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got hold of me; and then B
and F-, they were my inseparable associates: after such companions I can scarcely have patience to listen to common talkers.
Miss H.-It is well for those who cannot find society to their taste, that there are books.
Dr. R.-I read constantly ; I am quite a devourer of books, all books that I can obtain: I can pick something good out of all; but my time is very precious this morning, and my visit has already been extended; but when I get into an interesting conversation, I, I -And, thought I, as he made his retiring bow, with the interesting subject, SELF, doctor, you are not soon weary.
I will detail one other demand on my patience from this ill-favoured propensity ; and I would that these were isolated passages in my listening history: but perhaps I may have been peculiarly associated with egotists. At all events, I know I am a great favourite with them, and that, whatever they may say about literary conversation, they always prefer my attentive ear.
I took up my abode for some time with a lady, whose habits of benevolence were extensive, and of whose true philanthropy of heart I had heard much. I expected to follow her to the almshouse, the hospital, and the garret: and I was not disappointed : thither she went, and for purposes the kindest and most noble; she relieved their pressing wants, ministered consolation in the kindest tone, and
gave religious instruction wherever needed. But then she kept a strict calendar of all these pious visitings, and that, too, for the entertainment of her company. All were called upon to hear the history of the appalling scenes she had witnessed, the tears of gratitude that had fallen on her hands, the prayers, half Vol. II.
articulate that had been offered to her by the dying; and to hear her attestations of disregard to the opposition she had to encounter in these her labours of love. Who, with such an appeal, could withhold their commendation ? I therefore, of course, as I listened again and again to the same tale to different auditors, heard many pretty complimentary speeches about magnanimity, &c.; and getting somewhat weary, I drew nearer to the lady's guests, till I tually thought I heard from one (he was a clergyman I believe) an inward whisper, that he would like to refer his friend to the four first verses of the sixth chapter of Matthew, but that it would be impolite. If my listening powers were too acute when I heard this, let me now lay aside my title, and, turning monitor at once, assure my young friends, if they would have their conversation listened to with pleasure, they must be economists with self as their subject.
There is one point, (and I would say it with reverence) on which God and man are agreed—their hatred of Selfishness : with this only difference, that God hates it everywhere, and man hates it everywhere but in himself. There he feels it not, knows it not, and never would discover it, did not the
prominence of the same quality in others come in perpetual and painful collision with it in himself; and many a hard rub, and many a rude knock, must his self-love suffer, before he discovers what part of him it is that has been wounded. Amid the thousand forms that Self assumes, in its influence upon our thoughts, and words, and deeds, the least harmful it may be, but certainly not the least offensive, is that in which it affects our conversation. We have indeed listened to the I, I, I, till we have thought it the worst-sounding letter of all the En
glish alphabet, only halting, in our opinion, between Eer brik it and its compound companion, the my, my, my, unds with which it rings in everlasting changes.
On behalf of the very young, we certainly have it o credit to plead, that they know very little of anything but
what is in some sense their own. If they talk of tak tudi persons, it must be their parents, their brothers and eccang sisters, because they are the only people they know:
if they talk of anybody's affairs, it must be their own, because they are acquainted with no other: if of events, it must be what happens to themselves, for they hear nothing of what happens to anybody else. As soon, therefore, as children begin to con
verse, it is most likely to be about themselves, or acut something that belongs to them: and to the rapid i tille! growing of this unwatched habit, may probably be
attributed the ridiculous and offensive egotism of
many persons in conversation, who in conduct, prove with a
that their feelings and affections are by no means self-engrossed. But the more indigenous this unsightly weed, the more need is there to prevent its growth. It has many varieties—the leaf is not always of the same shape, nor the flower of the same colour; but they are all of one genus ; and our readers who are botanists, will have no difficulty in detecting them, however much affected by the soil they grow in. The I's and my's a lady exhibits in conversation, will bear such analogy to her character, as the wares on the stall of the Bazar bear to the trade of the vender. Or, if she have a great deal of what is called tact, she will perhaps vary the article according to the demands of the market. In fashionable life it will be, my cousin Sir Ralph, my father the Earl, and my great uncle the Duke--the living relatives and the departed fathers, the halls of her family, their rent-rolls, or their graves, will
afford abundant materials for any conversation she may have to furnish out.
Among those who, having gotten into the world they know not how, are determined it shall at least be known they are there, it is my houses, my servants, my park, my gardens ; or if the lady be too young to claim on her own behalf, my father's houses, &c. &c., will answer all the purpose. But happily for the supply of this sort of talk, rank and wealth, though very useful, are not necessary to it. Without any ostentation whatever, but merely from the habit of occupying themselves with their own individuality, some will let the company choose the subject; but be it what it may, all they have to say upon it is the I or the my; books, travel, sorrow, sickness, nature, art—no matter—it is, I have seen I have done, I have been, I have learned, I have suffered, I have known. Whatever it be to others, the I is the subject to them ; for they tell you nothing of the matter but their own concern with it. For example, let the city of Naples be spoken of; one will tell you what is seen there, what is done there, what happens there, and making her reflections upon all, without naming herself ; you will only perceive by her knowledge and her remarks, that she has been in Naples : another will tell you how she came there, and why she went, and how long she staid, and what she did, and what she saw; and the things themselves will appear but as accidents to the idea of Self.
Some ladies I have known, who, not content with the present display of their powers, are determined to re-sell their wares at second hand; they tell you all the witty things they said to somebody yesterday, and the wise remarks they made to a certain company last night. I said, I remarked. The commo
dity should be valuable indeed to be thus brought to market a second time. Others there are, who, under pretext of confidence, little complimentary when shown alike to all, pester people with their own affairs. Before you have been two hours in their company, you are introduced to all their family, and all their family's concerns; pecuniary affairs, domestic secrets, and personal feelings : à sort of bird's-eye view of every thing that belongs to them, past, present, and to come: and wo to the secrects of those who may chance to have been in connexion with these egotists: in such a view, you must needs see ten miles round.
There is an egotism of which we must speak more seriously. Faults, that in the world we laugh at, when they attain the dignity and purity of sacred things, become matter of serious regrets. I speak nothing further of the ostentatious display of pious and benevolent exertion. We live at a time when religion, its deepest and dearest interests have become a subject of general conversation. We would have it so; but we mark, with regret, that Self has introduced itself here. The heartless loquacity -we must say heartless ; for in a matter of such deep interest, facility of speech bespeaks the feelings light—the unshrinking jabber with which people tell you their soul's history, their past impressions and present difficulties, their doctrines and their doubts, their manifestations and their experiences; not in the ear of confidence, to have those doubts removed, and those doctrines verified; not in the ear of anxious inquiry, to communicate knowledge and give encouragement; but anywhere, in any company, to anybody who will listen. The I felt, I thought, I experienced. My sorrows, my consolations. Sorrows that, if real, should blanch the