Classical Learning Made Me Incompetent

Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son (149):

As I open myself, without the least reserve, whenever I think that my doing so can be of any use to you, I will give you a short account of myself. When I first came into the world, which was at the age you are of now, so that, by the way, you have got the start of me in that important article by two or three years at least,—at nineteen I left the University of Cambridge, where I was an absolute pedant; when I talked my best, I quoted Horace; when I aimed at being facetious, I quoted Martial; and when I had a mind to be a fine gentleman, I talked Ovid. I was convinced that none but the ancients had common sense; that the classics contained everything that was either necessary, useful, or ornamental to men; and I was not without thoughts of wearing the ‘toga virilis’ of the Romans, instead of the vulgar and illiberal dress of the moderns. With these excellent notions I went first to The Hague, where, by the help of several letters of recommendation, I was soon introduced into all the best company; and where I very soon discovered that I was totally mistaken in almost every one notion I had entertained.

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