1783 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Chesterfield

Edmond Malone, 1783; Maloniana, in Sir James Prior, Life of Edmond Malone (1860) 356-57.



After all, these Letters have been, I think, unreasonably decried; for supposing a young man to be properly guarded against the base principles of dissimulation, &c., which they enforce, he may derive much advantage from the many minute directions which they contain, that other instructors and even parents don't think it worth while to mention. In this and almost everything else, the world generally seizes on two or three obviously ridiculous circumstances, talks a great deal about them, and passes over all the valuable parts that may still be found in the work or in the character they are criticizing. I have heard persons laugh at the noble writer's laying weight upon such trifling matters as paring nails, or opening a dirty pocket handkerchief in company. Yet trifling as these instructions are, I have observed these very people greatly negligent in those very particulars.

Lord Chesterfield however by his perpetual attention to propriety, decorum, bienseance, &c. had so veneered his manners, that though he lived on good terms with all the world he had not a single friend. The fact was I believe that he had no warm affections. His excessive and unreasonable attention to decorum and studied manner attended him almost to his last hour. Nearly the last words he spoke were, "Fetch Derolles a chair." Derolles had been patronized by him, and came to see him and sit by his bedside in his last illness.