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`My object is to have you fit to live; which, if you are not, I do not desire that you should live at all.' So wrote Lord Chesterfield in one of the most celebrated and controversial correspondences between a father and son. Chesterfield wrote almost daily to his natural son, Philip, from 1737 onwards, providing him with instruction in etiquette and the worldly arts. Praised in their day as a complete manual of education, and despised by Samuel Johnson for teaching `the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing-master' ...

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