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their constitution in other places, are the cheerfullest imaginable when he is present.
It is a wonderful thing that so many, and they not reckoned absurd, shall entertain those with whom they converse, by giving them the history of their pains and aches, and imagine such narrations their quota of the conversation. This is of all other the meanest help to discourse, and a man must not think at all, or think himself very insignificant, when he finds an account of his headache answered by another's asking what news in the last mail ? Mutual good-humour is a dress we ought to appear in whenever we meet, and we should make no mention of what concerns ourselves, without it be of matters wherein our friends ought to rejoice ; but indeed there are crowds of people who put themselves in no method of pleasing themselves or others; such are those whom we usually call indolent persons. Indolence is, methinks, an intermediate state between pleasure and pain, and very much unbecoming any part of our life after we are out of the nurse's arms. Such an aversion to labour creates a constant weariness, and one would think should make existence itself a burden. The indolent man descends from the dignity of his nature, and makes that being which was rational merely vegetative. His life consists only in the mere increase and decay of a body, which, with relation to the rest of the world, might as well have been uninformed, as the habitation of a reasonable mind.
Of this kind is the life of that extraordinary couple, Harry Tersett and his lady. Harry was, in the days of his celibacy, one of those pert creatures who have much vivacity and little understanding ; Mrs. Rebecca
Quickly, whom he married, had all that the fire of youth and a lively manner could do towards making an agreeable woman. These two people of seeming merit fell into each other's arms; and, passion being sated, and no reason or good sense in either to succeed it, their life is now at a stand ; their meals are insipid and their time tedious; their fortune has placed them above care, and their loss of taste reduced them below diversion. When we talk of these as instances of inexistence, we do not mean, that in order to live, it is necessary we should be always in jovial crews, or crowned with chaplets of roses, as the merry fellows among the ancients are described ; but it is intended, by considering these contraries to pleasure, indolence, and too much delicacy, to show that it is prudence to preserve a disposition in ourselves to receive a certain delight in all we hear and see.
This portable quality of good-humour seasons all the parts and occurrences we meet with in such a manner, that there are no moments lost : but they all pass with so much satisfaction, that the heaviest of loads (when it is a load), that of time, is never felt by
Varilas has this quality to the highest perfection, and communicates it wherever he appears. The sad, the merry, the severe, the melancholy, show a new cheerfulness when he comes amongst them. At the same time no one can repeat anything that Varilas has ever said that deserves repetition ; but the man has that innate goodness of temper, that he is welcome to everybody, because every man thinks he is so to him. He does not seem to contribute anything to the mirth of the company ; and yet upon reflection you find it all happened by his being there. I thought it
was whimsically said of a gentleman, that if Varilas had wit, it would be the best wit in the world. It is certain, when a well-corrected lively imagination and good breeding are added to a sweet disposition, they qualify it to be one of the greatest blessings as well as pleasures of life.
Men would come into company with ten times the pleasure they do, if they were sure of hearing nothing which should shock them, as well as expected what would please them. When we know every person that is spoken of is represented by one who has no illwill, and everything that is mentioned described by one that is apt to set it in the best light, the entertainment must be delicate, because the cook has nothing brought to his hand but what is the most excellent in its kind.
Beautiful pictures are the entertainments of pure minds, and deformities of the corrupted. It is a degree towards the life of angels, when we enjoy conversation wherein there is nothing presented but in its excellence; and a degree towards that of demons, wherein nothing is shown but in its degeneracy.
[Spectator, No. 100.
The art of Conversation
It is no easy matter, when people are advancing in anything, to prevent their going too fast for want of patience. This happens in nothing more frequently than in the prosecution of studies. Hence it is, that we meet crowds who attempt to be eloquent before they can speak. They affect the flowers of rhetoric before they understand the parts of speech. In the ordinary conversation of this town, there are so many who can, as they call it, talk well, that there is not one in twenty that talks to be understood. This proceeds from an ambition to excel, or, as the term is, to shine in company. The matter is not to make themselves understood, but admired. They come together with a certain emulation, rather than benevolence. When you fall among such companions, the safe way is to give yourself up, and let the orators declaim for your esteem, and trouble yourself no further. It is said, that a poet must be born so; but I think it may be much better said of an orator, especially when we talk of our town poets and orators : but the town poets are full of rules and laws; the town orators go through thick and thin, and are, forsooth, persons of such eminent natural parts, and knowledge of the world, that they despise all men as unexperienced scholastics, who wait for an occasion before they speak, or who
speak no more than is necessary. They had half persuaded me to go to the tavern the other night, but that a gentleman whispered me, Prythee, Isaac, go with us; there is Tom Varnish will be there, and he is a fellow that talks as well as any man in England.'
I must confess, when a man expresses himself well upon any occasion, and his falling into an account of any subject arises from a desire to oblige the company, or from fulness of the circumstance itself, so that his speaking of it at large is occasioned only by the openness of a companion ; I say, in such a case as this, it is not only pardonable, but agreeable, when a man takes the discourse to himself; but when you see a fellow watch for opportunities for being copious, it is excessively troublesome. A man that stammers, if he has understanding, is to be attended to with patience and good-nature; but he that speaks more than he needs, has no right to such an indulgence. The man who has a defect in his speech takes pains to come to you, while a man of weak capacity, with Auency of speech, triumphs in outrunning you. The stammerer strives to be fit for your company; the loquacious man endeavours to show you, you are not fit for his.
With thoughts of this kind do I always enter into that man's company who is recommended as a person that talks well; but if I were to choose the people with whom I would spend my hours of conversation, they should be certainly such as laboured no further than to make themselves readily and clearly apprehended, and would have patience and curiosity to understand
To have good sense, and ability to express it, are the most essential and necessary qualities in companions. When thoughts rise in us fit to utter, among