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phrases, will they tell over the same story! I have known an old lady make an unhappy marriage the subject of a month's conversation. She blamed the bride in one place, pitied her in another, laughed at her in a third, wondered at her in a fourth, was angry with her in a fifth; and, in short, wore out a pair of coach-horses in expressing her concern for her. At length, after having quite exhausted the subject on this side, she made a visit to the new-married pair, praised the wife for the prudent choice she had made, told her the unreasonable reflections which some malicious people had cast upon her, and desired that they might be better acquainted. The censure and approbation of this kind of women are therefore only to be considered as helps to discourse.
A third kind of female orators may be comprehended under the word Gossips. Mrs. Fiddle-Faddle is perfectly accomplished in this sort of eloquence; she launches out into descriptions of christenings, runs divisions upon a head-dress, knows every dish of meat that is served up in her neighbourhood, and entertains her company a whole afternoon together with the wit of her little boy, before he is able to speak.
The Coquette may be looked upon as a fourth kind of female orator. To give herself the larger field for discourse, she hates and loves in the same breath, talks to her lap-dog or parrot, is uneasy in all kinds of weather, and in every part of the room; she has false quarrels and feigned obligations to all the men of her acquaintance: sighs when she is not sad, and laughs when she is not merry. The Coquette is in particular a great mistress of that part of oratory which is called action; and indeed seems to speak for no other purpose but as it gives her an opportunity of stirring a limb, or varying a feature, of glancing her eyes, or playing with her fan.
As for newsmongers, politicians, mimics, storytellers, with other characters of that nature, which give birth to loquacity,
they are as commonly found among the men as the women; for which reason I shall pass them over in silence.
I have often been puzzled to assign a cause why women should have this talent of a ready utterance in so much greater perfection than men. I have sometimes fancied that they have not a retentive power, or the faculty of suppressing their thoughts as men have; but that they are necessitated to speak every thing they think; and if so, it would perhaps furnish a very strong argument to the Cartesians for the supporting of their doctrine, that the soul always thinks. But as several are of opinion, that the fair sex are not altogether strangers to the art of dissembling and concealing their thoughts, I have been forced to relinquish that opinion and have therefore endeavoured to seek after some better reason. In order to do it, a friend of mine, who is an excellent anatomist, has promised me, by the first opportunity, to dissect a woman's tongue, and to examine whether there may not be in it certain juices which render it so wonderfully voluble or flippant; or whether the fibres may not be made up of a finer or more pliant thread; or whether there are not in it some particular muscles which dart it up and down by such sudden glances and vibrations; or whether, in the last place, there may not be some certain undiscovered channels running from the head and the heart to this little instrument of loquacity, and conveying into it a perpetual affluency of animal spirits. Nor must I omit the reason which Hudibras has given, why those who can talk on trifles speak with the greatest fluency; namely, that the tongue is like a race-horse, which runs the faster the less weight it carries.
Which of these reasons soever may be looked upon as the most probable, I think the Irishman's thought was very natural, who after some hours' conversation with a female orator, told her, that he believed her tongue was very glad when she was asleep, for that it had not a moment's rest all the while she was awake.
That excellent old ballad of the Wife of Bath has the following remarkable lines :-
I think, quoth Thomas, women's tongues
And Ovid, though in the description of a very barbarous circumstance, tells us, that when the tongue of a beautiful female was cut out, and thrown upon the ground, it could not forbear muttering even in that posture.
If a tongue could be talking without a mouth, what could it have done when it had all its organs of speech, and accomplices of sound about it? I might here mention the story of the pippin-woman, had I not some reason to look upon it as fabulous.
I must confess I am so wonderfully charmed with the music of this little instrument, that I would by no means discourage it. All that I aim at by this dissertation is, to cure it of several disagreeable notes, and in particular of those little jarrings and dissonances which arise from anger, censoriousness, gossiping, and coquetry. In short, I would always have it tuned by good-nature, truth, discretion, and sincerity.
II. AWKWARDNESS IN COMPANY,
WHEN an awkward fellow first comes into a room, he attempts to bow; and his sword, if he wears one, gets between his legs, and nearly throws him down. Confused and ashamed, he stumbles to the upper end of the room, and seats himself in the very place where he should not. He there begins playing with his hat, which he presently drops; and, recovering his hat, he lets fall his cane; and, in picking up his cane, down goes his hat again. Thus 'tis a considerable time before he is adjusted.
When his tea or coffee is handed to him, he spreads his handkerchief upon his knees, scalds his mouth, drops either the cup or saucer, and spills the tea or coffee in his lap. At
dinner, he seats himself upon the edge of the chair, at so great a distance from the table, that he frequently drops his meat between his plate and his mouth; he holds his knife, fork, and spoon, differently from other people; eats with his knife, to the manifest danger of his mouth; and picks his teeth with his fork,
If he is to carve, he cannot hit the joint; but, in labouring to cut through the bone, splashes the sauce over everybody's clothes. He generally daubs himself all over; his elbows are in the next person's plate; and he is up to the knuckles in soup and grease. If he drinks, 'tis with his mouth full, interrupting the whole company with, “To your good health, sir," and "My service to you :" perhaps coughs in his glass, and besprinkles the whole table.
He addresses the company by improper titles, as, sir for my lord; mistakes one name for another; and tells you of Mr. What-d'ye-call-him, or You-know-who, Mrs. Thingum, What's-her-name, or How-d'ye-call-her. He begins a story; but not being able to finish it, breaks off in the middle, with "I've forgot the rest.”
III.-RECEIPT TO MAKE AN EPIC POEM.
For the fable. Take out of any old poem, history-book, romance, or legend, (for instance, "Geoffry of Monmouth," or "Don Belianis of Greece,") those parts of the story which afford most scope for long descriptions. Put these pieces together, and throw all the adventures into one tale. Then take a hero, whom you may choose for the sound of his name, and put him into the midst of these adventures. There let him work for twelve books; at the end of which you may take him out ready to conquer, or to marry: it being necessary, that the conclusion of an epic poem be fortunate. For the machines. Take of deities, male and female, as many as you can use. Separate them into two equal parts, and keep Jupiter in the middle. Let Juno put him in a
ferment, and Venus mollify him. Remember on all occasions to make use of volatile Mercury. If you have need of devils, draw them from Milton; and extract your spirits from Tasso. When you cannot extricate your hero by any human means, or yourself by your wits, seek relief from the skies, and the gods will help you out of the scrape immediately. This is according to the direct prescription of Horace, in his "Art of Poetry."
Nec deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus
That is to say, a poet has no occasion to be at a loss, when the gods are always ready at a call.
For the descriptions, as a tempest, for instance. Take Eurus, Zephyrus, Auster, and Boreas, and cast them together in one verse. Add to these, of rain, lightning, and thunder (the loudest you can get) quantum sufficit. Mix your clouds and billows, till they foam; and thicken your description here and there with a quicksand. Brew your tempest weli in your head, before you set it a blowing.
For a battle. Pick half a dozen large handfuls of images of your lions, bears, and other quarrelsome animals, from Homer's “Iliad,” with a spice or two from Virgil. If there remain an overplus, lay them by for a skirmish in an odd episode, or so. Season it well with similes, and it will make an excellent battle.
For a burning town, if you choose to have one, old Troy is ready burned to your hands.
PEDANTRY, in the common sense of the word, means an absurd ostentation of learning, and stiffness of phraseology, proceeding from a misguided knowledge of books, and a total ignorance of men.
But I have often thought, that we might extend its signification a good deal farther; and, in general, apply it to