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STUDIES AND CONDUCT.
SUGGESTIONS BY MEN EMINENT IN LETTERS AND AFFAIRS.
LETTERS OF WILLIAM PITT (EARL OF CHATHAM) TO HIS NEPHEW,
THOMAS PITT (LORD CAMELFORD), WRITTEN 1751-71 WILLIAM Pitt, the Great Commoner of England, as he was generally spoken of until this honorably won designation was lost in the less characteristic title of Earl of Chatham (conferred, 1766), was born at Boconnoc, November 15, 1708. He was educated at Eton, whence he went, as a gentleman commoner, to Trinity College, Oxford. From ill health, he left the university without taking a degree, and made a tour through France and Italy. On his return he obtained a cornetcy in the Blues, and entered Parliament in January, 1735, as one of the representatives of the borough of Old Sarum, which was the property of his family. On this field he won the reputation as an orator and statesman, which, to the American as well as the English mind, is the goal and stimulus of the highest talents, properly trained, worthily directed, and successfully rewarded. His death (May 11, 1777, its fatal stroke April 7) in the House of Lords, after one of his outbursts of patriotic eloquence, has passed into the keeping of painting as well as of history.
The following series of letters were addressed by their author to his nephew, Thomas Pitt, the only son of Thomas Pitt (the Earl of Chatham's eldest brother), of Boconnoc, in the county of Cornwall.. He was born in March, 1737, and died in Florence in 1793. He sat in several parliaments, for the borough of Old Sarum, was a lord of: the Admiralty in 1763, and created Lord Camelford in 1783. He was. married to Anne, daughter of Pinkney Wilkinson. Their only son was killed in a duel in 1804, and their only daughter was married, in 1792, to William Lord Grenville. The letters coming, by this: marriage, into the possession of Lord Grenville, were first published by him in 1804, with a Dedication to the Rt. Hon. William Pitt, whose career teaches how great talents may be most successfully cultivated, and to what objects they may most honorably be di.. rected.'
On their first publication, the Edinburgh Review (vol. iv.) justly observed: 'In every line of these interesting relics, we discover proof that Lord Chatham was as amiable in private life as the annals : of the Old and New World proclaim him to have been transcendently great in the management of affairs.'
The original edition (1804) was introduced by Lord Grenville with the following
Preface. The following letters were addressed by the late Lord Chatham to his nephew, Mr. Pitt (afterwards Lord Camelford), then at Cambridge. They are few in number, written for the private use of an individual during a short period of time, and containing only such detached observations on the extensive subjects to which they relate, as occasion might happen to suggest, in the course of familiar correspondence. Yet even these imperfect remains will, undoubtedly, be received by the public with no common interest, as well from their own intrinsic value, as from the picture which they display of the character of their author. The editor's wish to do honor to the memory, both of the person by whom they were written and of him to whom they were addressed, would alone have rendered him desirous of making these papers public. But he feels a much higher motive, in the hope of promoting by.such a publication the inseparable interests of learning, virtue, and religion. By the writers of that school whose philosophy consists in the degradation of virtue, it has often been triumphantly declared that no excellence of character can stand the test of close observation: that no man is a hero to his domestic servants, or to his familiar friends. How much more just, as well as more amiable and dignified, is the opposite sentiment, delivered to us in the words of Plutarch, and illustrated throughout all his writings! “Real virtue," says that inimitable moralist, in his Life of Pericles, “is most loved where it is most nearly seen: and no respect which it commands from strangers, can equal the never ceasing admiration it excites in the daily intercourse of domestic life."
The following correspondence, imperfect as it is (and who will not lament that many more such letters are not preserved ?), exhibits a great orator, statesman and patriot, in one of the most interesting relations of private society. Not as in the cabinet or the senate, enforcing, by a vigorous and commanding eloquence, those councils to which his country owed her preeminence and glory; but implanting with parental kindness, into the mind of an ingenious youth, seeds of wisdom and virtue, which ripened into full maturity in the character of a most accomplished man: directing him to the acquisition of knowledge, as the best instrument of action; teaching him, by the cultivation of his reason, to strengthen and establish in his heart those principles of moral rectitude which were congenial to it; and, above all, ex. horting him to regulate the whole conduct of his life by the predominant influence of gratitude and obedience to God, as the only sure groundwork of every human duty.
What parent, anxious for the character and success of a son, born to any liberal station in this great and free country, would not, in all that related to bis education, gladly have resorted to the advice of such a man? What youthful spirit, animated by any desire of future excellence, and looking for the gratification of that desire in the pursuits of honorable ambition, or in the consciousness of an upright, active, and useful life, would not embrace with transport any opportunity of listening on such a subject to the lessons of Lord Chatham! They are here before him. Not delivered with the authority of a preceptor or a parent, but tempered by the affection of a friend towards a disposition and character well entitled to such regard.
On that disposition and character the editor forbears to enlarge. Their best panegyric will be found in the following pages. Lord Camelford is there described such as Lord Chatham judged him in the first dawn of his youth, and such as he continued to his latest hour. The same suavity of manners and steadiness of principle, the same correctness of judgment and integrity of heart, distinguished him through life; and the same affectionate attachment from those who knew him best, has followed him beyond the grave.
It will be obvious to every reader, on the slightest perusal of the following letters, that they were never intended to comprise a perfect system of education, even for the short portion of time to which they relate. Many points in which they will be found deficient, were undoubtedly supplied by frequent opportunities of personal intercourse, and much was left to the general rules of study established at an English university. still less, therefore, should the temporary advice addressed to an individual, whose previous education had labored under some disadvantage, be understood as a general dissuasive from the cultivation of Grecian literature. The sentiments of Lord Chatham were in direct opposition to any such opinion. The manner in which, even in these
letters, he speaks of the first of poets, and the greatest of orators: and the stress which he lays on the benetits to be derived from their immortal works, could leave no doubt of his judgment on this important point. That judgment was afterwards most unequivocally manifested, when he was called upon to consider the question with a still higher interest, not only as a friend and guardian, but also as a father.
“I call that,” says Milton, "a complete and generous education, which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously, all the offices, both public and private, of peace and war." This is the purpose to which all knowledge is subordinate; the test of all intellectual and moral excellence. It is the end to which the lessons of Lord Chatham are uniformly directed. May they contribute to promote and encourage its pursuit! Recommended, as they must be, to the heart of every reader, by their warmth of sentiment and eloquence of language; deriving additional weight from the affectionate interest by which they were dictated; and most of all, enforced by the influence of his great example, and the authority of his venerable name.
September, 1751. MY DEAR CHILD, -I am extremely pleased with your translation, now it is written over fair. It is very close to the sense of the original, and done, in many places, with much spirit, as well as the numbers not lame or rough. However, an attention to Mr. Pope's numbers will make you avoid some ill sounds, and hobbling of the verse, by only transposing a word or two, in many instances. I have, upon reading the Eclogue over again, altered the third, fourth, and fifth lines, in order to bring them nearer to the Latin, as well as to render some beauty which is contained in the repetition of words in tender passages. You give me great pleasure, my dear child, in the progress you have made. I will recommend to Mr. Leech to carry you quite through Virgil's Encid, from beginning to ending. Pray show him this letter, with my service to him, and thanks for his care of you. For English poetry, I recommend Pope's translation of Homer, and Dryden's Fables in particular. I am not sure if they are not called Tales instead of Fables. Your cousin, whom, I am sure, you can overtake if you will, has read Virgil's Æncid quite through, and much of Horace's Epistles. Terence's plays I would also desire Mr. Leech to make you perfect master of. Your cousin has read them all. Go on, my dear, and you will at least equal him. You are so good that I have nothing to wish but that you may be directed to proper books; and I trust to your spirit, and desire to be praised for things that deserve praise, for the figure you will hereafter make. God bless you, my dear child.
Your most affectionate Uncle,
Bath, Oct. 12, 1751. MY DEAR NEPHEW,-As I have been moving about from place to place, your letter reached me here, at Bath, but very lately, after making a considerable circuit to find me. I should have otherwise, my dear child, returned you thanks for the very great pleasure you have given me, long before now. The very good account you give me of your studies, and that delivered in very good Latin, for your time, has filled me with the highest expectation of your future improvements. I see the foundations so well laid, that I do not make the least doubt but you will become a perfect good scholar; and have the pleasure and applause that will attend the several adva ges hereafter, in the future course of your life, that you can only acquire now by your emulation and noble labors in the pursuit of learning, and of every acquirement that is to make you superior to other gentlemen. I rejoice to hear that you have begun Homer's Iliad, and have made so great a progress in Virgil. I hope you taste and love those authors particularly. You cannot read them too much: they are not only the two greatest poets, but they contain the finest lessons for your age to imbibe: lessons of honor, courage, disinterestedness, love of truth, command of temper, gentleness of behavior, bumanity, and, in one word, virtue to its true signification. Go on, my dear nephew, and drink as deep as you can of these divine springs: the pleasure of the draught is equal, at least, to the prodigious advantages of it to the heart and morals. I hope you will drink them, as somebody does in Virgil of another sort of cup: Ille impiger hausit spumantem pateram' (Quickly he drained the flowing bowl.) I shall be highly pleased to hear from you, and to know what authors give you most pleasure. I desire my service to Mr. Leech; pray tell him I will write to him soon about your studies.
BATI, Jan. 12, 1754. MY DEAR NEPHEW,-Your letter from Cambridge affords me many very sensible pleasures : first, that you are at last in a proper place for study and improvement, instead of losing any more of that most precious thing, time, in London; in the next place, that you seem pleased with the particular society you are placed in, and with the gentleman to whose care and instructions you are committed; and, above all, I applaud the sound, right sepse and love of virtue which appears through your whole letter. You are already possessed of the true clue to guide you through this dangerous and perplexing part of life's journey, the years of education; and upon which the complexion of all the rest of your days will infallibly depend. I say you have the true clue to guide you in the maxim you lay down in your letter to me, namely, that the use of learning is to render a man more wise and virtuous, not merely to make him more learned. Macte tua virtute ; “Go on and prosper." Go on, my dear boy, by this golden rule, and you cannot fail to become everything your generous heart prompts you to wish to be, and that minc most affectionately wishes for you. There is but one danger in your way, and that is, perhaps, natural enough to your age-the love of pleasure, or the fear of close application and laborious diligence. With the last, there is nothing you may not conquer; and the first is sure to conquer and enslave whoever does not strenuously and generously resist the first allurements of it, lest, by small indulgences, he fall under the yoke of irresistible habit. Vitanda est improba siren, desidia; (“ Avoid that ugly syren, idleness”), I desire may be affixed to the curtains of your bed, and to the walls of your chambers If you do not rise early, you never can make any progress worth talking of. Another rule is, if you do not set apart your hours of reading, and never suffer yourself or any one else to break in upon them, your days will slip through your hands unprofitably and frivolously; appraised by all you wish to please, and really unenjoyable to yourself. Be assured, whatever you take from pleasure, amusements, or indolence, for these tirst few years of your life, will repay you a hundred-fold in the pleasures, honors, and advantages of all the remainder of your days. My heart is so full of the most earnest desire that you should do well, that I find my letter has run into some length, which you will, I know, be so good as to excuse. There remains now nothing to trouble you with, but a little plan for the beginning of your studies, which I desire, in a particular manner, may be exactly followed in every title. You are to qualify yourself for the part in society to which your birth and estate call you. You are to be a gentleman of such learning and qualifications as may distinguish you in the service of your country hereafter; not a pedant, who reads only to be called learned, instead of considering learning only as an instrument for action. Give me leave, therefore, my dear nephew, who have gone before you, to point out to you the dangers in your road; to guard you against such things as I experience my own defects to arise from; and, at the same time, if I have had any little successes in the world, to guide you to what I have drawn many helps from. I have not the pleasure of knowing the gentleman who is your tutor, but I dare say he is every way equal to such a charge, which I think no small one. You will communicate this letter to him, and I hope he will be so good as to concur with me, as to the course of study I desire you may begin with ; and that such books, and such only, as I have pointed out, may be read. They are as follows: Euclid; a course of Logic; a course of Experimental Philosophy; Locke's Conduct of the Understanding; his Treatise also on the Understanding; his Treatise on Government, and Letters on Toleration. I desire, for the present, no books of poetry but Horace and Virgil; of Horace, the Odes, but above all, the Epistles, and Ars Poetica. These parts, Nocturni versate manu, versate diurna. Tully de Officiis, de Amicitia, de Senectute; his Catilinarian Oration and Philippics. Sallust. At leisure hours, an abridgement of the history of England to be run through, in order to settle in the mind a general chronological order and series of principal events and succession of kings; proper books of English history, on the true principles of our happy constitution, shall be pointed out afterwards. Burnett's History of the Reformation, abridged by himself, to be read with great care. Father Paul (Sarpi's History, with Notes and Observations by Amelot de la Houssail, London, 1727) on beneficiary matters, in English. A French master, and only Molière's Plays to be read with him, or by yourself, till you have gone through them all. Spectators, especially Mr. Addison's papers, to be read very frequently at broken times in your room. I make it my request that you will forbcar* drawing, totally, while you are at Cambridge; and not meddle with Greek, otherwise than to know a little the etymology of words in Latin, or English, or French; nor to meddle with Italian. I hope this little course will soon be run through. I intend it as a general foundation for many things, of infinite utility, to come as soon as this is finished.
BATH, Jan. 14, 1754. MY DEAR NEPHEW,-You will hardly have read over one very long letter from me before you are troubled with a second. I intended to have written soon, but I do it the sooner on account of your letter to your aunt, which she transmitted to me here. If anything, my dear boy, could have happened to raise you higher in my esteem, and to endear you more to me, it is the amiable abhorrence you feel for the scene of vice and folly (and of real misery and perdition, under the false notion of pleasure and spirit), which has opened to you at your college, and, at the same time, the manly, brave, generous, and wise resolution and true spirit with which you resisted and repulsed the first attempts upon a mind and heart, I thank God, infinitely too firm and noble, as well as too elegant and enlightened, to be in any danger of yielding to such contemptible and wretched corruptions. You charm me with the
• Lord Grenville, in a note to the first edition of 1804, remarks
This plan, drawn up for one whose previous education had not been systematic, does not claim to be complete. Lurd Chatham had a high appreciation of Grecin literature, and Earl Stauhope, in his life of William Pitt, quotes Bishop Tomline: ** It was by Lord Chatham's particular desire that Thucydides was the first Greek book which Mr. Pitt read after he came to college. The only (ther wish ever expressed by his lordship, relativa tn Mr. Pitt's bludies, was, that I wouid read Poly. bius with him."