Charles Macklin, Letter to his Son (1770).

Source: A. N. Jeffares & Peter Van de Kamp, eds., Irish Literature: The Eighteenth Century - An Annotated Anthology (Dublin/Oregon: Irish Academic Press 2006), pp.170-73.

London, June 23rd, 1770

Dear John,

Your letter, dated 16th of September, 1769, from Fort St. George, came to my hands on the 18th of April 1770, and this will be conveyed to the East Indies by the Dolphin man of war, the business or purport of whose voyage, at present, I am a stranger to; but, before I seal this letter, I shall enquire about it, and shall insert my intelligence. You must imagine that the receipt of a letter from you, that gave an account of your safe arrival at Fort St. George, and of your health and good spirits afforded your mother and me great joy; for while you have health, spirits, and a fair character, which is better than both, we shall think you and ourselves happy, let other circumstances of life be as they may; but besides health, spirits, and a fair character, I should also wish you to have a meritorious character, that is, a character as a man who knows his business. To be a good servant to the Company should be your constant endeavour. My reason for being so particular on this subject, at present, arises from your unsatisfactory, imperfect letter, from Fort St. George, which is written so unlike that of a gentleman, a scholar, or a man of business. Pray attend to the following instance of your want of precision: – you tell me, ‘that you are at length arrived, after a very tedious passage, and in every shape a disagreeable voyage.’

I begged it, as a favor, that you would keep a journal of your voyage: – I made you a book for that purpose; but you did not think it worth your while to oblige me in that point, or you have not thought proper to convey me a single passage of it. By your not mentioning Mr. Hastings’s name in your letter, I must conclude that you had some very cogent reason for it. I must suppose that you had offended or disgusted him, and so were ashamed to mention him, as you could not do it with any honor or grace to yourself. Some such circumstance I must imagine, in consequence of your silence, on so respectable a part of your company, so amiable a character, and one on whom you had some dependance. Do you not think, that it would have been some satisfaction to me, if you had pointed out how, or from what your disappointments arose. You say, that your living is expensive, and without a prospect of getting any money. What! did you expect to find money in the streets? or to be put into a post or office of getting money immediately on your arrival? Before you know your busness, {170} before you can even write a letter to your parents, without being blotted and scratched, with words omitted, sense imperfect, and so deficient in matter, and incorrect in every respect, that they are ashamed to shew it to any of your friends. Before you expect to get money in your employer’s service, you must first qualify yourself to deserve it, by learning to write a letter like a man of business, and to know your business in your station. Study it – apply to nothing else –do not spend your time in reading books for your amusement, but in studying to qualify yourself for your situation. Do this, Sir, and prospects of getting money will arise of course; without it they never will arise. You write me a letter, and never tell me by what ship you send it, what the captain’s name is, whence the ship sailed, when she was to sail from Fort St. George, or when you expected that she would arrive in England. All these points are necessary, and shew a man of business, – never omit such circumstances again, and always take notice to your correspondent of the time, the ship, the captain, through whose hands you receive your correspondent’s letter. – Have you no book of letters upon business that you can form yourself upon? – Certainly you have. You request me to send you a little money, to keep you from borrowing. Surely you cannot want money more than Mr. Corbet, or any other young man. Mr. Corbet tells his father, that the allowance from the Company is small; but that he will make it do. Cannot you do so too? You talk of buying a share in a country ship; which is the only way of making money in your situation, you say. Pray who is to freight that ship? To lay out money, in the purchase of a ship, is easily said; but it seems to me to be a very absurd, or, at least, a very precarious scheme for a young man to engage in an undertaking of that nature, before he has any knowledge of markets, commodities, or of any of the conditions or circumstances of commerce, or the persons concerned in it; and it appears to me, at this distance, that this must be your case in every respect. Is Mr. Corbet’s son engaged in such an adventure? John, do not be impatient; be sure that you know, always, before you judge, speak, or adventure. But why did you not send me an account of the nature of your country ship, its commerce, and of all the circumstances of the undertaking? as well as to send to me for money for such a business. You had a letter from Lord Clive to the late Governor, and one from Mr. Nuthall to Mr. Chaneau. Pray do you not think that it would have been, in some degree, proper, that you should have given me some account of the particulars how you were received in consequence of these letters, that I might know how to address, or to thank Lord {171} Clive, or Mr. Nuthall, on that business. O fie! fie! never be guilty of such shameful omissions again! You desire me to procure you some letters of recommendation: - how can you expect me to ask for any letters, after such a shameful neglect in you? I charged you to keep a journal, or book of memorandums, of ordinary as well as extraordinary occurrences. – Have you done so? I am sure you have not. From such a book, had you kept one, you might, at any time, when you were to write to me, or to any person, take extracts, or heads of intelligence, and commit them to your letter, according to order. Remember, Sir, as an invariable rule, that a merchant, or a man in any kind of business, is to trust nothing to memory; every thing is to be committed to paper. Again I charge you to practise it. I can tell by your letter, at first sight, whether or no you do it: so do not deceive yourself, by thinking that you can deceive me, by telling me that you do it. Remember that business has but one profitable rule – I mean a governing rule – and that is METHOD; without which, no man in business can be sure of ease, peace, character, or profit. Pray oblige me, and practise this journalising; ten minutes a day will be sufficient for that business; and I request that you will read Dr. Lowth’s Grammar critically, and commit his observations to your memory. Get the instances that he gives, of the mistakes and errors of other writers, by heart; and, particularly, read his account of punctuation – for you are deficient in it. Send me the names of the Council at Madras, and, if you can, of their friends and connections in England; that I may apply properly for letters of recommendation for you. Your list of things shall be duly answered. If you can send some presents to Lady Mexborough, Lady Stanhope, and Miss Fanny, cost what they will, I will be at the expence of them; and could you send a gown, or a trifle, to Neddy Delaval, for Miss Sally, it would be proper, and well taken. The Dolphin man of war, that conveys this letter, carries out a gentleman of the name of Brereton, to view the works of some fortification, belonging to the French in India, which our people have obliged them to demolish, of which the French have complained to our Court, and this Mr. Brereton is to report the state of the works, and the conduct of the French and English, respecting this dispute, to our Court, in order that they may be able to give a proper answer to the remonstrance of the Court of France, on that subject. I shall write to you at large by the annual ships, and shall send you a chest of wine, and other things. Mr. Peter Corbet has shewn me a letter from his son, per Cingingo. Pray, why did not you write by the same ship? He tells me, too, that his son had the honor of copying the general letter, {172} which was sent by the President and Council to the Directors. I hope that, some time or other, you will write a hand good enough, and arrive at merit sufficient, to be entrusted with that service. Do you recollect in what manner you sealed your letter to me of the 16th of September, 1769, from Fort St. George? I do not think you do. The case in which it was enclosed to Mr. Corbet, was sealed directly on the seal of my letter; so that the wax of the case melted the wax of my letter, and so mixed with it, thro’ the case, that there was no opening the case, without opening my letter at the same time. Be more attentive to this in future; and pray, Sir, in good manners, ought you not to have said something in your case, directed to Mr. Corbet, about the health of his son, or of your own obligations to him for his trouble of forwarding my letters to me? Such omissions are great indecorums, and will always make enemies in society; whereas, the contrary behaviour, will always make friends. You should never omit acknowledging the most trifling civility, from any person; such conduct marks attention and gratitude. It is by such qualities, and integrity, and industry, that you must hope to rise in your station. My best respects wait on Mr. Hastings. I had the pleasure of seeing his brother, and sister, and nephew, some time since; they were then very well. Pray remember me to Mr. Thomas Corbet, and Mr. Garrow. Mr. Corbet and I drank all your healths the other day very sincerely. I am, my dear Child, with the warmest affection, your most anxious Father,

Charles Macklin.

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