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AP English Language and Composition
AP Exam Essay -- February 15
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(Suggested time—40 minutes)

The passage below is an excerpt from a letter written by the eighteenth-century author Lord Chesterfield to his young son, who was traveling far from home. Read the passage carefully. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze how the rhetorical strategies that Chesterfield uses reveal his own values.


Dear Boy,                                                                   Bath, October 4, 1746

Though I employ so much of my time in writing

to you, I confess I have often my doubts whether

it is to any purpose. I know how unwelcome advice

generally is; I know that those who want it most, like

it and follow it least; and I know, too, that the advice                 (5)

of parents, more particularly, is ascribed to the

moroseness, the imperiousness, or the garrulity of

old age. But then, on the other hand, I flatter myself,

that as your own reason, though too young as yet to

suggest much to you of itself, is however, strong                        (10)

enough to enable you, both to judge of, and receive

plain truths: I flatter myself (I say) that your own

reason, young as it is, must tell you, that I can have no

interest but yours in the advice I give you; and that

consequently, you will at least weigh and consider it                   (15)

well: in which case, some of it will, I hope, have its

effect. Do not think that I mean to dictate as a parent;

I only mean to advise as a friend, and an indulgent

one too: and do not apprehend that I mean to check

your pleasures; of which, on the contrary, I only                        (20)

desire to be the guide, not the censor. Let my

experience supply your want of it, and clear your

way, in the progress of your youth, of those thorns

and briars which scratched and disfigured me in the

course of mine. I do not, therefore, so much as hint to               (25)

you, how absolutely dependent you are upon me; that

you neither have, nor can have a shilling in the world

but from me; and that, as I have no womanish weakness

for your person, your merit must, and will, be

the only measure of my kindness. I say, I do not hint                 (30)

these things to you, because I am convinced that

you will act right, upon more noble and generous

principles: I mean, for the sake of doing right, and

out of affection and gratitude to me.

I have so often recommended to you attention              (35)

and application to whatever you learn, that I do not

mention them now as duties; but I point them out to

you as conducive, nay, absolutely necessary to your

pleasures; for can there be a greater pleasure than to

be universally allowed to excel those of one’s own                    (40)

age and manner of life? And, consequently, can there

be anything more mortifying than to be excelled by

them? In this latter case, your shame and regret must

be greater than anybody’s, because everybody knows

the uncommon care which has been taken of your                     (45)

education, and the opportunities you have had of

knowing more than others of your age. I do not

confine the application which I recommend, singly to

the view and emulation of excelling others (though

that is a very sensible pleasure and a very warrantable              (50)

pride); but I mean likewise to excel in the thing itself;

for, in my mind, one may as well not know a thing at

all, as know it but imperfectly. To know a little of

anything, gives neither satisfaction nor credit; but

often brings disgrace or ridicule.                                               (55)


AP English -- Taryn Barber -- Largo High School -- 2006/2007