Conversation

n. A fair for the display of the minor mental commodities, each exhibitor being too intent upon the arrangement of his own wares to observe those of his neighbor.

 Interesting Conversation

The two grand modes of making your conversation interesting, are to enliven it by recitals calculated to affect and impress your hearers, and to intersperse it with anecdotes and smart things. Count Antoine Rivarol, who lived from 1757 to 1801, was a master in the latter mode. 


 Conversation

There are many talkers, but few who know how to converse agreeably. Speak distinctly, neither too rapidly nor too slowly. Accommodate the pitch of your voice to the hearing of the person with whom you are conversing. Never speak with your mouth full. Tell your jokes, and laugh afterwards. Dispense with superfluous words—such as, "Well, I should think," etc. 

Tabacco Brought to England from Virginia A.D. 1588.


 The Woman who wishes her conversation to be agreeable 

will avoid conceit or affectation, and laughter which is not natural and spontaneous, Her language will be easy and unstudied, marked by a graceful carelessness, which, at the same time, never oversteps the limits of propriety. Her lips will readily yield to a pleasant smile; she will not love to hear herself talk; her tones will bear the impress of sincerity, and her eyes kindle with animation as she speaks. The art of pleasing is, in truth, the very soul of good breeding; for the precise object of the latter is to render us agreeable to all with whom we associate—to make us, at the same time, esteemed and loved. 

Telescopes Invented in Germany A.D. 1590.


Conversation

Good conversation is one of the highest attainments of civilized society. It is the readiest way in which gifted minds exert their influence, and, as such, is worthy of all consideration and cultivation. I remember hearing an English traveler say, many years ago, on being asked how the conversational powers of the Americans compared with those of the English—"Your fluency rather exceeds that of the old world, but conversation here is not cultivated as an art." The idea of its being so considered any where was new to the company; and much discussion followed the departure of the stranger, as to the desirableness of making conversation an art. Some thought the more natural and spontaneous it was, the better; some confounded art with artifice, and hoped their countrymen would never leave their own plain, honest way of talking, to become adepts in hypocrisy and affectation. At last one, a little wiser than the rest, explained the difference between art and artifice; asked the cavilers if they had never heard of the art of writing, or the art of thinking? and said he presumed the art of conversing was of the same nature. And so it is. By this art, persons are taught to arrange their ideas methodically, and to express them with clearness and force; thus saving much precious time, and avoiding those tedious narrations which interest no one but the speaker. It enforces the necessity of observing the effect of what is said, and leads a talker to stop when she finds that she has ceased to fix the attention of her audience.

Some persons seem to forget that mere talking is not conversing; that it requires two to make a conversation, and that each must be in turn a listener; but no one can be an agreeable companion who is not as willing to listen as to talk. Selfishness shows itself in this, as in a thousand other ways. One who is always full of herself, and who thinks nothing so important as what she thinks, and says, and does, will be apt to engross more than her share of the talk, even when in the company of those she loves.

There are situations, however, wherein it is a kindness to be the chief talker: as when a young lady is the eldest of the party, and has seen something, or been in some place, the description of which is desired by all around her. If your mind is alive to the wishes and claims of others, you will easily perceive when it is a virtue to talk and when to be silent. It is undue pre-occupation with self which blinds people, and prevents their seeing what the occasion requires.

Sometimes the most kind and sympathizing person will not do justice to her nature, but will appear to be cold and inattentive, because she does not know that it is necessary to give some sign that she is attending to what is addressed to her. She averts her eye from the speaker, and listens in such profound silence, and with a countenance so immovable, that no one could suppose her to be at all interested by what she is hearing. This is very discouraging to the speaker and very impolite. Good manners require that you should look at the person who speaks to you, and that you should put in a word, or a look, from time to time, that will indicate your interest in the narrative. A few interjections, happily thrown in by the hearer, are a great comfort and stimulus to the speaker; and one who has always been accustomed to this evidence of sympathy, or comprehension, in their friends, feels, when listened to without it, as if she were talking to a dead wall.

For the encouragement of those who feel themselves deficient in conversational powers, we will subjoin a notice of the lately-deceased wife of a clergyman in this state:

"I saw and felt, when with her, as few others have ever made me feel, the power and uses of conversation. With her it was always promotive of intellectual and moral life. And here let me inform you, for the encouragement of those who may be thinking they would gladly do as she did in society, if they were able, that when I first knew Mrs. B., her powers of conversation were very small. She was embarrassed whenever she attempted to convey her thoughts to others. She labored for expression so much, that it was sometimes painful to hear her. Still, her social, affectionate nature longed for communion with other minds and hearts, on all subjects of deepest import. Her persevering efforts at length prevailed, and her ardent love of truth gave her utterance: yes, an utterance that often delighted, and sometimes surprised, those who heard her; a readiness and fluency that are seldom equalled. Learn, then, from her, my friends, to exercise  your faculties, whatever they may be. In this way only can you improve, or even retain them. If you have but one talent of any sort, it may not, with impunity to itself—it may not, without sin to you—be wrapped in a napkin. And sigh not for higher powers or opportunities, until you have fully and faithfully exercised and improved such as you have. Nor can you know what you possess until you have called them into action."

Chapter end illustration