« ПретходнаНастави »
a man, who, having formed a justly high opinion of your sex, should propose to treat you as his equal, and who in any little dispute which might arise between you should desire no other arbiter than reason; triumph in his mistaken candour, regularly appeal to the decision of reason at the beginning of every contest, and deny its jurisdiction at the conclusion. I take it for granted that you will be on the wrong side of every question, and indeed, in general, I advise you to choose the wrong side of an argument to defend; whilst you are young in the science, it will afford the best exercise, and as you improve, the best display of your talents.
If, then, reasonable pupils, you would succeed in argument, attend to the following instructions.
Begin by preventing, if possible, the specific statement of any position, or, if reduced to it, use the most general terms, and take advantage of the ambiguity which all languages and which most philosophers allow. Above all things, shun definitions;
persons and candour, who define their terms, cannot argue long without either convincing, or being convinced, or parting in equal good-humour; to prevent which, go over and over the same ground, wander as wide as possible from the point, but always with a view to return at last precisely to the same spot from which you set out. I should remark to you, that the choice of your weapons is a circumstance much to be attended to : choose always those which your adversary cannot use. If your husband is a man of wit, you
will of course undervalue a talent which is never connected with judgment : “ for your part, you do not presume to contend with him in wit.”
But if he be a sober-minded man, who will go link by link along the chain of an argment, follow him at first, till he grows so intent that he does not perceive whether
follow him or not; then slide back to your own station, and when with perverse patience he has at last reached the last link of the chain, with one electric shock of wit make him quit his hold, and strike him to the ground in an instant. Depend upon the sympathy of the spectators, for to one who can understand reason, you will find ten who admire wit.
But if you should not be blessed with “a ready wit,” if demoristration should in the mean time stare you in the face, do not be in the least alarmed-anticipate the blow. Whilst you have it yet in your power, rise with becoming magnanimity, and cry,“ I give it up! I give it up! La ! let us say no more about it; I do so hate disputing about trifles. I give it up!” Before an explanation on the word trifle can take place, quit the room with flying colours.
If you are a woman of sentiment and eloquence, you have advantages of which I scarcely need apprise you. From the understanding of a man, you have always an appeal to his heart, or, if not, to his affection, to his weakness. If
you have the good fortune to be married to a weak man, always choose the moment to argue with him when you have a full audi
Trust to the sublime power of numbers; it 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 argument, suddenly grow absent :-your house affairs must call you hence-or you have directions to give
children or the room is too hot, or too cold -the window must be opened-or door shut—or the candle wants snufting. 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 ; or if 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 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. Marrellous 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
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