1790 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Chesterfield

Robert Burns to Mrs. Dunlop, 10 April 1790; Burns, Works, ed. Douglas (1877-79) 5:307-08.



One of the ablest judges of men, and himself one of the ablest men that ever lived — the celebrated Earl of Chesterfield. In fact, a man who could thoroughly control his vices whenever they interfered with his interest, and who could completely put on the appearance of every virtue so often as it suited his purposes, is, on the Stanhopian plan, the perfect man; a man to lead nations. But are great abilities, complete without a flaw, and polished without a blemish, the standard of human excellence? This is certainly the staunch opinion of men of the world; but I call on honor, virtue, and worth, to give the Stygian doctrine a loud negative!