to a certain degree unavailing. And here I fear, and have too much reason to believe, that you are greatly deficient. The remainder of this letter, therefore, shall be (and it will not be the last by a great many) upon that subject.
A friend of yours and mine has very justly defined good-breeding to be, THE RESULT OF MUCH GOOD SENSE, SOME GOOD NATURE, AND A LITTLE SELF-DENIAL FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS, AND WITH A VIEW TO OBTAIN THE SAME INDULGENCE FROM THEM. Taking this for granted (as I think it cannot be disputed), it is astonishing to me that anybody who has good sense and good nature (and I believe you have both), can essentially fail in good-breeding. As to the modes of it, indeed, they vary according to persons, and places, and circumstances; and are only to be acquired by observation and experience: but the substance of it is everywhere and eternally the same. Good manners are, to particular societies, what good morals are to society in general; their cement and their security. And, as laws are enacted to enforce good morals, or at least to prevent the ill effects of bad ones; so there are certain rules of civility, universally implied and received, to enforce good manners and punish bad ones. And, indeed, there seems to me to be less difference, both between the crimes and between the punishments than at first one would imagine. The immoral man, who invades another man's property, is justly hanged for it; and the ill-bred man, who, by his ill-manners, invades and disturbs the quiet and comforts of private life, is by common consent as justly banished society. Mutual complaisances, attentions, and sacrifices of little conveniences, are as natural an implied compact between civilized people, as protection and obedience are between kings and subjects; whoever, in either case, violates that compact, justly forfeits all advantages arising from it. For my own part, I really think, that next to the consciousness of doing a good action, that of doing a civil one is the most pleasing; and the epithet which I should covet the most, next to that of Aristides, would be that of well-bred. Thus much for good- breeding in general; I will now consider some of the various modes and degrees of it.
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