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PREFACE.

The Essays and Conversations have been purposely on such diversified and general subjects as a family circle of various ages might be supposed to choose ; connected by just such a slight thread of narrative as it was presumed would give coherence to the whole.

If any among the homes of England, whether in sequestered nooks, dull towns, or the often more complete isolation and uncongeniality of great cities, should feel inclined to adopt a similar plan, and should derive enjoyment from it, the aim of the writer will be fully attained; for though this little book does not treat of what is called Art or Science, yet what art is so important as that of making home happy, what science is more valuable than that of self-improvement ?

HAPPY EVENINGS,

CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTORY.

" WELL! I have neither patience to endure, nor ingenuity to remedy our disappointment, so I must murmur at it, dear brother, indeed I must!"

" And so make matters worse.

"Worse! why it would be difficult to do that; were we not to have spent the next six weeks in London? which would have passed the depth of winter away delightfully; and now to have that visit postponed, and to be immured in this dull house, and duller town—no library, no literary institution, no lectures, no concerts, no society-no anything!”

“Stop, dear Etty, and while you take breath, do let me remind you that we are eight in number, and that surely is a society of itself. And why should we not try to supply ourselves from our own resources with the recreations you speak of, or something similar?”

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Yes, yes, there are enough of us as to numbers, but we all want a little change, a little amusement, particularly at this season, when most people strive to make up by mirth within the house for dreariness without."

“Well, that is exactly what I think we should do, Etty."

< But how? my good, grave, tiresome brother, how? Resources, indeed! do you think that like so many spiders we can spin a thread of employment and amusement out of ourselves? We have no new books, and the old ones have been read till we're tired. Besides, we can't be always reading; and as to our being a society of ourselves, just consider. There's our mother, dear soul, who really needed a change, and who will feel this disappointment more for our sakes, I know, than her own.

Then our two dear old aunts; I hope you will own they ought to be amused and cheered this dreary weather. Then there's Edward, who has been something of an invalid lately, what with study and anxiety, (and who will not spend another winter with us for years to come,) for his sake this should have been a pleasant season. Then, as to Ellen, and our friend Jane, they will take refuge in the intricacies of crochet, or the mysteries of knitting and netting, or be lost in the bewildering mazes of Berlin wool; and if you ask them a question they will say, as if life depended on it, 6

don't interrupt me just now! I'm counting;' or if you relate anything, and construe their silence into attention, they will look up vacantly

Oh, pray

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