Page images
PDF
EPUB

advised me to charge the committee double,—which I did. But as I never got my pay, I don't know that it made much difference. I am a very particular person about having all I write printed as I write it. I require to see a proof, a revise, a re-revise, and a double re-revise, or fourth-proof rectifie:l impression of all my productions, especially verse. A misprint kills a sensitive author. An intentional change of his text murders him. No wonder so many poets dic young!

I have nothing more to report at this time, except two pieces of advice I gave to the young women at table. One relates to a vulgarism of language, which I grieve to say is sometimes heard even from female lips. The other is of more serious purport, and applies to such as contemplate a change of condition,-matrimony, in fact.

-The woman who “ calc'lates” is lost. -Put not your trust in money, but put you money in trust

III.

(The“ Atlantic” obeys the moon, and its LuniVERSARY has come round again. I have gathered up some hasty notes of my remarks made since the last high tides, which I respectfully submit. Please to remember this is talk; just as easy and just as formal as I choose to make it.]

tell an

I never saw an author in my life-saving, perhaps, one-that did not purr as audibly as a fullgrown domestic cat, (Felis Catus, LINN.,) on having his fur smoothed in the right way by a skilful hand.

But let me give you a caution. Be very careful how you

author he is droll. Ten to one he will hate you; and if he does, be sure he can do

you a mischief, and very probably will. Say you cried over his romance or his verses, and he will love

you and send you a copy. You can laugh over that as much as you like—in private.

Wonder why authors and actors are ashamed of being funny?- Why, there are obvious reasons, and deep philosophical ones. The clown knows very well that the women are not in love with him, but with Hamlet, the fellow in the black cloak and plumed hat. Passion never laughs. The wit knows that his place is at the tail of a procession.

If you want the deep underlying reason, I must take more time to tell it. There is a perfect consciousness in every form of wit-using that term in its general sense—that its essence consists in a partial and incomplete view of whatever it touches. It throws a single ray, separated from the rest,-red yellow, blue, or any intermediate shade,-upon an object; never white light; that is the province of wisdom. We get beautiful effects from wit,—all the prismatic colors,—but never the object as it is in fair daylight. A pun, which is a kind of wit, is a different and much shallower trick in mental optics throwing the shadows of two objects so that one overlies the other. Poetry uses the rainbow tints for special effects, but always keeps its essential object in the purest white light of truth.— Will you allow me to pursue this subject a little further ?

[They didn't allow me at that time, for somebody happened to scrape the floor with his chair just then; which accidental sound, as all must have noticed, has the instantaneous effect that the cutting of the yellow hair by Iris had upon infelix Dido. It broke the charm, and that breakfast was over.]

-Don't flatter yourselves that friendship au thorizes you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. On the contrary, the nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become. Except in cases of necessity, which are rare, leave your friend to learn unpleasant truths from his enemies; they are ready enough to tell them. Good-breeding never forgets that amour. propre is universal. When you read the story of the Archbishop and Gil Blas, you may laugh, if you will, at the poor old man's delusion; but don't forget that the youth was the greater fool of the two, and that his master served such a booby rightly in turning him out of doors.

--You need not get up a rebellion against what I say,

find everything in my sayings is not exactly new. You can't possibly mistake a man who means to be honest for a literary pickpocket. 1 once read an introductory lecture that looked to me too learned for its latitude. On examination, I found al. its erudition was taken ready-made from D'Israeli. If I had been ill-natured, I should have shown up the little great man, who had once belabored me in his feeble way.

if you

But one can generally tell these wholesale thieves easily enough, and they are not worth the trouble of putting them in the pillory. I doubt the entire novelty of my remarks just made on telling unpleasant truths, yet I am not conscious of any larceny.

Neither make too much of flaws and occasional overstatements. Some persons seem to think that absolute truth, in the form of rigidly stated propositions, is all that conversation admits. This is precisely as if a musician should insist on having nothing but perfect chords and simple melodies,-no diminished fifths, no flat sevenths, no flourishes, on any account. Now it is fair to say, that, just as music must haye all these, so conversation must have its partial truths, its embellished truths, its exaggerated truths. It is in its higher forms an artistic product, and admits the ideal element as much as pictures or statues. One man who is a little too literal can spoil the talk of a whole tableful of men of esprit.—“ Yes,” you say, “but who wants to hear fanciful people's nonsense? Put the facts to it, and then see where it is !"--Certainly, if a man is too

fond of paradox,-if he is flighty and empty,--if, instead of striking those fifths and sevenths, those harmonious discords, often so much better than the twinned octaves, in the music of thought,-if, instead of striking these, he jangles the chords, stick a fact into him like a stiletto. But remember that talking is one of the fine arts,—the noblest, the most impor. tant, and the most difficult,and that its fluent harmonies may be spoiled by the intrusion of a single harsh note. Therefore conversation which is suggestive rather than argumentative, which lets out the most of each talker's results of thought, is commonly the pleasantest and the most profitable. It is not easy, at the best, for two persons talking together to make the most of each other's thoughts, there are 80 many of them.

[The company looked as if they wanted an explanation.]

When John and Thomas, for instance, are talking together, it is natural enough that among the six there should be more or less confusion and misapprehension.

(Our landlady turned pale ;—no doubt she thought there was a screw loose in my intellects,—and that involved the probable loss of a boarder. A severe. looking person, who wears a Spanish cloak and a sad cheek, fluted by the passions of the melodrama, whom I understand to be the professional ruffian of the neighboring theatre, alluded, with a certain lift.

« PreviousContinue »