Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

Philip Dormer
Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
1732
1768

British Diplomat, Member of Parliament and British Envoy at the Court of Saxony in Dresden

Author Quotes

There is not a more prudent maxim, than to live with one's enemies as if they may one day become one's friends; as it commonly happens, sooner or later, in the vicissitudes of political affairs.

Sculpture and painting are very justly called liberal arts; a lively and strong imagination, together with a just observation, being absolutely necessary to excel in either; which, in my opinion, is by no means the case of music, though called a liberal art, and now in Italy placed even above the other two—a proof of the decline of that country.

In friendship, as well as in love, the mind is often the dupe of the heart.

If a man, notoriously and designedly, insults and affronts you, knock him down; but if he only injures you, your best revenge is to be extremely civil to him in your outward behaviour, though at the same time you counterwork him, and return him the compliment, perhaps with interest.

If a man would allot half an hour every night for self-conversation, and recapitulate with himself whatever he has done, right or wrong, in the course of the day, he would be both the better and the wiser for it.

A truth learned in a certain light, and attacked in certain words, by men of wit and humour, may, and often doth, become ridiculous, at least so far, that the truth is only remembered and repeated for the sake of the ridicule

If you can once engage people's pride, love, pity, ambition (or whatever is their prevailing passion) on your side, you need not fear what their reason can do against you.

In short, let it be your maxim through life, to know all you can know, yourself; and never to trust implicitly to the informations of others.

Violent measures are always dangerous, but, when necessary, may then be looked on as wise. They have, however, the advantage of never being matter of indifference; and, when well concerted, must be decisive.

Truth, but not the whole truth, must be the invariable principle of every man who hath either religion, honour, or prudence. Those who violate it, may be cunning, but they are not able. Lies and perfidy are the refuge of fools and cowards.

Good manners, to those one does not love, are no more a breach of truth, than "your humble servant," at the bottom of a challenge is; they are universally agreed upon, and understand to be things of course. They are necessary guards of the decency and peace of society.

Though we cannot totally change our nature, we may in great measure correct it by reflection and philosophy; and some philosophy is a very necessary companion in this world, where, even to the most fortunate, the chances are greatly against happiness.

Ties of blood are not always ties of friendship; but friendship founded on merit, on esteem, and on mutual trust, becomes more vital and more tender when strengthened by the ties of blood.

We are really so prejudiced by our educations, that, as the ancients deified their heroes, we deify their madmen.

I am convinced that a light supper, a good night's sleep, and a fine morning, have sometimes made a hero of the same man, who, by an indigestion, a restless night, and rainy morning, would have proved a coward.

It seems to me that physical sickness softens, just as moral sickness hardens, the heart.

Most people enjoy the inferiority of their best friends.

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 it you tell him plainly that you think him a rogue.

He had not the least pride of birth and rank, that common narrow notion of little minds, that wretched mistaken succedaneum of merit.

Judgment is not upon all occasions required, but discretion always is.

You must be respectful and assenting, but without being servile and abject. You must be frank, but without indiscretion, and close, without being costive. You must keep up dignity of character, without the least pride of birth, or rank. You must be gay, within all the bounds of decency and respect; and grave, without the affectation of wisdom, which does not become the age of twenty. You must be essentially secret, without being dark and mysterious. You must be firm, and even bold, but with great seeming modesty.

Our self-love is mortified, when we think our opinions, and even our tastes, customs, and dresses, either arraigned or condemned; as, on the contrary, it is tickled and flattered by approbation.

Little minds mistake little objects for great ones, and lavish away upon the former that time and attention which only the latter deserve. To such mistakes we owe the numerous and frivolous tribe of insect-mongers, shell-mongers, and pursuers and driers of butterflies, etc. The strong mind distinguishes, not only between the useful and the useless, but likewise between the useful and the curious.

I have been too long acquainted with human nature to have great regard for human testimony; and a very great degree of probability, supported by various concurrent circumstances, conspiring in one point, will have much greater weight with me, than human testimony upon oath, or even upon honour; both of which I have frequently seen considerably warped by private views.

The sure characteristic of a sound and strong mind is, to find, in everything, those certain bounds, quos ultra citrave nequit consistere rectum. These boundaries are marked out by a very fine line, which only good sense and attention can discover; it is much too fine for vulgar eyes. In manners, this line is good breeding; beyond it, is troublesome ceremony; short of it, is unbecoming negligence and inattention. In morals, it divides ostentatious Puritanism from criminal relaxation; in religion, superstition from impiety; and, in short, every virtue from its kindred vice or weakness.

Author Picture
First Name
Philip Dormer
Last Name
Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
Birth Date
1732
Death Date
1768
Bio

British Diplomat, Member of Parliament and British Envoy at the Court of Saxony in Dresden