Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

profound. A lecture ought to be something which all can understand, about something which interests everybody. I think, that, if any experienced lecturer gives you a different account from this, it will probably be one of those eloquent or forcible speakers who hold an audience by the charm of their manner, whatever they talk about,-even when they don't talk very well.

But an average, which was what I meant to speak about, is one of the most extraordinary subjects of observation and study. It is awful in its uniformity, in its automatic necessity of action. Two communities of ants or bees are exactly alike in all their actions, so far as we can see. Two lyceum assemblies, of five hundred each, are so nearly alike, that they are absolutely undistinguishable in many cases by any definite mark, and there is nothing but the place and time by which one can tell the “remarkably intelligent audience” of a town in New York or Ohio from one in any New England town of similar size. Of course, if any principle of selection has come in, as in those special associations of young men which are common in cities, it deranges the uni. forinity of the assemblage. But let there be no such interfering circumstances, and one knows pretty well even the look the audience will have, before he goes in. Front seats: a few old folks,—shiny-headed, slant up best ear towards the speaker,—drop off asleep after a while, when the air begins to get a

little narcotic with carbonic acid. Bright women's faces, young and middle-aged, a little behind these, but toward the front-(pick out the best, and lecture mainly to that.) Here and there a countenance, sharp and scholarlike, and a dozen pretty female ones sprinkled about. An indefinite number of pairs of young people,-happy, but not always very ato tentive. Boys, in the background, more or less quiet Dull faces here, there,—in how many places! I don't say dull people, but faces without a ray of sympathy or a movemert of expression. They are what kill the lecturer. These negative faces with their vacuous eyes and stony lineaments pump and suck the warm soul out of him ;—that is the chief reason why lecturers grow so pale before the season is over. They render latent any amount of vital caloric; they act on our minds as those cold-blooded creatures I was talking about act on our hearts.

Out of all these inevitable elements the audience is generated,-a great compound vertebrate, as much like fifty others you have seen as any two mammals of the same species are like each other. Each audience laughs, and each cries, in just the same places of your lecture; that is, if you make one laugh or cry, you make all. Even those little indescribable movements which a lecturer takes cognizance of, just as a driver notices his horse's cocking his ears, are sure to come in exactly the same place of your octure always. I declare to you, that, as the monk

said about the picture in the convent,—thai he sometimes thought the living tenants were the shadows, and the painted figures the realities,—I have sometimes felt as if I were a wandering spirit, and this great unchanging multivertebrate which I faced night after night was one ever-listening animal, which writhed along after me wherever I fed, and coiled at my feet every evening, turning up to me the same sleepless eyes which I thought I had closed with my last drowsy incantation!

- Oh, yes! A thousand kindly and courteous acts,-a thousand faces that melted individually out of my recollection as the April snow melts, but only to steal away and find the beds of flowers whose roots are memory, but which blossom in poetry and dreams. I am not ungrateful, nor unconscious of all the good feeling and intelligence everywhere to be met with through the vast parish to which the lecturer ministers. But when I set forth, leading a

string of my mind's daughters to market, as the · country.folk fetch in their strings of horses— Pardon me, that was a coarse fellow who sneered at the syin. pathy wasted on an unhappy lecturer, as if, because he was decently paid for his services, he had therefore sold his sensibilities.-Family men get dreadfully homesick. In the remote and bleak village the heart, returns to the red blaze of the logs in one's fireplace at home.

“ There are his young barbarians all at play,"–

if he owns any youthiul savages.—No, the world has a million roosts for a man, but only one nest.

- It is a fine thing to be an oracle to which an appeal is always made in all discussions. The men of facts wait their turn in grim silence, with that slight tension about the nostrils which the conscious. ness of carrying a "settler” in the form of a fact or a revolver gives the individual thus armed. When a person is really full of information, and does not abuse it to crush conversation, his part is to that of the real talkers what the instrumental accompaniment is in a trio or quartette of vocalists.

- What do I mean by the real talkers ?– Why, the people with fresh ideas, of course, and plenty of good warm words to dress them in. Facts always yield the place of honor, in conversation, to thoughts about facts; but if a false note is uttered, down comes the finger on the key and the man of facts asserts his true dignity. I have known three of these men of facts, at least, who were always formidable, - and one of them was tyrannical.

— Yes, a man sometimes makes a grand appearance on a particular occasion; but these men knew something about almost everything, and never made mistakes.—He? Veneers in first-rate style. The mahogany scales off now and then in spots, and then you see the cheap light stuff.—I found very fine in conversational information, the other day when we were in company. The talk ran upon moun.

tains. He was wonderfully well acquainted with the leading facts about the Andes, the Apennines, and the Appalachians; he had nothing in particular to say about Ararat, Ben Nevis, and various other mountains that were mentioned. By and by some Revolutionary anecdote came up, and he showed singular familiarity with the lives of the Adamses, and gave many details relating to Major André. A point of Natural History being suggested, he gave an excellent account of the air-bladder of fishes. He was very full upon the subject of agriculture, but retired from the conversation when horticulture was introduced in the discussion. So he seemed well acquainted with the geology of anthracite, but did not pretend to know anything of other kinds of coal. There was something so odd about the extent and limitations of his knowledge, that I suspected all at once what might be the meaning of it, and waited till I got an opportunity.—Have you seen the “ New American Cyclopædia ?” said I.-I have, he replied; I received an early copy.—How far does it go ?-He turned red, and answered,—To Araguay -Oh, said i to myself,—not quite so far as Ararat;—that is the reason he knew nothing about it; but he must have read all the rest straight through, and, if he can remember what is in this volume until he has read all those that are to come, he will know more than I ever thought he would.

Since I had this experience, I hear that somebody

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »