Quotes and Images from Chesterfield's Letters to His Son by Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of



by The Earl of Chesterfield


A little learning is a dangerous thing A joker is near akin to a buffoon A favor may make an enemy, and an injury may make a friend Ablest man will sometimes do weak things Above all things, avoid speaking of yourself Above the frivolous as below the important and the secret Above trifles, he is never vehement and eager about them Absolute command of your temper Abstain from learned ostentation Absurd term of genteel and fashionable vices Absurd romances of the two last centuries According as their interest prompts them to wish Acquainted with books, and an absolute stranger to men Advice is seldom welcome Advise those who do not speak elegantly, not to speak Advocate, the friend, but not the bully of virtue Affectation of singularity or superiority Affectation in dress Affectation of business All have senses to be gratified Always made the best of the best, and never made bad worse Always does more than he says Always some favorite word for the time being Always look people in the face when you speak to them Am still unwell; I cannot help it! American Colonies Ancients and Moderns Anxiety for my health and life Applauded often, without approving Apt to make them think themselves more necessary than they are Argumentative, polemical conversations Arrogant pedant Art of pleasing is the most necessary As willing and as apt to be pleased as anybody Ascribing the greatest actions to the most trifling causes Assenting, but without being servile and abject Assertion instead of argument Assign the deepest motives for the most trifling actions Assurance and intrepidity At the first impulse of passion, be silent till you can be soft Attacked by ridicule, and, punished with contempt Attend to the objects of your expenses, but not to the sums Attention to the inside of books Attention and civility please all Attention Author is obscure and difficult in his own language Authority Avoid cacophony, and, what is very near as bad, monotony Avoid singularity Awkward address, ungraceful attitudes and actions Be neither transported nor depressed by the accidents of life Be silent till you can be soft Being in the power of every man to hurt him Being intelligible is now no longer the fashion Better not to seem to understand, than to reply Better refuse a favor gracefully, than to grant it clumsily Blindness of the understanding is as much to be pitied Bold, but with great seeming modesty Borough-jobber Business must be well, not affectedly dressed Business now is to shine, not to weigh Business by no means forbids pleasures BUT OF THIS EVERY MAN WILL BELIEVE AS HE THINKS PROPER Can hardly be said to see what they see Cannot understand them, or will not desire to understand them Cardinal Mazarin Cardinal Richelieu Cardinal de Retz Cardinal Virtues, by first degrading them into weaknesses Cautious how we draw inferences Cease to love when you cease to be agreeable Chameleon, be able to take every different hue Characters, that never existed, are insipidly displayed Cheerful in the countenance, but without laughing Chit-chat, useful to keep off improper and too serious subjects Choose your pleasures for yourself Civility, which is a disposition to accommodate and oblige others Clamorers triumph Close, without being costive Command of our temper, and of our countenance Commanding with dignity, you must serve up to it with diligence Committing acts of hostility upon the Graces Common sense (which, in truth, very uncommon) Commonplace observations Company is, in truth, a constant state of negotiation Complaisance Complaisance to every or anybody's opinion Complaisance due to the custom of the place Complaisant indulgence for people's weaknesses Conceal all your learning carefully Concealed what learning I had Conjectures pass upon us for truths Conjectures supply the defect of unattainable knowledge Connections Connive at knaves, and tolerate fools Consciousness of merit makes a man of sense more modest Consciousness and an honest pride of doing well Consider things in the worst light, to show your skill Content yourself with mediocrity in nothing Conversation-stock being a joint and common property Conversation will help you almost as much as books Converse with his inferiors without insolence Dance to those who pipe Darkness visible Decides peremptorily upon every subject Deep learning is generally tainted with pedantry Deepest learning, without good-breeding, is unwelcome Defended by arms, adorned by manners, and improved by laws Deserve a little, and you shall have but a little Desire to please, and that is the main point Desirous of praise from the praiseworthy Desirous to make you their friend Desirous of pleasing Despairs of ever being able to pay Dexterity enough to conceal a truth without telling a lie Dictate to them while you seem to be directed by them Difference in everything between system and practice Difficulties seem to them, impossibilities Dignity to be kept up in pleasures, as well as in business Disagreeable to seem reserved, and very dangerous not to be so Disagreeable things may be done so agreeably as almost to oblige Disputes with heat Dissimulation is only to hide our own cards Distinction between simulation and dissimulation Distinguish between the useful and the curious Do as you would be done by Do not become a virtuoso of small wares Do what you are about Do what you will but do something all day long Do as you would be done by Do not mistake the tinsel of Tasso for the gold of Virgil Does not give it you, but he inflicts it upon you Doing, 'de bonne grace', what you could not help doing Doing what may deserve to be written Doing nothing, and might just as well be asleep Doing anything that will deserve to be written Done under concern and embarrassment, must be ill done Dress like the reasonable people of your own age Dress well, and not too well Dressed as the generality of people of fashion are Ears to hear, but not sense enough to judge Easy without negligence Easy without too much familiarity Economist of your time Either do not think, or do not love to think Elegance in one language will reproduce itself in all Employ your whole time, which few people do Endeavor to hear, and know all opinions Endeavors to please and oblige our fellow-creatures Enemies as if they may one day become one's friends Enjoy all those advantages Equally forbid insolent contempt, or low envy and jealousy ERE TITTERING YOUTH SHALL SHOVE YOU FROM THE STAGE Establishing a character of integrity and good manners Even where you are sure, seem rather doubtful Every numerous assembly is MOB Every virtue, has its kindred vice or weakness Every man knows that he understands religion and politics Every numerous assembly is a mob Every man pretends to common sense EVERY DAY IS STILL BUT AS THE FIRST Everybody is good for something Everything has a better and a worse side Exalt the gentle in woman and man--above the merely genteel Expresses himself with more fire than elegance Extremely weary of this silly world Eyes and the ears are the only roads to the heart Eyes and ears open and mouth mostly shut Feed him, and feed upon him at the same time Few things which people in general know less, than how to love Few people know how to love, or how to hate Few dare dissent from an established opinion Fiddle-faddle stories, that carry no information along with them Fit to live--or not live at all Flattering people behind their backs Flattery of women Flattery Flexibility of manners is necessary in the course of the world Fools, who can never be undeceived Fools never perceive where they are ill-timed Forge accusations against themselves Forgive, but not approve, the bad. Fortune stoops to the forward and the bold Frank without indiscretion Frank, but without indiscretion Frank, open, and ingenuous exterior, with a prudent interior Frequently make friends of enemies, and enemies of friends Friendship upon very slight acquaintance Frivolous, idle people, whose time hangs upon their own hands Frivolous curiosity about trifles Frivolous and superficial pertness Full-bottomed wigs were contrived for his humpback Gain the heart, or you gain nothing Gain the affections as well as the esteem Gainer by your misfortune General conclusions from certain particular principles Generosity often runs into profusion Genteel without affectation Gentlemen, who take such a fancy to you at first sight Gentleness of manners, with firmness of mind Geography and history are very imperfect separately German, who has taken into his head that he understands French Go to the bottom of things Good manners Good reasons alleged are seldom the true ones Good manners are the settled medium of social life Good company Good-breeding Graces: Without us, all labor is vain Gratitude not being universal, nor even common Grave without the affectation of wisdom Great learning; which, if not accompanied with sound judgment Great numbers of people met together, animate each other Greatest fools are the greatest liars Grow wiser when it is too late Guard against those who make the most court to you Habit and prejudice Habitual eloquence Half done or half known Hardened to the wants and distresses of mankind Hardly any body good for every thing Haste and hurry are very different things Have no pleasures but your own Have a will and an opinion of your own, and adhere to it Have I employed my time, or have I squandered it? Have but one set of jokes to live upon Have you learned to carve? He that is gentil doeth gentil deeds He will find it out of himself without your endeavors Heart has such an influence over the understanding Helps only, not as guides Herd of mankind can hardly be said to think Historians Holiday eloquence Home, be it ever so homely Honest error is to be pitied, not ridiculed Honestest man loves himself best Horace How troublesome an old correspondent must be to a young one How much you have to do; and how little time to do it in Human nature is always the same Hurt those they love by a mistaken indulgence I hope, I wish, I doubt, and fear alternately I shall never know, though all the coffeehouses here do. I shall always love you as you shall deserve. I know myself (no common piece of knowledge, let me tell you) I CANNOT DO SUCH A THING I, who am not apt to know anything that I do not know Idleness is only the refuge of weak minds If free from the guilt, be free from the suspicion, too If you would convince others, seem open to conviction yourself If I don't mind his orders he won't mind my draughts If you will persuade, you must first please If once we quarrel, I will never forgive Ignorant of their natural rights, cherished their chains Impertinent insult upon custom and fashion Improve yourself with the old, divert yourself with the young Inaction at your age is unpardonable Inattention Inattentive, absent; and distrait Inclined to be fat, but I hope you will decline it Incontinency of friendship among young fellows Indiscriminate familiarity Indiscriminately loading their memories with every part alike Indolence Indolently say that they cannot do Infallibly to be gained by every sort of flattery Information is, in a certain degree, mortifying Information implies our previous ignorance; it must be sweetened Injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult Inquisition Insinuates himself only into the esteem of fools Insipid in his pleasures, as inefficient in everything else Insist upon your neither piping nor fiddling yourself Insolent civility INTOLERATION in religious, and inhospitality in civil matters Intrinsic, and not their imaginary value It is a real inconvenience to anybody to be fat It is not sufficient to deserve well; one must please well too Jealous of being slighted Jog on like man and wife; that is, seldom agreeing Judge of every man's truth by his degree of understanding Judge them all by their merits, but not by their ages Judges from the appearances of things, and not from the reality Keep your own temper and artfully warm other people's Keep good company, and company above yourself Kick him upstairs King's popularity is a better guard than their army Know their real value, and how much they are generally overrated Know the true value of time Know, yourself and others Knowing how much you have, and how little you want Knowing any language imperfectly Knowledge is like power in this respect Knowledge: either despise it, or think that they have enough Knowledge of a scholar with the manners of a courtier Known people pretend to vices they had not Knows what things are little, and what not Labor is the unavoidable fatigue of a necessary journey Labor more to put them in conceit with themselves Last beautiful varnish, which raises the colors Laughing, I must particularly warn you against it Lay down a method for everything, and stick to it inviolably Lazy mind, and the trifling, frivolous mind Learn to keep your own secrets Learn, if you can, the WHY and the WHEREFORE Leave the company, at least as soon as he is wished out of it Led, much oftener by little things than by great ones Less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in Let me see more of you in your letters Let them quietly enjoy their errors in taste Let nobody discover that you do know your own value Let nothing pass till you understand it Let blockheads read what blockheads wrote Life of ignorance is not only a very contemptible, but tiresome Listlessness and indolence are always blameable Little minds mistake little objects for great ones Little failings and weaknesses Loud laughter is the mirth of the mob Love with him, who they think is the most in love with them Loved without being despised, and feared without being hated Low company, most falsely and impudently, call pleasure Low buffoonery, or silly accidents, that always excite laughter Luther's disappointed avarice Machiavel Made him believe that the world was made for him Make a great difference between companions and friends Make himself whatever he pleases, except a good poet Make yourself necessary Make every man I met with like me, and every woman love me Man is dishonored by not resenting an affront Man or woman cannot resist an engaging exterior Man of sense may be in haste, but can never be in a hurry Man who is only good on holydays is good for very little Mangles what he means to carve Manner is full as important as the matter Manner of doing things is often more important Manners must adorn knowledge Many things which seem extremely probable are not true Many are very willing, and very few able Mastery of one's temper May you live as long as you are fit to live, but no longer! May you rather die before you cease to be fit to live May not forget with ease what you have with difficulty learned Mazarin and Lewis the Fourteenth riveted the shackles Meditation and reflection Mere reason and good sense is never to be talked to a mob Merit and good-breeding will make their way everywhere Method Mistimes or misplaces everything Mitigating, engaging words do by no means weaken your argument MOB: Understanding they have collectively none Moderation with your enemies Modesty is the only sure bait when you angle for praise Money, the cause of much mischief More people have ears to be tickled, than understandings to judge More one sees, the less one either wonders or admires More you know, the modester you should be More one works, the more willing one is to work Mortifying inferiority in knowledge, rank, fortune Most people enjoy the inferiority of their best friends Most long talkers single out some one unfortunate man in company Most ignorant are, as usual, the boldest conjecturers Most people have ears, but few have judgment; tickle those ears Much sooner forgive an injustice than an insult My own health varies, as usual, but never deviates into good Mystical nonsense Name that we leave behind at one place often gets before us National honor and interest have been sacrificed to private Necessity of scrupulously preserving the appearances Neglect them in little things, they will leave you in great Negligence of it implies an indifference about pleasing Neither know nor care, (when I die) for I am very weary Neither abilities or words enough to call a coach Neither retail nor receive scandal willingly Never would know anything that he had not a mind to know Never read history without having maps Never affect the character in which you have a mind to shine Never implicitly adopt a character upon common fame Never seek for wit; if it presents itself, well and good Never to speak of yourself at all Never slattern away one minute in idleness Never quit a subject till you are thoroughly master of it Never maintain an argument with heat and clamor Never seem wiser, nor more learned, than the people you are with Never saw a froward child mended by whipping Never to trust implicitly to the informations of others Nipped in the bud No great regard for human testimony No man is distrait with the man he fears, or the woman he loves No one feels pleasure, who does not at the same time give it Not tumble, but slide gently to the bottom of the hill of life Not to communicate, prematurely, one's hopes or one's fears Not only pure, but, like Caesar's wife, unsuspected Not make their want still worse by grieving and regretting them Not making use of any one capital letter Not to admire anything too much Not one minute of the day in which you do nothing at all Notes by which dances are now pricked down as well as tunes Nothing in courts is exactly as it appears to be Nothing much worth either desiring or fearing Nothing so precious as time, and so irrecoverable when lost Observe, without being thought an observer Often more necessary to conceal contempt than resentment Often necessary, not to manifest all one feels Often necessary to seem ignorant of what one knows Oftener led by their hearts than by their understandings Old fellow ought to seem wise whether he really be so or not One must often yield, in order to prevail Only doing one thing at a time Only because she will not, and not because she cannot Only solid and lasting peace, between a man and his wife Our understandings are generally the DUPES of our hearts Our frivolous dissertations upon the weather, or upon whist Out of livery; which makes them both impertinent and useless Outward air of modesty to all he does Overvalue what we do not know Oysters, are only in season in the R months Passes for a wit, though he hath certainly no uncommon share Patience is the only way not to make bad worse Patient toleration of certain airs of superiority Pay your own reckoning, but do not treat the whole company Pay them with compliments, but not with confidence People never desire all till they have gotten a great deal People lose a great deal of time by reading People will repay, and with interest too, inattention People angling for praise People hate those who make them feel their own inferiority Perfection of everything that is worth doing at all Perseverance has surprising effects Person to you whom I am very indifferent about, I mean myself Pettish, pouting conduct is a great deal too young Petty jury Plain notions of right and wrong Planted while young, that degree of knowledge now my refuge Please all who are worth pleasing; offend none Pleased to some degree by showing a desire to please Pleased with him, by making them first pleased with themselves Pleasing in company is the only way of being pleased in yourself Pleasure and business with equal inattention Pleasure is necessarily reciprocal Pleasure is the rock which most young people split upon Pleasures do not commonly last so long as life Pocket all your knowledge with your watch Polite, but without the troublesome forms and stiffness POLITICIANS NEITHER LOVE NOR HATE Prefer useful to frivolous conversations Prejudices are our mistresses Pride remembers it forever Pride of being the first of the company Prudent reserve Public speaking Put out your time, but to good interest Quarrel with them when they are grown up, for being spoiled Quietly cherished error, instead of seeking for truth Read my eyes out every day, that I may not hang myself Read with caution and distrust Real merit of any kind will be discovered Real friendship is a slow grower Reason ought to direct the whole, but seldom does Reason, which always ought to direct mankind, seldom does Receive them with great civility, but with great incredulity Reciprocally profess wishes which they seldom form Recommend (pleasure) to you, like an Epicurean Recommends self-conversation to all authors Refuge of people who have neither wit nor invention of their own Refuse more gracefully than other people could grant Repeating Represent, but do not pronounce Reserve with your friends Respect without timidity Respectful without meanness, easy without too much familiarity Return you the ball 'a la volee' Rich man never borrows Richelieu came and shackled the nation Rochefoucault, who, I am afraid, paints man very exactly Rochefoucault Rough corners which mere nature has given to the smoothest Ruined their own son by what they called loving him Same coolness and unconcern in any and every company Scandal: receiver is always thought, as bad as the thief Scarce any flattery is too gross for them to swallow Scarcely any body who is absolutely good for nothing Scrupled no means to obtain his ends Secret, without being dark and mysterious Secrets See what you see, and to hear what you hear Seem to like and approve of everything at first Seeming frankness with a real reserve Seeming inattention to the person who is speaking to you Seeming openness is prudent Seems to have no opinion of his own Seldom a misfortune to be childless Self-love draws a thick veil between us and our faults Sentiment-mongers Sentiments that were never felt, pompously described Serious without being dull Settled here for good, as it is called Shakespeare She has all the reading that a woman should have She who conquers only catches a Tartar She has uncommon, sense and knowledge for a woman Shepherds and ministers are both men Silence in love betrays more woe Singularity is only pardonable in old age Six, or at most seven hours sleep Smile, where you cannot strike Some complaisance and attention to fools is prudent Some men pass their whole time in doing nothing Something or other is to be got out of everybody Something must be said, but that something must be nothing Sooner forgive an injury than an insult Sow jealousies among one's enemies Spare the persons while you lash the crimes Speaking to himself in the glass Stamp-act has proved a most pernicious measure Stamp-duty, which our Colonists absolutely refuse to pay State your difficulties, whenever you have any Steady assurance, with seeming modesty Studied and elaborate dress of the ugliest women in the world Style is the dress of thoughts Success turns much more upon manner than matter Sure guide is, he who has often gone the road which you want to Suspicion of age, no woman, let her be ever so old, ever forgive Swearing Tacitus Take the hue of the company you are with Take characters, as they do most things, upon trust Take, rather than give, the tone of the company you are in Take nothing for granted, upon the bare authority of the author Taking up adventitious, proves their want of intrinsic merit Talent of hating with good-breeding and loving with prudence Talk often, but never long Talk sillily upon a subject of other people's Talk of natural affection is talking nonsense Talking of either your own or other people's domestic affairs Tell me whom you live with, and I will tell you who you are Tell stories very seldom The longest life is too short for knowledge The present moments are the only ones we are sure of The best have something bad, and something little The worst have something good, and sometimes something great There are many avenues to every man They thought I informed, because I pleased them Thin veil of Modesty drawn before Vanity Think to atone by zeal for their want of merit and importance Think yourself less well than you are, in order to be quite so Thinks himself much worse than he is Thoroughly, not superficially Those who remarkably affect any one virtue Those whom you can make like themselves better Three passions that often put honesty to most severe trials Timidity and diffidence To be heard with success, you must be heard with pleasure To be pleased one must please To govern mankind, one must not overrate them To seem to have forgotten what one remembers To know people's real sentiments, I trust much more to my eyes To great caution, you can join seeming frankness and openness Too like, and too exact a picture of human nature Trifle only with triflers; and be serious only with the serious Trifles that concern you are not trifles to me Trifling parts, with their little jargon Trite jokes and loud laughter reduce him to a buffoon Truth, but not the whole truth, must be the invariable principle Truth leaves no room for compliments Unaffected silence upon that subject is the only true medium Unguarded frankness Unintelligible to his readers, and sometimes to himself Unopened, because one title in twenty has been omitted Unwilling and forced; it will never please Use palliatives when you contradict Useful sometimes to see the things which one ought to avoid Value of moments, when cast up, is immense Vanity, interest, and absurdity, always display Vanity, that source of many of our follies Warm and young thanks, not old and cold ones Water-drinkers can write nothing good We love to be pleased better than to be informed We have many of those useful prejudices in this country We shall be feared, if we do not show that we fear Well dressed, not finely dressed What pleases you in others, will in general please them in you What displeases or pleases you in others What you feel pleases you in them What have I done to-day? What is impossible, and what is only difficult Whatever pleases you most in others Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well Whatever one must do, one should do 'de bonne grace' Whatever real merit you have, other people will discover When well dressed for the day think no more of it afterward Where one would gain people, remember that nothing is little Who takes warning by the fate of others? Wife, very often heard indeed, but seldom minded Will not so much as hint at our follies Will pay very dear for the quarrels and ambition of a few Wish you, my dear friend, as many happy new years as you deserve Wit may created any admirers but makes few friends Witty without satire or commonplace Woman like her, who has always pleased, and often been pleased Women are the only refiners of the merit of men Women choose their favorites more by the ear Women are all so far Machiavelians Words are the dress of thoughts World is taken by the outside of things Would not tell what she did not know Wrapped up and absorbed in their abstruse speculations Writing anything that may deserve to be read Writing what may deserve to be read Wrongs are often forgiven; but contempt never is Yielded commonly without conviction You must be respectable, if you will be respected You had much better hold your tongue than them Young people are very apt to overrate both men and things Young fellow ought to be wiser than he should seem to be Young men are as apt to think themselves wise enough Your merit and your manners can alone raise you Your character there, whatever it is, will get before you here

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