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The duties of each individual of which a family is composed, being, during the earlier part of the day duly performed, the evening should be open for rest or amusement. The consciousness of not having neglected any thing important, is in itself a pleasurable feeling, and gives a right to enjoy the amusement or repose which the close of the day may bring with it. Where there are young people, therefore, growing up, who form a part of the evening circle, it is, on their account, very desirable to render it cheerful and agreeable; varying the amusements, and promoting conversation chiefly of an animated and cheering nature; perhaps mingling with it, also, subjects and reflections of an improving kind, whenever they can be introduced in any easy and unrepelling manner. Home should, always, be the seat of innocent enjoyment to the young, counterpoising the influence over their morals which the pleasures of the world too readily obtain. A home presenting examples of virtue, and at the same time cherishing the happiness and promoting the comfort of every individual within its sphere, cannot fail to have a beneficial effect upon the unformed character of youth. Not only while under its immediate influence, but even when apparently withdrawn from it, will its traces be engraved on the remembrance, and assist towards effacing less harmless and pure impressions which other scenes may make. If such apparently trivial circumstances affect the welfare of a family, surely a mother will never abandon herself to any pursuits inconsistent with those which have so important an object in view. When her
children are assembled around her for social intercourse, she will rouse herself to encourage and support lively and good humoured conversation, or to promote every variety of simple amusement, which may serve as relaxations from study or business. The father, too, ought, without doubt, to give his share of aid towards the general happiness of the family party; to banish from his countenance the anxious lines which the cares of the day may have traced upon it, and to enter into the amusements of the younger branches of his family, with as much sympathy as the difference of years between them and himself will allow.
MRS. L. Should not conversation form the chief amusement of the family evening party?
MRS. B. Certainly it should, and, therefore, to converse well, is an art of much value to women. is the most certain means by which they may give a charm to social life; and by which they may banish dulness, the moment in which it attempts to intrude itself. No other talent or amusement has an equal power at all times: music may often fail to withdraw our thoughts from unpleasant remembrances; and the theatre, ball-room, and card-table, are not, always, in unison with the state of our feelings, which at times renders them irksome or indifferent to us. But it is not thus with conversation: which is scarcely ever so powerless as not to beguile the thoughts from even the most painful recollections; or to release them from that lethargic state in which they are sometimes confined. No one can prize too highly the privilege we possess, in this power of communicating and
interchanging our ideas with those of our fellowcreatures. Conversation is, at once, the medium of affection, consolation, amusement, and instruction. It is the means by which wisdom may obtain an influence over weakness and folly; piety over irreligion and immorality. But how lamentable it is, that this blessing should ever be the instrument of evil! That thus gifted by our Creator, we should ever presume to speak of him with irreverence and ingratitude, or to tempt the unstable, by the language of levity and folly, to turn from the paths of wisdom! Women, in particular, upon whom devolves the charge of rising generations, and by whom the first impressions are made upon the human mind; who have, also, generally considerable influence within their various spheres, should be cautious not to utter any sentiment, or to indulge in any conversation, inconsistent with virtue and piety. Not even the insignificance of the individual who could give utterance to irreverent sentiments, or who could scoff at things of serious import, would render him harmless in the society of the young, whose abhorrence of evil would be diminished by familiarity with its language.
MRS. L.-You would not, I presume, exclude lively conversation, or banish from our circles those persons who have wit and humour?
MRS. B.-It would be unnatural and also useless to desire such an exclusion; but is it not reasonable and essential to prohibit improper subjects from our conversation? Is there not range sufficient for the exercise of the greatest wit, or for the display of the liveliest humour, without touching either
upon hallowed or licentious ground? Good taste, as well as good feeling, if permitted to mark out the boundary of conversation, will yet leave space enough for it to "flow like waters after summer showers."
MRS. L.-What do you think should be the chief characteristics in the conversation of women in general society?
To converse agreeably requires, in the first place, a cultivated mind, without which your conversation would be insipid to others; and you would have no interest and zest for an intercourse with sensible and well-informed people. Another requisite is to have well-governed feelings. These will enable you to preserve your own equanimity, and to avoid giving disturbance to that of others, whose opinions and prejudices are opposed to yours, or whose satire and ridicule deal hardly with you. Discrimination should also be included in the list of requisites, in order that we may discover what subjects, according to time and circumstances, we should choose or avoid, and also the proper moment either to talk or to be silent. A monopoliser of conversation is, by no means, an agreeable appendage to a party, seldom amusing any one but herself; and, wrapped up in self-satisfaction, she forgets how unjust she is to the rest of the party, to whom conversation is common property, which each individual has a right to share whenever she chooses to claim it.
MRS. L. A great talker appears to me to forget that conversation has been compared to a game at ball, at which each player should urge
the ball with spirit into its right direction, but never suffer it to rest with him beyond its proper time, or to fall to the ground when any dexterity and skill on his part can keep it in play.
MRS. B. The love of display is another trait very unfavourable to conversation, the chief objects of which are either instruction or amusement; and neither of these can be thoroughly attained, when this weakness betrays itself in the speaker. When amusement is the object in view, it can only be promoted by a general sympathy in the topics of conversation amongst the party, and this will not prevail, if the love of display govern the conversation of any one present. Women, more particularly than men, should beware of encouraging this defect in themselves. It tempts them, often, into subjects beyond their depth, and exposes them to ridicule much more frequently than it acquires admiration.
MRS. L.-You think, then, that the improved state of a woman's mind, and the extent of her acquirements, ought rather to be inferred from the conversation, than forced and obtruded upon the observation of others?
MRS. B. Certainly; and I also think, that a well-informed woman cannot be mistaken for an ignorant person, although she may never be betrayed into any decided effort to display her knowledge: indeed, by being exempt from pedantry and self-sufficiency, she may even have credit given to her for more learning than she really possesses, and thus, innocently and unconsciously, may impose on opinion. This the bold pretender