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London, Novembers, 0. 8. l?4g. BEAR BOY", JpROM the time that you have, had life, it has bean .*. the principal and favourite object or" mine, to make you as perfect as the imperfections of human nature will allow: in this view, I have grndged no pains nor expense in your education; convinced that education, more than nature, is the canse of that j;;reat difference which we see in the characters of men. While you were a child, I endeavoured to form your heart hahitually to virtue and honour, before your understanding was capable of showing .you their beanty and utility. Those principles, which you then got, like your grammar rules, only by rote, are now, I jam persuaded, fixed and confirmed by reason. And indeed they are so plain and , clear, that they require but a very moderate degree .of understanding, either to comprehend or practise th^m. Lord Shafteshury says, very prettily, that he would be virtuous for his own sake, thongh nobody were to know it; as he would be clean for his own sake, thongh nobody were to see him. Ihave, therefore, since you have had the uscof your reason, never written to you upon those subjects: they speak beat for themselves; and I should now just as soon think of warning you gravelynottofallintothedirtorthefire, as into dishonour or vice. This view o( mine, I consider as fully attained. My next object was, sound and useful learning. My own care first, Mr. Harte's afterwards, and of late (il will own it to your praise) your own application, have more tluui answered my expectations in that particular; and I have reason to believe, will answer even.my wishes. All that remains forme then to wish, to recommend, to inculcate, to order, and to insist upon, is good-breeding; without which, all your other qualifications will be lame, unadorned, and to a certain degree unavailing. And here I fear, and have too much reason to believe, that you are greatly deficient. The remainder of this letter, therefore, shall be (and it will not be the last by a great many) upon that subject.
A friend of yours and mine has very justly defined good-breeding to be, the result of much good sense, some good-nature, and a little self-denial, for the sake of others, and with a view to obtain thesame indulgencefrom them. Taking this for granted (as I think it caunot be disputed), it is astonishing to me, that any body, who has good sense and good-nature (and I believe you have both), can essentially fail in good-breeding. As to the modes of it, indeed, they vary according to persons, places, and circumstances; and are only to be acquired by observation and experience; but the substance of it is every where and eternally the same. Good mauners are, to particular societies, what good morals are to society in genenal; their cement, and their security. And, as laws are enacted to enforce good morals, or at least to prevent the ill effects of bad ones; so there are certain rules of civility, universally implied and received, to enforce good mauners, and punish bad ones. And indeed there seems to me to be less difference, both between the crimes and punishments, than at first one would imagine. The immoral man who invades another's property, is justly hanged for it; and the ill-bred man, who, by his ill-mauners, invades and disturbs the quiet and comforts of private life, is by - common consent as justly banished society. Mutual complaisances, attentions, and sacrifices of little conveniences, are as natural an implied compact between civiliaed people, as protection and obedience are between kings and subjects: whoever, in either case, violates that compact, justly forfeits all advantages arising from it. For my own part, I really think, that, next to the consciousness of doing a good action, that of doing a civil one is the most pleasing; and the epithet which I should covet the most, next to that of Aristides, would be that of ' well-bred.' Thus much for good-breeding in general: I will now consider some of the various modes and degrees of it.
Very few, scarcely any, are wanting in the respect which they should show to those whom they acknowledge to be infinitely their superiors; such as crowned heads, princes, and public persons of distinguished and eminent posts. It is the mauner of showing that respect, which is different. The man of fashion, and of the world, expresses it in its fullest extent, but naturally, easily, and without concern: whereas a man who is not used to keep good company, expresses it awkwardly; one sees that he is not used to it, and that it costs him a great deal: but I never saw the worst-bred man living guilty of lolling, whistling, scratching his head, and such like indecencies, in company that he respected. In such companies, therefore, the only point to be attended to is, to show that respect, which every body means to show, in an easy, unembarrassed, and graceful mauner. This is That observation and experience must teach you.
In mixed companies, whoever is admitted to make part of them is, for the time at least, supposed to be upon a footing of equality with the rest; and consequently, as there is no one principal object of awe and respect, people are apt to take a greater latitnde in their behaviour, and to be less upon their guard; and so they may, provided it be within certain Bounds, which are upon no occasion to be transgressed. But, upon these occasions, thongh no one is entitled to distinguished marks of respect, every one claims, and very justly, every mark of civility and good-breeding. Ease is allowed, but carelessness and negligence are strictly forhidden. If a man accosts you, and talks to you ever so dully or frivolously, it is worse than rndeness, it is brutality, to show him, by a manifest inattention to what he says, that you think him a fool or a blockhead and not worth hear• ing. It is much more so with regard to women; Ttiio, of whatever rank they are, are intitled, in consideration of their sex, not only to an attentive, but an officious good-breeding from men. Their little wants, likings, dislikes, preferences, antipathies, fancies, whims and even impertinences, must be officiously attended to, flattered, and, if possible,guessed at and anticipated, by a well-bred man. You must never usurp to yourself those conveniences and agrclnens which are of common right; such as the Best places, the best dishes, &c.; but on the contrary, always decline them yourself, and offer them to others; who, in their turns, will offer them to yon: so that, upon the whole, you will in your turn enjoy your share of the common right. It would be endless for me to enumerate all the particular instances in which a well-bred man shows his goodBreeding in good company; and it would be mjurious to you to suppose that your own good sense will not point them out to you; and then your own goodnature will recommend, and your self-interest enforce, the practice.
There is a third sort of good-breeding, in whic,h people are most apt to fail, from a very mistaken notion, that they caunot fail at all. I mean, with regard to one's most familiar friends and acquaintances, or those who really are our inferiors; and there, undoubtedly, a greater degree of ease is not only allowed, but proper, and contributes much to the comforts of a private, social life. But that .ease and freedom have their bounds too, which must by no means be violated. A certain degree of negligence and carelessness becomes injurious and insulting, from the real or supposed inferiority .of the persons: and that delightful liberty of conversation Among a ,few friends is soon destroyed, as liberty often has been, by being carried to licentiousness. But example explains things best, and .1 will put a pretty strong case. Suppose you and .me alone tpgejth'er; ^believe jfou will allow that I have as good ajriIr^t t£ u^l|fnite^/jcegdom,ui your camuany, as either you or I can possibly have in any other; and I am apt to believe, too, that you would indulge me in that freedom, as far as any body would, lint. notwithstanding this, do you imagine that I should think that there were no bounds to that freedom? I assure you, I should not think so; and I take myself to be as much tied down by a certain degree of good manners to you, as by other degrees of them to other people. Were I to show you, by a manifest inattention to what you said to me, that I was thinking of something else the whole time; were I to yawn extremely, snore, or break wind, in your company; I should think that I behaved myself to you like a beast, and should not expect that you would care to frequent me. No. The most familiar and intimate hahitndes, connexions, and friendships, require a degree of good-breeding, both to preserve and cement them. If ever a man and his wife, or a man and his mistress, who pass nights as well as days together, absolutely lay aside all good-breeding, their intimacy will soon degenerate into a coarse familiarity, infallibly productive of contempt or disgust. The best of us have our bad sides; and it is as imprndent, as it is ill-bred, to exhihit them. I shall certainly not use ceremony with you; it would be misplaced between us: but I shall certainly observe that degree of good-breeding with you which is, in the first place, decent, and which, I am sure, is absolutely necessary to make us like one another's company long.
I will say no more now, upon this important subject of good-breeding; upon which I have already dwelt too long, it may be, for one letter; and upon which I shall frequently refresh your memory hereafter: but I will conclnde with these axioms:
That the deepest learning, without good-breeding, is unwelcome and tiresome pedantry, and of use no where but in a man's own closet; and consequently of little or no use at all.
That a man, who is not perfectly well-bred, is unF2