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THE IMPORTANCE OF CONVERSATION.
larger and more genial social nature, their finer or 13 city to apprehend and interpret the characters or others, their ability more easily and gracefully to put their notions into language, justify us in this requi sition. Added to all this, is the special fact that the right conduct and best interests of social life are intrusted to their guardianship.
As I urge this statement I am met by various apologies and complaints, such as—“we have no time; we have no opportunity to cultivate conversational power; we decline to admit the truth of your allegations in regard to our capacity or responsibility ; for we are not so highly gifted, nor is our position one of so much worth and dignity.”
I rejoin: if the mass of young women were to spend as much time upon intellectual culture, in acquiring the ability to talk well, as they devote to the lookingglass or toilet-table, we should witness an instant and rapid revolution in society ; if as much interest were
; felt and pains taken in the cultivation of really good manners, and in the wise and graceful use of the tongue, as are expended upon dress, flippant young coxcombs would have cause to mend their ways, or to quit the society they now frequent; and sensible, cultivated men would have less compunction in attending evening parties. The stammering, incoherent style of speech, the breaks and pauses in which the mind seems to be summoning its rebel vassals to
do their office, the spurious coin of slang and vulgarity current in our best circles, alike testify to the wretched need and the prime importance of distinctive conversational training.
May I be permitted to suggest a few hints as to the method for training the tongue to fluent and ready exercise ?
Let the story-telling habit so dear to children be continued, notwithstanding the awkward and uncomfortable feeling which self-consciousness so painfully imposes. You need never be at a loss for an auditory so long as children are numbered among your acquaintance; and if you exact a more appreciative hearer, you can easily arrange to listen as well as talk with your bosom friend-for every young lady has such. From anecdotes and tales you may proceed to narrations from your graver reading; and then to comments, discussion and criticism. You are thus acquiring the use of your lingual and mental abilities. Words grow tamed and flexible; ideas and illustrations yield their levies at command ; animated, , instructive and inviting speech becomes possible; and thus from small beginnings and in however limited a theatre, by patient continuance and earnest endeavor you gain one of the most beautiful accomplishments and at the same time one of the noblest agencies for good.
Let me here urge upon my younger readers the
peculiar and pre-eminent importance of fully and exactly comprehending the meaning of words, “ the counters of wise men, the coin of fools,” and at the same time insist upon their studious perusal of two most admirable and fascinating little books, written by Richard Chenevix Trench; one on “The Study of Words” the other on “English, past and present;" than which I am acquainted with no books better calculated to awaken and foster in the popular mind ajust and lively estimate of our noble English tongue.
Never read without a lexicon at hand; if possible, Richardson's. Never pass a word of the significance of which you are doubtful. Carefully con its primary and derivative meanings; and you shall find the coffers of your mind filling with beautiful and lasting treasures.
But leaving these didactic hints, which need only be considered as salient suggestions, I may briefly indicate some open doors to woman's generous social activity. It is true that our civilization may be haunted by such feminine monstrosities as Mrs. Jellyby and Mrs. Pardiggle; but is not its lustre brightened by such names as those of Mrs. Fry and Miss Dix? A beautiful lesson as to one of woman's spheres and her power to perform the duties it imposes, is taught in the unostentatious simple-hearted Christian labors of many of the Friends in this country and in England. Their schools for prisons, and among the
destitute; their tireless, yet silent efforts for the restoration of the fallen, the relief of the suffering; their constancy and patience in the performance of good works, are lasting memorials to their honor as well as significant instructors to their contemporaries. By co-operation with many of the schemes which have for their object the amelioration of the state of the poor and suffering, and by solitary ministration in the abodes of the lonely and oppressed, may women find a field for the exercise and gratification of the largest ambition. Hand to hand contact with the wretched ; personal presence in the abodes of the lowly; will rectify many an error of the brain-will enlighten many a dark place in the heart; and confer a lasting benison upon the visitor and the visited. Here then, in neighborly, friendly, and benevolent relations and offices, are the fullest scope and most admirable possibilities afforded to woman for the training of character, the discipline of virtues, the use of influence, and the attainment of substantial honor and glory.
We turn now to the last and most sacred refuge of our hopes on earth; the peculiar theatre for woman's struggles and success-Home. Some features of the domestic life of our country claim a moment's notice. We are an industrious and enterprising nation, in the earlier stages of development and civilization. Our labors, if we liken them to those of the husbandman,
OUR DOMESTIC LIFE.
nave been almost exclusively those of the spring time, of ploughing and sowing. Now the summer is advancing, when it becomes us with careful attention and unrelaxed diligence to keep down the weeds, and ward off if possible the dangers to which our crops are exposed. To drop the figure, our contest thus far has been with the enemies of a young people. We have had to clear primeval forests, to till a virgin continent, to lay the foundations of commerce and manufactures, to organize government, and to provide, in so far as has been practicable, for the wants of our higher nature. We have been chiefly engrossed by physical and political necessities; we have been mainly conscious of external pressure. How to get the means of living has been the great question, urged upon us as a people. With its answer we have been almost exclusively occupied. How to live, now that the means are acquired, has been accordingly almost overlooked. It may be averred, therefore, without much injustice, that we have little or no true domestic life in this country. Suppose I picture the home of a New York merchant in flourishing business; and let it stand with such slight modifications as may be necessary to adjust it to latitude and neighborhood, as the type of a large class of American homes.
The house is ample, convenient, and showy; the furniture abundant, sumptuous and costly ; everything