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Raillery is the finest part of conversation; but, as it is our usual custom to counterfeit and adulterate whatever is too dear for us, so we have done with this, and turn it all into what is generally called repartee, or being smart; just as when an expensive fashion comes up, those who are not able to reach it, content themselves with some paltry imitation. It now passes for raillery to run a man down in discourse, to put him out of countenance, and make him ridiculous; sometimes to expose the defects of his person or understanding; on all which occasions, he is obliged not to be angry, to avoid the imputation of not being able to take a jest. It is admirable to observe one who is dexterous at this art, singling out a weak adversary, getting the laugh on his side, and then carrying all before him. The French, from whence we borrow the word, have a quite different idea of the thing, and so had we in the politer age of our fathers. Raillery, was to say something that at first appeared a reproach or reflection, but, by some turn of wit unexpected and surprising, ended always in a compliment, and to the advantage of the person it was addressed to. And surely one of the best rules in conversation is, never to say a thing which any of the company can reasonably wish we had rather left unsaid: nor can there any thing be well more contrary to the ends for which people meet together, than to part unsatisfied with each other or themselves.-Swift.
In exemplification of this, we may give an anec
dote of the duke of Buckingham. "My lord,” said he to the earl of Orrery, "you will certainly be damned." "How, my lord?" said the earl, with some warmth. "Nay, nay, there is no help for it," answered the duke, "for it is positively said, 'Cursed is he of whom all men speak well."
This is taking a man by surprise, and being welcome when you have surprised him. The person flattered receives you into his closet at once; and the sudden change of his heart, from the expectation of an ill-wisher, to find you his friend, makes you in his full favour in a moment, more so than if you had paid him the finest compliment. The spirits that were raised so suddenly against you, are as suddenly raised for you.
PASSING ONE'S TIME.
There is no saying shocks me so much as that which I hear very often, "that a man does not know how to pass his time." It would have been but illspoken by Methusalah in the nine hundred and sixty-ninth year of his life.-Cowley.
Sir Harry Hargrave's mind is full of the most obsolete errors; a very Monmouth-street of threadbare prejudices: if a truth gleam for a moment upon him, it discomposes all his habit of thought, like a stray sunbeam on a cave full of bats.-Bulwer.
When a man has no design but to speak plain truth, he may say a great deal in a very narrow compass.-Steele.
Old Walton, in his "Complete Angler," after having given some choice directions how to dress a pike, observes that "this dish of meat is too good for any but anglers, or very honest men.”
Are as the shrines where all the relics of saints, full of true virtue, and that without delusion and imposture, are preserved and reposed.—Bacon.
AFFECTATION OF GRANDEUR.
Senecio was a man of a turbid and confused wit, who could not endure to speak any but mighty words and sentences, till this humour grew at last into so notorious a habit, or rather disease, as became the sport of the whole town; he would have no servants but huge, massy fellows; no plate or household stuff but thrice as big as the fashion; you may believe, (for I speak it without raillery,) his extravagancy came at last into a madness, that he would not put on a pair of shoes, each of which was not big enough for both his feet; he would eat nothing but what was great, nor touch any fruit but horse-plums and pound-pears.—Seneca.
LOVE OF LITTLENESS.
I confess, I love littleness almost in all things. A little convenient estate, a little cheerful house, a little company, and a very little feast, and, if I were ever to fall in love again, (which is a great passion, and therefore I hope I have done with it,) it would be, I think, with prettiness, rather than with majestical beauty.-Cowley.
Successful poets have a great authority over the language of their country. Cowley's happy expression of "the great vulgar," is become a part of the English phraseology.-Hurd.
Dr. Butler said of strawberries, "Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did."
A HABITUAL BORE.
Lord Chesterton we have often met with, and suffered a good deal from his lordship: a heavy, pompous, meddling peer, occupying a great share of the conversation-saying things in ten words which required only two, and evidently convinced that he is making a great impression; a large man with a large head, and a very landed manner, knowing enough to torment his fellow-creatures, not to instruct them, the ridicule of young ladies, and the natural butt and
target of wit. It is easy to talk of carnivorous animals and beasts of prey, but does such a man, who lays waste a whole civilized party of beings by prosing, reflect upon the joy he spoils, and the misery he creates, in the course of his life? and that any one who listens to him through politeness, would prefer toothache or earache to his conversation? Does he consider the extreme uneasiness which ensues when the company have discovered a man to be an extremely absurd person, at the same time that it is absolutely impossible to convey, by words or manner the most distant suspicion of the discovery? And, then, who punishes this bore? What sessions or what assizes for him? What bill is found against him? Who indicts him? When the judges have gone their vernal and autumnal rounds, the sheepstealer disappears-the swindler gets ready for the Bay-the solid parts of the murderer are preserved in anatomical collections. But after twenty years of crime, the bore is discovered in the same house, in the same attitude, eating the same soup-untried-unpunished -undissected.-Sydney Smith.
When Coleridge in 1799, went to Germany, he left word to Lamb, that if he wished any information on any subject he might apply to him, (i. e. by letter,) so Lamb sends him the following abstruse proposi tions, to which, however, Coleridge did not "deign an answer."