Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield PC KG (22 September 1694 – 24 March 1773) was a British statesman and man of letters.
A Whig, Lord Stanhope, as he was known until his father's death in 1726, was born in London. After being educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he went on the Grand Tour of the continent. The death of Anne and the accession of George I opened up a career for him and brought him back to England. His relative James Stanhope, the king's favourite minister, procured for him the place of gentleman of the bedchamber to the Prince of Wales.
Lord Chesterfield obviously enjoyed getting letters from his natural son, Philip, while the latter was abroad - if only so he could write back correcting all the errors...
London - July 9th 1750 ....The next thing necessary in your destination, is writing correctly,
elegantly, and in a good hand too; in which three particulars, I am sorry
to tell you, that you hitherto fail. Your handwriting is a very bad one,
and would make a scurvy figure in an office-book of letters, or even in a
lady's pocket-book. But that fault is easily cured by care, since every
man, who has the use of his eyes and of his right hand, can write
whatever hand he pleases. As to the correctness and elegance of your
writing, attention to grammar does the one, and to the best authors the
other. In your letter to me of the 27th June, N. S., you omitted the
date of the place, so that I only conjectured from the contents that you
were at Rome.
London November 19th 1750 ....I come now to another part of your letter, which is the orthography, if I
may call bad spelling ORTHOGRAPHY. You spell induce, ENDUCE; and
grandeur, you spell grandURE; two faults of which few of my housemaids
would have been guilty. I must tell you that orthography, in the true
sense of the word, is so absolutely necessary for a man of letters; or a
gentleman, that one false spelling may fix ridicule upon him for the rest
of his life; and I know a man of quality, who never recovered the
ridicule of having spelled WHOLESOME without the w.
Reading with care will secure everybody from false spelling; for books
are always well spelled, according to the orthography of the times. Some
words are indeed doubtful, being spelled differently by different authors
of equal authority; but those are few; and in those cases every man has
his option, because he may plead his authority either way; but where
there is but one right way, as in the two words above mentioned, it is
unpardonable and ridiculous for a gentleman to miss it; even a woman of a
tolerable education would despise and laugh, at a lover, who should send
her an ill-spelled billet-doux. I fear and suspect, that you have taken
it into your head, in most cases, that the matter is all, and the manner
little or nothing. If you have, undeceive yourself, and be convinced
that, in everything, the manner is full as important as the matter. If
you speak the sense of an angel, in bad words and with a disagreeable
utterance, nobody will hear you twice, who can help it. If you write
epistles as well as Cicero, but in a very bad hand, and very ill-spelled,
whoever receives will laugh at them; and if you had the figure of Adonis,
with an awkward air and motions, it will disgust instead of pleasing.
Study manner, therefore, in everything, if you would be anything.
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I'm a blogger - and nowadays that seems to be my main occupation. Rambles from My Chair is my main blog. I’m a retired local government executive - now studying how to survive a neurological disorder that gives me various problems but, hopefully, a whole new outlook on life and an increased sense of humour and perspective. There is a saying in Sweden "man måste vara frisk för att orka vara sjuk" ~ "you have to be well to cope with being ill"....
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