It is the exterior that always engages their hearts; and I would never advise you to give yourself much trouble about their understanding. Princes in general (I mean those 'Porphyrogenets' who are born and bred in purple) are about the pitch of women; bred up like them, and are to be addressed and gained in the same manner. They always see, they seldom weigh. Your lustre, not your solidity, must take them; your inside will afterward support and secure what your outside has acquired. With weak people (and they undoubtedly are three parts in four of mankind) good- breeding, address, and manners are everything; they can go no deeper; but let me assure you that they are a great deal even with people of the best understandings. Where the eyes are not pleased, and the heart is not flattered, the mind will be apt to stand out. Be this right or wrong, I confess I am so made myself. Awkwardness and ill-breeding shock me to that degree, that where I meet with them, I cannot find in my heart to inquire into the intrinsic merit of that person--I hastily decide in myself that he can have none; and am not sure that I should not even be sorry to know that he had any. I often paint you in my imagination, in your present 'lontananza', and, while I view you in the light of ancient and modern learning, useful and ornamental knowledge, I am charmed with the prospect; but when I view you in another light, and represent you awkward, ungraceful, ill-bred, with vulgar air and manners, shambling toward me with inattention and DISTRACTIONS, I shall not pretend to describe to you what I feel; but will do as a skillful painter did formerly--draw a veil before the countenance of the father.
I dare say you know already enough of architecture, to know that the Tuscan is the strongest and most solid of all the orders; but at the same time, it is the coarsest and clumsiest of them. Its solidity does extremely well for the foundation and base floor of a great edifice; but if the whole building be Tuscan, it will attract no eyes, it will stop no passengers, it will invite no interior examination; people will take it for granted that the finishing and furnishing cannot be worth seeing, where the front is so unadorned and clumsy. But if, upon the solid Tuscan foundation, the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian orders rise gradually with all their beauty, proportions, and ornaments, the fabric seizes the most incurious eye, and stops the most careless passenger; who solicits admission as a favor, nay, often purchases it. Just so will it fare with your, tittle fabric, which, at present, I fear, has more of the Tuscan than of the Corinthian order. You must absolutely change the whole front, or nobody will knock at the door. The several parts, which must compose this new front, are elegant, easy, natural, superior good- breeding; an engaging address; genteel motions; an insinuating softness in your looks, words, and actions; a spruce, lively air, fashionable dress; and all the glitter that a young fellow should have.
I am sure you would do a great deal for my sake; and therefore consider at your return here, what a disappointment and concern it would be to me, if I could not safely depute you to do the honors of my house and table; and if I should be ashamed to present you to those who frequent both. Should you be awkward, inattentive, and distrait, and happen to meet Mr. L----- at my table, the consequences of that meeting must be fatal; you would run your heads against each other, cut each other's fingers, instead of your meat, or die by the precipitate infusion of scalding soup.
This is really so copious a subject, that there is no end of being either serious or ludicrous upon it. It is impossible, too, to enumerate or state to you the various cases in good-breeding; they are infinite; there is no situation or relation in the world so remote or so intimate, that does not require a degree of it. Your own good sense must point it out to you; your own good-nature must incline, and your interest prompt you to practice it; and observation and experience must give you the manner, the air and the graces which complete the whole.
This letter will hardly overtake you, till you are at or near Rome. I expect a great deal in every way from your six months' stay there. My morning hopes are justly placed in Mr. Harte, and the masters he will give you; my evening ones, in the Roman ladies: pray be attentive to both. But I must hint to you, that the Roman ladies are not 'les femmes savantes, et ne vous embrasseront point pour Pamour du Grec. They must have 'ilgarbato, il leggiadro, it disinvolto, il lusinghiero, quel non so che, che piace, che alletta, che incanta'.
I have often asserted, that the profoundest learning and the politest manners were by no means incompatible, though so seldom found united in the same person; and I have engaged myself to exhibit you, as a proof of the truth of this assertion. Should you, instead of that, happen to disprove me, the concern indeed would be mine, but the loss will be yours. Lord Bolingbroke is a strong instance on my side of the question; he joins to the deepest erudition, the most elegant politeness and good- breeding that ever any courtier and man of the world was adorned with. And Pope very justly called him "All-accomplished St. John," with regard to his knowledge and his manners. He had, it is true, his faults; which proceeded from unbounded ambition, and impetuous passions; but they have now subsided by age and experience; and I can wish you nothing better than to be, what he is now, without being what he has been formerly. His address pre-engages, his eloquence persuades, and his knowledge informs all who approach him. Upon the whole, I do desire, and insist, that from after dinner till you go to bed, you make good-breeding, address, and manners, your serious object and your only care. Without them, you will be nobody; with them, you may be anything.
Adieu, my dear child! My compliments to Mr. Harte.
LONDON, November 24, O. S. 1749.