“I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.”
(Merchant of Venice act 1, sc. 2)
Comments. An obvious truth with ample statistical support, recent and old. The Earl of Chesterfield (1694 -1771) became famous in literature through his letters to his son. Of which (the letters), Samuel Johnson said, “They teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing master.”
In fact the letters failed in their objective. When his son died at the age of 36, Chesterfield learned that he had married in secret; and, contrary to his advice, he had chosen a rather plain girl and of low birth. The idea of the letters may have come from Chesterfield’s grandfather, Marquis of Halifax who, in turn wrote “Advice to a Daughter” in 1688. The book was no more successful with the daughter then Chesterfield’s letters with the son. Hailfax’ daughter turned out an impossible person to live with. Horace Walpole, her husband wrote in her copy of her father’s Advice, “wasted effort.”
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In the play. Portia candidly admits to a common weakness.
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