Lord Chesterfield Diction and Syntax

Lord Chesterfield’s adequate insight reveals his own values from his past. By reminiscing his mistakes, he strives to establish an understanding with his son and his own independent life: while also hoping to befriend and sway his son to exercise good judgment.
Lord Chesterfield uses strong diction when his sagacious nature implements his son to not follow in his father’s footsteps. This happens especially when a father’s advice can be taken as “moroseness,” “imperiousness,” or as a “garrulity of old age.” He tells his son that he once was that age, that he had many experiences in the “progress of youth, of those thorns and briars which scratched and disfigured [him] in the course of [his life],” and to not take this counsel as a motion to “censor” his mind, but as a guidance in his future. Lord Chesterfield also “hints” to his son that he had better take this advice for his own caution too, for without his father, he would be nothing, with no money, home, or maybe even no education. By affirming that his son is “absolutely dependent” on his father and that he “neither have, nor can have a shilling in the world but from [him],” he makes a statement in hopes to penetrate the youth mind and prevent history from repeating itself. However, he is “convinced that [his son] will act right, upon more noble and generous principles: for the sake of doing right, and out of affection and gratitude” for his father. Lord Chesterfield expects his son to turn his “attention and application to whatever [he] learns” and especially now that he is self-regulated and able to make decisions for himself. Lord Chesterfield points out that it is “absolutely necessary” to take in this consideration “because everybody knows the uncommon care which has been taken of [his son’s] education, and the opportunities [he] has had of knowing more than others of [his] age [did].” He tells his son that by pushing himself, there can be a great pleasure in “[excelling] those of one’s own age and manner of life,” but consequently, being excelled by them can be even more mortifying, something his son may or may not have to witness.
In Lord Chesterfield’s letter, his syntax shifts from elongated sentences to alternately switching from colon to semi-colon and finally to using only complex sentences with semi-colons. In the beginning, he is unsure of himself as he writes, molding a foundation for what he is about to say in long sentences. He uses these long sentences to state the many reasons why his son would not take his advice into consideration and that he often has “doubts whether it is to any purpose” to even write the letter. He incessantly says “I flatter myself” claiming it as an anaphora, and meaning he impresses even himself for not being so shallow about his son’s situation. As his letter continues, Lord Chesterfield uses a series of colons and semi-colons, to enhance and contrast the second part of the sentence with the first. He says he means to not “dictate as a parent; [but] only mean to advise as a friend,” trying to convince his son that if he will not listen to his father, than at least listen to him as a friend. He says “I have no interests but yours in the advice I give you; and that consequently, you will at least weigh and consider it well: in which case, some of it will, I hope, have its effect,” knowing that he was once young, and that he understands how easy it is to reject parental advice. The last part uses semi-colons to compare his thoughts. He lectures that he only “point them out to [his son] as conducive, nay, absolutely necessary to [his] pleasure;” insinuating that his son’s duties can be very beneficial to him, and that it will prevent any embarrassment or shame to the family name. He also says, “Can there be a greater pleasure than to be universally allowed to excel those of one’s own age and manner of life? And, consequently, can there be anything more mortifying than to be excelled by them?” which are rhetorical questions that is suppose to boost his son’s motivation to succeed in school. By using semi-colons, he expresses his thoughts on his son’s pleasures and education.
In conclusion, Lord Chesterfield’s adequate insight reveals that while his son might be carelessly forgetting his “duties”, it is better for him to “not know a thing at all, as know it but imperfectly. To know a little of anything, gives neither satisfaction nor credit; but often brings disgrace or ridicule.” He writes in hopes that this intervention would help his son make good choices that he, in his past, did not do very well.

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