Imágenes de páginas


THERE are as many varieties of talkers as there are of tulips; to classify them would require the nice discernment and patient perseverance of an ethical Linnæus; and when done, it would be an useless classification, unless, indeed, Taste could be brought to have a love for the cultivation of them, with an ulterior view to the improvement of the several classes, by marrying a common female scold of the last class, with a refined male babbler of the first; and thus effect, by artificial methods, what wisdom, with all her old endeavours, could never work by any means—an improvement of talkers generally.

There is, however, a pleasure in holding up a few of the first classes of talkers to attentive notice, somewhat similar to that which a Dutch tulip-fancier feels, when he displays to the curious, wondering eyes of one not in the fancy, (who had perceived, on being shown a bed of them, that they were all tulips, but did not discern the nicer streaks of difference between them,)

“Some faultless tulip which the Dutch ne'er saw.” The first, and most common class of talkers, is composed of common babblers. There are several varieties of these; but the most disagreeable is the long-tongued babbler. One of them is sufficient to set a whole village at war, or disturb the peace and sacredness of virtuous privacy. Rather than be silent, he will wound his dearest friend, with à tongue, which, like Laertes' foil, poisons wherever it touches; and sometimes even him who first used it. From this sort of talker you learn the origin of Miss Jones's finery, and Miss Jenkins's faux pas ; the state of Mr. Tomkin's embarrassment, &c. &c. Or if you

fear what the world thinks of your own character for virtue or folly, you may have your misgivings confirmed to your entire dissatisfaction. He publishes a pernicious piece of truth or scandal in the morning, and follows the sound of his own rumour, as a wether-mutton follows his own bell. Another variety is the dull, or harmless babbler. He talks in his turn and out of his turn, in season and out of season, and yet has nothing to say. You may, perhaps, learn from him that it rained yesterday; and backed by the boldness of his fears, you may get some credit for weather wisdom, if you doubt whether it will not rain to-morrow. He is Francis Moore's counterpart. The second class are the small talkers. These are tea-table

appendages, and sometimes hang by the dexter bend of ladies' elbows; and are usually “prim, puss-gentlemen,” all prettiness and pettiness. Ceaseless tonguers of “ words of no tone,” they lisp, or cultivate some delicate mispronunciation of one of the four-and-twenty letters, or of a few well-selected syllables. They have a chicken's perseverance in picking up the smallest grain or chaff of tea-table intelligence, yet are not greedy in the possession of it: you may have their second-hand nothings at less than the cost trouble. Their wit is as an island in a vast sea of three months' sail; you may steer round it, and by it, and never make it: or if you think you descry it in the offing, you may tack for it, and hope to drift to its shore; but when you really see it under your bow, you may coast round it, and cast out your grappleanchor to hold by it: but you might as soon tie your hose or your

VOL. II, No. 16.-1822.

2 P

horse up with a sunbeam, or get a will o' the wisp to light you like a well-bred watchman to your lodgings, as make ground there. The light of their minds need not be hidden under a bushel : a one-pill box would be a dome of “ ample space and verge enough” for it. Like one "good deed in a naughty world," it might shine far and wide therein, and yet not gild its confines. Their most delicate, prim mouths are like a perfumer's shop, for they breathe nothing but sweets. “Miss A. has the sweetest pug-puppy from Paris that is in the world:” and “Mrs. B. a sweet cat in her establishment.” Their talk only breathes honey, essence of Tyre, bloom of Ninon, violet washes, and a thousand essences that are advertised in the newspapers. They “die of a rose in aromatic" anguish, and are recovered by lavender-water, and other “soft appliances,” fifty times an hour, in their "over-exquisite” moods. I would sooner sit at an opera with five Jews in the same box, or be in a small room with three Frenchman, than talk with one of these.

The third are those of the objective class. Be your opinions what they may, however undeniable, correct, settled, or well-digested, they will chew them over, and object to them. They will find flaws in diamond-wit of the first water, motes in the brightest rays of the mind, and beams in the eyes of Truth. I know such an one.

If you would take an advantage which he is gaining in argument, out of his mouth, throw down a bad pun, as burglars toss a bribe of meat to a house-dog who is getting the 'vantage ground of them, and he instantly drops the argument, (as that fabulous dog dropped his substantial meat in the river for the duplicate shadow of it,) to tear the poor pun to pieces, analyzing nothing, till he proves that it is no more than nothing; and when he has satisfied himself to conviction, that a bad pun is not a good one, he is obliged, after all, from politeness, to laugh reluctantly at the joke.

The fourth is the contradictory class. Let your opinions to-day be to the letter what theirs were yesterday, and they will instantly run an opposition-coach against yours, upset you on the mud-bank of their own opinions, and leave you, sprawling and bespattered, to get up as you can.

When you have run them to a stand on one point, and they find

you are fixed on agreeing with thein, and they cannot object to the matter of your opinions, they have still a resource left, in objecting to your manner of uttering them. You speak unaffectedly, and they censure you for mediocrity, a bald plainness, and want of spirit and imagination.

The fifth class consists of the talkers in admirations. I heard one of these, the other day. His conversation, if such it might be called, was all exclamation, like a German drama; and was made up of a due jargon of Good-Gods! God bless-nies! Is-it-possibles! 'Who'd-havethought-its! You-astonish-mes! &c.

The sixth are the interrogative class. Their talk is all questions: I should think their tongues were shaped like a note of interrogation. I know one of this genus. You feel, in conversing with him, as a catechized charity-boy does, when he is asked what his godfather promised not to do for him. Talk an hour dead with one of this class, and you will only hear from him such interrogatory affirmations as these following: “ And so Jones is well ? and Johnson's married ?-and you really now prefer Pope to Pomfret ?–and you seriously deny that alderman Curtis is the author of Junius?-and affirm that Dr. Watts did not write The Frisky Songster?"

The seventh, and most insufferable class, are the exclusive talkers. One of these will undertake to talk for all the company present. If you impatiently throw in but one little word, it is like Hinging a large stone into a quick current—it disturbs, but cannot impede it, and rather impels it still faster onward :-or like striking a spark into a barrel of gunpowder—a fresh explosion of words spreads a hubbub and confusion all around it. Though he tells you every thing you already know, you cannot tell him any thing that he does not know. He can tell you what a new book contains that is to come out next Tuesday, as well as if he was himself Wednesday; or anticipate the merits of a great picture on the easel. If you mean to see the new tragedy, he has seen it, and he destroys all the delight you would have in its newness, by repeating the best points of it, and by unravelling its plot. If you set out with an anecdote, he spatches it out of your mouth, as a covetous dog would a desired bone from his best boon companion and dearest puppy-friend, and tells it for you. You object that yours was a different version of the same story, and gently persist in telling it your own way:

- he knows the other version as well as you do, and re-relates it for you, but thinks his own the best. If you persist, after all, in telling it for yourself, he will insinuate to-morrow that you are in your anecdotage, and declare that you are the worst teller of a good thing since Goldsmith. You could not have done a worse thing than start an anecdote in his hearing, for that one is too sure of reminding him of a hundred others; and the last one of that first century of good things is so nearly related to the first of the second century, that he cannot choose but relate it, and you dare not choose but hear it. If you commence a favourite quotation, he takes up the second line, goes on with it, and ends by quoting twice as much as you intended. This invariably leads him to recollect another poem by the same author, which no doubt


have heard, but Mrs. Jones, who is present, would perhaps, like to hear; and then he begins it without further prelude, and you can, if you please, go to sleep ad interim, if you have no fear of his reproach for want of taste, &c. before your eyes, to keep them open. You have been to Paris, and he informs you of your expenses on the road or you are going to Scotland, and he narrates most pathetically the miseries of a German inn. Of all talkers these are the worst.

The eighth class are the exaggerators, not the professional, but amateur fibbers. These are a pleasant set of talkers : you must not, to be sure, take them literally. It is a humour that even witty persons cannot always appreciate; to your thoroughly sensible and one-andone-make-two sort of minds, “it is a stumbling-block and a reproach." It is, perhaps, as to its conversational value, mere nonsense: it is what an ingenious punster (fracturing a French word in pieces) considers bad-in-age, and not very good in youth. But, most sensible reader, shut not thine ears against it: if thou wouldst enjoy Sense at any time, lirten sometimes to his less capable brother, Nonsense. After the mind has been wearied by abstruse studies, or worldly carkings, or imaginary ills, or positive griefs, is not nonsense like letting a longstrained bow relax'; or giving slackness to a lute-string ? Nonsense is


to sense like shade unto light, making, by strong contrast, what is beautiful, still more beautiful it is like an intended discord in a delicious melody, making the next concord the sweeter; or like silent sleep after sorrowful wakefulness; or like that calm which succeeds a storm; or like cheerfulness after care; or like condescension after hauteur; or like the freedom of a night-gown or slippers to the cramping of tight boots and bursting buttons; or like a night's dancing after a month's gout; or like that delicious giggle some schoolboy uncorks when the grim hush-compelling usher turns his back; or like the laugh politeness has suppressed till one has got rid of some troublesome puppy or pedantic blockhead; or like an olive to the palate of a winebibber, sickly in itself, but giving a gusto to the old port of the mind, or to the brisk, bubbling champaigne-wine of wit. I was companied with an exaggerator but yesterday, who was very seriously remonstrated with by a sage old maiden lady for a short indulgence in this lighter sort of

“Madam,” he replied, “ any man arrived at the door of discretion, who would talk sense and seriousness during the gloomy month of November, would show his entire want of it; and I should either suspect him to be suicidally inclined, or as insane as my friend Phipps, who went into Drury-lane theatre last night, expecting to be rationally amused. Such a man would light home his mother with a dark lantern, or read metaphysics to a man-milliner, or sing Mozart's requiem to a milestone. Amateur nonsense-talkers are your only sensible men.” There could be no serious replication to such diverting lightness as this ; so my gentleman had his way, and on he went “ like a falconer."

There are several other classes, which I shall notice in brief. There are the slow talkers, as tedious as the music of Te Deum; the quick talkers, as hasty as a postman's knock, and perhaps not so full of information; the loud talkers, to a nervous man as agreeable as the ding-dong din of a dustman's bell, or a death-knell in November; and the talkers of taste, whose language is of no country, but is a jargon of all countries, and consists of parrot-like repetitions of virtu, gusto, toutensemble, contour, chiaro oscuro, Titianesque bits of colour, Turnerian crispness and clearness, Claudean mellowness, Tintoretto touches, &c. &c. affecting term on term to the degrading of taste into a chaotic cant of words.


They say, fair Niobe of yore
Became a rock on Phrygia's shore ;
And Pandion's hapless daughter flies,
In form a swallow, through the skies.
-Had I the power to change, like they,
Heaven knows I'd change without delay ;-
I envy all that marks the place
Which Rosabella deigns to grace;-
The shawl, that keeps her shoulders warın ;
The stream, that bathes her angel form;
The gems, that on her bosom blaze;
The mirror, where she's wont to gaze;
The perfumes, on her hair she sheds ;
The very dust, on which she treads.


PORTRAIT OF A SEPTUAGENARY.* About the latter end of this period, I began to be gratified with the notion that I was rapidly advancing towards that epoch which may be termed the prime and flower of human life, when the animal and intellectual faculties attain their most perfect maturity and development: an idea which was fortified by the recollection that the law itself had fixed twenty-one for man's arrival at years of discretion. I cannot help smiling when I look back and reflect how many times, as I came near it, I postponed this happy æra of compound perfection, complimenting myself at each new removal on my own more enlarged views, and speaking with some contempt of my own juvenile miscalculations. Nay, when I could no longer conceal, even from myself, that my corporeal powers were on the wane, I consoled myself with the belief that my mental ones were daily waxing more vigorous and manly, and once entertained thoughts of writing an Essay, to prove that the grand climacteric of the frame is the period of rational perfection. There is a pleasure even in recalling one's own inconsistencies, for they illustrate a beautiful and benignant provision of nature, a perpetual system of equivalents balancing the pleasures of every age by replacing the present with the future, and weaving around the mind a smiling horizon of hope, which, though it recedes as we advance, illuminates our path, and tempts and cheers us on until the sunset of life. But I am anticipating. I had made many more extracts from my early Journals, but I find I am ever encroaching too much on your columns; and that I may keep within some modesty of limit I shall proceed at once to the second division of of my life.

From Twenty to Forty. In the early portion of this period, I became sensible of a decided alteration in my literary taste; for I not only lost all admiration of the old romances of Gomberville, Calprenede, Mad. Scuderi, and even Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, which I had devoured ten years before with a keen relish, but I found myself incapable of taking the trouble to unravel the contrived intricacies and managed embarrassments of the more modern novels and romances: I no longer hung with breathless interest over the “ Midnight Apparition,” or “ Mysterious Skeleton," and my stubborn tears refused any more to blister the pages of the “ Victím of Sentiment,” or the “ Agonies of an Orphan.” I am losing all sensibility, said I to myself, and getting obdurate and stony ; but I found that any magnanimous act of virtue, any description of generous feeling, any trait of simple heart-felt emotion, still struck upon a sympathizing cord in my bosom, and occasioned that suffusion of face and tingling of the blood which all probably have felt, though few have attempted to describe it. My heart was not so rocky but that when it was struck with a wand of inspiration like this, the waters would gush forth; my sensibility, methought, had only taken a loftier and more noble range, and I felicitated myself upon the decided improvement in my taste. So have I done ever since through a pretty numerous succession of similar changes; and I was, perhaps, right in pronouncing each a melioration, for in the exquisite system of adaptation to which ľ

Continued from page 215.

« AnteriorContinuar »