"It is a very old and very true maxim, that those kings reign the most secure and the most absolute, who reign in the hearts of their people."

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

Place of Publication
Printed for J. Dodsley
"It is a very old and very true maxim, that those kings reign the most secure and the most absolute, who reign in the hearts of their people."
Metaphor in Context
MY DEAR FRIEND: It is a very old and very true maxim, that those kings reign the most secure and the most absolute, who reign in the hearts of their people. Their popularity is a better guard than their army, and the affections of their subjects a better pledge of their obedience than their fears. This rule is, in proportion, full as true, though upon a different scale, with regard to private people. A man who possesses that great art of pleasing universally, and of gaining the affections of those with whom he converses, possesses a strength which nothing else can give him: a strength which facilitates and helps his rise; and which, in case of accidents, breaks his fall. Few people of your age sufficiently consider this great point of popularity; and when they grow older and wiser, strive in vain to recover what they have lost by their negligence. There are three principal causes that hinder them from acquiring this useful strength: pride, inattention, and 'mauvaise honte'. The first I will not, I cannot suspect you of; it is too much below your understanding. You cannot, and I am sure you do not think yourself superior by nature to the Savoyard who cleans your room, or the footman who cleans your shoes; but you may rejoice, and with reason, at the difference that fortune has made in your favor. Enjoy all those advantages; but without insulting those who are unfortunate enough to want them, or even doing anything unnecessarily that may remind them of that want. For my own part, I am more upon my guard as to my behavior to my servants, and others who are called my inferiors, than I am toward my equals: for fear of being suspected of that mean and ungenerous sentiment of desiring to make others feel that difference which fortune has, and perhaps too, undeservedly, made between us. Young people do not enough attend to this; and falsely imagine that the imperative mood, and a rough tone of authority and decision, are indications of spirit and courage. Inattention is always looked upon, though sometimes unjustly, as the effect of pride and contempt; and where it is thought so, is never forgiven. In this article, young people are generally exceedingly to blame, and offend extremely. Their whole attention is engrossed by their particular set of acquaintance; and by some few glaring and exalted objects of rank, beauty, or parts; all the rest they think so little worth their care, that they neglect even common civility toward them. I will frankly confess to you, that this was one of my great faults when I was of your age. Very attentive to please that narrow court circle in which I stood enchanted, I considered everything else as bourgeois, and unworthy of common civility; I paid my court assiduously and skillfully enough to shining and distinguished figures, such as ministers, wits, and beauties; but then I most absurdly and imprudently neglected, and consequently offended all others. By this folly I made myself a thousand enemies of both sexes; who, though I thought them very insignificant, found means to hurt me essentially where I wanted to recommend myself the most. I was thought proud, though I was only imprudent.
(BATH, November 11, O. S. 1752)
Searching "heart" 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.