London, March 19, O. S. 1750.
My dear friend: I acknowledge your last letter of the 24th February, N. S. In return for your earthquake, I can tell you that we have had here more than our share of earthquakes; for we had two very strong ones in eight-and-twenty days. They really do too much honor to our cold climate; in your warm one, they are compensated by favors from the sun, which we do not enjoy.
I did not think that the present Pope was a sort of man to build seven modern little chapels at the expense of so respectable a piece of antiquity as the Coliseum. However, let his Holiness’s taste of ‘virtu’ be ever so bad, pray get somebody to present you to him before you leave Rome; and without hesitation kiss his slipper, or whatever else the etiquette of that Court requires. I would have you see all those ceremonies; and I presume that you are, by this time, ready enough at Italian to understand and answer ‘il Santo Padre’ in that language. I hope, too, that you have acquired address and usage enough of the world to be presented to anybody, without embarrassment or disapprobation. If that is not yet quite perfect, as I cannot suppose it is entirely, custom will improve it daily, and habit at last complete it. I have for some time told you, that the great difficulties are pretty well conquered. You have acquired knowledge, which is the ‘principium et fons’; but you have now a variety of lesser things to attend to, which collectively make one great and important object. You easily guess that I mean the graces, the air, address, politeness, and, in short, the whole ‘tournure’ and ‘agremens’ of a man of fashion; so many little things conspire to form that ‘tournure’, that though separately they seem too insignificant to mention, yet aggregately they are too material for me (who think for you down to the very lowest things) to omit. For instance, do you use yourself to carve, eat and drink genteelly, and with ease? Do you take care to walk, sit, stand, and present yourself gracefully? Are you sufficiently upon your guard against awkward attitudes, and illiberal, ill-bred, and disgusting habits, such as scratching yourself, putting your fingers in your mouth, nose, and ears? Tricks always acquired at schools, often too much neglected afterward; but, however, extremely ill-bred and nauseous. For I do not conceive that any man has a right to exhibit, in company, any one excrement more than another. Do you dress well, and think a little of the brillant in your person? That, too, is necessary, because it is ‘prevenant’. Do you aim at easy, engaging, but, at the same time, civil or respectful manners, according to the company you are in? These, and a thousand other things, which you will observe in people of fashion better than I can describe them, are absolutely necessary for every man; but still more for you, than for almost any man living. The showish, the shining, the engaging parts of the character of a fine gentleman, should (considering your destination) be the principal objects, of your present attention.