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Thus, — while at times, before our eye,
The clouds about the present part,
The Indian summer of the heart,
In founts of feeling which retain
Our early dreams not wholly vain!
CONVERSATION AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
George B. Emerson.
[The following extract forms an example of didactic style. The voice
should, in the reading of such pieces, be marked by the same traits as in elevated conversation, on topics of sentiment. The utterance should be a serious,” but “ animated” and distinct. The “middle pitch,” “ moderate force and rate,” prevail throughout.]
The peculiar facility with which educated females learn to excel in the art of conversation, has often been remarked. The hilarity, ready sympathy, and desire of pleasing, which are natural to woman, are intimations not to be mistaken of her Creator's intentions.
The charm of easy, various, cheerful, refined conversation, is too universally felt to need to be described. Whatever of excellent or curious can occupy the mind of man, may naturally be made the subject of conversation. A woman often has it in her power, — without departing from the modesty which is her greatest charm, — to lead conversation to the most elevated and interesting subjects. She might always have, among persons of the slightest civility, that of turning it away from whatever is impure, disagreeable, or unprofitable. When gracefully and skilfully used, it might be not only the means of present gratification, but the vehicle of instruction of the most permanent and ennobling kind. Is it unreasonable to say that special preparations should be made for the acquisition and exercise of this delightful art ?
The accomplishments are sometimes regarded, - as the name intimates, -as giving the last touch and finish, and to which almost any thing else in a female's education may be sacrificed. Sometimes, on the contrary, they are looked upon as trifling and valueless, wholly unworthy of the attention of an immortal creature. Truth, as usual, lies between. They may be misused; but they also may be sources of innocent and elevating pleasure to the possessor and to others. God has bestowed on woman an ear and a voice which enable her to utter sounds of exquisite music. He has constituted the air an elastic medium adapted to wafting these sounds, softened but unimpaired, to a distance, and nicely adapted to the vibrations of sonorous bodies, which He has formed, and which He has given man intelligence to shape into various instruments. Shall it be considered a perversion of the Maker's purposes, for woman to perfect herself in an innocent art, by which she can worthily praise God, and gladden the heart of man?
So with drawing. The eye may be trained to a quicker perception, and the mind to a more perfect taste and comprehension of the beautiful and grand in nature, by a course of instruction. The hand may be made a fit and ready minister to record or execute the conceptions or observations of the mind. Shall an art which thus opens to its possessor new sources of gratification, and enables her to transmit to an absent friend a conception of a fine scene, and to enrich her home with the beauties of the mountains and waters of distant lands, be condemned as trivial and frivolous ?
Accomplishments are too apt to be cultivated for the purpose of rendering their possessor an object of attention for a brief period; and, when they have served this purpose, they are too frequently thrown aside, as of no farther use. Why should it be so?' When a woman has found a home possessing too many attractions to leave her the wish to wander from it, why should she not add to them permanently those of her early accomplishments? They are not less pleasing to tried friends than to transient admirers. They may be retained to cheer her own solitude, to enliven and compose the spirits of her husband and children, and to gratify her friends. And when friends shall have departed, and life is wearing away, and the senses are beginning to fail, the accomplishments of her youth may be the solace of her age.
[An example of lively narrative and humorous description, requiring
attention to forcible and animated utterance, “ brisk movement,” and varied tone.]
To break the shackles of oppression, and assert the native rights of man, is esteemed by many among the noblest efforts of heroic virtue. But vain is the possession of political liberty, if there exists a tyrant of our own creation, who, without law or reason, or even external force, exercises over us the most despotic authority; whose jurisdiction is extended over every part of private and domestic life, controls our pleasures, fashions our garb, cramps our motions, fills our lives with vain cares and restless anxiety. The worst slavery is that which we voluntarily impose upon ourselves; and no chains are so cumbrous and galling as those which we are pleased to wear, by way of grace and ornament. Musing upon this idea, gave rise to the following dream or vision.
Methought I was in a country of the strangest and most singular appearance I had ever beheld : the rivers were forced into jet-d'eaus, and wasted in artificial waterworks; the lakes were fashioned by the hand of art; the roads were sanded with spar and gold dust; the trees all bore the marks of the shears, — they were bent and twisted into the most whimsical forms, and connected together by festoons of riband and silk fringe; the wild flowers were transplanted into vases of fine china, and painted with artificial white and red.
The disposition of the ground was full of fancy, but grotesque and unnatural, in the highest degree: it was all highly cultivated, and bore the marks of wonderful industry. But, among its various productions I could hardly discern one that was of any use.
My attention, however, was soon called off from the scenes of inanimate life, by the view of the inhabitants, whose form and appearance were so very preposterous, and, indeed, so unlike any thing human, that I fancied myself transported to the country of
“ The anthropophagi and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders ;"
for the heads of many of these people were swelled to an astonishing size, and seemed to be placed in the middle of their bodies. Of some, the ears were distended till they hung upon the shoulders; and of others, the shoulders were raised till they met the ears. There was not one free from some de. formity, or monstrous swelling, in one part or other : - some had no necks; others had necks that reached almost to their waists; the bodies of some were bloated up to such a size that they could scarcely enter a pair of folding doors; and others had suddenly sprouted up to such a disproportionate height, that they could not sit upright in their loftiest carriages.
Many shocked me with the appearance of being nearly cut in two, like a wasp; and I was alarmed at the sight of a few, in whose faces, otherwise very fair and healthy, I discovered an eruption of black spots, which I feared was the fatal sign of some pestilential disorder.
The sight of these various and uncouth deformities, inspired me with much pity, which, however, was soon changed into disgust, when I perceived, with great surprise, that every one of these unfortunate men and women was exceedingly proud of his or her own peculiar deformity, and endeavoured to attract my notice to it as much as possible. A lady, in particular, who had a huge swelling under her throat, and which, I am sure, by its enormous projection, prevented her from seeing the path she walked in, brushed by me with an air of the greatest self-complacency, and asked me if she was not a charming creature.
But, by this time, I found myself surrounded by an immense crowd, who were all pressing along in one direction; and I perceived that I was drawn along with them by an irresistible impulse, which grew stronger every moment. I asked whither we were hurrying with so eager steps? and was told that we were going to the court of Queen Fashion, the great Diana whom all the world worshippeth. I would have retired, but felt myself impelled to go on, though without being sensible of any outward force.
When I came to the royal presence, I was astonished at the magnificence I saw around me. The queen was sitting on a throne, elegantly fashioned in the form of a shell, and inlaid with gems and mother-of-pearl. It was supported by a chameleon, formed of a single emerald.
She was dressed in a light robe of changeable silk, which fluttered about her in a profusion of fantastic folds, that imitated the form of clouds, and like them were continually
changing their appearance. In one hand, she held a rougebox; and, in the other, one of those optical glasses which distort figures in length or in breadth, according to the position in which they are held.
At the foot of the throne, was displayed a profusion of the richest productions of every quarter of the globe, tributes from land and sea, from every animal and plant; perfumes, sparkling stones, drops of pearl, chains of gold, webs of the finest linen; wreaths of flowers, the produce of art, which vied with the most delicate productions of nature; forests of feathers, waving their brilliant colours in the air and canopying the throne; glossy silks, network of lace, silvery ermine, soft folds of vegetable wool, rustling paper, and shining spangles ; — the whole intermixed with pendants and streamers of the gayest tinctured riband.
All these together made so brilliant an appearance, that my eyes were, at first, dazzled; and it was some time before I recovered myself enough to observe the ceremonial of the court. Near the throne, and its chief supports, stood the queen's two prime ministers, — Caprice on one side, and Vanity on the other
Two officers seemed chiefly busy among the attendants. One of them was a man with a pair of shears in his hand, and a goose by his side, – a mysterious emblem, of which I could not fathom the meaning: he sat cross-legged, like the great Lama of the Tartars. He was busily employed in cutting out coats and garments, — not, however, like Dorcas, for the poor; — nor, indeed, did they seem intended for any mortal whatever, — so ill were they adapted to the shape of the human body. Some of the garments were extravagantly large, others as preposterously small : of others, it was difficult to guess to what part of the person they were meant to be applied. Here were coverings, which did not cover; ornaments, which disfigured; and defences against the weather, more slight and delicate than what they were meant to defend; but all were eagerly caught up, without distinction, by the crowd of votaries who were waiting to receive them.
The other officer was dressed in a white succinct linen garment, like a priest of the lower order. He moved in a cloud of incense more highly scented than the breezes of Arabia; he carried a tuft of the whitest down of the swan in one hand, and, in the other, a small iron instrument, heated redhot, which he brandished in the air. It was with infinite