Alexander the Sixth, together with his natural son Caesar Borgia, was famous for his wickedness, in which he, and his son too, surpassed all imagination. Their lives are well worth your reading. They were poisoned themselves by the poisoned wine which they had prepared for others; the father died of it, but Caesar recovered.
Sixtus the Fifth was the son of a swineherd, and raised himself to the popedom by his abilities: he was a great knave, but an able and singular one.
Here is history enough for to-day: you shall have some more soon. Adieu.
DEAR BOY: Your very bad enunciation runs so much in my head, and gives me such real concern, that it will be the subject of this, and, I believe, of many more letters. I congratulate both you and myself, that, was informed of it (as I hope) in time to prevent it: and shall ever think myself, as hereafter you will, I am sure think yourself, infinitely obliged to Sir Charles Williams for informing me of it. Good God! if this ungraceful and disagreeable manner of speaking had, either by your negligence or mine, become habitual to you, as in a couple of years more it would have been, what a figure would you have made in company, or in a public assembly? Who would have liked you in the one or attended you; in the other? Read what Cicero and Quintilian say of enunciation, and see what a stress they lay upon the gracefulness of it; nay, Cicero goes further, and even maintains, that a good figure is necessary for an orator; and particularly that he must not be vastus, that is, overgrown and clumsy. He shows by it that he knew mankind well, and knew the powers of an agreeable figure and a graceful, manner. Men, as well as women, are much oftener led by their hearts than by their understandings. The way to the heart is through the senses; please their eyes and their ears and the work is half done. I have frequently known a man's fortune decided for ever by his first address. If it is pleasing, people are hurried involuntarily into a persuasion that he has a merit, which possibly he has not; as, on the other hand, if it is ungraceful, they are immediately prejudiced against him, and unwilling to allow him the merit which it may be he has. Nor is this sentiment so unjust and unreasonable as at first it may seem; for if a man has parts, he must know of what infinite consequence it is to him to have a graceful manner of speaking, and a genteel and pleasing address; he will cultivate and improve them to the utmost. Your figure is a good one; you have no natural defect in the organs of speech; your address may be engaging, and your manner of speaking graceful, if you will; so that if you are not so, neither I nor the world can ascribe it to anything but your want of parts. What is the constant and just observation as to all actors upon the stage? Is it not, that those who have the best sense, always speak the best, though they may happen not to have the best voices? They will speak plainly, distinctly, and with the proper emphasis, be their voices ever so bad. Had Roscius spoken QUICK, THICK, and UNGRACEFULLY, I will answer for it, that Cicero would not have thought him worth the oration which he made in his favor. Words were given us to communicate our ideas by: and there must be something inconceivably absurd in uttering them in such a manner as that either people cannot understand them, or will not desire to understand them. I tell you, truly and sincerely, that I shall judge of your parts by your speaking gracefully or ungracefully. If you have parts, you will never be at rest till you have brought yourself to a habit of speaking most gracefully; for I aver, that it is in your power-- You will desire Mr. Harte, that you may read aloud to him every day; and that he will interrupt and correct you every time that you read too fast, do not observe the proper stops, or lay a wrong emphasis. You will take care to open your teeth when you speak; to articulate every word distinctly; and to beg of Mr. Harte, Mr. Eliot, or whomsoever you speak to, to remind and stop you, if you ever fall into the rapid and unintelligible mutter. You will even read aloud to yourself, and time your utterance to your own ear; and read at first much slower than you need to do, in order to correct yourself of that shameful trick of speaking faster than you ought. In short, if you think right, you will make it your business; your study, and your pleasure to speak well. Therefore, what I have said in this, and in my last, is more than sufficient, if you have sense; and ten times more would not be sufficient, if you have not; so here I rest it.
Next to graceful speaking, a genteel carriage, and a graceful manner of presenting yourself, are extremely necessary, for they are extremely engaging: and carelessness in these points is much more unpardonable in a young fellow than affectation. It shows an offensive indifference about pleasing. I am told by one here, who has seen you lately, that you are awkward in your motions, and negligent of your person: I am sorry for both; and so will you be, when it will be too late, if you continue so some time longer. Awkwardness of carriage is very alienating; and a total negligence of dress and air is an impertinent insult upon custom and fashion. You remember Mr. ------ very well, I am sure, and you must consequently remember his, extreme awkwardness: which, I can assure you, has been a great clog to his parts and merit, that have, with much difficulty, but barely counterbalanced it at last. Many, to whom I have formerly commended him, have answered me, that they were sure he could not have parts, because he was so awkward: so much are people, as I observed to you before, taken by the eye. Women have great influence as to a man's fashionable character; and an awkward man will never have their votes; which, by the way, are very numerous, and much oftener counted than weighed. You should therefore give some attention to your dress, and the gracefulness of your motions. I believe, indeed, that you have no perfect model for either at Leipsig, to form yourself upon; but, however, do not get a habit of neglecting either; and attend properly to both, when you go to courts, where they are very necessary, and where you will have good masters and good models for both. Your exercises of riding, fencing, and dancing, will civilize and fashion your body and your limbs, and give you, if you will but take it, 'l'air d'un honnete homme'.
I will now conclude with suggesting one reflection to you; which is, that you should be sensible of your good fortune, in having one who interests himself enough in you, to inquire into your faults, in order to inform you of them. Nobody but myself would be so solicitous, either to know or correct them; so that you might consequently be ignorant of them yourself; for our own self-love draws a thick veil between us and our faults. But when you hear yours from me, you may be sure that you hear them from one who for your sake only desires to correct them; from one whom you cannot suspect of any, partiality but in your favor; and from one who heartily wishes that his care of you, as a father, may, in a little time, render every care unnecessary but that of a friend. Adieu.
P. S. I condole with you for the untimely and violent death of the tuneful Matzel.
DEAR Boy: I am extremely well pleased with the course of studies which Mr. Harte informs me you are now in, and with the degree of application which he assures me you have to them. It is your interest to do so, as the advantage will be all your own. My affection for you makes me both wish and endeavor that you may turn out well; and, according as you do turn out, I shall either be proud or ashamed of you. But as to mere interest, in the common acceptation of that word, it would be mine that you should turn out ill; for you may depend upon it, that whatever you have from me shall be most exactly proportioned to your desert. Deserve a great deal, and you shall have a great deal; deserve a little, and you shall have but a little; and be good for nothing at all, and, I assure you, you shall have nothing at all.