Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
The Art of Conversation
By Hannah More (17451833)
From the Memoirs
FOR about an hour nothing was uttered but words which are almost an equivalent to nothing. The gentleman had not yet spoken. The ladies with loud vociferations, seemed to talk much without thinking at all. The gentleman, with all the male stupidity of silent recollection, without saying a single syllable, seemed to be acting over the pantomime of thought. I cannot say, indeed, that his countenance so much belied his understanding as to express anything: no, let me not do him that injustice; he might have sat for the picture of insensibility. I endured his taciturnity, thinking that the longer he was in collecting, adjusting, and arranging his ideas, the more would he charm me with the tide of oratorical eloquence, when the materials of his conversation were ready for display; but alas! it never occurred that I have seen an empty bottle corked as well as a full one. After sitting another hour, I thought I perceived in him signs of pregnant sentiment which was just on the point of being delivered in speech. I was extremely exhilarated at this, but it was a false alarm; he essayed it not. At length the imprisoned powers of rhetoric burst through the shallow mounds of torpid silence and reserve, and he remarked with equal acuteness of wit, novelty of invention, and depth of penetration, thatwe had had no summer. Then, shocked at his own loquacity, he double-locked the door of his lips, and word spoke never more .