Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, on the union of spirit and experience


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Young men are apt to think that every thing is to be carried by spirit and vigour; that art is meanness and that versatility and complaisance are the refuge of pusillanimity and weakness. This most mistaken opinion gives an indelicacy, an abruptness, and a roughness to manners. Fools, who can never be undeceived, retain them as long as they live: reflection, with a little experience, makes men of sense shake them off soon. When they come to be a little better acquainted with themselves, and with their own species, they discover, that plain right reason is, nine times in ten, the fettered and shackled attendant of the triumph of the heart and the passions; consequently, they address themselves nine times in ten to the conqueror, not to be conquered: and conquerors, you know, must be applied to in the gentlest, the most engaging, and the most insinuating manner.

But unfortunately, young men are as apt to think themselves wise enough, as drunken men are to think themselves sober enough. They look upon spirit to be a much better thing than experience; which they call coldness. They are but half mistaken; for though spirit without experience is dangerous, experience without spirit is languid and defective. Their union, which is very rare, is perfection…
Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, in 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, and fashion, are laid down in a plain, easy, familiar manner, adapted to every station, and capacity. The whole arranged on a plan entirely new., (Leghorn, Printed for Joseph Gamba, Bookseller, 1815), p. 208. Originally published (Richardson and Urquhart, 1775). Cited in part by Lee Graves in his “Thought for the Day” email for January 5th, 2010.

Philip Dormer Stanhope Posted on behalf of on Saturday, February 6th, 2010 under Quotations.

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