The 4th Earl of Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Chesterfield, was an English statesman and author who was recognized for his wit and oratory abilities. His ability to manage with tact and discrimination earned him the positions of Secretary of State, ‘ambassador’ in The Hague twice, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Lord Chesterfield also played a key role in the drafting of the ‘Second Treaty of Vienna.’ His courtly demeanor frequently obscured his literary ability and remarkable career as a statesman. He enjoyed participating in debates and gathering useful information for his administration during his visits as an engaged politician. In the House of Lords, his oratory talents were admired. He was friendly with notables such as Alexander Pope, John Gay, and Voltaire. A series of letters written for his illegitimate son, Philip, and his godson become his most famous works. These letters, which he began writing while his son was a child and continued to add to, became well-known pieces of literature. He was chastised by famous figures such as Samuel Johnson, who harmed his image by making scathing comments about his letters. The counsel in his letters, on the other hand, did little to turn his boys into gentlemen. Other letters, sent to his long-time friend Solomon Dayrolles, have the wit and beauty of classic Chesterfield writing.
Childhood and Adolescence
On September 22, 1694, Philip Dormer Chesterfield was born in London. Philip Stanhope, 3rd Earl of Chesterfield, and Lady Elizabeth Savile were his parents. Until his father’s death in 1726, he was known as Lord Stanhope.
He was born and raised in London and received his education at Cambridge’s ‘Trinity Hall’. Following that, he embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe in order to gain a better understanding of other countries, their systems, culture, and art.
He was called back from his tour after Queen Anne’s death in 1714 and the ascension of King George I. Through his uncle’s influence, he was appointed ‘Gentleman of the Bedchamber’ of the Prince of Wales, which launched his political career.
Career of Philip
As a member of the St. Germans, Lord Chesterfield was elected to the House of Commons in 1715. He took use of the impeachment of James Butler, Duke of Ormonde, to show off his oratory skills and delivered his first speech, which was a huge success.
He resumed his European tour because he was still six months away from being eligible to sit in the House of Commons. In 1716, he reclaimed his position and took an active role in the government’s procedures.
In 1723, the government selected Philip Chesterfield as Captain of Gentlemen Pensioners. During this time, he befriended the Prince’s mistress, Henrietta Howard, the Countess of Suffolk, provoking the Princess of Wales’ fury.
He quickly found himself in the House of Lords, where his oratory abilities were greatly admired. He was appointed ‘Ambassador’ in The Hague in 1728. He handled all political matters with panache, tact, and intellect, earning him a solid reputation.
His good looks and exquisite manners earned him the affection of Robert Walpole, who is often regarded as Britain’s first Prime Minister. In 1730, he was appointed Lord Steward, a high-ranking position in the royal household.
While serving as the British envoy in Den Haag in 1731, he was crucial in the negotiation of the Treaty of Vienna. This contract established an Anglo-Austrian alliance that lasted for many years.
His health continued to deteriorate, requiring him to quit as ambassador in 1732, but he was back in the House of Lords after a few months’ respite. He backed Walpole’s ministry, but not all of his initiatives, particularly the Excise Bill.
From 1733 to 1744, he was barred from holding office because he traveled abroad. During this time, he made connections with notable figures such as Voltaire in Brussels and Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle in Paris.
In 1745, Lord Chesterfield was reassigned as Ambassador to the Hague, this time on a successful mission. The goal of this assignment was to urge the Dutch to join the War of Austrian Succession in order to prevent Maria Theresa’s ascension to the Habsburg throne.
Following his success as Ambassador, Lord Chesterfield was awarded the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland, which he relished because it was a location he had long sought. From 1745 to 1746, he was Viceroy of Ireland, and during that time, he instituted numerous reforms.
He returned to his previous position as Secretary of State and continued to participate in House discussions and proceedings. In 1751, he, Lord Macclesfield, and mathematician James Bradley championed and implemented the Gregorian calendar.
Though illegitimate, his son Philip Stanhope prompted Lord Chesterfield to write his renowned letters about proper manners. His son, on the other hand, was unable to assimilate any of these characteristics and died in 1768, leaving him saddened.
Major Projects of Philip
‘Letters to His Son,’ a collection of more than 400 letters dedicated to his son, is his most successful effort. These letters were written in a variety of languages, including French, English, and Latin, and covered a wide range of topics, including geography, history, and sophistication.
‘Letters to His Grandson’ was the title of a new series of letters he wrote. These letters are also recognized as excellent works of writing, full of wisdom and demonstrating his keen observation and command of the English language.
Achievements of Philip
In 1730, Lord Chesterfield was awarded the ‘Order of the Garter,’ Britain’s highest chivalry order and a highly coveted distinction. It’s a medal with the picture and arms of Saint George, the patron saint of the United Kingdom.
He also received the ‘Order of Bath,’ which had been abolished but was reinstated in 1725. Lord Chesterfield was given the most prestigious military’red ribbon,’ which he turned down.
Personal History and Legacy
Chesterfield married Melusina de Schulenberg, King George I’s illegitimate daughter, in 1733. This marriage resulted in no offspring for him.
Philip, his illegitimate son from a marriage with Madelina Elizabeth du Bouchet, was born in 1732. He had written letters with advise and directions for a dignified life for this son.
He named a street in Mayfair after himself, which runs from Curzon Street to the Chesterfield House. He is also the namesake of two counties in the United States of America.
Lord Chesterfield died on March 24, 1773, after progressive decay and the inability to leave the house due to increasing deafness. He was followed by a distant cousin’s nephew.
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated Net Worth of Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield is unknown.
This witty and wise guy once got into a famous argument with Dr. Samuel Johnson about an English dictionary that the latter had compiled. Dr. Johnson had claimed that true men of letters would not treat him the way this literary patron had treated him.
In his famous book ‘Barnaby Rudge,’ the famed writer Charles Dickens caricatured this master of letters as a character. This will subsequently play a role in tarnishing the great man’s reputation.