Distribution Automatique

Sunday, June 20

"The best kind of conversation is that which may be
called *thinking aloud.* I like very well to speak
my mind on any subject (or to hear another do so) and
to go into the question according to the degree of interest
it naturally inspires, but not to have to get up a thesis
on every topoic. There are those, on the other hand, who
always seem to be practising on their audience, as if
they mistook them for a *DEBATING-SOCIETY*, or to hold a
general retainer, by which they are bound to explain every
difficulty, and answer every objection that can be started.
This, in private society and among friends, is not desirable.
You thus lose the two great ends of conversation, which are to
learn the sentiments of others, and see what they think
of yours. One of the best talkers I ever knew had this defect-
that he evidently only seemed to be considering less what he
felt on any point than what be said upon it, and that he
listened to you, not to weigh what you said, but to reply to
it, like counsel on the other side. This habit gave a brilliant
smoothness and polish to his general discourse, but, at the
same time, took from its solidity and prominence: it reduced
it to a tissue of lively, fluent, ingenious *commonplaces*,
(for original, genuine, observations are like 'minute drops
from off the eaves,' and not an incessant shower) and,
though his talent in this way was carried to the very extreme
of cleverness, yes I think it seldom, if every, went beyond it."

William Hazlitt
originally published in 1823
The Collected Works
Volume 2
(edited by Waller and Glover)