I thank you for your drawing, which I am impatient to see, and which I shall hang up in a new gallery that I am building at Blackheath, and very fond of; but I am still more impatient for another copy, which I wonder I have not yet received, I mean the copy of your countenance. I believe, were that a whole length, it would still fall a good deal short of the dimensions of the drawing after Dominichino, which you say is about eight feet high; and I take you, as well as myself, to be of the family of the Piccolomini. Mr. Bathurst tells me that he thinks you rather taller than I am; if so, you may very possibly get up to five feet eight inches, which I would compound for, though I would wish you five feet ten. In truth, what do I not wish you, that has a tendency to perfection? I say a tendency only, for absolute perfection is not in human nature, so that it would be idle to wish it. But I am very willing to compound for your coming nearer to perfection than the generality of your contemporaries: without a compliment to you, I think you bid fair for that. Mr. Harte affirms (and if it were consistent with his character would, I believe, swear) that you have no vices of the heart; you have undoubtedly a stock of both ancient and modern learning, which I will venture to say nobody of your age has, and which must now daily increase, do what you will. What, then, do you want toward that practicable degree of perfection which I wish you? Nothing but the knowledge, the turn, and the manners of the world; I mean the 'beau monde'. These it is impossible that you can yet have quite right; they are not given, they must be learned. But then, on the other hand, it is impossible not to acquire them, if one has a mind to them; for they are acquired insensibly, by keeping good company, if one has but the least attention to their characters and manners.
Every man becomes, to a certain degree, what the people he generally converses with are. He catches their air, their manners, and even their way of thinking. If he observes with attention, he will catch them soon, but if he does not, he will at long run contract them insensibly. I know nothing in the world but poetry that is not to be acquired by application and care. The sum total of this is a very comfortable one for you, as it plainly amounts to this in your favor, that you now want nothing but what even your pleasures, if they are liberal ones, will teach you. I congratulate both you and myself upon your being in such a situation, that, excepting your exercises, nothing is now wanting but pleasures to complete you. Take them, but (as I am sure you will) with people of the first fashion, whereever you are, and the business is done; your exercises at Paris, which I am sure you will attend to, will supple and fashion your body; and the company you will keep there will, with some degree of observation on your part, soon give you their air, address, manners, in short, 'le ton de la bonne compagnie'. Let not these considerations, however, make you vain: they are only between you and me but as they are very comfortable ones, they may justly give you a manly assurance, a firmness, a steadiness, without which a man can neither be well-bred, or in any light appear to advantage, or really what he is. They may justly remove all, timidity, awkward bashfulness, low diffidence of one's self, and mean abject complaisance to every or anybody's opinion. La Bruyere says, very truly, 'on ne vaut dans ce monde, que ce que l'on veut valoir'. It is a right principle to proceed upon in the world, taking care only to guard against the appearances and outward symptoms of vanity. Your whole then, you see, turns upon the company you keep for the future. I have laid you in variety of the best at Paris, where, at your arrival you will find a cargo of letters to very different sorts of people, as 'beaux esprils, savants, et belles dames'. These, if you will frequent them, will form you, not only by their examples, advice, and admonitions in private, as I have desired them to do; and consequently add to what you have the only one thing now needful.
Pray tell me what Italian books you have read, and whether that language is now become familiar to you.
Read Ariosto and Tasso through, and then you will have read all the Italian poets who in my opinion are worth reading. In all events, when you get to Paris, take a good Italian master to read Italian with you three times a week; not only to keep what you have already, which you would otherwise forget, but also to perfect you in the rest. It is a great pleasure, as well as a great advantage, to be able to speak to people of all nations, and well, in their own language. Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable; however, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer it, than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable. 'Magnis tamen excidit ausis' is a degree of praise which will always attend a noble and shining temerity, and a much better sign in a young fellow, than 'serpere humi, tutus nimium timidusque procellae'. For men as well as women:
"---------born to be controlled, Stoop to the forward and the bold."
A man who sets out in the world with real timidity and diffidence has not an equal chance for it; he will be discouraged, put by, or trampled upon. But to succeed, a man, especially a young one, should have inward firmness, steadiness, and intrepidity, with exterior modesty and SEEMING diffidence. He must modestly, but resolutely, assert his own rights and privileges. 'Suaviter in modo', but 'fortiter in re'. He should have an apparent frankness and openness, but with inward caution and closeness. All these things will come to you by frequenting and observing good company. And by good company, I mean that sort of company which is called good company by everybody of that place. When all this is over, we shall meet; and then we will talk over, tete-a-tete, the various little finishing strokes which conversation and, acquaintance occasionally suggest, and which cannot be methodically written.
Tell Mr. Harte that I have received his two letters of the 2d and 8th N. S., which, as soon as I have received a third, I will answer. Adieu, my dear! I find you will do.
MY DEAR FRIEND: I have received your picture, which I have long waited for with impatience: I wanted to see your countenance from whence I am very apt, as I believe most people are, to form some general opinion of the mind. If the painter has taken you as well as he has done Mr. Harte (for his picture is by far the most like I ever saw in my life), I draw good conclusions from your countenance, which has both spirit and finesse in it. In bulk you are pretty well increased since I saw you; if your height has not increased in proportion, I desire that you will make haste to, complete it. Seriously, I believe that your exercises at Paris will make you shoot up to a good size; your legs, by all accounts, seem to promise it. Dancing excepted, the wholesome part is the best part of those academical exercises. 'Ils degraissent leur homme'.
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