I hope you employ your whole time, which few people do; and that you put every moment to, profit of some kind or other. I call company, walking, riding, etc., employing one's time, and, upon proper occasions, very usefully; but what I cannot forgive in anybody is sauntering, and doing nothing at all, with a thing so precious as time, and so irrecoverable when lost.
Are you acquainted with any ladies at Lausanne? and do you behave yourself with politeness enough to make them desire your company?
LONDON, February 24, O. S. 1747
SIR: In order that we may, reciprocally, keep up our French, which, for want of practice, we might forget; you will permit me to have the honor of assuring you of my respects in that language: and be so good to answer me in the same. Not that I am apprehensive of your forgetting to speak French: since it is probable that two-thirds of our daily prattle is in that language; and because, if you leave off writing French, you may perhaps neglect that grammatical purity, and accurate orthography, which, in other languages, you excel in; and really, even in French, it is better to write well than ill. However, as this is a language very proper for sprightly, gay subjects, I shall conform to that, and reserve those which are serious for English. I shall not therefore mention to you, at present, your Greek or Latin, your study of the Law of Nature, or the Law of Nations, the Rights of People, or of Individuals; but rather discuss the subject of your Amusements and Pleasures; for, to say the truth, one must have some. May I be permitted to inquire of what nature yours are? Do they consist in little commercial play at cards in good company? are they little agreeable suppers, at which cheerfulness and decency are united? or, do you pay court to some fair one, who requires such attentions as may be of use in contributing to polish you? Make me your confidant upon this subject; you shall not find a severe censor: on the contrary, I wish to obtain the employment of minister to your pleasures: I will point them out, and even contribute to them.
Many young people adopt pleasures, for which they have not the least taste, only because they are called by that name. They often mistake so totally, as to imagine that debauchery is pleasure. You must allow that drunkenness, which is equally destructive to body and mind, is a fine pleasure. Gaming, that draws you into a thousand scrapes, leaves you penniless, and gives you the air and manners of an outrageous madman, is another most exquisite pleasure; is it not? As to running after women, the consequences of that vice are only the loss of one's nose, the total destruction of health, and, not unfrequently, the being run through the body.
These, you see, are all trifles; yet this is the catalogue of pleasures of most of those young people, who never reflecting themselves, adopt, indiscriminately, what others choose to call by the seducing name of pleasure. I am thoroughly persuaded you will not fall into such errors; and that, in the choice of your amusements, you will be directed by reason, and a discerning taste. The true pleasures of a gentleman are those of the table, but within the bound of moderation; good company, that is to say, people of merit; moderate play, which amuses, without any interested views; and sprightly gallant conversations with women of fashion and sense.
These are the real pleasures of a gentleman; which occasion neither sickness, shame, nor repentance. Whatever exceeds them, becomes low vice, brutal passion, debauchery, and insanity of, mind; all of which, far from giving satisfaction, bring on dishonor and disgrace. Adieu.
DEAR BOY: Whatever you do, will always affect me, very sensibly, one way or another; and I am now most agreeably affected, by two letters, which I have lately seen from Lausanne, upon your subject; the one from Madame St. Germain, the other from Monsieur Pampigny: they both give so good an account of you, that I thought myself obliged, in justice both to them and, to you, to let you know it. Those who deserve a good character, ought to have the satisfaction of knowing that they have it, both as a reward and as an encouragement. They write, that you are not only 'decrotte,' but tolerably well-bred; and that the English crust of awkward bashfulness, shyness, and roughness (of which, by the bye, you had your share) is pretty well rubbed off. I am most heartily glad of it; for, as I have often told you, those lesser talents, of an engaging, insinuating manner, an easy good-breeding, a genteel behavior and address, are of infinitely more advantage than they are generally thought to be, especially here in England. Virtue and learning, like gold, have their intrinsic value but if they are not polished, they certainly lose a great deal of their luster; and even polished brass will pass upon more people than rough gold. What a number of sins does the cheerful, easy good-breeding of the French frequently cover? Many of them want common sense, many more common learning; but in general, they make up so much by their manner, for those defects, that frequently they pass undiscovered: I have often said, and do think, that a Frenchman, who, with a fund of virtue, learning and good sense, has the manners and good-breeding of his country, is the perfection of human nature. This perfection you may, if you please, and I hope you will, arrive at. You know what virtue is: you may have it if you will; it is in every man's power; and miserable is the man who has it not. Good sense God has given you. Learning you already possess enough of, to have, in a reasonable time, all that a man need have. With this, you are thrown out early into the world, where it will be your own fault if you do not acquire all, the other accomplishments necessary to complete and adorn your character. You will do well to make your compliments to Madame St. Germain and Monsieur Pampigny; and tell them, how sensible you are of their partiality to you, in the advantageous testimonies which, you are informed, they have given of you here.