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exhilarating activity; unexpected combinations of wit startle us with electric surprise; our souls expand beneath the rich rays of humour; our taste is charmed by harmonious periods, well-chosen language, and musical intonation; and all this is effected by so little a thing as the human tongue. But little as it is, it is a mighty instrument for good or for evil; and, in saying this, I leave out of the question the power of an eloquent public orator, and speak of its effects, merely in colloquial intercourse.
It was in conversation that Socrates uttered those discourses upon the nature of Beauty and Truth, which Plato and Xenophon have recorded. Dr. Johnson owes the better part of his fame to the indefatigable chronicler of his talk. His Life, by Boswell, will be read long after his Rambler is forgotten. Mr. Burke put forth all the treasures of his magnificent mind in conversation. It was said that you could not stop with him under a shed, to escape the rain, for five minutes, without going away with the impression that he was the greatest man in England. Mr. Jefferson says of Franklin, that no one could be in his presence, for however short a time, without learning something valuable - a remark eminently true, from all accounts, of Mr. Jefferson himself. And, to come a little nearer to our own times, Sir James Mackintosh and Madame de Staël were instances of persons of the highest order of minds, who regarded conversation as a noble intellectual exercise, affording ample scope to the most creative genius, and the proper vehicle for the most profound and original thoughts.
What are the qualifications necessary to form a good talker? In the first place, he must have a full mind; for he can no more talk well without it, than a river can flow to the ocean without a fountain. Let me not be understood to say, that he must be a learned man. It matters not from what sources intellectual wealth be derived; it comes equally well from reflecting and observing, as from reading. Some have a luxuriant creativeness of mind, so
that thought and images arise in it as naturally as flowers spring from the ground. These, of course, are the most brilliant and gifted talkers: these are they “ who set tables in a roar;
.- who charm and fascinate the listening ear; who condense into minutes the pleasures of hours, and yet make hours pass away with the rapidity of minutes. Others, too, can afford an entertainment as gratifying, though not as. stimulating, from the acquired treasures gained by extensive and well-digested reading, or by long and sharp observation of men and manners. But there must be a moving power from within, or, however much the operating instrument be cultivated, it will not work to any purpose.
Another essential requisite for a good talker is a delicate tact in discovering the tastes and habits of thought in others, and the power of adapting his conversation to them. The perfection of this quality consists in that rare gift, the art of drawing out-- the ability to make others, unconsciously to themselves, display, in a natural manner, their faculties and acquirements. Nothing is more delightful than to witness its exercise, when it arises from a benevolent motive; to see a young and timid spirit gently enforced to draw aside the veil of reserve which shrouds its individuality, to put forth its free and natural movements, and to glow with a warmth which is partly caught and partly spontaneous. One such mind acts upon another as fire upon figures traced in sympathetic ink - bringing out, every moment, warm tints of feeling, lights and shadows of character, and bold, original strokes of shaping imagination, which had before slumbered in the gloom of diffidence and distrust. This is a faculty as rare as it is beautiful ; and it confers upon its possessor an almost unbounded power in social intercourse, for he is by far the most agreeable man who can make others agreeable. Many of those who possess it, abuse it to the gratification of a malicious wit, or a restless vanity.
The charm of conversation, like that of letter-writing, consists in its being the natural expression of natural thoughts.
It is difficult, in this as in all other things, to find the proper medium between two extremes. Some men, aiming at correctness and precision, cultivate a grandiloquence and pomp of expression which are quite ludicrous, especially if the thoughts bear no proportion to the cumbrous vehicle in which they are transported. Others, seeing the folly of this, affect a careless, slipshod style of talk, which nothing but great originality and raciness of thought will render tolerable. The language of conversation should be plain, but not homely; idiomatic, but not vulgar. Other things being alike, he who has written most will talk best; for a writer's ideas naturally form themselves into harmonious periods, and he will be most apt to avoid a redundancy of words.
If my observations be true, it follows that conversational powers are, in some measure, natural, and in some, acquired. There is certainly some scope for education here. Every one may be taught to speak grammatically, to enunciate distinctly, and to look in the face of the person he addresses. These are trifles, to be sure; but for that very reason they are as easily observed as neglected.
EXERCISES IN ARTICULATION.
i: -time, mine, mind, buy, eye, high; - buyer, dyer,
china; - apply, ally, benign, oblige; - satiety, sobriety, maniacal.
Young warbler of the spring !
Ere thou dost sweetly sing.
How many years thy song Hath poured its music on my slumbering hours, When morn's first breath is seen to stir the flowers,
Bearing the sweets along !
Ah! now thy strain I hear, Anong thy mates, poured from thy warbling throat, Filling each grove with thy gay, cheerful note,
Spring's feathered pioneer.
I love to hear thee sing,
Thy brown and glossy wing.
Thou callest to thy mate
With happy heart elate.
And when the crimson glows,
Thy song at evening's 'close.
Ah! it were vain to search Where thou from winter's cold wilt find a home; But glad I see thee to my elm-tree come,
And near my window perch.
There is that to thee given,
To the pure joys of heaven.
EXERCISES IN ARTICULATION. 0:— no, dome, home, rogue, roll, gold, sew, beau ; — notion,
— motion, motive, yeoman ; - depose, withhold, encroach; poetry, frowardly.
GEMS OF POETRY.
BLEST be the gracious Power, who taught mankind