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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 130.djvu/710

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702
ON TALKERS.

wishes when it is a question of pressing a visitor to stay to dinner. On such occasions the eatables and drinkables are to be the best that the house can afford, although we are assured that it is of little moment what is offered if it is only offered with politeness. And no doubt it is true that "the husband of a woman who knows how to receive a visitor is certain of being well received elsewhere."

A concluding section of the work relates to the libations and offerings accorded to the dead. Mourning for a husband and for a father or mother in law lasts for three years. During this time the wife has to wear garments unhemmed at the bottom, and of a sad color. To laugh in the presence of funereal hangings exposes the offender to universal contempt. "In spring and autumn offerings have to be made to the dead, and this established rule is not to be lightly disregarded." "The porcelain utensils reserved for this purpose must be of the best quality and scrupulously clean." The wife is required to prepare all with her own hands, "letting her zeal testify the sincerity of her sentiments." Conjugal fidelity is expected of her not only during her husband's lifetime but after his decease. She is adjured to emulate the virtuous heroines of antiquity — the wife of Ven-tchiang, who cut off an ear to disfigure herself; the spouse of Wang-i, who cut off her arm to escape a seducer; the lady of Koung-Ki-ang, who "took an oath as tough as a boat of cypress wood;" and the widow Soung, who refused to quit her husband's tomb. Finally, she is told "not to imitate faithless women who transgress their duties, but to keep her heart, hard as stone and iron, always pure."




From The Examiner.

ON TALKERS.

A gentleman well known in literary circles for his inexhaustible flow of words was one day lamenting the decay of good conversationalists, when a very clever lady remarked that what she most regretted in the present day was the decay of good listeners. We fear the decay of good listeners is a sad and momentous fact, and proves the demoralized state of mind of the men and women of the present generation. It is not easy to be a good listener, for it requires certain high moral qualities. A man to listen well must be unselfish, he must be willing both to give and take. He must have powers of self-control, for he must be ready to give his mind for a moment into another man's custody. He must have a certain amount of deference and humility, which the man who accompanies your words with a running commentary of protest or contradiction does not possess. The person who lets his eye wander while you are talking to him shows that he is deficient in the first element of good breeding, courtesy. The eye of the good listener is one of the eyes which the poet and novelist have not remembered to extol. It is always serene, patient, and intelligent. It is sad to think how few persons will take the trouble of learning the art of attention in its simplest form. The majority who will not listen, however, do not hesitate in constantly demanding of their neighbors what Mark Antony asked as a favor of his countrymen, to "lend him their ears." When you have gratified their request they do not hesitate to inflict the greatest injury on those sensitive and much-abused organs. The sermons of Mr. Carlyle, preached in innumerable large volumes, on the text, "Silence is golden," have borne but little fruit. It is said of the elder Matthews that he suffered from a painful disease of the tongue, from having talked so much and so fast; we have often wondered that the disease is not more prevalent in the present day. No doubt, if the majority of people were more silent life might possibly become a little more dull, but it would be prolonged. The companion who is ever talking is no better than a murderer, and in a healthy state of society he would be hanged. The saddest part of the matter is that most men talk, not because they have anything to say, but because they have a dread that the world will discover that they have no great wit. If they would only read a book much despised in this clever age, but which contains many wise sayings, they would find it there stated that "even a fool when he holdeth his tongue is counted wise." How many a man has gained a reputation for having a great deal in him by the simple process of holding his tongue. It is, however, now rare to meet with any one who ever thinks of ruling that member. But still, although talking goes on in the world without intermission, conversation in its proper sense is fast dying out. Our talking, like our writing, is serious and dull, and is unrelieved by wit and brilliancy. There is no greater nuisance than when a company at dinner is forced to listen to two literary lions, who try to