Lord Chesterfield

(1694—1773) politician and diplomatist

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was a distinguished statesman and diplomatist, wrote political tracts, contributed to the weekly journal the World and was responsible for securing the adoption of the New Style Gregorian calendar in 1751. He is chiefly remembered for his ‘Letters’ to his natural son Philip Stanhope (1732–68), which were written (not for publication) almost daily from 1737 onwards. These consist largely of instruction in etiquette and the worldly arts, and became after publication (by the son's widow in 1774) a handbook of good manners. Although widely admired, the letters increasingly attracted criticism, as the century became less cynical and more sentimental. Dr Johnson addressed the Plan of his Dictionary to Chesterfield, but it was received with neglect; on publication of the Dictionary, Chesterfield wrote two papers in the World commending it. Thereupon, on 7 Feb. 1755, Johnson addressed to him the famous letter in which he bitterly rejected a notice which ‘had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it.’

Subjects: Literature.

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