Letters to His Son "Wear Your Learning, Like Your Watch, In A Private Pocket"

Philip DormerStanhope, Lord Chesterfield

"Wear Your Learning, Like Your Watch, In A Private Pocket"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The fourth Earl of Chesterfield, continuing a series of letters of advice to his son–whom he hopes to persuade in the ways of becoming a valuable and gentle member of the upper classes–urges the boy to exercise modesty and discretion in all things. In his letter to young Philip from Bath on February 22, 1748, Lord Chesterfield notes that "Generosity often runs into profusion, courage into rashness, caution into timidity

. . ." Offering further advice, Chesterfield states that "Vice, in its true light, is so deformed, that it shocks us at first sight, and would hardly ever seduce us, if it did not, at first, wear the mask of some virtue." As to modesty in comportment, Lord Chesterfield tells his son that if he . . . would avoid the accusation of pedantry on one hand, or the suspicion of ignorance on the other, abstain from learned ostentation. Speak the language of the company that you are in; speak it purely, and unlarded with any other. Never seem wiser, nor more learned, than the people you are with. Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket: and do not pull it out and strike it; merely to show that you have one. If you are asked what o'clock it is, tell it; but do not proclaim it hourly and unasked, like the watchman.