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Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, 1751

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MY DEAR FRIEND: By your letter of the 5th, N. S., I find that your 'debut' at Paris has been a good one; you are entered into good company, and I dare say you will, not sink into bad. Frequent the houses where you have been once invited, and have none of that shyness which makes most of your countrymen strangers, where they might be intimate and domestic if they pleased. Wherever you have a general invitation to sup when you please, profit of it, with decency, and go every now and then. Lord Albemarle will, I am sure, be extremely kind to you, but his house is only a dinner house; and, as I am informed, frequented by no French people. Should he happen to employ you in his bureau, which I much doubt, you must write a better hand than your common one, or you will get no credit by your manuscripts; for your hand is at present an illiberal one; it is neither a hand of business nor of a gentleman, but the hand of a school-boy writing his exercise, which he hopes will never be read.

Madame de Monconseil gives me a favorable account of you; and so do Marquis de Matignon and Madame du Boccage; they all say that you desire to please, and consequently promise me that you will; and they judge right; for whoever really desires to please, and has (as you now have) the means of learning how, certainly will please and that is the great point of life; it makes all other things easy. Whenever you are with Madame de Monconseil, Madame du Boccage, or other women of fashion, with whom you are tolerably free, say frankly and naturally: "I know little of the world; I am quite a novice in it; and although very desirous of pleasing, I am at a loss for the means. Be so good, Madame, as to let me into your secret of pleasing everybody. I shall owe my success to it, and you will always have more than falls to your share." When, in consequence of this request, they shall tell you of any little error, awkwardness, or impropriety, you should not only feel, but express the warmest acknowledgment. Though nature should suffer, and she will at first hearing them, tell them, that you will look upon the most severe criticisms as the greatest proof of their friendship. Madame du Boccage tells me, particularly, to inform you: "I shall always, receive the honor of his visits with pleasure; it is true, that at his age the pleasures of conversation are cold; but I will endeavor to make him acquainted with young people," etc.

Make use of this invitation, and as you live, in a manner, next door to her, step in and out there frequently. Monsieur du Boccage will go with you, he tells me, with great pleasure, to the plays, and point out to you whatever deserves your knowing there. This is worth your acceptance too; he has a very good taste. I have not yet heard from Lady Hervey upon your subject; but as you inform me that you have already supped with her once, I look upon you as adopted by her; consult her in all your little matters; tell her any difficulties that may occur to you; ask her what you should do or say in such or such cases; she has 'l'usage du monde en perfection', and will help you to acquire it. Madame de Berkenrode 'est paitrie de graces', and your quotation is very applicable to her. You may be there, I dare say, as often as you please, and I would advise you to sup there once a week.

You say, very justly, that as Mr. Harte is leaving you, you shall want advice more than ever; you shall never want mine; and as you have already had so much of it, I must rather repeat than add to what I have already given you; but that I will do, and add to it occasionally, as circumstances may require. At present I shall only remind you of your two great objects, which you should always attend to; they are parliament and foreign affairs. With regard to the former, you can do nothing while abroad but attend carefully to the purity, correctness, and elegance of your diction; the clearness and gracefulness of your utterance, in whatever language you speak. As for the parliamentary knowledge, I will take care of that when you come home....