The Gentleman of Gentlemen Lord Chesterfield

Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

Image via Wikipedia

Philip Dormer Stanhop, Lord Chesterfield

No single person better exemplifies the “age of Georgian politesse” than Philip Dormer Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield,    a noted statesman, a scholar, a man of letters, and foremost, a gentleman.

The Man and his Wit:


“Chesterfield embodied in rare completeness the characteristics of a shrewd man of the world, of one who had ‘been behind the scenes both in pleasure and business.’ He avowed no rule of conduct outside the urbane conventions of polite society.

Chesterfield’s worldliness was tempered by native common-sense, by genuine parental affection, and by keen appreciation of, and capacity for, literature. Even in his views on the relations of the sexes, his solemn warnings against acts forfeiting self-respect or provoking scandal destroyed most of the deleterious effect of his cynically voiced principles.

Nowhere did Chesterfield inculcate a gratification of selfish desires. He sternly rebuked any who used pride of birth or insolence to mistreat servants and dependents. In word and in deed, he advocated self-control andrespect for the feeling of others.

As a writer he reached the highest levels of grace and perspicuity, and as a connoisseur of literature he was nearly always admirable. In speech he was virtually unsurpassed in eloquence, enhanced by a rapier wit.

 When moved to do so, he made his foes feel the full brunt of his satiric faculty.  When Walpole introduced a bill to censure all theatrical productions, Chesterfield riddled its claim to justice or common-sense. He argued that ridicule was the natural prerogative of the theatre, and that the bill was an encroachment not merely upon liberty, but upon property, ‘wit being the intellectual property of those who have it.’

 Although the bill became law, Chesterfield’s speech excited even the admiration of his antagonists, described as one of the most lively and ingenious speeches ever heard in parliament, ‘full of wit of the genteelest satire, and in the most polished classical style that the Petronius of any time ever wrote.  It was extremely studied and universally admired.’

Lord Chesterfield Quotes:  

The mere brute pleasure of reading – the sort of pleasure a cow must have in grazing.

I am very sure that any man of common understanding may, by culture, care, attention, and labor, make himself what- ever he pleases, except a great poet.

I find, by experience, that the mind and the body are more than married, for they are most intimately united; and when one suffers, the other sympathizes.

I look upon indolence as a sort of suicide; for the man is effectually destroyed, though the appetites of the brute may survive.

I recommend you to take care of the minutes, for the hours will take care of themselves.

I sometimes give myself admirable advice, but I am incapable of taking it.

Idleness is only the refuge of weak minds.

If ever a man and his wife, or a man and his mistress, who pass nights as well as days together, absolutely lay aside all good breeding, their intimacy will soon degenerate into a coarse familiarity, infallibly productive of contempt or disgust.

If you are not in fashion, you are nobody.

If you can once engage people’s pride, love, pity, ambition on your side, you need not fear what their reason can do against you.

If you would convince others, seem open to conviction yourself.

In matters of religion and matrimony I never give any advice; because I will not have anybody’s torments in this world or the next laid to my charge.

In my mind, there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill-bred, as audible laughter.

In seeking wisdom thou art wise; in imagining that thou hast attained it – thou art a fool.

In those days he was wiser than he is now – he used frequently to take my advice.

Inferiority is what you enjoy in your best friends.

Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.

Knowledge may give weight, but accomplishments give luster, and many more people see than weigh.

Knowledge of the world in only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.

Learning is acquired by reading books, but the much more necessary learning, the knowledge of the world, is only to be acquired by reading men, and studying all the various facets of them.

Let them show me a cottage where there are not the same vices of which they accuse the courts.

Let your enemies be disarmed by the gentleness of your manner, but at the same time let them feel, the steadiness of your resentment.

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.

Men, as well as women, are much oftener led by their hearts than by their understandings.

Modesty is the only sure bait when you angle for praise.

Never seem more learned than the people you are with. Wear your learning like a pocket watch and keep it hidden. Do not pull it out to count the hours, but give the time when you are asked.

Never seem wiser, nor more learned, than the people you are with. Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket: and do not merely pull it out and strike it; merely to show that you have one.

Our own self-love draws a thick veil between us and our faults.

Patience is the most necessary quality for business, many a man would rather you heard his story than grant his request.

Persist and persevere, and you will find most things that are attainable, possible.

Pleasure is a necessary reciprocal. No one feels, who does not at the same time give it. To be pleased, one must please. What pleases you in others, will in general please them in you.

Politicians neither love nor hate. Interest, not sentiment, directs them.

Regularity in the hours of rising and retiring, perseverance in exercise, adaptation of dress to the variations of climate, simple and nutritious aliment, and temperance in all things are necessary branches of the regimen of health.

Remember, as long as you live, that nothing but strict truth can carry you through the world, with either your conscience or your honor unwounded.

Sex: the pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable.

Swift speedy time, feathered with flying hours, Dissolves the beauty of the fairest brow.

Take the tone of the company you are in.

The difference between a man of sense and a fop is that the fop values himself upon his dress; and the man of sense laughs at it, at the same time he knows he must not neglect it.

The heart never grows better by age; I fear rather worse, always harder. A young liar will be an old one, and a young knave will only be a greater knave as he grows older.

The less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in.


One thought on “The Gentleman of Gentlemen Lord Chesterfield

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s