Fashion is more tyrannical at Paris than in any other place in the world; it governs even more absolutely than their king, which is saying a great deal. The least revolt against it is punished by proscription. You must observe, and conform to all the ‘minutiae’ of it, if you will be in fashion there yourself; and if you are not in fashion, you are nobody. Get, therefore, at all events, into the company of those men and women ‘qui donnent le ton’; and though at first you should be admitted upon that shining theatre only as a ‘persona muta’, persist, persevere, and you will soon have a part given you. Take great care never to tell in one company what you see or hear in another, much less to divert the present company at the expense of the last; but let discretion and secrecy be known parts of your character. They will carry you much further, and much safer than more shining talents. Be upon your guard against quarrels at Paris; honor is extremely nice there, though the asserting of it is exceedingly penal. Therefore, ’point de mauvaises plaisanteries, point de jeux de main, et point de raillerie piquante’.
Paris is the place in the world where, if you please, you may the best unite the ‘utile’ and the ‘dulce’. Even your pleasures will be your improvements, if you take them with the people of the place, and in high life. From what you have hitherto done everywhere else, I have just reason to believe, that you will do everything that you ought at Paris. Remember that it is your decisive moment; whatever you do there will be known to thousands here, and your character there, whatever it is, will get before you here. You will meet with it at London. May you and I both have reason to rejoice at that meeting! Adieu.
London, May 8, O. S. 1750
My dear friend: At your age the love of pleasures is extremely natural, and the enjoyment of them not unbecoming: but the danger, at your age, is mistaking the object, and setting out wrong in the pursuit. The character of a man of pleasure dazzles young eyes; they do not see their way to it distinctly, and fall into vice and profligacy. I remember a strong instance of this a great many years ago. A young fellow, determined to shine as a man of pleasure, was at the play called the “Libertine Destroyed,” a translation of ‘Le Festin de Pierre’ of Molieire’s. He was so struck with what he thought the fine character of the libertine, that he swore he would be the libertine destroyed. Some friends asked him, whether he had not better content himself with being only the libertine, but without being destroyed? to which he answered with great warmth, “No, for that being destroyed was the perfection of the whole.” This, extravagant as it seems in this light, is really the case of many an unfortunate young fellow, who, captivated by the name of pleasures, rushes indiscriminately,