Lord Chesterfield first appeared as an Essayist in Fog's, originally called Mist's Journal, to which he contributed three papers. During the subsequent year (1737) he wrote seventeen essays of considerable merit, on subjects connected with manners and taste, for the paper entitled Common Sense, and in the year 1743 he composed the first and third numbers of Old England, or the Constitutional Journal.
"In public stations," remarks a periodical critic, "Lord Chesterfield's conduct ever met with deserved plaudits; in private life, his brilliant wit, his exquisite humour, and his invariable politeness rendered him the constant delight of his friends; — and in the tender domestic relations, he was not only irreproachable but exemplary. In fine, a more amiable man scarce ever graced a court, or adorned the peaceful scenes of retirement."
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Philip Dormerm Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield entered Trinity College Cambridge as a fellow-commoner in 1712 (M.A. 1714). He was Whig M.P. for St Germans (1715) and Lostwithiel (1722-25); he succeeded to the peerage 1726, and played an important role in mid-century politics. Chesterfield was a friend of Pope and Henrietta Howard; he contributed to The World and corresponded with Voltaire, and was made infamous by Samuel Johnson when Chesterfield failed to support his labors on the Dictionary (1755). He is best known for the frank series of educational letters written to his natural son which came to epitomize everything Victorian writers disliked about the eighteenth century.
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Texts, with Introduction, notes, and (where needed, translations)of 7 early letters (1760-1763) and 19 late (1770-73) letters tohis godson, and one of 26 July 1771 to Deyverdun.
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The consequences which resulted from two of his Lordship's essays, Nos. 100 and 101, we have already related in the Life of Johnson. That, independent of the peculiar purpose which they were meant to answer, they possess considerable merit, cannot be denied; the first is elegantly complimentary, and the second abounds with humour. After years of continued neglect, however, on the part of Lord Chesterfield, Johnson had some reason to be offended at the period chosen for their production.
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The works of Lord Chesterfield may be classed as Poems, Letters, Political Papers, and Periodical Essays. Of these, the first are merely temporary effusions, the trifles of elegant leisure; the Letters form the bulk of our author's works, and are addressed to his natural son, and to his numerous friends; they exhibit much literary merit, and many acute observations on human life and manners; but, singular as it may appear, the tendency of those written to his son, is, but too evidently, to inculcate a system of duplicity and vice! The Political Papers, consisting of speeches, letters, pamphlets, characters, &c. though reflecting much credit on his Lordship's sagacity and eloquence, we shall, for obvious reasons, pass over, and hasten to notice what, in our opinion, are the most valuable productions of his pen, the Periodical Essays.
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Letters to his son, Philip Stanhope. 1774.
Miscellaneous works. 2 vols, 1777; 3 vols. 1777; 4 vols, 1779.
Letters to Alderman George Faulkner, Dr. Madden, Mr. Sexton, Mr. Derrick and the Earl of Arran. 1777.
Characters of eminent personages of his own time. 1777, 1778.
Poetical works. 1927.