"All you learn, and all you can read, will be of little use, if you don't think and reason upon it yourself". This is merely one of the advices Lord Chesterfield gave to his natural son, Philip, in the many letters he wrote to him from 1737 onwards, and that this book compiles.
Chesterfield was an important stateman, who wrote these letters only for the eyes of his son, not for the general public, so he did express in stark terms what he truly thought about many controversial themes. It is, in my opinion, very interesting to read what he considered to be general truths, and to get to know his conception of life, society and politics. Whether you agree or not with his opinions, you cannot remain indifferent to this controversial book.
Lord Chesterfield places great value on appearances. He tells Philip that "If your air and address are vulgar, awkward, and gauche, you may be esteemed indeed, if you have great intrinsic merit; but you will never please; and without pleasing you will rise but heavily". The author is, evidently, a cynic who doesn't believe that the world can be improved. He points out that "The world is taken by the outside of things, and we must take the world as it is". Chesterfields profession is fairly evident at all times, for example when he advises his son "...to be upon your own guard, and yet, by a seeming natural openness, to put people off theirs".
"Lord Chesterfield's Letters" has been considered a noteworthy classic by many, but it has also been strongly criticized. For example, Samuel Johnson said that it taught "the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing-master". I really don't agree with Johnson: I happen to like this book, and a lot. It is not only very easy to read, but also informative. The reader feels as if he were talking with an old but very experienced person, who played an active part in an enormous number of significant events, and who wants to transmit his knowledge not only on diplomatic affairs, but also about life and education. He often displays great insight, for example when he says that "You must look into people, as well as at them. Almost all people are born with all the passions, to a certain degree; but almost every man has a prevailing one, to which the others are subordinate".
All in all, I strongly recommend this book. It includes a high number of subjects, and I think you are highly likely to find it very appealing. If more is needed to convince you, I'll just leave you with one of the phrases written by the author, and I'll let its excellence to speak for itself: "Mind, not only what people say, but how they say it; and, if you have any sagacity, you may discover more truth by your eyes than by your ears. People can say what they will, but they cannot look just as they will; and their looks frequently discover, what their words are calculated to conceal". What else can I say?... Enjoy this book!.
- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press UK; 1 edition (1 September 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199554846
- ISBN-13: 978-0199554843
- Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 64,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)