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The following piece was sent to us from Dublin ; we shall say no more, but leave it to recommend itself.-1728.
THERE is one kind of conversation, which every one aims at, and every one almost fails in; it is that of story-telling. I know not any thing, which engages our attention with more delight, when a person has a sufficient stock of talents necessary for it, such as good sense, true humour, a clear head, a ready command of language, and a variety of proper gestures, to give life and spirit to what he says. If any of these be wanting, the listeners, instead of being diverted, are disobliged; but if : the person be utterly void of them all, as it is very often the case, he becomes a nuisance to the company, and they are so long upon the rack as he speaks. It has sometimes fallen to my lot, that a man whom I never offended, has laid me under the persecution of a long story, and compelled me
to hear what neither concerned himself nor me, nor indeed any body else, and at the same time he was as much in earnest as if both our lives and fortunes, and the felicity of the whole kingdom depended upon what he said. A humour very unaccountable! that a man shall be letting of words for an hour or two, with a very innocent intention, and after he has done his best, only makes me uneasy, and himself contemptible.
This natural infirmity in men, is not only confined to story-telling, but it appears likewise, in every essay whatsoever, of their intellectuals. As for instance, if one of these be a preacher of God's word, by far-fetched criticisms, numerous divisions, and sub-divisions, incoherent digressions, tedious repetitions, useless remarks, weak answers to strong objections, inferences to no premises, tedious exhortations, and many other methods of protraction ; he shall draw you out a discourse for an hour and a quarter, unequally dispensing opium and edification to his flock, there being seven sleepers for one hearer. If he be a lawyer, he shall by an uncommon way of amusement, run away with a subject, which might be explained in two minutes, and dilate upon it two hours, with such a volubility of tongue, such affluence of expression, with something so like a good style, and manner of thinking, that the judges and jury, attend with as much gravity, as if there was a continued chain of true reasoning, and solid argument. If he be a member of the upper or lower · house, he does not proceed four sentences, before the rest know where to have him an hour hence; in the mean time they divert one another, in talking of matters indifferent, till the gentleman has done. I could give many more instances, but that I think these sufficient for my present purpose; beside, lest I should incur the like reproach myself, I must in a few words, divide the story-tellers into the short, the long, the marvellous, the insipid, and the delightful.
The Short Story-teller is he, who tells a great deal in few words, engages your attention, pleases your imagination, or quickly excites your laughter. Of this rank were Xenophon, Plutarch, Macrobius, among the ancients. Ex. gr.
When the Nephelai of Aristophanes, a satire, upon Socrates, was acting, his friends desired him to retire, and hide behind them. No, said Socrates, I will stand up here, where I may be seen; for now I think myself like a good feast, and that every one has share of me. Vide Feast of Xenoohon.
Brasidas, the famous Lacedemonian General, caught a mouse; it bit him, and by that means made its escape. “0, Jupiter,” said he, “what creature so contemptible, but may have its liberty, if it will contend for it.” Vide Plutarch de profect. virtut.
Diogenes having sailed to Chios, while it was under the dominion of the Persians, said in a full assembly, the inhabitants were fools, for erecting a college, and building temples, since the Persians would not allow them the privilege of making their own priests, but sent them over the most illiterate of their Magi.
Augustus, while he was encamped with his army, somewhere near the Mantua, was disturbed three nights successively, by the hooting of an owl: proclamation was made to the soldiers, that whosoever caught the offender, (so that he might be brought to justice) should have an ample reward for his pains. Every one was loyally engaged in the pursuit of this bird ; at last, one more vigilant than the rest, found him in a hollow-tree, so brought him in triumph to the Emperor, who saw him with the greatest joy, but gave the soldier a sum of money, so far below his expectation, that he let the owl fly away that instant; so true a sense of liberty,ran through the very meanest of the Romans. Macrob. Sat.
The Long Story-teller, is one who tells little or nothing in a great number of words; for this, many among the moderns are famous, particularly the French. And among ourselves in this kingdom, we have a vast number of the better sort. As well as I can recollect, there are six deans, four judges, thirty-six counsellors at law, sixty-five attorneys, some few fellows of the college, every alderman through the whole nation except one. All old gentlemen and ladies without exception, five of the college of physicians, three or four lords, two hundred squires, and some few people of distinction beside.
I shall here insert a fragment of a long story, by way of example, containing one hundred and twenty-nine words, which might have been said in these ten following, viz.—Nine years ago, I was to preach for a friend.
" I remember once, I think it was about seven years ago,-No, I lye,--It was about nine years ago; for it was just when my wife was lying in of Dicky; I remember particularly the midwife would have had me staid to keep her company, and it was the heaviest day of storm and rain, that I ever saw before or since; but because I engaged to preach for a very worthy friend of mine, who lived about twenty miles off, and this being Saturday, I could not defer it to the next morning, though I had an excellent nag, which could have rid it in three hours; I bought of a neighbour, one Mr. Masterson; yet because I would not put my friend in a fright, &c.” Thus far he went in one minute; the story lasted an hour, so that upon a fair computation, he spoke 7740 words instead of 600, by which means he made use of 7140 more than he had occasion for. If a right application were made of this hint, which I have given, it would be of admirable effect in the dispatch of public business, as well as private conversation; nay, in the very writing of books, for which I refer the reader to the fable of the Bees, and the two elaborate Treatises, written by the learned Mr.
H n . The Marvellous, is he, who is fond of telling such things as no man alive, who has the least use of his reason, can believe. This humour prevails very much in travellers, and the vain glorious, but very pardonable, because no man's faith is imposed upon; or if it should be so, ill consequence attends persons seriously extravagant,