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generally just in our country: If the people should be of opinion that it is so at any time, depend upon it the pageant is at an end, and dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts, and barons, come off the stage Messrs. Egalites.
Whether such an event would be beneficial to mankind, I presume not to decide; but I ardently wish to preserve an institution that may raise human nature, and stimulate to generous exertion. Such I think the order of nobility, under due regulations; for honour is the nurse of virtue, as well as of the arts.
In the fabric of the political edifice, nobility has been a beautiful and substantial column; may it remain so, and may you, my Lord, form one of its most admired embellishments. In order to be so, much time must be spent in your library. It is mind, and mind only, which can give real and lasting dignity.' Externals are very proper to set it off, as foils to increase the brilliancy of a jewel ; but the foil gives no real value to French paste.
But what shall we say of those noblemen who never read? Their minds are no less coarse and empty than those of their footmen. Let us bear with them, however, while we can : but your spirit will, I hope, always keep you distinguished from those that are only to be tolerated.
I am, &c.
MY LORD, An ancient mansion, or an old oak, undecayed, are venerable. The mind approaches them with a kind of awe. So an ancient family, long famous for its virtues and prosperity, and still flourishing, is natu
rally productive of esteem. But if the old mansion is reduced to a mere heap of rubbish, and the old oak rotten, we pass them unnoticed, or consider them as incumbrances of the ground. Apply this image to fallen, corrupt nobility. To use a vulgar phrase, you must keep it up, my Lord. Send a poor puny, degenerate lord, descended from the conqueror, with no abilities of mind and body, and a healthy, virtuous, and able plebeian, into a foreign country, among perfect strangers, without any distinction of dress; and the strangers will soon determine which is the nobleman. Nature produces gold, the king stamps it, and it passes current as a guinea; but if the guinea has been clipt, or if there is too much alloy in it, it will be rejected at the exchange. The pure gold without any stamp at the mint, will always retain its value according to its weight. Stamp your gold, however, with virtuous qualities, such as affability, gentleness, courage, good temper, magnanimity, learning, eloquence, generosity, and it will never suffer the disgrace of being cut asunder by the sheers, and cast into the crucible. I am far from disparaging nobility. The times are rather unfavourable to it; and I am endeavouring to render it really venerable, by founding its fancied superiority on real preeminence. Noblemen may indeed value themselves highly ; but self-value does not increase their real value. Their real value is that alone at which they are esteemed by the public. It is not the seller, but the buyer, that determines the price of a commodity. Convinced as I am that you have early imbibed these sentiments, I should not inculcate them again, had you not informed me, that two or three young lords, with whom you often associate, had endea
voured to persuade you, that there is a dignity in birth, independent of personal merit, or beneficent exertion. They spend their time chiefly in the stable, at the tavern, and at the gaming-house; they substitute a horse-laugh in the place of all argument; and they would willingly reduce you, by ridiculing your virtues, to a level with their own degenerate state. But what say the people at large, on whom both you and they must depend for a continuance of your honours and privileges? They bid you cast your eyes over the British channel, and learn in time a lesson of caution. Only consider the useless life of these young noblemen, whose fortunes are princely, and whose titles, in sound, right honourable. They rise at twelve, they dress, they ride, they dine, they game, they go to some public place, they sup, they drink to excess, and then retire again, and renew the same contemptible round on the morrow. Can you wonder that the people view their civil distinction with an evil eye? When such an one is on his departure, let him take a retrospective view of his life: What have I done? may he ask: my life has been useless to others, and to myself dishonourable. Am I one of the lords of the creation, as well as a lord in civil rank, distinguished above others by my country? If nature had made me a tree, or an animal without reason, I might probably have been more useful than I have been, and more truly estimable. Never let the false wit and rude conversation of such degenerate nobles, stop you in your honourable career. Treat them with politeness, but act and speak with spirit; and, above all, persevere in the path of honour which you have chosen, and mark the end of your choice. I am, &c.
LETTER XXXV. My LORD, Health makes the best blood, not nobility.. I could not help, adopting this idea, on seeing poor Lord **** at the coffee-room. He is but five and thirty, and he has all the infirmity of three-score and ten. He was born feeble ; and yet sent early to one of the fashionable schools, because his father and grandfather were educated there. His pockets were always full of money, and he indulged himself, in consequence, with every luxury in eating and drinking High-seasoned food, and brandy and water, every day, at the age of eighteen! Sad havoc it made in his feeble frame ! A dreadful disease, at twenty, introduced the decrepitude of old age at thirty. And there he stands (and, alas ! can hardly stand) a melancholy example of the folly of parents, in sacrificing the health and happiness of their children to fashion. His servant is the son of one of his tenants, and nearly of the same age as himself. How strong and hale! how florid his .complexion! how cheerful his looks! Poor Lord **** would give up all his pedigree for half bis footman's vigour.
It is a great error of the present age, to bring boys forward too soon. They are made little men, and they continue little men. Unfortunately this is in a peculiar manner the case of the rich and great. What poor creatures are many who are born to sit in the senate-house, above their fellow-citizens, with coronets and robes of honour! Their whole business is to take care of their health ; how can they watch over a nation? They may indeed give a feeble voice at the command of a minister; but will the
people respect them ?. And does not their imbecility of mind and body, besides the great misfortune of it to themselves, endanger the existence of their order, by rendering it contemptible?
Among other modes of restoring lustre to the peerage, if it be true that it is tarnished, care should be taken, in early youth, to prevent the body from being weakened by excess or effeminacy. A school in a great, corrupt, and unhealthy metropolis, should never be chosen by those who are able to select the place of their children's education. The diet of young persons should be plain, yet always plentiful. Early hours of retiring to repose, and rising from it, should be constantly insisted upon. Boys should not be introduced to the luxuries of a nobleman's .table, not even their father's; nor suffered to drink wine, or any strong liquor.
Fortunately for you, you were educated in the country, and with rural simplicity of diet, and accommodation. You therefore preserved your health, while you acquired those solid accomplishments, which will last you through life. But the danger is not yet over : the late hours which modern life renders almost unavoidable, are certainly a deviation from nature, and therefore debilitating. The luxury of the table is also carried to a great height; and excess in wine, at an early age, has become, in certain elevated circles, fashionable. :: Be singular, my Lord, in avoiding such practices
as will render you an old man before your time. Take care not to reduce yourself to such a state as may oblige you to become a valetudinarian for life. Strength of body is necessary to strength of mind. Temperance will contribute to both ; but let it not run into excess, and become the abstinence of a devotee. And let not your exercise take up all your