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Talkability Henry van Dyke

Variations--On A Pleasant Phrase From Montaigne

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When Montaigne mentions GAYETY as the third clement of satisfying discourse, I fancy he does not mean mere fun, though that has its value at the right time and place. But there is another quality which is far more valuable and always fit. Indeed it underlies the best fun and makes it wholesome. It is cheerfulness, the temper which makes the best of things and squeezes the little drops of honey even out of thistle-blossoms. I think this is what Montaigne meant. Certainly it is what he had.

Cheerfulness is the background of all good talk. A sense of humour is a means of grace. With it I have heard a pleasant soul make even that most perilous of all subjects, the description of a long illness, entertaining. The various physicians moved through the recital as excellent comedians, and the medicines appeared like a succession of timely jests.

There is no occasion upon which this precious element of talkability comes out stronger than when we are on a journey. Travel with a cheerless and easily discouraged companion is an unadulterated misery. But a cheerful comrade is better than a waterproof coat and a foot-warmer.

I remember riding once with my lady Graygown fifteen miles through a cold rainstorm, in an open buckboard, over the worst road in the world, from LAC A LA BELLE RIVIERE to the Metabetchouan River. Such was the cheerfulness of her ejaculations (the only possible form of talk) that we arrived at our destination as warm and merry as if we had been sitting beside a roaring camp-fire.

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But after all, the very best thing in good talk, and the thing that helps it most, is FRIENDSHIP. How it dissolves the barriers that divide us, and loosens all constraint, and diffuses itself like some fine old cordial through all the veins of life--this feeling that we understand and trust each other, and wish each other heartily well! Everything into which it really comes is good. It transforms letter-writing from a task into a pleasure. It makes music a thousand times more sweet. The people who play and sing not at us, but TO us,--how delightful it is to listen to them! Yes, there is a talkability that can express itself even without words. There is an exchange of thought and feeling which is happy alike in speech and in silence. It is quietness pervaded with friendship.

Having come thus far in the exposition of Montaigne, I shall conclude with an opinion of my own, even though I cannot quote a sentence of his to back it.

The one person of all the world in whom talkability is most desirable, and talkativeness least endurable, is a wife.

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Fisherman's Luck
Henry van Dyke

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