Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

a

of the coffee-room and the ultimate loss of the landlord.

It used to be objected against commercial travellers, as a class, that they were rather given to hard drinking. There might have been some truth in this. When the landlord was generous in his charges, the travellers would be generous in their consumption of port and sherry. Things are now arranged upon a proper business basis.

Still they do a great deal of business with their clients over a friendly glass of wine. The shopkeeper often expects that, as a matter of course, the bagman should ask him to crack a bottle of wine with him at his inn. The commercial traveller perhaps considers this a burden and a nuisance; but still it is an essentially British mode of transacting business. The commercial traveller, who comes to-day and goes to - morrow, giving fortune no hostages, and owing to local society no claims, often has the credit of being rather an irregular member of the body politic. But I am not going to believe anything to the discredit of the commercial rooms. It must not be supposed that in these railway days the travelling bagman with his gig is altogether superseded. And I could almost wish myself that travelling bagman, at least in the more favourable aspect of business—for the business as one of them feelingly expressed it, is not all beer and skittles. But as the commercial traveller in pleasant

weather gets into his neat gig, and jogs along through pleasant country lanes remote from railways, and extracts a long summer tour from his very work, with just enough to occupy and not enough to burden his mind, and sees all the ins and outs, the by-ways and corners of English provincial life, and is the honoured and favoured guest of each hostel to which he comes, who, I ask, is so fortunate as the commercial traveller?

LOSS of :

al travel en to ruth i :

charga

sumpic

sed quia

ly gli

as a mi

to crack

commer

den an

ritish 1 trare

society

rather at I am

edit of

osed the with his Imost

7 the

ness 28

I beer i in pleis

The Lost Art of Conversation.

IN
N some important respects conversation is becoming

one of the lost arts. The man who used to set the table in a roar' has entirely relinquished any idea of such an operation, and any attempt to revive it would be seriously resented by the table itself. Disguise the fact or explain the fact as you may, intellectual conversation is almost the hardest thing to be found under the sun. There is now no Tory Johnson or Radical Parr, the latest traditions of whose talking powers are handed about in drawing-room or club. A few bon-mots, a few good stories are handed about and occasionally get into the papers; but they are not many, and it hardly seems to us that the quality is very good. Journalising people, of the Crabb Robinson species, are doubtless storing them up, and the next generation will reap the benefit of them. I suppose it would be hardly comme il faut to tell the current stories now. But if you meet a celebrated man, or meet those who have met celebrated men, as a rule there is very little that you

.

can carry away. Perhaps the illustrious being has talked energetically and given you a few incisive sayings, for which you are duly grateful. Perhaps, however, the 'great creature' has kept his lips hermetically sealed. You can only admire the dishevelled locks, on which no barber's hand has of late laid irreverent touch, and the constancy and vigour with which the cloud from the cutty pipe is exhaled. It was not so, at least, in my old college days. Then we talked on, crudely and enthusiastically enough, I daresay, but still we talked on to all hours, reckless of any expenditure of energy and time. How we have sat after breakfast, hour upon hour, till the waning autumn daylight admonished us that we must go into Hall for dinner, and through the charmed hours of night until the light through the eastern window told us that we must be thinking of the early Latin prayers in our cathedral chapel ! These

were all things of the past, and we can only wonder. ingly look back on the dear irregularities of those olden days. A literary age—an age which cuts up its mind into shavings for the periodicals—is chargeable with much of the decay of conversational art. Men have found out that it is better to listen than to talk —that speech is indeed silvern, but that silence is indeed golden. What is the conversational use of a man who will not talk his best, but reserves it for his next political or social paper in the Saturday Review ? He would much rather imbibe than expend, pump his friends than be pumped himself. In fact, a great deal of judicious pumping goes on in society. One of the best leader-writers who ever wrote in the Times picked up his opinions from the talk of the clubs and wellinformed circles.' Whenever a subject is ventilated with tolerable freedom in a mixed company, there is a great chance that you will find it used up in some leading article next morning, or in one of the weeklies. It rather impairs the freshness and freedom of talk to find it regularly utilised like so much sewage.

I remember an amiable French author writing a book on the Art of Pleasing in Conversation. No one seems to care a rap now whether he pleases or not. On the contrary, there is a brood of men who pride themselves upon the art of being angular and unpleasant in their conversation. They have a look of serene satisfaction when they have the happy consciousness of having made themselves supremely disagreeable. When this has not degenerated into personal rudeness—and for personal rudeness a man ought always to be physically or morally kicked—this mental habit is not without a distinct value of its

The combative, critical, cynical temper is the very pepper and salt of conversation; and, on the whole, ill-nature is perhaps the best substitute for wit. The fault of this order of mind is that it is, eminently wanting in productiveness. It can destroy, but it can

own.

« AnteriorContinuar »