Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield PC KG (September 22, 1694 - March 24, 1773) was a British statesman and man of letters. He was born in London and was known as Lord Stanhope until his father's death in 1726. After being educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he went on the Grand Tour of the continent. The death of Queen Anne and the accession of King George I opened up a career for him and brought him back to England. According to some authorities, Chesterfield was selfish, calculating and contemptuous; he was not naturally generous, and he practised dissimulation until it became part of his nature. In spite of his brilliant talents and of the admirable training he received, his life, on the whole, cannot be pronounced a success. As a politician and statesman, Chesterfield's fame rests on his short but brilliant administration of Ireland. As an author he was a clever essayist and epigrammatist. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)
A proper secrecy is the only mystery of able men; mystery is the only secrecy of weak and cunning ones.
Abject flattery and indiscriminate assentation degrade, as much as indiscriminate contradiction and noisy debate disgust. But a modest assertion of one's own opinion, and a complaisant acquiescence in other people's, preserve dignity.
Advice is seldom welcome; and those who want it the most always like it the least.
An injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult.
Be wiser than other people if you can; but do not tell them so.
Do as you would be done by, is the surest method of pleasing.
I really know nothing more criminal, more mean, and more ridiculous than lying. It is the production either of malice, cowardice, or vanity; and generally misses of its aim in every one of these views; for lies are always detected, sooner or later.
I recommend to you, in my last, an innocent piece of art: that of flattering people behind their backs, in presence of those who, to make their own court, much more than for your sake, will not fail to repeat, and even amplify, the praise to the party concerned. This is of all flattery the most pleasing, and consequently the most effectual.
I recommend you to take care of the minutes: for hours will take care of themselves.
I wish to God that you had as much pleasure in following my advice, as I have in giving it to you.
Idleness is only the refuge of weak minds.
In short, let it be your maxim through life, to know all you can know, yourself; and never to trust implicitly to the informations of others.
It is an undoubted truth, that the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in. One yawns, one procrastinates, one can do it when one will, and therfore one seldom does it at all.
Knowledge may give weight, but accomplishments give luster, and many more people see than weigh.
Let blockheads read what blockheads wrote.
Let this be one invariable rule of your conduct- never to show the least symptom of resentment, which you cannot, to a certain degree, gratify; but always to smile, where you cannot strike.
Little minds mistake little objects for great ones, and lavish away upon the former that time and attention which only the latter deserve. To such mistakes we owe the numerous and frivolous tribe of insect- mongers, shell-mongers, and pursuers and driers of butterflies, etc. The strong mind distinguishes, not only between the useful and the useless, but likewise between the useful and the curious.
Marriage is the cure of love, and friendship the cure of marriage.
Never seem wiser, nor more learned, than the people you are with. Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket: and do not pull it out and strike it; merely to show that you have one.
People will no more advance their civility to a bear, than their money to a bankrupt.
Religion is by no means a proper subject of conversation in a mixed company.
Speak of the moderns without contempt, and of the ancients without idolatry.
Take the tone of the company you are in.
The chapter of knowledge is a very short, but the chapter of accidents is a very long one.
The characteristic of a well-bred man is, to converse with his inferiors without insolence, and with his superiors with respect and with ease.
The herd of mankind can hardly be said to think; their notions are almost all adoptive; and, in general, I believe it is better that it should be so; as such common prejudices contribute more to order and quiet, than their own separate reasonings would do, uncultivated and unimproved as they are.
The knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.
The world is a country which nobody ever yet knew by description; one must travel through it one's self to be acquainted with it.
The young leading the young, is like the blind leading the blind; 'they will both fall into the ditch.'
There are some occasions in which a man must tell half his secret, in order to conceal the rest; but there is seldom one in which a man should tell all. Great skill is necessary to know how far to go, and where to stop.
There is time enough for everything, in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.
We must not suppose that, because a man is a rational animal, he will, therefore, always act rationally; or, because he has such or such a predominant passion, that he will act invariably and consequentially in pursuit of it. No, we are complicated machines; and though we have one main spring that gives motion to the whole, we have an infinity of little wheels, which, in their turns, retard, precipitate, and sometime stop that motion.
Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.
Women who are either indisputably beautiful, or indisputably ugly, are best flattered upon the score of their understandings; but those who are in a state of mediocrity are best flattered upon their beauty, or at least their graces; for every woman who is not absolutely ugly thinks herself handsome.