Philip Dormer Stanhope (1694–1773)
He was a British statesman and man of letters.
Lord Chesterfield was born in London, and educated at Cambridge and then went on
the Grand Tour of the continent.
In 1726 his father died, and Lord Stanhope became Earl of Chesterfield. He took
his seat in the House of Lords, and his oratory, which had been ineffective in
the Commons, was suddenly appreciated.
He visited Voltaire at Brussels and spent some time in Paris, where he
associated with the younger Crebillon, Fontenelle and Montesquieu.
His famous jest (which even Johnson allowed to have merit), "Tyrawley and I have
been dead these two years, but we don't choose to have it known," is the best
description possible of his humour and condition during the latter part of this
period of decline. To the deafness was added blindness, but his memory and his
fine manners only left him with life; his last words ("Give Dayrolles a chair")
prove that he had neither forgotten his friend nor the way to receive him. He
died on the 24 March 1773.
Chesterfield was selfish, calculating and contemptuous; he was not naturally
generous, and he practised dissimulation till it became part of his nature. In
spite of his brilliant talents and of the admirable training he received, his
life, on the whole, cannot be pronounced a success.
As a politician and statesman, Chesterfield's fame rests on his short but
brilliant administration of Ireland. As an author he was a clever essayist and
epigrammatist. "The Letters to his Son", first published by Stanhope's widow in
1774, and the "Letters to his Godson" (1890) are brilliantly written, full of
elegant wisdom, of keen wit, of admirable portrait-painting, of exquisite
observation and deduction.