Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Chesterfield mss., 1740-1777, are letters and papers of Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th earl of Chesterfield, 1694- 1773, statesman, and his godson, Philip Stanhope, 5th earl of Chesterfield, 1755-1815, master of the horse. They are bound in three volumes.

In the first two volumes are letters to the godson who was very young when the first messages were addressed to him. They contain excellent advice and were written when Chesterfield was no longer active in politics, and infirmities prevented him from participating in the society he loved best. He endeavored to give his godson the training which would make him a courtly, accomplished man of the world.

Sixteen of the letters were dictated, but all were signed or initialed by Chesterfield. The amanuensis was James Walsh, Chesterfield's valet de chambre. In six letters, Aug. 20, Sept. 3, Oct. 13, Nov. 20, 1772, Feb. 19, and Mar. 7, 1773, on the second or third page is a postscript signed by Walsh, in the same handwriting as the dictated letters. A seventh letter by Walsh, Dec. 22, 1772, is on a separate sheet of paper.

These two volumes contain in addition to the 262 letters to the godson, 1761-1773, the letter to George Deyverdun, a Swiss writer, July 26, 1771; the "Heads of Agreement" between James Dodsley, the publisher, and Eugenia (Peters) Stanhope, the wife of Chesterfield's son, Nov. 22, 1773, for the sale of purchase of copyright of Chesterfield's letters and other pieces; and the articles of agreement between James Dodsley and Eugenia (Peters) Stanhope, April 1, 1774, for the publication of the famous letters to the son, which Chesterfield had written earlier, 1738-1768. Accompanying this agreement are the receipts Eugenia (Peters) Stanhope gave the publisher for the various sums of money he paid her from time to time for the publication rights, Apr. 1, 1774, 210 pounds; Oct. 1, 1774, 315 pounds; Sept. 8, 1775, 525 pounds; Oct. 9, 1775, 25 pounds; Nov. 4, 1775, 400 pounds. The volumes also contain the will of the 5th earl of Chesterfield, Apr. 13, 1814, the godson to whom the letters were addressed, along with letters from George III, king of Great Britain, Feb. 13, 1801 and May 24, 1805, and his queen, Charlotte Sophia, Feb. 19, 1804; Adolphus Frederick, duke of Cambridge, May 26, 1805; Frederick Augustus, duke of York and Albany, May 24, 1805; Mary, duchess of Gloucester, May 24, 1805; Sophia, daughter of George III, May 24, 1805; Lovell Stanhope, one of the executors of the 4th earl of Chesterfield's estate, Mar. 29, 1774; and an undated letter from Philip Stanhope, one of the grandsons of the 4th earl of Chesterfield.

There is also "An Account of the journey from Bretby to London, November the 8th, 1708," by an unidentified person.

Included in volume II is a pencil drawing by Thomas Worlidge, painter and etcher, of Richard Lumely, 2nd earl of Scarborough and Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th earl of Chesterfield, 1743, executed in accordance with the latter's written instructions about three years after the death of the 2nd earl of Scarborough.

Lord Carnarvon edited 236 of the letters under the title Letters of Philip Dormer fourth earl of Chesterfield to his godson and successor for the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1890. In 1937 Sidney L. Gulick, Jr., edited twenty-six additional letters to the godson and the letter to George Deyverdun as Some unpublished letters of Lord Chesterfield, University of California Press, Berkeley.

An article by Sidney L. Gulick, Jr., "The publication of Chesterfield's letters to his son" in the Publications of the modern language association of America LI (March, 1936), pp. 165-177, included the texts of the "Heads of Agreement," Nov. 22, 1773, a letter of Lovell Stanhope, Mar. 29, 1774, the grandson's undated letter, and receipts, Apr. 1, Oct. 1, 1774; Apr. 3, Sept. 8, Oct. 19, and Nov. 4, 1775, which Eugenia (Peters) Stanhope gave the publisher for the various sums of money.

International Studio in December, 1928, on page 54 devoted a few paragraphs to the two manuscript volumes of Chesterfield's letters to his godson.

The third volume consists of fifty letters to Richard Chenevix, bishop of Waterford, 1740-1768. They deal chiefly with Chesterfield's declining health, the concern of both men for their children, and Irish politics. They reveal something of Chesterfield's philosophy in reflecting on "the mad business of the world" and something of his friendship for the bishop of Waterford.

Included in volume III is also a letter to Thomas Prior, Irish philanthropist, May 6, 1747, and a letter of Mary (Deners) Maty to the bishop of Waterford, Mar. 27, 1777.

In 1963, Cornelia M. Childs for her master's thesis in the English department at Indiana University reproduced "The letters of Lord Chesterfield to the bishop of Waterford, 1740-1768" completely except for some passages in the manuscript which were cut off, marked out, or pasted over. She included many sections dealing with political situations which had been omitted by earlier editors of the letters. Among these editors were Matthew Maty, Miscellaneous works of the late Philip Dormer Stanhope (3 vols., Dublin, 1777), III, pp. 313-394, and Lord Mahon, Letters of Philip Dormer Stanhope, earl of Chesterfield (4 vols., London, 1845), III & IV. Lord Mahon, who later, became the 5th earl of Stanhope, included many of the sections omitted by Maty in a fifth volume published in 1853.

In volume II, there are pictures of both Lord Chesterfield and the godson, and Lord Chesterfield's estate, Bredby, in Darbyshire. The title page and introduction of 79 pages from the second printed edition of Lord Carnarvon's book of the letters to the godson also published by the Clarendon press in 1890 may be found in volume II.

Collection size: 276 items

Related manuscripts: Chesterfield mss. II

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.