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THE DEATH OF CHESTERFIELD'S SON.
Notwithstanding the contemptuous description of Lord Chesterfield's personal appearance by Lord Hervey, his portraits represent a handsome, though hard countenance, well-marked features, and his figure and air appear to have been elegant. With his commanding talents, his wonderful brilliancy and fluency of conversation, he would perhaps sometimes have been even tedious, had it not been for his invariable cheerfulness. He was always, as Lord Hervey says, “present” in his company. Among the few friends who really loved this thorough man of the world, was Lord Scarborough, yet no two characters were more opposite. Lord Scarborough had judgment, without wit: Chesterfield wit, and no judgment; Lord Scarborough had honesty and principle; Lord Chesterfield had neither. Every body liked the one, but did not care for his company. Every one disliked the other, but wished for his company. The fact was, Scarborough was “splendid and absent ;" Chesterfield, “cheerful and present:" wit, grace, attention to what is passing, the surface, as it were, of a highly-cultured mind, produced a fascination that all the honor and respectability in the court of George II. could not compete with.
In the earlier part of Chesterfield's career, Pope, Bolingkroke, Hervey, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and, in fact, all that could add to the pleasures of the then early dinnertable, illumined Chesterfield House by their wit and gayety. Yet in the midst of this exciting life, Lord Chesterfield found time to devote to the improvement of his natural son, Philip Stanhope, a great portion of his leisure. His celebrated Letters to that son did not, however, appear during the earl's life; nor were they in any way the source of his popularity as a wit, which was due to his merits in that line alone.
The youth to whom these letters, so useful, and yet so objectionable, were addressed, was intended for a diplomatist. He was the very reverse of his father: learned, sensible, and dry; but utterly wanting in the graces, and devoid of eloquence. As an orator, therefore, he failed; as a man of society, he must also have failed; and his death, in 1768, some years before that of his father, left that father desolate and disappointed. Philip Stanhope had attained the rank of envoy to Dresden, where he expired.
During the five years in which Chesterfield dragged out a mournful life after this event, he made the painful discovery that his son had married, without confiding that step to the father to whom he owed so much. This must have been almost as trying as the awkward, ungraceful deportment of him whom he mourned. The world now left Chesterfield ere he had left the world. He and his contemporary, Lord Tyraw
HIS INTEREST IN HIS GRANDSONS.
ley, were now old and infirm. “The fact is,” Chesterfield wittily said, “ Tyrawley and I have been dead these two years, but we don't choose to have it known.”
“ The Bath,” he wrote to his friend Dayrolles, “ did me more good than I thought any thing could do me; but all that good does not amount to what builders call half-repairs, and only keeps up the shattered fabric a little longer than it would have stood without them; but take my word for it, it will stand but a very little while longer. I am now in my grand climacteric, and shall not complete it. Fontenelle's last words at a hundred and three were, Je souffre d'être : deaf and infirm as I am, I can with truth say the same thing at sixty-three. In my mind it is only the strength of our passions, and the weakness of our reason, that makes us so fond of life; but when the former subside and give way to the latter, we grow weary of being, and willing to withdraw. I do not recommend this train of serious reflections to you, nor ought you to adopt them. ... You have children to educate and provide for, you have all your senses, and can enjoy all the comforts both of domestic and social life. I am in every sense isolé, and have wound up all my bottoms; I may now walk off quietly, without missing nor being missed.”
The kindness of his nature, corrupted as it was by a life wholly worldly, and but little illumined in its course by religion, shone now in his care of his two grandsons, the offspring of his lost son, and of their mother, Eugenia Stanhope. To her he thus wrote:
“The last time I had the pleasure of seeing you, I was so taken up in playing with the boys, that I forgot their more important affairs. How soon would you have them placed at school? When I know your pleasure as to that, I will send to Monsieur Perny, to prepare every thing for their reception. In the mean time, I beg that you will equip them thoroughly with clothes, linen, etc., all good, but plain; and give me the amount, which I will pay; for I do not intend, from this time forward, the two boys should cost you one shilling."
He lived, latterly, much at Blackheath, in the house which, being built on Crown land, has finally become the Ranger's lodge; but which still sometimes goes by the name of Chesterfield House. Here he spent large sums, especially on pictures, and cultivated Cantaloupe melons; and here, as he grew older, and became permanently afflicted with deafness, his chief companion was a useful friend, Solomon Dayrolles-one of those indebted hangers-on whom it was an almost invariable custom to find, at that period, in great houses--and perhaps too frequently in our own day.
“I MUST GO AND REHEARSE MY FUNERAL.”
Dayrolles, who was employed in the embassy under Lord Sandwich at the Hague, had always, to borrow Horace Walpole's ill-natured expression,“ been a led-captain to the Dukes of Richmond and Grafton, used to be sent to auctions for them, and to walk in the parks with their daughters, and once went dry-nurse in Holland with them. He has belonged, too, a good deal to my Lord Chesterfield, to whom I believe he owes this new honor, that of being minister at the Hague,' as he had before made him black-rod in Ireland, and gave the ingenious reason, that he had a black face.'
But the great “ dictator" in the empire of politeness was now in a slow but sure decline. Not long before his death he was visited by Monsieur Suard, a French gentleman, who was anxious to see “l'homme le plus aimable, le plus poli et le plus spirituel des trois royaumes,” but who found him fearfully altered; morose, from his deafness, yet still anxious to please. “It is
sad," he said with his usual politeness,“ to be deaf, when one would so much enjoy listening. I am not,” he added, “ so philosophic as my friend the President de Montesquieu, who says, “I know how to be blind, but I do not yet know how to be deaf.” “We shortened our visit,” says M. Suard,“lest we should fatigue the earl.” “I do not detain you,” said Chesterfield, “for I must go and rehearse my funeral.” It was thus that he styled his daily drive through the streets of London.
Lord Chesterfield's wonderful memory continued till his latest hour. As he lay, gasping in the last agonies of extreme debility, his friend, Mr. Dayrolles, called in to see him half an hour before he expired. The politeness which had become part of his very nature did not desert the dying earl. He managed to say, in a low voice, to his valet, “Give Dayrolles a chair.” This little trait greatly struck the famous Dr. Warren, who was at the bedside of this brilliant and wonderful
He died on the 24th of March, 1773, in the 79th year of his
age. The preamble to a codicil (Feb. 11, 1773) contains the following striking sentences, written when the intellect was impressed with the solemnity of that solemn change which comes alike to the unreflecting and to the heart-stricken holy believer:
“I most humbly recommend my soul to the extensive mercy of that Eternal, Supreme, Intelligent Being who gave it me: most earnestly, at the same time, deprecating his justice. Satiated with the pompous follies of this life, of which I have had an uncommon share, I would have no posthumous ones displayed at my funeral, and therefore desire to be buried in the
next burying-place to the place where I shall die, and limit the
funeral to £100.” His body was interred, according to his wish, in the vault of the chapel in South Audley Street, but it was afterward removed to the family burial-place in Shelford Church, Nottinghamshire.
In his will he left legacies to his servants.* "I consider them,” he said, “as unfortunate friends; my equals by nature, and my inferiors only in the difference of our fortunes.” There was something lofty in the mind that prompted that sentence.
His estates reverted to a distant kinsman, descended from a younger son of the first earl; and it is remarkable, on looking through the Peerage of Great Britain, to perceive how often this has been the case in a race remarkable for the absence of virtue. Interested marriages, vicious habits, perhaps account for the fact; but retributive justice, though it be presumptuous to trace its
where. He had so great a horror in his last days of gambling, that in bequeathing his possessions to his heir, as he expected, and godson, Philip Stanhope, he inserts this clause:
“In case my said godson, Philip Stanhope, shall at any time hereinafter keep, or be concerned in keeping of, any race-horses, or pack of hounds, or reside one night at Newmarket, that infamous seminary of iniquity and ill-manners, during the course of the races there; or shall resort to the said races; or shall lose, in any one day, at any game or bet whatsoever, the sum of £500, then, in any the cases aforesaid, it is my express will that he, my said godson, shall forfeit and pay, out of my estate, the sum of £5000 to and for the use of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster.”
When we say that Lord Chesterfield was a man who had no friend, we sum up his character in those few words. Just after his death, a small but distinguished party of men dined together at Topham Beauclerk's. There was Sir Joshua Reynolds; Sir William Jones, the orientalist; Bennet Langton; Steevens; Boswell; Johnson. The conversation turned on Garrick, who, Johnson said, had friends, but no friend. Then Boswell asked, what is a friend ? One who comforts and supports you, while others do not. “Friendship, you know, sir, is the cordial drop to make the nauseous draught of life go down.” Then one of the company mentioned Lord Chesterfield as one who had no friend; and Boswell said : “Garrick was pure gold, but beat out to thin leaf, Lord Chesterfield was
* Two years' wages were left to the servants.
LES MANLÈRES NOBLES.
tinsel.” And, for once, Johnson did not contradict him. But not so do we judge Lord Chesterfield. He was a man who acted on false principles through life; and those principles gradually undermined every thing that was noble and generous in character; just as those deep underground currents, noiseless in their course, work through fine-grained rock, and produce a chasm. Every thing with Chesterfield was self: for self, and for self alone, were agreeable qualities to be assumed; for self, was the country to be served, because that country protects and serves us; for self, were friends to be sought and cherished, as useful auxiliaries, or pleasant accessories: in the very core of the cankered heart, that advocated this corrupting doctrine of expediency, lay unbelief; that worm which never died in the hearts of so many illustrious men of that periodthe refrigerator of the feelings.
One only gentle and genuine sentiment possessed Lord Chesterfield, and that was his love for his son. Yet in this affection the worldly man might be seen in mournful colors. He did not seek to render his son good; his sole desire was to see him successful: every lesson that he taught him, in those matchless Letters which have carried down Chesterfield's fame to us when his other productions have virtually expired, exposes a code of dissimulation which Philip Stanhope, in his marriage, turned upon the father to whom he owed so much care and advancement. These Letters are, in fact, a complete exposition of Lord Chesterfield's character and views of life. No other man could have written them; no other man have conceived the notion of existence being one great effort to de ceive, as well as to excel, and of society forming one gigantic lie. It is true they were addressed to one who was to enter the maze of a diplomatic career, and must be taken, on that account, with some reservation.
They have justly been condemned on the score of immorality; but we must remember that the age in which they were written was one of lax notions, especially among men of rank, who regarded all women accessible, either from indiscretion or inferiority of rank, as fair game, and acted accordingly. But while we agree with one of Johnson's bitterest sentences as to the immorality of Chesterfield's letters, we disagree with his styling his code of manners the manners of a dancing-master. Chesterfield was in himself a perfect instance of what he calls les manières nobles ; and this even Johnson allowed.
Talking of Chesterfield,” Johnson said, “his manner was exquisitely elegant, and he had more knowledge than I expected.” Boswell: "Did you find, sir, his conversation to be of a superior sort ?” Johnson: “Sir, in the conversation which