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will be of use even to excite your own enthusiasm in debate; then as the scene advances, talk of his cruelty, and your sensibility, and sink with “ becoming woe” into the pathos of injured innocence.
Besides the heart and the weakness of your opponent, you have still another chance, in ruffling his temper; which, in the course of a long conversation, you will have a fair opportunity of trying; and iffor philosophers will sometimes grow warm in the defence of truth-if he should grow absolutely angry, you will in the same proportion grow calm, and wonder at his rage, though you well know it has been created by your own provocation. The by-standers, seeing anger without any adequate cause, will all be of your side.
Nothing provokes an irascible man, interested in debate, and possessed of an opinion of his own eloquence, so much as to see the attention of his hearers go from him:
: you will then, when he flatters himself that he has just fixed your eye with his very best augument, suddenly grow absent :—your house affairs must call
you hence-or you have directions to give to your children-or the room is too hot, or too cold -the window must be opened—or door shut-or the candle wants snuffing. Nay, without these interruptions, the simple motion of your eye may provoke a speaker; a butterfly, or the figure in a carpet may engage your attention in preference to him these objects be absent, the simply averting your eye, looking through the window in quest of outward objects, will show that your mind has not been
; or if
abstracted, and will display to him at least your wish of not attending. He may, however, possibly have lost the habit of watching your eye for approbation; then you may assault his ear: if all other resources fail, beat with your foot that dead march of the spirits, that incessant tattoo, which so well deserves its name. Marvellous must be the patience of the much-enduring man whom some or other of these devices do not provoke: slight causes often produce great effects; the simple scratching of a pick-axe, properly applied to certain veins in a mine, will cause the most dreadful explosions.
Hitherto we have only professed to teach the defensive; let me now recommend to you the offensive part of the art of justification. As a supplement to reasoning comes recrimination : the pleasure of proving that you are right is surely incomplete till you have proved that your adversary is wrong; this might have been a secondary, let it now become a primary object with you ; rest your own defence on it for farther security: you are no longer to consider yourself as obliged either to deny, palliate, argue, or declaim, but simply to justify yourself by criminating another; all merit, you know, is judged of by comparison. In the art of recrimination, your memory will be of the highest service to you; for you are to open and keep an account-current of all the faults, mistakes, neglects, unkindnesses of those you live with ; these you are to state against your own: I need not tell you that the balance will always be in your favour. In stating matters of opinion, produce
the words of the very same person which passed days, months, years before, in contradiction to what he is then saying. By displacing, disjointing words and sentences, by misunderstanding the whole, or quoting only a part of what has been said, you may convict any man of inconsistency, particularly if he be a man of genius and feeling; for he speaks generally from the impulse of the moment, and of all others can the least bear to be charged with paradoxes. So far for a husband.
Recriminating is also of sovereign use in the quarrels of friends; no friend is so perfectly equable, so ardent in affection, so nice in punctilio, as never to offend: then “ Note his faults, and con them all by rote.” Say you can forgive, but you can never forget ; and surely it is much more generous to forgive and remember than to forgive and forget. On every new alarm, call the unburied ghosts from former fields of battle ; range them in tremendous array, call them one by one to witness against the conscience of your enemy, and ere the battle is begun take from him all courage to engage.
There is one case I must observe to you in which recrimination has peculiar poignancy. If you have had it in your power to confer obligations on any one, never cease reminding them of it: and let them feel that you have acquired an indefeasible right to reproach them without a possibility of their retorting. It is a maxim with some sentimental people, “ To treat their servants as if they were their friends in distress.”—I have observed that people of this cast make themselves amends, by treating their friends in distress as if they were their servants.
Apply this maxim-you may do it a thousand ways, especially in company. In general conversation, where every one is supposed to be on a footing, if any of your humble companions should presume to hazard an opinion contrary to yours, and should modestly begin with, “ I think ;” look as the man did when he said to his servant, “ You think, sir—what business have you to think?”
Never fear to lose a friend by the habits which I recommend: reconciliations, as you have often heard it said-reconciliations, are the cement of friendship; therefore friends should quarrel to strengthen their attachment, and offend each other for the pleasure of being reconciled.
I beg pardon for disgressing: I was, I believe, talking of your husband, not of
your friend—I have gone far out of the way. If in your debates with
husband want “ eloquence to vex him,” the dull prolixity of narration, joined to the complaining monotony of voice which I formerly recommended, will supply its place, and have the desired effect : Somnus will prove propitious; then, ever and anon as the soporific charm begins to work, rouse him with interrogatories, such as “ Did not you say so ? remember ? Only answer me that!”
By-the-bye, interrogatories artfully put may lead an unsuspicious reasoner, you know, always to your own conclusion.
Don't you In addition to the patience, philosophy, and other good things which Socrates learned from his wife perhaps she taught him this mode of reasoning.
But, after all, the precepts of art and even the natural susceptibility of your tempers will avail you little in the sublime of our science if
you cannot command that ready enthusiasm which will make you enter into the part you are acting ; that happy imagination which shall make you believe all you fear and all
invent. Who is there amongst you who cannot or who will not justify when they are accused ? Vulgar talent! the sublime of our science is to justify before we are accused. There is no reptile so vile but what will turn when it is trodden on; but of a nicer sense and nobler species are those whom nature has endowed with antennæ, which perceive and withdraw at the distant approach of danger. Allow me another allusion: similes cannot be crowded too close for a female taste; and analogy, I have heard, my fair pupils, is your favourite mode of reasoning.
The sensitive plant is too vulgar an allusion ; but if the truth of modern naturalists may be depended upon, there is a plant which, instead of receding timidly from the intrusive touch, angrily protrudes its venomous juices upon all who
to meddle with it :-do not you think this plant would be your fittest emblem?
Let me, however, recommend it to you, nice souls, who, of the mimosa kind, “ fear the dark cloud, and feel the coming storm,” to take the utmost precau