Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford: Ch. 11 Annotation – Lord Chesterfield’s Letters

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

As a surgeon we were proud of him; but as a man –or rather, I should say, as a gentleman –we could only shake our heads over his name and himself, and wished that he had read Lord Chesterfield’s Letters in the days when his manners were susceptible of improvement.

Not originally intended for publication, the celebrated and controversial correspondences between Lord Chesterfield and his son Philip, dating from 1737, were praised in their day as a complete manual of education, and despised by Samuel Johnson for teaching “the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing-master.” Reflecting the political craft of a leading statesman and the urbane wit of a man who associated with Pope, Addison, and Swift, Lord Chesterfield’s Letters reveal the author’s political cynicism, his views on good breeding, and instruction to his son in etiquette and the worldly arts. The only annotated selection of this breadth available in paperback, these entertaining letters illuminate the fascinating aspects of eighteenth-century life and manners. – Publishers Description

Quotes from his Letters

  • I recommend you to take care of the minutes, for the hours will take care of themselves.
  • 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
  • Knowledge may give weight, but accomplishments give luster, and many more people see than weigh.
  • Patience is the most necessary quality for business, many a man would rather you heard his story than grant his request.
  • Vice, in its true light, is so deformed, that it shocks us at first sight; and would hardly ever seduce us, if it did not at first wear the mask of some virtue.
  • Young men are apt to think themselves wise enough, as drunken men are apt to think themselves sober enough.
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