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Lord Chesterfield

Kathleen went to bed, but didn't go to sleep. I asked if I could help by reading her something. Reading Kathleen something always puts her to sleep. This would seem to be a comment on how boring I am if we did not remember how deeply we wish that our parents would put us to sleep with the stories that we ask them to read. Their assurance that everything is okay lets us drop into the semiconsciousness of slumber. Reading "fundamentally" - opening the book to whatever and going from there - from the Letters of Lord Chesterfield, a book that I keep on a certain pile of books, turned out to be almost perfect.

It was almost perfect because it almost put Kathleen to sleep. Unfortunately, it woke me up. Having been "fundamental," I came across the most amazing bit of worldly wisdom. Mind you, Philip Stanhope was writing to his bastard son a century after the events under discussion:

Richelieu (by the way) is so strong a proof of the inconsistency of human nature, that I cannot help observing to you, that while he absolutely governed both his King and his country, and was, in a great degree, the arbiter of the fate of the fate of all Europe, he was more jealous of the great reputation of Corneille than of the power of Spain; and more flattered with being thought (what he was not) the best poet, than with being thought (what he certainly was) the greatest statesman in Europe; and affairs stood still while he was concerting the criticism upon the Cid.

It's difficult, reading this, to disagree with Mrs Lintott (Dorothy, I'd swear her prénom was, the Frances de la Tour character in The History Boys), when she denounces history itself as the record of male incompetence. It is also difficult not to feel really stupid about not reading Lord Chesterfield morning. noon, and night.


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Setting aside the impossibility of your being boring, we decide that reading to one's other is sleep inducing because it is such complete assurance that the wolves are distant, that there is no work left to be done and that one has a hand to grasp while stepping off the ladder of waking and into the pool of sleep. It is such an enviable experience that I would not post it in front of our friends who are single and would prefer otherwise.

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