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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Portrait of Horace Walpole
By Madame du Deffand (Marie de Vichy-Chamrond) (1697–1780)
 
NOVEMBER, 1765.    
NO, no! I do not want to draw your likeness; nobody knows you less than I. Sometimes you seem to me what I wish you were, sometimes what I fear you may be, and perhaps never what you really are. I know very well that you have a great deal of wit of all kinds and all styles, and you must know it better than any one.
  1
  But your character should be painted, and of that I am not a good judge. It would require indifference, or impartiality at least. However, I can tell you that you are a very sincere man, that you have principles, that you are brave, that you pride yourself upon your firmness; that when you have come to a decision, good or bad, nothing induces you to change it, so that your firmness sometimes resembles obstinacy. Your heart is good and your friendship strong, but neither tender nor facile. Your fear of being weak makes you hard. You are on your guard against all sensibility. You cannot refuse to render valuable services to your friends; you sacrifice your own interest to them, but you refuse them the slightest of favors. Kind and humane to all about you, you do not give yourself the slightest trouble to please your friends in little ways.  2
  Your disposition is very agreeable although not very even. All your ways are noble, easy, and natural. Your desire to please does not lead you into affectation. Your knowledge of the world and your experience have given you a great contempt for men, and taught you how to live with them. You know that all their assurances go for nothing. In exchange you give them politeness and consideration, and all those who do not care about being loved are content with you.  3
  I do not know whether you have much feeling. If you have, you fight it as a weakness. You permit yourself only that which seems virtuous. You are a philosopher; you have no vanity, although you have a great deal of self-love. But your self-love does not blind you; it rather makes you exaggerate your faults than conceal them. You never extol yourself except when you are forced to do so by comparing yourself with other men. You possess discernment, very delicate tact, very correct taste; your tone is excellent.  4
  You would have been the best possible companion in past centuries; you are in this, and you would be in those to come. Englishman as you are, your manners belong to all countries.  5
  You have an unpardonable weakness to which you sacrifice your feelings and submit your conduct—the fear of ridicule. It makes you dependent upon the opinion of fools; and your friends are not safe from the impressions against them which fools choose to give you.  6
  Your judgment is easily confused. You are aware of this weakness, which you control by the firmness with which you pursue your resolutions. Your opposition to any deviation is sometimes pushed too far, and exercised in matters not worth the trouble.  7
  Your instincts are noble and generous. You do good for the pleasure of doing it, without ostentation, without claiming gratitude; in short, your spirit is beautiful and high.  8
 
 
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