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What shall we talk about, then? -- and how? Every one has felt the power of words, and been moved to tears or convulsed with laughter by their touching pathos or ready wit. The charm and fascination of talking well refines and polishes men, while it elevates women. How delightful, upon the occasion of a dinner party, to have some one present who can relate an anecdote, repeat a poem, propose an appropriate toast, or sing a song! It is said that at those "club" parties in London, years ago, where the most brilliant wits of the day were wont to assemble to enjoy "a feast of reason and a flow of soul," the participants would study assiduously their speeches for a week before attending, thereby rendering them perfectly sparkling. Of course, then, the ready wit and unexpected puns, etc., would but increase their brilliancy. It is a well-known fact that Sheridan always prepared himself before attending those parties, at which he would meet the most polished wits. The "Noctes Ambrosiana" of Edinburgh might be reenacted in more parts of the world than one, if every one would only give a little more attention to these matters.
But the "almighty dollar" is the curse, the Mephistopheles of Americans; and even now I can hear some excessively practical person exclaiming, "What's the use of it?" "What will it pay?" Why, the use of it is to cultivate the agreeable, and make that life which is but a span a troubled dream at best-pass as pleasantly as possible. If it does not pay you, it will yield a rich harvest to your children. Just think how much more agreeable life would pass, should the whole world wear its "company face" all the time, instead of going about growling and scowling about everything! But, while you must cultivate your conversational powers, do not ignore the fact that the peculiar charm in entertaining lies not so much in talking yourself as in touching upon some favorite topic of the person addressed, and in listening in the most deferential manner. This was Madame Récamier's forte. She was very beautiful and attractive, but did not converse nearly so well as many of those brilliant women of Paris during her day; but she possessed sufficient tact to touch the right chord in others, and, with her lovely eyes resting upon their faces, and seemingly drinking in every word as though it had been inspired, she entered into their conversation con amore, and left each one under the impression that he was her beau idéal of manly perfection. Does not this go far in proof of the doctrine that men love pretty, silly women, who can hand them their slippers and robe de chambre, and draw them a cup of tea, ten times more than they do an intellectual woman, who can be a companion for them. It is a melancholy fact that highly cultivated and intellectual women only call into existence a kind of cold admiration from the other sex; and while their hearts are breaking and longing for love and sympathy, they find that it is all bestowed upon some little weak, namby-pamby, dependent creature, who does not nor
cannot appreciate it. And thus time flies by on lightning wings, and we stand upon the very brink of eternity before we know that we have lived, or understand the duties and demands of life.
The Countess of Blessington is represented as a great talker, but so sparkling and witty that she always drew around her the most cultivated and polished men. On the contrary, while Madame de Staël is conceded to have been the most gifted female writer who ever lived, in conversation she harangued rather than entertained, until, intellectual as she was, the men would actually fly from her. Her excessive vanity sometimes placed her in very ridiculous positions. Everybody is familiar with the story of herself and Napoleon, when she asked him who was "the greatest woman in France?" and his reply, "She who bears the most children, and gives to France the greatest number of soldiers." Her vanity led her to suppose that the Emperor would say, Why, Madame de Staël, of course." On another occasion she and Madame Récamier were conversing with Talleyrand; or, to use his own expression, he was sitting between wit and beauty." Madame de Staël propounded the following question: "Monsieur Talleyrand, if Madame Récamier and yourself and myself were taking a little excursion upon the Seine, and the boat were to capsize, which one of us would you attempt to rescue?" Like a genuine Frenchman, he replied: "I should endeavor to rescue both." A little piqued at his reply, Madame de Staël said: “Well, you know you would have some preference; which one of us would you save?" He replied again: "I should extend a hand to each one." Irritated beyond concealment this time, Madame de Staël said angrily: "Tell me! which one would you rescue? You know it would be impossible to save both.” True to his French nature, Talleyrand gallantly replied: "You, who know everything, Madame de Staël, should know that also." Thus he extricated himself from his embarrassing position by complimenting (and justly, too) her intellect. This is a specimen of ready wit which is rarely found.
Nothing can more finely portray the power of words than the famous speech of Napoleon to his army, just preceding the battle of the Pyramids, in which he said: "Soldiers! from those summits forty centuries contemplate your actions!" Do you suppose they would have been fired with the enthusiasm and patriotism which made them conquering heroes, if he had said: "Boys! that huge pile of rocks are gazing at you?" Never! Then, if there be such a charm and fascination in conversing well, let us all ignore that which is vulgar and commonplace, and cultivate to the highest extent the "unruly member.”
MISS MARIA LOU EVE.
WHAT this lady has published has attracted attention, and gives promise of future excellence in some work of an extended character. Miss Eve has received several prizes for essays. The prize essay furnished to "Scott's Magazine" in 1866, entitled, "Thoughts about Talking," was very readable.
Miss Eve was born at Woodville, near Augusta, Ga. She has contributed occasionally articles to various Georgia journals, and has two novels in manuscript, which may never delight this generation of readers. Writing, with her, has been an occasional amusement only. Her residence is in Richmond County, Ga.
SINCERITY IN TALKING.
And apropos of the foundations of talking, there is also an old-fashioned idea, now nearly obsolete, nous avons change tout cela, that they should rest more or less upon truth as their basis; and despite all theories to the contrary, there is a certain satisfaction in feeling that we may rely implicitly upon the statements that are made to us, especially upon professions of esteem or regard.
We all carry with us into the business transactions of life a certain alloy of skepticism, and receive each statement with a few grains of allowance, not feeling bound to believe that each flimsy fabric will last until we are tired of it, simply because told so by the obliging shopkeeper; but in the social relations of life there are some things that we would like to receive upon faith. If we could only believe all the pleasant things told us by our friends, what a charming world would this be! And when our particular friend, Mrs. Honeydew, tells us she is delighted to see us, have we any right to question her sincerity merely because we happened to overhear her say, "Those tiresome people again?" We had no business to hear what was not intended for us. Why should we go peering behind the scenes, where all is so fair and specious on the outside ?
If we should all commence telling the truth at once, what a grand smashup of the great social machine! What a severing of long-standing friendships — what a sundering of ties! Madam Grundy would hang herself in
despair. If I should tell my dear friend, Araminta, that her new bonnet is horrid - simply because she asks me how I like it, and that is my honest opinion-would she ever speak to me again? Or would you endure the presence of the man, though he were your best friend, who should tell you that your two-forty nag shuffles in his gait? Alas! which of us would not, like True Thomas, have refused the gift of the "lips that could never lie"?
Yet, let us not linger too long on the wrong side of the embroidery frame, picking flaws in the work, but only see to it that our fingers weave no unworthy figures on the canvas.
What a wonderful thing, after all, is this matter of talking! Words words! Deeds are as nothing to them. It is said that love requires professions — but friendship demands proofs in the form of actions. But was it by deeds of kindness or devotion that whimsical, prating old Jack Falstaff so endeared himself to the heart of Prince Hal as to call forth that most touching and suggestive tribute, “I could have better spared a better man,” upon hearing that his old boon companion was killed? We can better spare the man who has saved our life than the one who makes it pleasant by his society, the pleasant companion who made it worth the saving. Blessed forever be the art of talking; and blessed be the men and women who, by their pleasant, sunshiny talk, keep the heart of this gray-haired old world as fresh as ever it was in its prime. The pleasant talkers, may their shadows never grow less!
BREAD FOR THE CHILDREN.
The father came back to his wretched home
Were haggard with hunger, stern with care;
The others clung fast to the father's knees,
Nor looked at the bed where the child lay dead ;
The arms that were wrapt round the lifeless clay:
And winked at him now in the strangest way.
The music stole out at the open door,
A carriage was waiting just at the curb; The robber stole in at the dead of night
With a noiseless step, so not to disturb The coachman asleep on the driver's seat;
And up the broad stair with a silent tread He glided along, past the banquet-room,
And thought of his children crying for bread.
And he stole along up the carpeted stair,
Away from the music, away from the glare, And entered a room, so peaceful and sweet,
He almost forgot what had brought him there; And looking around in a dream-like maze,
His errand forgot, his hunger and care, Until they came back at sight of his face
So haggard and grim, in the mirror there.
Curled up on the rug lay the maid, asleep,
His children were crying at home for bread; He hated her then, when he thought of them, And thought of the one that was already dead:
And counted the cost of the gems in bread,
As watching the maid, in her sleepy way, Handling the diamonds as if they were nought, Take off the jewels and put them away; Till sending the girl away to her bed,
She gave her the dove from its downy nest In the snowy lace that her bosom prest,
The lily-white dove with the golden crest.
And then she knelt down, in her snow-white gown,
Away from the world with its sin and care; And he trembled then, for it seemed so near,
As the lips moved soft in her whispered prayer, From the ear that heard, to the chamber there; From the world above, to the robber's lair.