« ForrigeFortsett »
dignity of manners. Low-bred persons, fortnnately lifted in the world, in fine clothes and fine equipages, will insolently look down on all those who cannot afford to make as good an appearance; and they openly envy those who perhaps make a better. They also dread the being slighted; of course are suspicious and captious; are uneasy themselves, and make every body else so about them.
6. A certain degree of outward seriousness in looks and actions, gives dignity, while a constant smirk upon the face (with that insipid silly smile fools have when they would be civil) and whiffling motions, are strong marks of futility.
But above all, a dignity of character is to be acquired best by a certain firmness in all our actions. A mean, timid, and pas•sive complaisance, lets a man down more than he is aware of; but still his firmness or resolution should not extend to brutality, but be accompanied with a peculiar and engaging softness, or mildness.
7. If you discover any hastiness in your temper, and find it apt to break out into rough and unguarded expressions, watch it narrowly, and endeavour to curb it; but let no-complaisance, no weak desire of pleasing, no wheedling, urge you to do that which discretion forbids; but persist and persevere in all that is right. In your connections and friendships, you will find this rule of uso to you. Invite and preserve attachments by your firmness; but labour to keep clear of enemies by a mildness of behaviour. Disarm those enemies you may unfortunately have (and few are without them) by a gentleness of manner, but make them feel the steadiness of your just resentment; for there is a wide difference between bearing malice and a determined selfdefence; the one is imperious, but the other is prudent and justifiable.
8. In directing your servants, or any person you have a right to command, if you deliver your orders mildly and in that
engaging manner which every gentleman should study to do, you will be cheerfully, and consequently well obeyed; but if tyrannically, you would be very unwillingly served if served at all. A cool, steady determination should shew that you will be obeyed, but a gentleness in the manner of enforcing that obedience should make service a cheerful one. Thus will you be loved without being despised, and feared without being hated.
9. I hope I need not mention vices. A man who has patiently been kicked out of company, may have as good a pretence to courage, as one rendered infamous by his vices, may to dignity of any kind; however of such consequence are appearances, that an outward decency, and an affected dignity of manners, will even keep such a man the longer from sinking. If,
therefore, you should unfortunately have no intrinsic merit of your own, keep up, if possible, the appearance of it; and the world will possibly give you credit for the rest. A versatility of manners is as necessary in social life, as a versatility of parts in a political. This is no way blameable, if not used with an ill design. We must, like the cameleon, then put on the hue of the persons we wish to be well with ; and it surely can never be blameable to endeavour to gain the good will or affection of any one, if, when obtained, we do not mean to abuse it.
• Rules for Conversation. 1. CACK LIZARD was about fifteen when he was first enter
ed in the university, and being a youth of a great deal of fire, and a more than ordinary application to his studies, it gave his conversation a very particular turn. He had too much spirit to hold his tongue in company; but at the same time so little acquaintance with the world that he did not know how to talk like other people.
2. After a year and a half's stay at the university, he came down among us, to pass away a month or two in the country. The first night after his arrival as we were at supper, we were all of us very much improved by Jack's table-talk. He told us upon the appearance of a dish of wild foul, that according to the opinion of some natural philosophers, they might be lately come from the moon.
3. Upon which the sparkler bursting out into a laugh, he insulted her with several questions, relative to the bigness and distance of the moon and stars; and after every interrogatory would be winking upon me, and smiling at his sister's ignorance. Jack gained his point; for the mother was pleased, and all the servants stared at the learning of their young master. Jack was so encouraged at this success that for the first week he dealt wholly in paradoxes. It was a common jest with him to pinch one of his sister's lap-dogs, and afterwards prove he could not feel it.
4. When the girls were sorting a set of knots, he would demonstrate to them that all the ribbons were of the same colour; or rather says Jack, of no colour at all. My lady Lizard herself, though she was not a little pleased with her son's improvements, was one day almost angry with him; for having accidently burnt her fingers as she was lighting her lamp for her tea-pot; in the midst of her anguish, Jack laid hold of the opportunity to instruct her that there was no such thing as heat in fire. In sbort, no day passed over our heads, in which Jack did not imagine he made the whole family wiser than they were before.
3. That part of his conversation which gave me the most pain, was what passed among those country gentlemen who came to visit us.
On such occasions Jack usually took upon him to be the mouth of the company; and thinking himself obliged to be very merry, would entertain us with a great many odd sayings and absurdities of their college cook. I found this fellow had made a very strong impression upon Jack's imagination; which he never considered was not the case of the rest of the company, till after many repeated trials he found that his stories seldom made any body laugh but himself.
6. I all this while looked upon Jack as a young tree shooting out into blossoms before its time; the redundency of which, though it was a little unseasonable, seemed to foretel an uncommon fruitfulness.
In order to wear out the vein of pedantry, which ran through his conversation, I took him out with me one evening, and first of all, insinuated to him this rule, which I had myself learned from a very great author, “To think with the wise, but talk with the vulgar.” Jack's good sense soon made him reflect that he had exposed himself to the laughter of the ignorant by a country behaviour; upon which he told me, that he would take care for the future to keep his notions to himself, and converse in the common received sentiments of mankind.
7. He at the same time desired me to give him any other mules of conversation, which I thought might be for his improvement, I told him I would think of it; and accordingly, as I have a particular affection for the young man I gave him the next morning the following rules in writing, which may, perhaps, have contributed to make him the agreeable man he now is.
8. The faculty of interchanging our thoughts with one another, or what we express by the word conversation, has always been represented by moral writers, as one of the noblest privileges of reason, and which more particularly sets mankind above the brute part of the creation.
Though nothing so much gains upon the affections as this extempore eloquence, which we have constantly occasions for, and are obliged to practice every day, we very rarely meet with any who excel in it.
9. The conversation of most men is disagreeable, not so much for want of wit and learning, as of good breeding and discretion.
It is not in every man's power, perhaps, to have fine parts, say witty things, or tell a story agreeably; but every man may be polite if he pleases, at least to a certain degree. Politeness has infinitely more power to make us esteemed, and our company sought after, than the most extraordinary parts or attainments we can be master of. These seldom fail to create envy,
and envy has always some ill-will in it.
10. If you resolve to please never speak to gratify any particular vanity or passion of your own, but always with a design either to divert or inform the company. A man who only aims at one of these, is always easy in his discourse. He is never out of humour at being interrupted, because he considers, that those who hear him are the best judges whether what he was saying could either divert or inform them.
A modest person seldom fails to gain the good will of those he converses with, because nobody envies a man who does not appear to be pleased with himself.
11. We should talk extremely little of ourselves. Indeed what can we say ? it would be as imprudent to discover faults, as ridiculous to count over our fancied virtues. Our private and domestic affairs are no less improper to be introduced in conversation. What does it concern the company how many horses you keep in your stables? or whether your servant is most knave or fool ?
12. A man may equally affront the company he is in, by engrossing all the talk, or observing a contemptuous silence.
Conform yourself to the taste, character, and present humours of the persons you converse with; not but a person must follow his talent in conversation. Do not force nature, no one ever did it with success.
If you have not a talent for humour, or raillery, or story telling, never attempt them.
13. Contain yourself also within the bounds of what you know; and never talk of things you are ignorant of, unless it be with a view to inform yourself. A person cannot fail in the observance of this rule, without making himself ridiculous; and yet how often do we see it transgressed? Some, who on war or politics could talk very well, will be perpetually harranguing on works of genius, and the belles-letters; others who are capable of reasoning, and would make a figure in grave discourse, will yet constantly aim at honour and pleasantry, though with the worst grace imaginable. Hence it is, that we see a man of merit sometimes
appear like a coxcomb, and hear a man of genius talk like
14. Before you tell a story, it may be generally not amiss to draw a short character, and give the company a true idea of the principal persons concerned in it; the beauty of most things consisting not so much in their being said or done, as in their being said or done by such a particular person, or on such a particular occasion.
15. Notwithstanding all the advantages of youth, few young people please in conversation ; the reason is, that want of experience makes them positive, and what they say, is rather with a design to please themselves, than any one else.
It is certain that age itself shall make many things pass well enough, which would have been laughed at in the mouth of one
16. Nothing however, is more insupportable to men of sense, than an empty formal man who speaks in. proverbs, and decides all controversies with a short sentence. This piece of stupidity is the more insufferable, as it puts on the air of wisdom.
Great talents for conversation requires to be accompanied with great politeness. He who eclipses others, owes them great civilities; and whatever a mistaken vanity may tell us, it is better to please in conversation, than to shine in it.
17. A prudent man will avoid talking much of any particular science for which he is remarkably famous. There is not, me-, thinks, an handsomer thing said of Mr. Cowley in his whole life, than, that none but his intimate friends ever discovered he was a great poet by his discourse. Besides the decency of this rule, it is certainly founded in good policy. A man who talks of any thing he is already famous for, has little to get, but a great deal to loose.
18. I might add, that he who is sometimes silent on a subject where every one is satisfied he would speak well, will often be thought no less knowing in any other matters, where, perhaps, he is wholly ignorant.
Women are frightened at the name of argument, and are sooner convinced by an happy turn, or witty expression, than by demonstration.
19. Whenever you commend, add your reasons for so doing; it is this which distinguishes the approbation of a man of sense, from the flattery of sycophants, and admiration of fools.
Raillery is no longer agreeable than while the whole company is pleased with it. I would least of all be understood to except the person rallied.
20. Though good-humour, sense, and discretion dan seldom fail to make a man agreeable, it may be no ill policy sometimes to prepare yourself in a particular manner for conversation, by looking a little farther than your neighbours into whatever is become a reigning subject. If our armies are besieging a place of importance abroad, or our House of Commons debating a bill of consequence at home, you can hardly fail of being heard with pleasure, if you have nicely informed yourself of the strength, situation, and history of the first, or of the reasons for and against the latter.
21. It will have the same effect if when any single person begins to make a noise in the world, you can learn some of the smallest incidents in his life or conversation which though they are too fine for the observation of the vulgar, give more satis