"Conversation is like a game at tennis,
or any other game of skill. A person shines
in one company who makes no figure in
another- just as a tolerably good cricketer,
who might be an acquisition to a country
club, would have his wicket struck down
at the first bowl at *Lords-ground*. The
same person is frequently dull at one time
and brilliant at another: sometimes those
who are most silent at the beginning of an
entertainment are most loquacious at the end.
There is a *run in the luck* both in cards
and conversation. Some people are good
speakers but bad hearers: these are put out,
unless they have all the talk to themselves.
Some are best in a *tete-a-tete*; others
in mixed company. Some persons talk well on
a set subject, who can hardly answer a common
question, still less pay a compliment or make
a *repartee*. Conversation may be divided
into the *personal* or the *didactic*: the
one resembles the style of a lecture, the
other that of a comedy. There are as many who
fail in conversation from aiming too high a
standard of excellence, and wishing only to
utter oracles or *jeux-d'esprit*, as there are
who expose themselves from having no standard
at all, and saying whatever comes into their
heads. Pendants and gossips compose the largest
class. Numbers talk on without paying any
attention to the effect they produce upon their
audience: some few take no part in the discourse
but by assenting to everything that is said, and
these are not the worst companions in the world.
An outcry is sometimes raised against dull
people, as if it were any fault of theirs. The
most brilliant performers very soon grow dull,
and we like people to begin as they end. There
is then no disappointment nor false excitement.
The great ingredient in society is good-will. He
who is pleased with what he himself has to say,
and listens in his turn with patience and
good-humour, is wise and witty enough for us. We
do not covet those parties where one wit dares
not go, because another is expected. How
delectable must the encounters of such pretenders
be to one another. How edifying to the bye-standers."
*Trifles Light As Air* # VIII.
*The Atlas* September 27 & October 4, 1829