1777 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Chesterfield

Elizabeth Carter to Elizabeth Montagu, 15 October 1777; Letters to Mrs. Montagu, ed. Montagu Pennington (1817) 3:45-46.



I did not read Lord Chesterfield's Letters. The part of them which I heard read, appeared to me so very French, that I had no curiosity. There is something in such kind of morality that appears to me perfectly detestable. It is founded neither on principles of virtue, nor natural sentiments of heart, but merely on selfish motives; and I never yet met with any person who appeared to me pleasant in society, whose behaviour appeared to be regulated by such a system of mere "savoir vivre." If good people fail in those attentions and delicacies which make the charm of general society and of private friendship, they are certainly so far deficient in goodness, for there is nor rule so efficacious to promote them, as that which enjoins a suppression of those wrong tendencies, which are the great impediments to their exertions in virtue; but I have blundered upon a subject, which requires a clearer head, and more paper, than I at present possess.