The Art Of Conversation -- By: Leonard Withington
BSac 24:93 (Jan 1867) p. 74
The Art Of Conversation
If things are to be valued according to their use, very few arts are to be more diligently sought or desired than the art of conversing well. Speech is the distinguishing faculty of man; it is the utterance of reason; and it is the medium by which reason imparts her light and increases it. Adequately to communicate our thoughts is a most important faculty, and in constant demand. The art of agreeable conversation renders a man very pleasing, and helps him forward in life; it is the channel, too, of doing good. Other arts may be of rare application, but there is a constant demand for the faculties of the man whose conversable powers are like a torch in a dark cell, which, if it reveals some deformity, puts the darkness to flight.
There is such a thing as perfection in this line, and it is likely a perfection that has never yet been seen. The sweetest rose formed by nature may have been blown; the brightest sun may have imparted his beams; but it is likely the best talker remains yet to be born. When we look around the world we find very few attain the highest or even a remarkable excellence. There are croakers, and grumblers, and dumbfounders, and murmurers, and groaners, and brawlers, and weepers, but very few real talkers. It requires a combination of gifts, each one in their separation rather rare: wit, wisdom, reading, memory, promptness, confidence, modesty, fertility of resources, and felicity in using them. We must have a confidence in ourselves and a respect for our company, and all these improved by cultivation and practice. Men are often good in one line: some tell stories well, but they tell too many; some repeat their good things too often; some are too severe, too proud, too ill-
BSac 24:93 (Jan 1867) p. 75
natured; and some too yielding. Some are too egotistical, and some usurp all the talk to themselves; for as the surface of a flower-garden amidst its bed of verdure and beauty must have walks of barren gravel, so a good converser must have his intervals of silence, and become an animated listener while he permits others to speak.
An art so delightful, and yet so seldom learned, may receive a few assisting observations.
Let us consider, first, the nature of conversation; secondly, how acquired, and thirdly, its principal faults and imperfections.
First, then, conversation has several distinct parts, of which the principal are, small talk, discussion, anecdotes or telling stories, telling news, especially bad news, flattery, apophthegm and repartee, and, lastly, religious conversation.
To begin, then, with small talk, very necessary to a small creature like man, and very useful when it ceme...
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