Since writing to me in German would take up so much of your time, of which I would not now have one moment wasted, I will accept of your composition, and content myself with a moderate German letter once a fortnight, to Lady Chesterfield or Mr. Gravenkop. My meaning was only that you should not forget what you had already learned of the German language and character; but, on the contrary, that by frequent use it should grow more easy and familiar. Provided you take care of that, I do not care by what means: but I do desire that you will every day of your life speak German to somebody or other (for you will meet with Germans enough), and write a line or two of it every day to keep your hand in. Why should you not (for instance) write your little memorandums and accounts in that language and character? by which, too, you would have this advantage into the bargain, that, if mislaid, few but yourself could read them.
I am extremely glad to hear that you like the assemblies at Venice well enough to sacrifice some suppers to them; for I hear that you do not dislike your suppers neither. It is therefore plain, that there is somebody or something at those assemblies, which you like better than your meat. And as I know that there is none but good company at those assemblies, I am very glad to find that you like good company so well. I already imagine that you are a little, smoothed by it; and that you have either reasoned yourself, or that they have laughed you out of your absences and DISTRACTIONS; for I cannot suppose that you go there to insult them. I likewise imagine, that you wish to be welcome where you wish to go; and consequently, that you both present and behave yourself there 'en galant homme, et pas in bourgeois'.
If you have vowed to anybody there one of those eternal passions which I have sometimes known, by great accident, last three months, I can tell you that without great attention, infinite politeness, and engaging air and manners, the omens will be sinister, and the goddess unpropitious. Pray tell me what are the amusements of those assemblies? Are they little commercial play, are they music, are they 'la belle conversation', or are they all three? 'Y file-t-on le parfait amour? Y debite-t-on les beaux sentimens? Ou est-ce yu'on y parle Epigramme? And pray which is your department? 'Tutis depone in auribus'. Whichever it is, endeavor to shine and excel in it. Aim at least at the perfection of everything that is worth doing at all; and you will come nearer it than you would imagine; but those always crawl infinitely short of it whose aim is only mediocrity. Adieu.
P. S. By an uncommon diligence of the post, I have this moment received yours of the 9th, N. S.
LONDON, October 24, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: By my last I only acknowledged, by this I answer, your letter of the 9th October, N. S.
I am very glad that you approved of my letter of September the 12th, O. S., because it is upon that footing that I always propose living with you. I will advise you seriously, as a friend of some experience, and I will converse with you cheerfully as a companion; the authority of a parent shall forever be laid aside; for, wherever it is exerted, it is useless; since, if you have neither sense nor sentiments enough to follow my advice as a friend, your unwilling obedience to my orders as a father will be a very awkward and unavailing one both to yourself and me. Tacitus, speaking of an army that awkwardly and unwillingly obeyed its generals only from the fear of punishment, says, they obeyed indeed, 'Sed ut qua mallent jussa Imperatorum interpretari, quam exequi'. For my own part, I disclaim such obedience.
You think, I find, that you do not understand Italian; but I can tell you, that, like the 'Bourgeois Gentilhomme', who spoke prose without knowing it, you understand a great deal, though you do not know that you do; for whoever understands French and Latin so well as you do, understands at least half the Italian language, and has very little occasion for a dictionary. And for the idioms, the phrases, and the delicacies of it, conversation and a little attention will teach them you, and that soon; therefore, pray speak it in company, right or wrong, 'a tort ou a travers', as soon as ever you have got words enough to ask a common question, or give a common answer. If you can only say 'buon giorno', say it, instead of saying 'bon jour', I mean to every Italian; the answer to it will teach you more words, and insensibly you will be very soon master of that easy language. You are quite right in not neglecting your German for it, and in thinking that it will be of more use to you; it certainly will, in the course of your business; but Italian has its use too, and is an ornament into the bargain; there being many very polite and good authors in that language. The reason you assign for having hitherto met with none of my swarms of Germans in Italy, is a very solid one; and I can easily conceive, that the expense necessary for a traveler must amount to a number of thalers, groschen, and kreutzers, tremendous to a German fortune. However, you will find several at Rome, either ecclesiastics, or in the suite of the Imperial Minister; and more, when you come into the Milanese, among the Queen of Hungary's officers. Besides, you have a Saxon servant, to whom I hope you speak nothing but German.