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not construct. It is analytical, not synthetic. It is eminently receptive, but gives out very little. Now and then it will give out some startling remark, just as if the light of a lantern were suddenly thrown on you, and it is not defective in a sardonic humour. Still, the mental soil which cannot yield spontaneous growth, however manured and cultivated, remains hard, ungrateful soil still. For the best purposes of conversation, this talk is very narrow and limited.

I am very far from agreeing with a man of misanthropic mind who considered that conversation was the bane of society. I limit that criticism to certain kinds of conversation. I am, indeed, a man of social mind. Just as Socrates declared that life was not worth living without cross-examination, so I feel that, as a human being, I must hold perpetual converse with humanity. Now, our conversation, like many other departments of human life, is susceptible of being conducted with a certain amount of method. The talk of the town, so often frivolous and vapid, under certain conditions becomes replete with interest and instruction. The simple method, is that you should become all things to all men. Try and be catholic and many-sided in views of life and society. Cultivate a habit of intellectual sympathy with every field of human activity. Never be astonished by any society or by any set of opinions that you may hear advanced in any society. Keep yourself fairly abreast with


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the special pursuits of men who are essentially men of a class. It so happens that on the subject of their favourite pursuits the most ignorant have their lore, and the dullest their acuteness. There is a great deal of froth to blow away from the surface, but then there are rich depths below.

For instance, I am exceedingly fond of the society of professional men. You may say that they 'talk “shop,”' and pedantry is identical with talking shop, whether the pedantry relates to books in general or only the making of a book for the Derby. There is something very anecdotic and gossipy in the conversation of professedly literary people. The taste for literature, pure and simple, is perhaps on the decline ; but there is a great deal of harmless Boswellism still lingering in the world. It is very interesting and instructive if you can manage to get a talk with the editor of a leading magazine, or with the editor of a daily paper.

The difficulty is, that these men have little leisure. If now and then you can get an hour or two with them in their office you are in luck, and had better make the best use of the opportunity. You will find it hard enough to get them to make another appointment, or, if they make an appointment, to keep it. Such men will give you the best attainable account of contemporary literary history. They are completely behind the scenes, can give you a history of some thirty or forty individuals who chiefly make

up the literary and political press, and can shed a flood of light on all curious and well-conversed details.

This sort of people, however, rather take omniscience as their forte, and for the best talk of the town you must go to people who have specialities. Some people are full of the Academy. They could almost write you down the catalogue that will now be in our hands in a day or two. Others are utterly absorbed in the musical season. Then the musical talk easily runs into dramatic talk; but this travels into details where it is almost impossible for outsiders to follow. Actors certainly seem to keep up a raking fire of criticism upon each other. That wonderfully pretty actress has only a very poor brain ; her fine face is never lit up with any genuine enthusiasm ; this famous but obscene actor is now deaf and passé. One result of the system of plays running for hundreds of nights is, that actors have all their days thrown on their hands. Some of them become very horsey men, or show other evil fruits of an ill-spent leisure; but some of them so lay out their time that they may probably rise to eminence in intellectual pursuits. The stage might be the means of an infinite amount of good if its tone were more elevated and its errors eliminated; some progress of improvement might be made, but that progress might be quickened. That man would do infinitely well who could reconcile the feud between morals and amusements.

In scientific talk you can never help picking up what is interesting and instructive. Medical talk is always good; the doctor can tell a good story, and tell it neatly. Doctors are always particularly skilful in their manipulation of each other's character and conduct.

I have heard great complaints of members of Parliament giving versions of their speeches at dinnertables before or after they have formally delivered them. This sort of thing ought to be put down,

I do not consider it necessary to illustrate my theory of conversation with examples, which I appear to myself to be in some danger of doing. My notion is that, though you have not got men who are great conversationalists, yet, by going to a number of men, you may obtain a good deal of conversation. A prolonged argument with a man is a keen intellectual exertion, as much so as making a speech or writing an article, and you avoid this when you do your talk in detail. I cannot but think that there is generally a way of getting at a man's special point, if he sees that you are kindly, frank, and in earnest; and as you are able to number on your roll of friends men of most diverse characters and minds, so you may be able to gather up even from the talk of the town that material which, at a later time and under a changed form, becomes history and literature.

Concerning Committees.


HERE seems to be a sort of passion in the human

mind for serving on committees. Whether it is an original instinct in the human mind, part of its primal furniture, as Kant would say, or merely the result of experience or inheritance, as Mill and Darwin would say, just as the new-hatched duckling takes to water, so the native Briton rushes into a state of committee. Everything everywhere is done

. by a vast organisation of committees.

If such a trifle as a bazaar or a fancy fair is got up, a committee of ladies is immediately formed, who have very little conscience, whether they send in contributions the work of their own fairy fingers, or get them on speculation from the shops, or even give their presence and aid in any shape or way imaginable. They have lent the lustre of their splendid names, which is all that such refulgent beings can be expected to do. Similarly, I know men, whose names have prefix or suffix, who pick up a handsome income by serving on boards and committees, and who do well if they can only steer

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