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quality scarce ever meet but to game. All their discourse turns upon the odd trick and the four honours, and it is no less a maxim with the votaries of whist than with those of Bacchus, that talking spoils company.
Every one endeavours to make himself as agreeable to society as he can ; but it often happens, that those who most aim at shining in conversation cvershoot their mark. Though a man succeeds, he should not (as is frequently the case) engross the whole talk to himself; for that destroys the very essence of conversation, which is talking together. We should try to keep up conversation like a ball bandied to and fro from one to another, rather than seize it ourselves, and drive it before us like a football. We should likewise be cautious to adapt the matter of our discourse to our company, and not talk Greek before ladies, or of the last new furbelow to a meeting of country justices.
But nothing throws a more ridiculous air over our conversations than certain peculiarities, easily acquired, but very difficultly conquered and discarded. In order to display these absurdities in a truer light, it is my present purpose to enumerate such of them as are most commonly to be met with ; and first to take notice of those buffoons in society, the attitudinarians and face-makers. These accompany every word with a peculiar grimace or gesture; they assent with a shrug, and contradict with a twisting of the neck; are angry with a wry mouth, and pleased in a caper or a minuet step. They may be considered as speaking harlequins, and their rules of eloquence are taken from the posture-master. These should be condemned to converse only in dumb show with their own person in the looking-glass; as well as the smirkers and smilers, who so prettily set off their faces, together with their words, by a je-ne-sçai-quoi between a grin and a dimple. With these we may likewise rank the affected tribe of mimics, who are constantly taking off the peculiar tone of voice or gesture of their acquaintance; though they are such wretched imitators, that (like bad painters) they are frequently forced to write the name under the picture, before we can discover any likeness.
Next to these, whose elocution is absorbed in action, and who converse chiefly with their arms and legs, we may consider the professed speakers. And first, the emphatical; who squeeze, and press, and ram down every syllable with excessive vehemence and energy. These orators are remarkable for their distinct elocution and force of expression; they dwell on the important particles of and the, and the significant conjunctive and, which they seem to hawk up with much difficulty out of their own throats, and to cram them with no less pain into the ears of their auditors.
These should be suffered only to syringe, as it were, the ears of a deaf man, through a hearingtrumpet ; though I must confess, that I am equally offended with whisperers or low speakers, who seem to fancy all their acquaintance deaf, and come up so close to you, that they may be said to measure noses with you, and frequently overcome
with the exhalations of a powerful breath. I would have these oracular gentry obliged to talk at a distance through a speaking-trumpet, or apply their lips to the walls of a whispering-gallery. The wits who will not condescend to utter any thing but a bon-mot, and the whistlers or tune-humaters, who never articulate at all, may be joined very agreeably together in concert; and to these tinkling cymbals I would also add the sounding brass—the bawler, who inquires after your health with the bellowing of a town-crier.
The tattlers, whose pliable pipes are admirably adapted to the “ soft parts of conversation,” and sweetly “prattling out of fashion,” make very pretty music from a beautiful face and a female tongue; but, from a rough manly voice and coarse features, mere nonsense is as harsh and dissonant as a jig from a hurdygurdy. The swearers I have spoken of in a former paper; but the half-swearers, who split, and mince, and fritter their oaths into Gad's but, ad's fish, and demme, the Gothic humbuggers, and those who “nick-name God's creatures," and call a man a cabbage, a crab, a queer cub, an oddfish, and an unaccountable muskin, should never come into company without an interpreter. But I will not tire my reader's patience by pointing out all the pests of conversation ; nor dwell particularly on the sensibles, who pronounce dogmatically on the most trivial points, and speak in sentences ;the wonderers, who are always wondering what o'clock it is, or wondering whether it will rain or no, or wondering when the moon changes; the phrase
ologists, who explain a thing by all that, or enter into particulars with this, that, and t'other; and lastly, the silent men, who seem afraid of opening their mouths lest they should catch cold, and literally observe the precept of the gospel, by letting their conversation be only yea, yea, and nay, nay.
The rational intercourse kept up by conversation is one of our principal distinctions from brutes. We should, therefore, endeavour to turn this peculiar talent to our advantage, and consider the organs of speech as the instruments of understanding. We should be very careful not to use them as the weapons
of vice, or tools of folly, and do our utmost to unlearn any trivial or ridiculous habits which tend to lessen the value of such an inestimable prerogative. It is indeed imagined by some philosophers, that even birds and beasts (though without the power of articulation) perfectly understand one another by the sounds they utter ; and that dogs and cats, &c., have each a particular language to themselves, like different nations. Thus it may be supposed that the nightingales of Italy have as fine an ear for their own native wood-notes, as any signor or signora for an Italian air ; that the boars of Westphalia gruntle as expressively through the nose as the inhabitants in High German ; and that the frogs in the dykes of Holland croak as intelligibly as the natives jabber their Low Dutch. However this may be, we may consider those whose tongues hardly seem to be under the influence of reason, and do not keep up
proper conversation human creatures, as imitating the
language of different animals : thus, for instance, the affinity between chatterers and monkeys, and praters and parrots, is too obvious not to occur at once: grunters and growlers may be justly compared to hogs; snarlers are curs; and the spitfire passionate are a sort of wild cats, that will not bear stroking, but will pur when they are pleased. Complainers are screech-owls; and story-tellers, always repeating the same dull note, are cuckoos. Poets that prick up their ears at their own hideous braying are no better than asses ; critics in general are venomous serpents that delight in hissing; and some of them, who have got by heart a few technical terms, without knowing their meaning, are no other than magpies. I myself, who have crowed to the whole town for near three years past, may perhaps put my readers in mind of a dunghill cock; but, as I must acquaint them that they will hear the last of me on this day fortnight, I hope they will then consider me as a swan, who is supposed to sing sweetly in his dying moments.
END OF VOL. VII.
IBOTSON AND PALMER, PRINTERS, SAVOY STREET, STRAND.