Quotes and Images from Chesterfield's Letters to His Son

By Chesterfield

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Letters to His Son, by The Earl of Chesterfield

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Title: Quotes and Images From Chesterfield's Letters to His Son
       On the Fine Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman

Author: The Earl of Chesterfield
        Edited and Arranged by David Widger

Release Date: August 29, 2004 [EBook #7539]
[Last updated on February 16, 2007]

Language: English


Produced by David Widger



by The Earl of Chesterfield


A little learning is a dangerous thing
A joker is near akin to a buffoon
A favor may make an enemy, and an injury may make a friend
Ablest man will sometimes do weak things
Above all things, avoid speaking of yourself
Above the frivolous as below the important and the secret
Above trifles, he is never vehement and eager about them
Absolute command of your temper
Abstain from learned ostentation
Absurd term of genteel and fashionable vices
Absurd romances of the two last centuries
According as their interest prompts them to wish
Acquainted with books, and an absolute stranger to men
Advice is seldom welcome
Advise those who do not speak elegantly, not to speak
Advocate, the friend, but not the bully of virtue
Affectation of singularity or superiority
Affectation in dress
Affectation of business
All have senses to be gratified
Always made the best of the best, and never made bad worse
Always does more than he says
Always some favorite word for the time being
Always look people in the face when you speak to them
Am still unwell; I cannot help it!
American Colonies
Ancients and Moderns
Anxiety for my health and life
Applauded often, without approving
Apt to make them think themselves more necessary than they are
Argumentative, polemical conversations
Arrogant pedant
Art of pleasing is the most necessary
As willing and as apt to be pleased as anybody
Ascribing the greatest actions to the most trifling causes
Assenting, but without being servile and abject
Assertion instead of argument
Assign the deepest motives for the most trifling actions
Assurance and intrepidity
At the first impulse of passion, be silent till you can be soft
Attacked by ridicule, and, punished with contempt
Attend to the objects of your expenses, but not to the sums
Attention to the inside of books
Attention and civility please all
Author is obscure and difficult in his own language
Avoid cacophony, and, what is very near as bad, monotony
Avoid singularity
Awkward address, ungraceful attitudes and actions
Be neither transported nor depressed by the accidents of life
Be silent till you can be soft
Being in the power of every man to hurt him
Being intelligible is now no longer the fashion
Better not to seem to understand, than to reply
Better refuse a favor gracefully, than to grant it clumsily
Blindness of the understanding is as much to be pitied
Bold, but with great seeming modesty
Business must be well, not affectedly dressed
Business now is to shine, not to weigh
Business by no means forbids pleasures
Can hardly be said to see what they see
Cannot understand them, or will not desire to understand them
Cardinal Mazarin
Cardinal Richelieu
Cardinal de Retz
Cardinal Virtues, by first degrading them into weaknesses
Cautious how we draw inferences
Cease to love when you cease to be agreeable
Chameleon, be able to take every different hue
Characters, that never existed, are insipidly displayed
Cheerful in the countenance, but without laughing
Chit-chat, useful to keep off improper and too serious subjects
Choose your pleasures for yourself
Civility, which is a disposition to accommodate and oblige others
Clamorers triumph
Close, without being costive
Command of our temper, and of our countenance
Commanding with dignity, you must serve up to it with diligence
Committing acts of hostility upon the Graces
Common sense (which, in truth, very uncommon)
Commonplace observations
Company is, in truth, a constant state of negotiation
Complaisance to every or anybody's opinion
Complaisance due to the custom of the place
Complaisant indulgence for people's weaknesses
Conceal all your learning carefully
Concealed what learning I had
Conjectures pass upon us for truths
Conjectures supply the defect of unattainable knowledge
Connive at knaves, and tolerate fools
Consciousness of merit makes a man of sense more modest
Consciousness and an honest pride of doing well
Consider things in the worst light, to show your skill
Content yourself with mediocrity in nothing
Conversation-stock being a joint and common property
Conversation will help you almost as much as books
Converse with his inferiors without insolence
Dance to those who pipe
Darkness visible
Decides peremptorily upon every subject
Deep learning is generally tainted with pedantry
Deepest learning, without good-breeding, is unwelcome
Defended by arms, adorned by manners, and improved by laws
Deserve a little, and you shall have but a little
Desire to please, and that is the main point
Desirous of praise from the praiseworthy
Desirous to make you their friend
Desirous of pleasing
Despairs of ever being able to pay
Dexterity enough to conceal a truth without telling a lie
Dictate to them while you seem to be directed by them
Difference in everything between system and practice
Difficulties seem to them, impossibilities
Dignity to be kept up in pleasures, as well as in business
Disagreeable to seem reserved, and very dangerous not to be so
Disagreeable things may be done so agreeably as almost to oblige
Disputes with heat
Dissimulation is only to hide our own cards
Distinction between simulation and dissimulation
Distinguish between the useful and the curious
Do as you would be done by
Do not become a virtuoso of small wares
Do what you are about
Do what you will but do something all day long
Do as you would be done by
Do not mistake the tinsel of Tasso for the gold of Virgil
Does not give it you, but he inflicts it upon you
Doing, 'de bonne grace', what you could not help doing
Doing what may deserve to be written
Doing nothing, and might just as well be asleep
Doing anything that will deserve to be written
Done under concern and embarrassment, must be ill done
Dress like the reasonable people of your own age
Dress well, and not too well
Dressed as the generality of people of fashion are
Ears to hear, but not sense enough to judge
Easy without negligence
Easy without too much familiarity
Economist of your time
Either do not think, or do not love to think
Elegance in one language will reproduce itself in all
Employ your whole time, which few people do
Endeavor to hear, and know all opinions
Endeavors to please and oblige our fellow-creatures
Enemies as if they may one day become one's friends
Enjoy all those advantages
Equally forbid insolent contempt, or low envy and jealousy
Establishing a character of integrity and good manners
Even where you are sure, seem rather doubtful
Every numerous assembly is MOB
Every virtue, has its kindred vice or weakness
Every man knows that he understands religion and politics
Every numerous assembly is a mob
Every man pretends to common sense
Everybody is good for something
Everything has a better and a worse side
Exalt the gentle in woman and man--above the merely genteel
Expresses himself with more fire than elegance
Extremely weary of this silly world
Eyes and the ears are the only roads to the heart
Eyes and ears open and mouth mostly shut
Feed him, and feed upon him at the same time
Few things which people in general know less, than how to love
Few people know how to love, or how to hate
Few dare dissent from an established opinion
Fiddle-faddle stories, that carry no information along with them
Fit to live--or not live at all
Flattering people behind their backs
Flattery of women
Flexibility of manners is necessary in the course of the world
Fools, who can never be undeceived
Fools never perceive where they are ill-timed
Forge accusations against themselves
Forgive, but not approve, the bad.
Fortune stoops to the forward and the bold
Frank without indiscretion
Frank, but without indiscretion
Frank, open, and ingenuous exterior, with a prudent interior
Frequently make friends of enemies, and enemies of friends
Friendship upon very slight acquaintance
Frivolous, idle people, whose time hangs upon their own hands
Frivolous curiosity about trifles
Frivolous and superficial pertness
Full-bottomed wigs were contrived for his humpback
Gain the heart, or you gain nothing
Gain the affections as well as the esteem
Gainer by your misfortune
General conclusions from certain particular principles
Generosity often runs into profusion
Genteel without affectation
Gentlemen, who take such a fancy to you at first sight
Gentleness of manners, with firmness of mind
Geography and history are very imperfect separately
German, who has taken into his head that he understands French
Go to the bottom of things
Good manners
Good reasons alleged are seldom the true ones
Good manners are the settled medium of social life
Good company
Graces: Without us, all labor is vain
Gratitude not being universal, nor even common
Grave without the affectation of wisdom
Great learning; which, if not accompanied with sound judgment
Great numbers of people met together, animate each other
Greatest fools are the greatest liars
Grow wiser when it is too late
Guard against those who make the most court to you
Habit and prejudice
Habitual eloquence
Half done or half known
Hardened to the wants and distresses of mankind
Hardly any body good for every thing
Haste and hurry are very different things
Have no pleasures but your own
Have a will and an opinion of your own, and adhere to it
Have I employed my time, or have I squandered it?
Have but one set of jokes to live upon
Have you learned to carve?
He that is gentil doeth gentil deeds
He will find it out of himself without your endeavors
Heart has such an influence over the understanding
Helps only, not as guides
Herd of mankind can hardly be said to think
Holiday eloquence
Home, be it ever so homely
Honest error is to be pitied, not ridiculed
Honestest man loves himself best
How troublesome an old correspondent must be to a young one
How much you have to do; and how little time to do it in
Human nature is always the same
Hurt those they love by a mistaken indulgence
I hope, I wish, I doubt, and fear alternately
I shall never know, though all the coffeehouses here do.
I shall always love you as you shall deserve.
I know myself (no common piece of knowledge, let me tell you)
I, who am not apt to know anything that I do not know
Idleness is only the refuge of weak minds
If free from the guilt, be free from the suspicion, too
If you would convince others, seem open to conviction yourself
If I don't mind his orders he won't mind my draughts
If you will persuade, you must first please
If once we quarrel, I will never forgive
Ignorant of their natural rights, cherished their chains
Impertinent insult upon custom and fashion
Improve yourself with the old, divert yourself with the young
Inaction at your age is unpardonable
Inattentive, absent; and distrait
Inclined to be fat, but I hope you will decline it
Incontinency of friendship among young fellows
Indiscriminate familiarity
Indiscriminately loading their memories with every part alike
Indolently say that they cannot do
Infallibly to be gained by every sort of flattery
Information is, in a certain degree, mortifying
Information implies our previous ignorance; it must be sweetened
Injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult
Insinuates himself only into the esteem of fools
Insipid in his pleasures, as inefficient in everything else
Insist upon your neither piping nor fiddling yourself
Insolent civility
INTOLERATION in religious, and inhospitality in civil matters
Intrinsic, and not their imaginary value
It is a real inconvenience to anybody to be fat
It is not sufficient to deserve well; one must please well too
Jealous of being slighted
Jog on like man and wife; that is, seldom agreeing
Judge of every man's truth by his degree of understanding
Judge them all by their merits, but not by their ages
Judges from the appearances of things, and not from the reality
Keep your own temper and artfully warm other people's
Keep good company, and company above yourself
Kick him upstairs
King's popularity is a better guard than their army
Know their real value, and how much they are generally overrated
Know the true value of time
Know, yourself and others
Knowing how much you have, and how little you want
Knowing any language imperfectly
Knowledge is like power in this respect
Knowledge: either despise it, or think that they have enough
Knowledge of a scholar with the manners of a courtier
Known people pretend to vices they had not
Knows what things are little, and what not
Labor is the unavoidable fatigue of a necessary journey
Labor more to put them in conceit with themselves
Last beautiful varnish, which raises the colors
Laughing, I must particularly warn you against it
Lay down a method for everything, and stick to it inviolably
Lazy mind, and the trifling, frivolous mind
Learn to keep your own secrets
Learn, if you can, the WHY and the WHEREFORE
Leave the company, at least as soon as he is wished out of it
Led, much oftener by little things than by great ones
Less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in
Let me see more of you in your letters
Let them quietly enjoy their errors in taste
Let nobody discover that you do know your own value
Let nothing pass till you understand it
Let blockheads read what blockheads wrote
Life of ignorance is not only a very contemptible, but tiresome
Listlessness and indolence are always blameable
Little minds mistake little objects for great ones
Little failings and weaknesses
Loud laughter is the mirth of the mob
Love with him, who they think is the most in love with them
Loved without being despised, and feared without being hated
Low company, most falsely and impudently, call pleasure
Low buffoonery, or silly accidents, that always excite laughter
Luther's disappointed avarice
Made him believe that the world was made for him
Make a great difference between companions and friends
Make himself whatever he pleases, except a good poet
Make yourself necessary
Make every man I met with like me, and every woman love me
Man is dishonored by not resenting an affront
Man or woman cannot resist an engaging exterior
Man of sense may be in haste, but can never be in a hurry
Man who is only good on holydays is good for very little
Mangles what he means to carve
Manner is full as important as the matter
Manner of doing things is often more important
Manners must adorn knowledge
Many things which seem extremely probable are not true
Many are very willing, and very few able
Mastery of one's temper
May you live as long as you are fit to live, but no longer!
May you rather die before you cease to be fit to live
May not forget with ease what you have with difficulty learned
Mazarin and Lewis the Fourteenth riveted the shackles
Meditation and reflection
Mere reason and good sense is never to be talked to a mob
Merit and good-breeding will make their way everywhere
Mistimes or misplaces everything
Mitigating, engaging words do by no means weaken your argument
MOB: Understanding they have collectively none
Moderation with your enemies
Modesty is the only sure bait when you angle for praise
Money, the cause of much mischief
More people have ears to be tickled, than understandings to judge
More one sees, the less one either wonders or admires
More you know, the modester you should be
More one works, the more willing one is to work
Mortifying inferiority in knowledge, rank, fortune
Most people enjoy the inferiority of their best friends
Most long talkers single out some one unfortunate man in company
Most ignorant are, as usual, the boldest conjecturers
Most people have ears, but few have judgment; tickle those ears
Much sooner forgive an injustice than an insult
My own health varies, as usual, but never deviates into good
Mystical nonsense
Name that we leave behind at one place often gets before us
National honor and interest have been sacrificed to private
Necessity of scrupulously preserving the appearances
Neglect them in little things, they will leave you in great
Negligence of it implies an indifference about pleasing
Neither know nor care, (when I die) for I am very weary
Neither abilities or words enough to call a coach
Neither retail nor receive scandal willingly
Never would know anything that he had not a mind to know
Never read history without having maps
Never affect the character in which you have a mind to shine
Never implicitly adopt a character upon common fame
Never seek for wit; if it presents itself, well and good
Never to speak of yourself at all
Never slattern away one minute in idleness
Never quit a subject till you are thoroughly master of it
Never maintain an argument with heat and clamor
Never seem wiser, nor more learned, than the people you are with
Never saw a froward child mended by whipping
Never to trust implicitly to the informations of others
Nipped in the bud
No great regard for human testimony
No man is distrait with the man he fears, or the woman he loves
No one feels pleasure, who does not at the same time give it
Not tumble, but slide gently to the bottom of the hill of life
Not to communicate, prematurely, one's hopes or one's fears
Not only pure, but, like Caesar's wife, unsuspected
Not make their want still worse by grieving and regretting them
Not making use of any one capital letter
Not to admire anything too much
Not one minute of the day in which you do nothing at all
Notes by which dances are now pricked down as well as tunes
Nothing in courts is exactly as it appears to be
Nothing much worth either desiring or fearing
Nothing so precious as time, and so irrecoverable when lost
Observe, without being thought an observer
Often more necessary to conceal contempt than resentment
Often necessary, not to manifest all one feels
Often necessary to seem ignorant of what one knows
Oftener led by their hearts than by their understandings
Old fellow ought to seem wise whether he really be so or not
One must often yield, in order to prevail
Only doing one thing at a time
Only because she will not, and not because she cannot
Only solid and lasting peace, between a man and his wife
Our understandings are generally the DUPES of our hearts
Our frivolous dissertations upon the weather, or upon whist
Out of livery; which makes them both impertinent and useless
Outward air of modesty to all he does
Overvalue what we do not know
Oysters, are only in season in the R months
Passes for a wit, though he hath certainly no uncommon share
Patience is the only way not to make bad worse
Patient toleration of certain airs of superiority
Pay your own reckoning, but do not treat the whole company
Pay them with compliments, but not with confidence
People never desire all till they have gotten a great deal
People lose a great deal of time by reading
People will repay, and with interest too, inattention
People angling for praise
People hate those who make them feel their own inferiority
Perfection of everything that is worth doing at all
Perseverance has surprising effects
Person to you whom I am very indifferent about, I mean myself
Pettish, pouting conduct is a great deal too young
Petty jury
Plain notions of right and wrong
Planted while young, that degree of knowledge now my refuge
Please all who are worth pleasing; offend none
Pleased to some degree by showing a desire to please
Pleased with him, by making them first pleased with themselves
Pleasing in company is the only way of being pleased in yourself
Pleasure and business with equal inattention
Pleasure is necessarily reciprocal
Pleasure is the rock which most young people split upon
Pleasures do not commonly last so long as life
Pocket all your knowledge with your watch
Polite, but without the troublesome forms and stiffness
Prefer useful to frivolous conversations
Prejudices are our mistresses
Pride remembers it forever
Pride of being the first of the company
Prudent reserve
Public speaking
Put out your time, but to good interest
Quarrel with them when they are grown up, for being spoiled
Quietly cherished error, instead of seeking for truth
Read my eyes out every day, that I may not hang myself
Read with caution and distrust
Real merit of any kind will be discovered
Real friendship is a slow grower
Reason ought to direct the whole, but seldom does
Reason, which always ought to direct mankind, seldom does
Receive them with great civility, but with great incredulity
Reciprocally profess wishes which they seldom form
Recommend (pleasure) to you, like an Epicurean
Recommends self-conversation to all authors
Refuge of people who have neither wit nor invention of their own
Refuse more gracefully than other people could grant
Represent, but do not pronounce
Reserve with your friends
Respect without timidity
Respectful without meanness, easy without too much familiarity
Return you the ball 'a la volee'
Rich man never borrows
Richelieu came and shackled the nation
Rochefoucault, who, I am afraid, paints man very exactly
Rough corners which mere nature has given to the smoothest
Ruined their own son by what they called loving him
Same coolness and unconcern in any and every company
Scandal: receiver is always thought, as bad as the thief
Scarce any flattery is too gross for them to swallow
Scarcely any body who is absolutely good for nothing
Scrupled no means to obtain his ends
Secret, without being dark and mysterious
See what you see, and to hear what you hear
Seem to like and approve of everything at first
Seeming frankness with a real reserve
Seeming inattention to the person who is speaking to you
Seeming openness is prudent
Seems to have no opinion of his own
Seldom a misfortune to be childless
Self-love draws a thick veil between us and our faults
Sentiments that were never felt, pompously described
Serious without being dull
Settled here for good, as it is called
She has all the reading that a woman should have
She who conquers only catches a Tartar
She has uncommon, sense and knowledge for a woman
Shepherds and ministers are both men
Silence in love betrays more woe
Singularity is only pardonable in old age
Six, or at most seven hours sleep
Smile, where you cannot strike
Some complaisance and attention to fools is prudent
Some men pass their whole time in doing nothing
Something or other is to be got out of everybody
Something must be said, but that something must be nothing
Sooner forgive an injury than an insult
Sow jealousies among one's enemies
Spare the persons while you lash the crimes
Speaking to himself in the glass
Stamp-act has proved a most pernicious measure
Stamp-duty, which our Colonists absolutely refuse to pay
State your difficulties, whenever you have any
Steady assurance, with seeming modesty
Studied and elaborate dress of the ugliest women in the world
Style is the dress of thoughts
Success turns much more upon manner than matter
Sure guide is, he who has often gone the road which you want to
Suspicion of age, no woman, let her be ever so old, ever forgive
Take the hue of the company you are with
Take characters, as they do most things, upon trust
Take, rather than give, the tone of the company you are in
Take nothing for granted, upon the bare authority of the author
Taking up adventitious, proves their want of intrinsic merit
Talent of hating with good-breeding and loving with prudence
Talk often, but never long
Talk sillily upon a subject of other people's
Talk of natural affection is talking nonsense
Talking of either your own or other people's domestic affairs
Tell me whom you live with, and I will tell you who you are
Tell stories very seldom
The longest life is too short for knowledge
The present moments are the only ones we are sure of
The best have something bad, and something little
The worst have something good, and sometimes something great
There are many avenues to every man
They thought I informed, because I pleased them
Thin veil of Modesty drawn before Vanity
Think to atone by zeal for their want of merit and importance
Think yourself less well than you are, in order to be quite so
Thinks himself much worse than he is
Thoroughly, not superficially
Those who remarkably affect any one virtue
Those whom you can make like themselves better
Three passions that often put honesty to most severe trials
Timidity and diffidence
To be heard with success, you must be heard with pleasure
To be pleased one must please
To govern mankind, one must not overrate them
To seem to have forgotten what one remembers
To know people's real sentiments, I trust much more to my eyes
To great caution, you can join seeming frankness and openness
Too like, and too exact a picture of human nature
Trifle only with triflers; and be serious only with the serious
Trifles that concern you are not trifles to me
Trifling parts, with their little jargon
Trite jokes and loud laughter reduce him to a buffoon
Truth, but not the whole truth, must be the invariable principle
Truth leaves no room for compliments
Unaffected silence upon that subject is the only true medium
Unguarded frankness
Unintelligible to his readers, and sometimes to himself
Unopened, because one title in twenty has been omitted
Unwilling and forced; it will never please
Use palliatives when you contradict
Useful sometimes to see the things which one ought to avoid
Value of moments, when cast up, is immense
Vanity, interest, and absurdity, always display
Vanity, that source of many of our follies
Warm and young thanks, not old and cold ones
Water-drinkers can write nothing good
We love to be pleased better than to be informed
We have many of those useful prejudices in this country
We shall be feared, if we do not show that we fear
Well dressed, not finely dressed
What pleases you in others, will in general please them in you
What displeases or pleases you in others
What you feel pleases you in them
What have I done to-day?
What is impossible, and what is only difficult
Whatever pleases you most in others
Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well
Whatever one must do, one should do 'de bonne grace'
Whatever real merit you have, other people will discover
When well dressed for the day think no more of it afterward
Where one would gain people, remember that nothing is little
Who takes warning by the fate of others?
Wife, very often heard indeed, but seldom minded
Will not so much as hint at our follies
Will pay very dear for the quarrels and ambition of a few
Wish you, my dear friend, as many happy new years as you deserve
Wit may created any admirers but makes few friends
Witty without satire or commonplace
Woman like her, who has always pleased, and often been pleased
Women are the only refiners of the merit of men
Women choose their favorites more by the ear
Women are all so far Machiavelians
Words are the dress of thoughts
World is taken by the outside of things
Would not tell what she did not know
Wrapped up and absorbed in their abstruse speculations
Writing anything that may deserve to be read
Writing what may deserve to be read
Wrongs are often forgiven; but contempt never is
Yielded commonly without conviction
You must be respectable, if you will be respected
You had much better hold your tongue than them
Young people are very apt to overrate both men and things
Young fellow ought to be wiser than he should seem to be
Young men are as apt to think themselves wise enough
Your merit and your manners can alone raise you
Your character there, whatever it is, will get before you here

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