"This, which I practiced for some years, not only improved and formed my style, but imprinted in my mind and memory the best thoughts of the best authors."

— Stanhope, Philip Dormer, fourth earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773)

Place of Publication
Printed for J. Dodsley
"This, which I practiced for some years, not only improved and formed my style, but imprinted in my mind and memory the best thoughts of the best authors."
Metaphor in Context
[...] Attend minutely to your style, whatever language you speak or write in; seek for the best words, and think of the best turns. Whenever you doubt of the propriety or elegance of any word, search the dictionary or some good author for it, or inquire of somebody, who is master of that language; and, in a little time, propriety and elegance of diction will become so habitual to you, that they will cost you no more trouble. As I have laid this down to be mechanical and attainable by whoever will take the necessary pains, there will be no great vanity in my saying, that I saw the importance of the object so early, and attended to it so young, that it would now cost me more trouble to speak or write ungrammatically, vulgarly, and inelegantly, than ever it did to avoid doing so. The late Lord Bolingbroke, without the least trouble, talked all day long, full as elegantly as he wrote. Why? Not by a peculiar gift from heaven; but, as he has often told me himself, by an early and constant attention to his style. The present Solicitor-General, Murray,——has less law than many lawyers, but has more practice than any; merely upon account of his eloquence, of which he has a never-failing stream. I remember so long ago as when I was at Cambridge, whenever I read pieces of eloquence (and indeed they were my chief study) whether ancient or modern, I used to write down the shining passages, and then translate them, as well and as elegantly as ever I could; if Latin or French, into English; if English, into French. This, which I practiced for some years, not only improved and formed my style, but imprinted in my mind and memory the best thoughts of the best authors. The trouble was little, but the advantage I have experienced was great. While you are abroad, you can neither have time nor opportunity to read pieces of English or parliamentary eloquence, as I hope you will carefully do when you return; but, in the meantime, whenever pieces of French eloquence come in your way, such as the speeches of persons received into the Academy, 'orasions funebres', representations of the several parliaments to the King, etc., read them in that view, in that spirit; observe the harmony, the turn and elegance of the style; examine in what you think it might have been better; and consider in what, had you written it yourself; you might have done worse. Compare the different manners of expressing the same thoughts in different authors; and observe how differently the same things appear in different dresses. Vulgar, coarse, and ill-chosen words, will deform and degrade the best thoughts as much as rags and dirt will the best figure. In short, you now know your object; pursue it steadily, and have no digressions that are not relative to, and connected with, the main action. Your success in parliament will effectually remove all OTHER OBJECTIONS; either a foreign or a domestic destination will no longer be refused you, if you make your way to it through Westminster.
([pp. 297-8 in Roberts ed.], LONDON, February 12, 1754)
Searching "mind" In PGDP
At least 32 entries in ESTC (1774, 1775, 1776, 1777, 1786, 1789, 1792, 1793, 1794, 1795, 1797, 1800). In 1774 fourteen letters were first published under the title The Art of Pleasing. See also Letters to his Son Philip Stanhope, 2 vols. (1774); then published in four volumes the same year. Additional letters collected in Miscellaneous Works (1777).

Reading David Roberts' edition of Lord Chesterfield's Letters (Oxford: OUP, 1998); and searching text from Project Gutenberg <Link>

Consulting and citing, where possible, Letters Written by the late Right Honourable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to his son, Philip Stanhope, Esq. (London: Printed for J. Dodsley, 1774). <Link to ECCO>

See also Miscellaneous Works of the late Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield: Consisting of letters to his Friends, never before printed, and Various Other Articles. 2 vols. (London: Printed for Edward and Charles Dilly, 1777). <Link to ECCO>
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.