Listen Up!

lord chesterfield ovalLord Chesterfield was a master of the pithy.

Take this: “A light supper, a good night’s sleep, and a fine morning have often made a hero of the same man who, by indigestion, a restless night, and a rainy morning would have proved a coward.”

Or this: “Advice is seldom welcome, and those who need it the most, like it the least.”

Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, was a member of the House of Lords, a Secretary of State and a Viceroy for Ireland, but he is best remembered for the letters he wrote to his illegitimate son, Philip. Chesterfield’s son predeceased him by a few years, and after Chesterfield himself died, his son’s widow published a collection of more than 400 letters from Lord Chesterfield entitled, Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman. While some of the advice, such as how to wear a hat and to never laugh out loud, may seem outmoded, much is still useful today, especially on job interviews!

Rangers House

Rangers House, Lord Chesterfield’s residence in Greenwich

“I here subjoin a list of all those necessary, ornamental accomplishments (without which, no man living can either please, or rise in the world) which hitherto I fear you want, and which only require your care and attention to possess.

  • To speak elegantly, whatever language you speak in; without which nobody will hear you with pleasure, and consequently you will speak to very little purpose.
  • An agreeable and distinct elocution; without which nobody will hear you with patience: this everybody may acquire, who is not born with some imperfection in the organs of speech. You are not; and therefore it is wholly in your power. You need take much less pains for it than Demosthenes did.
  • A distinguished politeness of manners and address; which common sense, obser-vation, good company, and imitation, will infallibly give you if you will accept it.
  • A genteel carriage and graceful motions, with the air of a man of fashion: a good dancing-master, with some care on your part, and some imitation of those who excel, will soon bring this about.
  • To be extremely clean in your person, and perfectly well dressed, according to the fashion, be that what it will: Your negligence of your dress while you were a schoolboy was pardonable, but would not be so now.
  • Upon the whole, take it for granted, that without these accomplishments, all you know, and all you can do, will avail you very little.”

Read more about Lord Chesterfield’s Advice to His Son here.