Reasons to Court the Graces … and How to Invoke Their Amorous Aid

Image of 'Charis greeted by Venus and the Graces'
‘Charis greeted by Venus and the Graces’, illustrated by Charles-Nicolas Cochin (1715-1790). Image from ‘The Origin of the Graces’ by Mademoiselle Dionis Du Séjour, published by Vizetelly and Co., London (1888)

Dear Reader,

Most of my favourite books have been rather old ones. They’re books that have stood the test of time and endured. Or, ones that are, otherwise, inspired by, more or less, timeless truths.

These are the books then I’ve found the most transcendently inspiring, edifying, or otherwise helpful to my moral (i.e. imaginative, intellectual, social, and creative) development.

So, a little while back, I was particularly interested to read an article entitled 50+ Old Fashioned Insults We Should Bring Back.

This promptly struck a chord with me and, similarly, brought to mind some old-fashioned terms of reproach from the The Word of Venus Art of Love … and their timely definitions therein.

And so, as a brief prelude to the importance of developing more charming attributes, I’ll now share a few of them with you here.

Five old-fashioned terms of discourteous disgrace and their eighteenth-century definitions


n. s. An idle talker; an irrational prattler. A teller of secrets.

2) FOP

n. s. A simpleton; a coxcomb¹; a man of small understanding and much ostentation; a pretender; a man fond of show, dress, and flutter; an impertinent.


n. s. A horse of no spirit; a hired horse; a worthless nag. A sorry woman: a word of contempt noting sometimes age but generally vice. A young woman, in irony and slight contempt.


n. s. A woman who gives her lover hopes and deceives him. A name of contempt for a woman.

5) SOT

n. s. A blockhead; a dull, ignorant, stupid fellow; a dolt. A wretch stupified by drinking.

Now, needless to say, these terms are hardly indicative, overall, of especially charming or seductive qualities.

So, whence arise these charmless forms of discourtesy?

Well, essentially, and like most vices, they arise, I think, from the want of either SOLIDITY (acquired knowledge, insight, and understanding built on a valiantly solid, or gallant, foundation of rigorously honest self-knowledge) or GRACE … or, indeed, both.

Court the Graces

And so, whilst taking considerable pains to help ensure his then seventeen-year-old son matures into a well-bread young gentleman, Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, thus sagely counsels the youth:

Adorn yourself with all those graces and accomplishments, which, without solidity, are frivolous; but without which solidity is, to a great degree, useless. Take one man, with a very moderate degree of knowledge, but with a pleasing figure, a prepossessing address, graceful in all that he says and does, polite, ‘liant’, and, in short, adorned with all the lesser talents: and take another man, with sound sense and profound knowledge, but without the above-mentioned advantages; the former will not only get the better of the latter, in every pursuit of every KIND, but in truth there will be no sort of competition between them. (January 18, O. S. 1750)

In another letter, meanwhile, the Earl more urgently presses his son to especially invoke and court the Graces:

But, above all things, to all that you learn, to all that you say, and to all that you do, remember to join the Graces. All is imperfect without them; with them everything is at least tolerable. Nothing could hurt me more than to find you unattended by them. How cruelly should I be shocked, if, at our first meeting, you should present yourself to me without them! Invoke them, and sacrifice to them every moment; they are always kind, where they are assiduously courted. For God’s sake, aim at perfection in everything: ‘Nil actum reputans si quid superesset agendum’. Adieu. Yours most tenderly. (March 8, O. S. 1750)

And, he was exceedingly persistent on this point:

I repeat, and shall never cease repeating to you, THE GRACES, THE GRACES. (April 12, O. S. 1749)

How to invoke the more amorous Graces

Meanwhile, in the words of Thomas Yalden’s translation, Ovid himself, in the second book of his Ars Amatoria (Art of Love) and The Word of Venus Art of Love, says much the same:

Distrust your empty form and boasted face,
The nymph engage a thousand nobler ways:
To fix her vanquish’d heart entirely thine,
Accomplish’d graces to your native join.

Ovid goes on then to delineate the nature of these graces and how to charm with all your words and deeds.

These then are the courteous attentions that, to varying degrees, women frequently expect … and the keys then to their more confident affections.

The amorous heart of the matter

And so, Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, similarly highlights the amorous heart of the matter:

Women are not so much taken by beauty as men are, but prefer those men who show them the most attention.

Would you engage the lovely fair?
With gentlest manners treat her;
With tender looks and graceful air,
In softest accents greet her.

Verse were but vain, the Muses fail,
Without the Graces’ aid;
The God of Verse could not prevail
To stop the flying maid.

Attention by attentions gain,
And merit care by cares;
So shall the nymph reward your pain;
And Venus crown your prayers.

A man’s address and manner weigh much more with them than his beauty; and, without them, the Abbati and Monsignori will get the better of you. This address and manner should be exceedingly respectful, but at the same time easy and unembarrassed. Your chit-chat or ‘entregent’ with them neither can, nor ought to be very solid; but you should take care to turn and dress up your trifles prettily, and make them every now and then convey indirectly some little piece of flattery. A fan, a riband, or a head-dress, are great materials for gallant dissertations, to one who has got ‘le ton leger et aimable de la bonne compagnie’.

So, to invoke the more amorous Graces then, and to ensure you’re aptly attended by them, just (dashingly) dash on over to

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P.S. The Earl also notes that the charming power of these personal graces can, at times, seem magical:

These personal graces are of very great consequence. They anticipate the sentiments, before merit can engage the understanding; they captivate the heart, and give rise, I believe, to the extravagant notions of charms and philters. Their effects were so surprising, that they were reckoned supernatural. The most graceful and best-bred men, and the handsomest and genteelest women, give the most philters; and, as I verily believe, without the least assistance of the devil. (November 14, O. S. 1749)

Likewise then, you can start adorning yourself with the amorous graces, and thus get your seemingly supernatural charms and philters², at

  1. Bonus term: COXCOMB, n. s. A fop; a superficial pretender to knowledge or accomplishments.
  2. PHILTER, n. s. Something to cause love; a love-charm.