Reference > Quotations > S. Austin Allibone, comp. > Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay
S. Austin Allibone, comp.  Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay.  1880.
Lord Chesterfield
  Never hold any one by the button or the hand in order to be heard out; for if people are unwilling to hear you, you had better hold your tongue than them.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  It is often more necessary to conceal contempt than resentment; the former being never forgiven, but the latter sometimes forgot.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  When you find your antagonist beginning to grow warm, put an end to the dispute by some genteel badinage.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  Real friendship is a slow grower, and never thrives unless engrafted upon a stock of known and reciprocal merit.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  A man’s own good-breeding is the best security against other people’s ill manners.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  The scholar, without good-breeding, is a pedant; the philosopher, a cynic; the soldier, a brute; and every man disagreeable.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  If you have but an hour, will you improve that hour, instead of idling it away?
Lord Chesterfield.    
  I look upon indolence as a sort of suicide; for the man is effectually destroyed, though the appetite of the brute may survive.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  Speak the language of the company you are in; speak it purely, and unlarded with any other.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  True politeness is perfect ease and freedom. It simply consists in treating others just as you love to be treated yourself.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  All ceremonies are, in themselves, very silly things, but yet a man of the world should know them.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  A man’s good breeding is the best security against other people’s ill manners.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  A vulgar man is captious and jealous; eager and impetuous about trifles. He suspects himself to be slighted, thinks everything that is said meant at him; if the company happens to laugh, he is persuaded they laugh at him; he grows angry and testy, says something very impertinent, and draws himself into a scrape by showing what he calls a proper spirit, and asserting himself.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  The manner of a vulgar man has freedom without ease, and the manner of a gentleman has ease without freedom.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  Compliments of congratulation are always kindly taken, and cost one nothing but pen, ink, and paper.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  Style is the dress of thoughts; and let them be ever so just, if your style is homely, coarse, and vulgar, they will appear to as much disadvantage, and be as ill received, as your person, though ever so well proportioned, would if dressed in rags, dirt, and tatters.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  I would have all intoleration intolerated in its turn.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  A weak mind is like a microscope, which magnifies trifling things, but cannot receive great ones.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  I assisted at the birth of that most significant word, flirtation. Flirtation is short of coquetry, and indicates only the first hints of approximation.
Lord Chesterfield.    
  Women are much more like each other than men; they have, in truth, but two passions, vanity and love: these are their universal characteristics…. He who flatters them most pleases them best; and they are most in love with him who they think is the most in love with them. No adulation is too strong for them; no assiduity too great; no simulation of passion too gross; as on the other hand, the least word or action that can possibly be construed into a slight or contempt is unpardonable, and never forgotten.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Dec. 19, 1749.    
  Six, or at most seven, hours’ sleep is, for a constancy, as much as you or anybody can want: more is only laziness and dozing; and is, I am persuaded, both unwholesome and stupefying…. I have very often gone to bed at six in the morning, and rose, notwithstanding, at eight; by which means I got many hours in the morning that my companions lost; and the want of sleep obliged me to keep good hours the next, or at least the third night. To this method I owe the greatest part of my reading; for from twenty to forty I should certainly have read very little if I had not been up while my acquaintances were in bed. 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.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Dec. 26, 1749.    
  Conscious virtue is the only solid foundation of all happiness; for riches, power, rank, or whatever, in the common acceptation of the word, is supposed to constitute happiness, will never quiet, much less cure, the inward pangs of guilt.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Dec. 26, 1749.    
  What I do and ever shall regret is the time which, while young, I lost in mere idleness, and in doing nothing. This is the common effect of the inconsideracy of youth, against which I beg you will be most carefully upon your guard. The value of moments, when cast up, is immense, if well employed; if thrown away, their loss is irrecoverable. Every moment may be put to some use, and that with much more pleasure than if unemployed.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Feb. 16, 1748.    
  In all systems whatsoever, whether of religion, government, morals, etc., perfection is the object always proposed, though possibly unattainable. However, those who aim carefully at the mark itself, will unquestionably come nearer it than those who, from despair, negligence, or indolence leave to chance the work of skill. This maxim holds equally true in common life: those who aim at perfection will come infinitely nearer it than those desponding or indolent spirits who foolishly say to themselves, “Nobody is perfect: perfection is unattainable: to attempt it is chimerical: I shall do as well as others: why then should I give myself trouble to be what I never can, and what, according to the common course of things, I need not be—perfect?”
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Feb. 20, 1752.    
  Wear your learning like your watch, in a private pocket; and do not pull it out and strike it, merely to show that you have one. If you are asked what o’clock it is, tell it, but do not proclaim it hourly and unasked, like the watchman.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Feb. 22, 1748.    
  Others, to show their learning, or often from the prejudices of a school education, where they hear of nothing else, are always talking of the ancients as something more than men, and of the moderns as something less. They are never without a classic or two in their pockets; they stick to the old good sense; they read none of the modern trash; and will show you plainly that no improvement has been made in any one art or science these last seventeen hundred years. I would by no means have you disown your acquaintance with the ancients; but still less would I have you brag of an exclusive intimacy with them. Speak of the moderns without contempt, and of the ancients without idolatry; judge them all by their merits, but not by their ages; and if you happen to have an Elzevir classic in your pocket, neither show it nor mention it.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Feb. 22, 1748.    
  Use and assert your own reason: reflect, examine, and analyze everything, in order to form a sound and mature judgment; let no [Greek] impose upon your understanding, mislead your actions, or dictate your conversation. Be early, what, if you are not, you will, when late, wish you had been. Consult your reason betimes: I do not say that it will always prove an unerring guide; for human reason is not infallible: but it will prove the least erring guide that you can follow. Books and conversation may assist it; but adopt neither blindly and implicitly; try both by that best rule which God has given to direct us, Reason.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Feb. 7, 1749.    
  We are in general, in England, ignorant of foreign affairs, and of the interests, views, pretensions, and policy of other courts. That part of knowledge never enters into our thoughts, nor makes part of our education; for which reason we have fewer proper subjects for foreign commissions than any other country in Europe; and when foreign affairs happen to be debated in parliament, it is incredible with how much ignorance.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Feb. 9, 1748.    
  Comedy … should be mere common life, and not one jot bigger. Every character should speak upon the stage, not only what it would utter in the situation there represented, but in the same manner in which it would express it. For which reason, I cannot allow rhymes in comedy, unless they were put into the mouth and came out of the mouth of a mad poet.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Jan. 23, 1752.    
  I could wish there were a treaty made between the French and the English theatres, in which both parties should make considerable concessions. The English ought to give up their notorious violations of all the unities; and all their massacres, racks, dead bodies, and mangled carcasses, which they so frequently exhibit upon their stage. The French should engage to have more action and less declamation; and not to cram and crowd things together, to almost a degree of impossibility, from a too scrupulous adherence to the unities. The English should restrain the licentiousness of their poets, and the French enlarge the liberty of theirs: their poets are the greatest slaves in their country, and that is a bold word; ours are the most tumultuous subjects in England, and that is saying a good deal. Under such regulations one might hope to see a play in which one should not be lulled to sleep by the length of a monotonical declamation, nor frightened and shocked by the barbarity of the action.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Jan. 23, 1752.    
  Tragedy must be something bigger than life, or it would not affect us. In nature the most violent passions are silent; in tragedy they must speak, and speak with dignity too. Hence the necessity of their being written in verse, and, unfortunately for the French, from the weakness of their language, in rhymes. And for the same reason, Cato, the Stoic, expiring at Utica, rhymes masculine and feminine at Paris, and fetches his last breath at London in most harmonious and correct blank verse.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Jan. 23, 1752.    
  You should by no means seem to approve, encourage, or applaud those libertine notions which strike at religions equally, and which are the poor threadbare topics of half wits, and minute philosophers. Even those who are silly enough to laugh at their jokes are still wise enough to distrust and detect their characters: for, putting moral virtues at the highest, and religion at the lowest, religion must still be allowed to be a collateral security, at least to virtue; and every prudent man will sooner trust to two securities than to one…. Depend upon this truth, that every man is the worse looked upon, and the less trusted, for being thought to have no religion; in spite of all the pompous and specious epithets he may assume, of esprit fort, free-thinker, or moral philosopher; and a wise atheist (if such a thing there is) would for his own interest, and character in this world, pretend to some religion.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Jan. 8, 1750.    
  Show yourself, upon all occasions, the advocate, the friend, but not the bully, of virtue. Colonel Chartres, whom you have certainly heard of, (who was, I believe, the most notorious blasted rascal in the world, and who, by all sorts of crimes, amassed immense wealth,) was so sensible of the disadvantage of a bad character, that I heard him once say, in his impudent, profligate manner, that though he would not give one farthing for virtue, he would give ten thousand pounds for a character; because he should get a hundred thousand pounds by it: whereas he was so blasted that he had no longer an opportunity of cheating people. Is it possible then that an honest man can neglect what a wise rogue would purchase so dear?
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Jan. 8, 1750.    
  Great merit, or great failings, will make you respected or despised; but trifles, little attentions, mere nothings, either done or neglected, will make you either liked or disliked, in the general run of the world. Examine yourself, why you like such and such people, and dislike such and such others; and you will find that those different sentiments proceed from very slight causes. Moral virtues are the foundation of society in general, and of friendship in particular; but attentions, manners, and graces, both adorn and strengthen them.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, July 20, 1749.    
  One must be extremely exact, clear, and perspicuous in everything one says; otherwise, instead of entertaining or informing others, one only tires and puzzles them. The voice and manner of speaking, too, are not to be neglected; some people almost shut their mouths when they speak, and mutter so, that they are not to be understood; others speak so fast and sputter that they are not to be understood neither; some always speak as loud as if they were talking to deaf people, and others so low that one cannot hear them. All these habits are awkward and disagreeable; and are to be avoided by attention: they are the distinguishing marks of the ordinary people, who have had no care taken of their education. You cannot imagine how necessary it is to mind all these little things; for I have seen many people, with great talents, ill received, for want of having these talents too; and others well received, only from their little talents, and who had no great ones.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, July 25, N. S., 1791.    
  There is, likewise, an awkwardness of expression and words, most carefully to be avoided; such as false English, bad pronunciation, old sayings, and common proverbs; which are so many proofs of having kept bad and low company. For example: if, instead of saying that tastes are different, and that every man has his peculiar one, you should let off a proverb, and say that, “What is one man’s meat is another man’s poison;” or else, “Every one as they like, as the good man said when he kissed his cow;” everybody would be persuaded that you had never kept company with anybody above footmen and housemaids.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, July 25, 1741.    
  A thousand little things, not separately to be defined, conspire to form these graces, this je ne sais quoi, that always pleases. A pretty person, genteel motions, a proper degree of dress, an harmonious voice, something open and cheerful in the countenance, but without laughing; a distinct and properly varied manner of speaking: all these things, and many others, are necessary ingredients in the composition of the pleasing je ne sais quoi, which everybody feels, though nobody can describe. Observe carefully, then, what displeases or pleases you, in others, and be persuaded that, in general, the same things will please or displease them, in you.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, March 9, 1748.    
  Having mentioned laughing, I must particularly warn you against it; and I could heartily wish that you may often be seen to smile, but never heard to laugh, while you live. Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and ill manners: it is the manner in which the mob express their silly joy at silly things; and they call it being merry. In my mind, there is nothing so illiberal and so ill bred as audible laughter.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, March 9, 1748.    
  True wit, or sense, never yet made anybody laugh; they are above it: they please the mind, and give a cheerfulness to the countenance. But it is low buffoonery, or silly accidents, that always excite laughter; and that is what people of sense and breeding should show themselves above…. Not to mention the disagreeable noise that it makes, and the shocking distortion of the face that it occasions. Laughter is easily restrained by a very little reflection; but, as it is generally connected with the idea of gaiety, people do not enough attend to its absurdity…. I am sure that since I have had the full use of my reason nobody has ever heard me laugh.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, March 9, 1748.    
  The business of oratory is to persuade people; and you easily feel that to please people is a great step towards persuading them. You must then, consequently, be sensible how advantageous it is for a man who speaks in public, whether it be in Parliament, in the pulpit, or at the bar (that is, in the courts of law), to please his hearers so much as to gain their attention: which he can never do without the help of oratory. It is not enough to speak the language he speaks in its utmost purity, and according to the rules of grammar; but he must speak it elegantly; that is, he must choose the best and most expressive words, and put them in the best order. He should likewise adorn what he says by proper metaphors, similes, and other figures of rhetoric; and he should enliven it, if he can, by quick and sprightly turns of wit.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Nov. 1739.    
  A company consisting wholly of people of the first quality cannot for that reason be called good company, in the common acceptation of the phrase, unless they are, into the bargain, the fashionable and accredited company of the place; for people of the very first quality can be as silly, as ill bred, and as worthless, as people of the meanest degree. On the other hand, a company consisting entirely of people of very low condition, whatever their merits or parts may be, can never be called good company; and consequently should not be much frequented, though by no means despised.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Oct. 12, 1748.    
  A wit is a very unpopular denomination, as it carries terror along with it; and people in general are as much afraid of a live wit in company as a woman is of a gun, which she thinks may go off of itself and do her a mischief. Their acquaintance is, however, worth seeking, and their company worth frequenting; but not exclusively of others, nor to such a degree as to be considered only as one of that particular set.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Oct. 12, 1748.    
  Women have, in general, but one object, which is their beauty; upon which scarce any flattery is too gross for them. Nature has hardly formed a woman ugly enough to be insensible to flattery upon her person: if her face is so shocking that she must in some degree be conscious of it, her figure and her air, she trusts, make ample amends for it. If her figure is deformed, her face, she thinks, counterbalances it. If they are both bad, she comforts herself that she has graces; a certain manner; a je ne sais quoi, still more engaging than beauty. This truth is evident from the studied dress of the ugliest women in the world. An undoubted, uncontested, conscious beauty is, of all women, the least sensible of flattery upon that head: she knows it is her due, and is therefore obliged to nobody for giving it her. She must be flattered upon her understanding; which, though she may possibly not doubt of herself, yet she suspects that men may distrust.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Oct. 16, 1747.    
  Avoid as much as you can, in mixed companies, argumentative, polemical conversations; which, though they should not, yet certainly do, indispose for a time the contending parties towards each other: and if the controversy grows warm and noisy, endeavour to put an end to it by some genteel levity or joke. I quieted such a conversation hubbub once by representing to them that, though I was persuaded none there present would repeat out of company what passed in it, yet I could not answer for the discretion of the passengers in the street, who must necessarily hear all that was said.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Oct. 19, 1748.    
  The only sure way of avoiding these evils is never to speak of yourself at all. But when, historically, you are obliged to mention yourself, take care not to drop one single word that can directly or indirectly be construed as fishing for applause. Be your character what it will, it will be known; and nobody will take it upon your own word. Never imagine that anything you can say yourself will varnish your defects or add lustre to your perfections; but, on the contrary, it may, and nine times in ten will, make the former more glaring and the latter obscure. If you are silent upon your own subject, neither envy, indignation, nor ridicule will obstruct or allay the applause which you may really deserve; but if you publish your own panegyric, upon any occasion, or in any shape whatsoever, and however artfully dressed or disguised, they will all conspire against you, and you will be disappointed of the very end you aim at.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Oct. 19, 1748.    
  Talk often, but never long; in that case, if you do not please, at least you are sure not to tire your hearers. Pay your own reckoning, but do not treat the whole company; this being one of the few cases in which people do not care to be treated, every one being fully convinced that he has wherewithal to pay.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Oct. 19, 1748.    
  Search, therefore, with the greatest care, into the character of all those whom you converse with; endeavour to discover their predominant passions, their prevailing weaknesses, their vanities, their follies, and their humours; with all the right and wrong, wise and silly springs of human actions, which make such inconsistent and whimsical beings of us rational creatures. A moderate share of penetration, with great attention, will infallibly make these necessary discoveries. This is the true knowledge of the world: and the world is a country which nobody ever yet knew by description: one must travel through it one’s self to be acquainted with it. The scholar who in the dust of his closet talks or writes of the world, knows no more of it than that orator did of war, who judiciously endeavoured to instruct Hannibal in it. Courts and camps are the only places to learn the world in.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Oct. 2, 1747.    
  I really know nothing more criminal, more mean, and more ridiculous, than lying. It is the production either of malice, cowardice, or vanity; and generally misses of its aim in every one of these views; for lies are always detected, sooner or later. If I tell a malicious lie, in order to affect any man’s fortune or character, I may indeed injure him for some time; but I shall be sure to be the greatest sufferer myself at last; for as soon as ever I am detected (and detected I most certainly shall be) I am blasted for the infamous attempt; and whatever is said afterwards to the disadvantage of that person, however true, passes for calumny. If I lie, or equivocate,—for it is the same thing,—in order to excuse myself for something that I have said or done, and to avoid the danger or the shame that I apprehend from it, I discover at once my fear, as well as my falsehood; and only increase, instead of avoiding, the danger and the shame: I show myself to be the lowest and the meanest of mankind, and am sure to be always treated as such.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Sept. 21, 1747.    
  Pray let no quibbles of lawyers, no refinements of casuists, break into the plain notions of right and wrong which every man’s right reason and plain common sense suggest to him. To do as you would be done by is the plain, sure, and undisputed rule of morality and justice. Stick to that; and be convinced that whatever breaks into it, in any degree, however speciously it may be turned, and however puzzling it may be to answer it, is, notwithstanding, false in itself, unjust, and criminal.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Sept. 27, 1748.    
  Every man is not ambitious, or covetous, or passionate; but every man has pride enough in his composition to feel and resent the least slight and contempt. Remember, therefore, most carefully to conceal your contempt, however just, wherever you would not make an implacable enemy. Men are much more unwilling to have their weaknesses and their imperfections known than their crimes; and if you hint to a man that you think him silly, ignorant, or even ill bred, or awkward, he will hate you more and longer than if you tell him plainly that you think him a rogue.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Sept. 5, 1748.    
  It requires, also, a great deal of exercise to bring it [the mind] to a state of health and vigour. Observe the difference there is between minds cultivated and minds uncultivated, and you will, I am sure, think that you cannot take too much pains, nor employ too much of your time, in the culture of your own. A drayman is probably born with as good organs as Milton, Locke, or Newton; but, by culture, they are much more before him than he is above his horse. Sometimes, indeed, extraordinary geniuses have broken out by the force of nature, without the assistance of education; but those instances are too rare for anybody to trust to; and even they would make a much better figure if they had the advantage of education into the bargain.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, April 1, 1748.    
  A friend of yours and mine has very justly defined good-breeding to be, “the result of much good sense, some good nature, and a little self-denial for the sake of others, and with a view to obtain the same indulgence from them.” Taking this for granted (as I think it cannot be disputed), it is astonishing to see that anybody who has good sense and good nature can essentially fail in good-breeding. As to the modes of it, indeed, they vary according to persons, places, and circumstances, and are only to be acquired by observation and experience; but the substance of it is everywhere and eternally the same.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son.    
  Good manners are to particular societies what good morals are to society in general—their cement and their security. And as laws are enacted to enforce good morals, or at least to prevent the ill effects of bad ones, so there are certain rules of civility, universally implied and received, to enforce good manners and punish bad ones. And indeed there seems to me to be less difference both between the crimes and punishments than at first one would imagine. The immoral man, who invades another’s property, is justly hanged for it; and the ill-bred man, who by his ill manners invades and disturbs the quiet and comforts of private life, is by common consent as justly banished society.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son.    
  Know, then, that as learning, honour, and virtue are absolutely necessary to gain you the esteem and admiration of mankind, politeness and good breeding are equally necessary to make you welcome and agreeable in conversation and common life. Great talents, such as honour, virtue, learning, and parts, are above the generality of the world; who neither possess them themselves nor judge of them rightly in others: but all people are judges of the lesser talents, such as civility, affability, and an obliging, agreeable address and manner; because they feel the good effects of them, as making society easy and pleasing.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son.    
  The nature of our constitution makes eloquence more useful and more necessary in this country than in any other in Europe. A certain degree of good sense and knowledge is requisite for that as well as for everything else; but, beyond that, the purity of diction, the elegancy of style, the harmony of periods, a pleasing elocution, and a graceful action, are the things which a public speaker should attend to the most; because his audience does,—and understands them the best,—or rather, indeed, understands little else. The late Lord Chancellor Cowper’s strength as an orator lay by no means in his reasonings, for very often he hazarded very weak ones. But such was the purity and eloquence of his style, such the propriety and charms of his elocution, and such the gracefulness of his action, that he never spoke without universal applause. The ears and the eyes gave him up the hearts and the understandings of the audience.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters, CXXV.    
  You should not only have attention to everything, but a quickness of attention, so as to observe, at once, all the people in the room; their motions, their looks, and their words; and yet without staring at them, and seeming to be an observer. This quick and unobserved observation is of infinite advantage in life, and is to be acquired with care; and, on the contrary, what is called absence, which is a thoughtlessness and want of attention about what is doing, makes a man so like either a fool or a madman, that, for my part, I see no real difference. A fool never has thought, a madman has lost it; and an absent man is, for the time, without it.
Lord Chesterfield: To his Son, July 25, N. S., 1741.    
  Civility and good-breeding are generally thought, and often used as, synonymous terms, but are by no means so.  57
  Good-breeding necessarily implies civility; but civility does not reciprocally imply good-breeding. The former has its intrinsic weight and value, which the latter always adorns and often doubles by its workmanship.  58
  To sacrifice one’s own self-love to other people’s is a short, but, I believe, a true, definition of civility: to do it with ease, propriety, and grace, is good-breeding. The one is the result of good-nature; the other, of good sense, joined to experience, observation, and attention.
Lord Chesterfield: World, No. 148.    

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