From the Vault: A Gentleman's New-Year's Gift, 1792

Thu, 01/07/2016 - 5:12pm -- Redwood Staff

A gift of Mrs. John DuFais, A Gentleman’s New-Year’s Gift is comprised of advisory letters from an uncle to his nephew. The advice covers many subjects- religion, civil government, bodily health, school learning, professions, as well as duties as husband, father and master of servants. Each section, divided by topic, alternates between the personal opinions of the uncle, and lengthy bible passages highlighting the duties of a Christian. While much of the lessons contained in this volume are now almost laughably dated and seem to belong to another world, this book serves as an invaluable lesson about the expectations and beliefs of the time period; some of which may be echoed in our own New Year’s resolutions as we begin 2016.

Consider this advice, from the section entitled Integrity, Sincerity and Truth:

“And in the first place, let me recommend to you Integrity, Sincerity and Truth, in all your words and actions, which are now become the more necessary, as a great Archbishop of our church well observes, from the great and general want of sincerity in conversation, and dealing.”

Or this one, in a segment marked Secresy:

“Always let your ears be open long before your mouth, for little said is soon amended; and the advantage is incredible, which you will gain by concealing your own real thoughts, while others who are more passionate and talkative, lay themselves open to you.”

The book ends with one last excellent piece of advice from the eighteenth century;

“Let the thoughts then of that blood, which runs in your veins, be ever tempered with humility, sweetness and affability; without which nobility renders a man more contemptible and hated, than truly respected; and always remember that good sense is the best ornament, and virtue the best equipage; for there is not a truer saying in the world, than that.”

The Redwood Library and Athenaeum would like to wish everyone a very happy New Year. The Gentleman’s New-Year’s Gift is available for viewing and research with a reference appointment – free for members, and $20 for non-members.