Liberal Arts Blog — Lord Chesterfield’s Advice to His Son (1774)

Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Religion, and Culture Day

Today’s Topic: Lord Chesterfield’s Advice to His Son (1774)

Doing research for last week’s post on Kant’s guide to a good dinner party, I stumbled upon Lord Chesterfield’s Advice to His Son which is reminiscent of the Polonius monologue in Hamlet. But much, much, longer. Today, a few excerpts from this and other works of this great 18th century sage about whom I knew absolutely nothing until this week. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. “Never seem more learned than the people you are with. Wear your learning like a pocket watch and keep it hidden. Do not pull it out to count the hours, but give the time when you are asked.”

2. “I recommend to you to take care of the minutes, for hours will take care of themselves. I am sure, that many people lose two or three hours every day, by not taking care of the minutes.”

3. “A weak mind is like a microscope, it magnifies trifling things, but can not receive big ones.”


1. “Man can not discover new oceans unless he is willing to leave the shore from time to time.”

2. “Young men are apt to think themselves wise enough, as drunken men are apt to think themselves sober enough.”

3. “You will find that reason, which always ought to direct mankind seldom does; but that passions and weaknesses commonly usurp its seat, and rule in its stead.”


1. “Listen to everything that is said, and see everything that is done. Observe the looks and countenances of those who speak, which is often a surer way of discovering the truth than from what they say. But then keep all those observations to yourself, for your own private use, and rarely communicate them to others. Observe, without being thought an observer, for otherwise people will be upon their guard before you.”

2. “I am convinced that a light supper, a good night’s sleep, and a fine morning, have sometimes made a hero of the same man, who, by an indigestion, a restless night, and rainy morning, would have proved a coward.”

3. “In seeking wisdom thou art wise; in imagining that thou has attained it — thou are a a fool.”

NB: “Vice, in its true light, is so deformed, that it shocks us at first sight; and would hardly seduce us, if it did not at first wear the mask of some virtue.”

FOOTNOTES: Biography, The Illegitimate Son, Samuel Johnson

1. Chesterfield (1694–1773) was a statesman and diplomat as well as a “man of letters.” He served in the House of Commons from 1715 until his father’s death in 1726, when he entered the House of Lords. (Lord Chesterfield is also known as Philip Dormer Stanhope).

2. His “Advice to His Son” was published out of financial desperation by the widow of his beloved but illegitimate son Philip.

3. Samuel Johnson would say of Chesterfield’s masterpiece: “they teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing master.”

NB: “Chesterfield Cigarettes were named after Chesterfield County Virginia which was in turn named after the 4th Earl of Chesterfield.”,_4th_Earl_of_Chesterfield

Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield — Wikiquote

Philip Dormer Stanhope Quotes (Author of Lord Chesterfield’s Letters);view=fulltext

Lord Chesterfield’s advice to his son, on men and manners: or, A new system of education. In which the principles of politeness, the art of acquiring a knowledge of the world, with every instruction necessary to form a man of honour, virtue, taste, a


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.



Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.