Open main menu

Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 130.djvu/711

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
703
SERVIA.

be clever and smart. No doubt it is pleasing to them, and to them only, but it is not conversation, because all present do not share in it. Nothing is more annoying than to find two men interrupt the easy flow of talk by a hot argumentation. As De Quincey says, "Mere good sense is sufficient, without any experience at all of high life, to point out the intolerable absurdity of allowing two angry champions to lock up and sequestrate, as it were, the whole social enjoyment of a large party, and compel them to sit in sad civility, witnesses of a contest which can interest the majority neither by its final object nor its management." There are a small class of men who mistake declamation for conversation. Coleridge was a good talker, but he spoilt it by too much declamation. The declamation of Coleridge was, however, instructive and brilliant, but the declamation of the modern littérateur can hardly, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered one or the other. No conversation was ever so delightful as that of Reynolds, Goldsmith, Burke, and Johnson. But then the famous club was composed of clever men who conversed freely on every subject, and who had steeped their minds in literature. In the present day most men limit their reading to their own writings. There are men whose sole conversation consists in putting forth the one idea they have borrowed from the leading article in the morning. But they are not nearly so disagreeable as the pretentious talker who talks his own article in a loud and authoritative voice. The leader-writer's talk as a rule consists in making pungent and exaggerated remarks on most topics. He carries his professional art into social life. It is not conversation, but it is amusing if not carried too far, and it is useful at times. The writer of social articles is a man who earns a miserable pittance by making bricks without straw, and he acquires the painful art of going on talking for any length of time about absolutely nothing. He is horribly vapid on nearly every subject, but he prattles to his unfortunate listeners like a giant rejoicing to run his course. Among young ladies in the country he can, however, generally ensure both attention and applause. The most spurious kind of talker is the middle-aged college don who has spent his vacation on the Continent, and who steals his new views and interpretations from foreign magazines. This is a very easy road to a reputation for sound learning in one of our universities. The most affected talker is the young college don who solves the enigma of free-will and constructs a philosophy of being in twenty minutes. He is fond of parading his small knowledge of Hegel and Herbert Spencer, and he is always expressing his deep regret that the university does not allow him a large endowment for the purposes of research. He is a man whom only an esoteric audience can appreciate or bring out to his best. To the common vulgar herd he is only a bore. He does not converse, but he expresses his opinions in a serene, confident voice. If you speak to him of Shakespeare he gives a sickly smile, and asks you if you have read Rosetti. He informs you that works of art can only be "appreciated by loving and reverent criticism," and that if you wish to understand an author you must get behind his soul. He will not discuss anything so vulgar as politics; but on green paper and china plates he can be eloquent. His language is nicely chosen, but it would be inconsistent with his genius to call things by the same names as are used by inferior men. There is only one thing of which he is ignorant. He is not aware that display of vanity is one of the most annoying of the minor social sins. A large view of life, however, ought to teach all of us to be tolerant of all things — even of the young Oxford prig and his talk.




From The Leisure Hour.

SERVIA.

Servia is about one-fifth smaller than Scotland, and sparsely inhabited by 1,352,000 inhabitants. Like Scotland, it is a land of mountains. On the south-west the mountains consist of offshoots of the Dinaric Alps, and elsewhere the branches of the Balkan chain. One of these, gathered into a knotty group in the centre of the country, forms the Rudrik Mountains. Another, running northwards, meets a range of the Carpathians, and with it forms the "Iron Gates" of the Danube. Nothing can exceed the wildness and stern sublimity of this celebrated portal, through which the great river flows. Generally speaking, Servia is traversed from south to north by extensive mountain ridges. These form valleys, which nowhere expand into plains. In its physical features the country is not unlike Bosnia and the Herzegovina, but with its green and well-wooded hills it is in striking contrast to the bare and sterile region of Montenegro.