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1857.)

Academic Receptions.

169

* Particularly,' said , 'when, as was the case the other day, it is notorious that neither of them has any real respect for the idol which he is forced to crown. Then the political innuendoes, the under-currents of censure of the present conveyed in praise of the past, become tiresome after we have listened to them for five years. We long to hear people talk frankly and directly, instead of saying one thing for the mere purpose of showing that they are thinking of another thing. The Emperor revenged himself on Falloux by his antithesis : "que le désordre les avait uni, et que l'ordre les avait séparé.""

‘How did Falloux reply to it?' I asked.

'Feebly,' said - He muttered something about l'ordre having no firmer adherent than himself. In these formal audiences our great man has the advantage. He has his mot ready prepared, and you cannot discuss with him.'

We talked of the French spoken by foreigners. “The best,' said Circourt, 'is that of the Swedes and Russians, the worst that of the Germans.'

‘Louis Philippe,' said Z., ‘used to maintain that the best test of a man's general talents was his power of speaking foreign languages. It was an opinion that flatte cd his vanity, for he spoke like a native French, Italian, English, and German.'

'It is scarcely possible,' said Tocqueville, ‘for a man to be original in any language but his own ; in all others he is forced to say what he can, and that is generally something that he recollects.'

6

'I was much struck by that,' said Z., 'when conversing with Narvaez. He had been talking sensibly but rather dully in French. I begged him to talk Spanish, which I understand though I cannot speak. The whole man was changed. It was as if a curtain had been drawn up from between us. Instead of hammering at commonplaces, he became pointed, and spirited, and eloquent.'

• Is he an educated man?' I asked.

'For a Spaniard,' answered Z., 'yes. He has the quickness, the finesse, and the elegance of mind and of manner which belong to the South. The want of book-learning contributes to his originality.'

•The most wonderful speaker in a foreign language,' said Sumner, 'was Kossuth. He must have been between forty and fifty before he heard an English word. Yet he spoke it fluently, eloquently, and even idiomatically. He would have made his fortune among us as a stumporator.'

Tuesday, April 28.—Tocqueville drank tea with us.
We talked rather of people than of things.

Circourt,' said Tocqueville, ‘is my dictionary. When I wish to know what has been done or what has been said on any occasion, I go to Circourt. He draws out one of the drawers in his capacious head, and finds there all that I want arranged and ticketed.

One of the merits of his talk, as it is of his character, is its conscientiousness. He has the truthfulness of a thorough gentleman, and his affections are as strong as

1857.]

French Conversers.

171

well ;

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his hatreds. I do not believe he would sacrifice a friend even to a good story, and where is there another man of whom that can be said ?'

What think you of Mrs. T—-?' I inquired.

'I like her too,' he replied, “but less than I do Circourt. She has considerable talent, but she thinks and reads only to converse. She has no originality, no convictions. She says

what she thinks that she can say like person writing a dialogue or an exercise. Whether the opinion which she expresses be right or wrong, or the story that she tells be true or false, is no concern of hers, provided it be bien dit.'

The fault of her conversation,' I said, 'seems to me to be, that while she is repeating one sentence she is thinking of the next, and that while you are speaking to her, she is considering what is to be her next topic. I have noticed this fault in other

very

fluent conversers. · They are so intent on the future that they neglect the present.'

It is rather a French than an English fault,' said Tocqueville. “The English have more curiosity and less vanity, than we have; more desire to hear and less anxiety to shine. They are often, therefore, better causeurs than we are. Le grand talent pour le silence, or, in other words, the power of listening which has been imputed to them, is a great conversational virtue. I do not believe that it was said ironically or epigrammatically. The man who bestowed that praise knew how rare a merit silence is.'

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May we not owe that merit,' I asked, “to our bad French? We shine most when we listen.'

'A great talker,' I continued, Montalembert, is to breakfast with us. Whom shall I ask to meet him?'

Not me,' said Tocqueville, unless you will accept me as one of the chorus. I will not take a premier rôle, or any prominent rôle, in a piece in which he is to act. like his society ; that is, I like to sit silent and hear him talk, and I admire his talents; and we have the strong bond of common hatreds, though perhaps we hate on different, or even opposite grounds, and I do not wish for a dispute with him, of which, if I say anything, I shall be in danger. If we differed on only one subject, instead of differing, as we do, on all but one, he would pick out that single subject to attack me on. I am not sure that even as host you will be safe. He is more acute in detecting points of opposition than most men are in finding subjects of agreement. He avoids meeting you on friendly or even on neutral ground. He chooses to have a combat en champ clos.

• Take care,' he added, “and do not have too many sommités. They watch one another, are conscious that they are watched, and a coldness creeps over the table.'

'We had two pleasant breakfasts,' I said, 'a fortnight ago. You were leader of the band at one, Z. at the other, and the rest left the stage free to the great actor.'

*As for me,' he answered, I often shut myself up, particularly after dinner, or during dinner if it be long. 1857.]

Conversation in France.

173

The process of digestion, little as I can eat, seems to oppress me.

' Z. is always charming. He has an aplomb, an ease, a verve arising from his security that whatever he says will interest and amuse. He is a perfect specimen of an ex-statesman, homme de lettres, and père de famille, falling back on literature and the domestic affections. As for me, I have intervals of sauvagerie, or rather the times when I am not sauvage are the intervals. I have many, perhaps too many, acquaintances whom I like, and a very few friends whom I love, and a host of relations. I easily tire of Paris, and long to fly to the fields and woods and seashore of my province.'

We passed to the language of conversation.

• There are three words,' said Tocqueville,' which you have lost, and which I wonder how you do without,Monsieur, Madame, and Mademoiselle. You are forced always to substitute the name. They are so mixed in all our forms that half of what we say would appear abrupt or blunt without them.

"Then the tutoyer is a nuance that you want. When husband and wife are talking together they pass insensibly, twenty times perhaps in an hour, from the vous to the tu. When matters of business or of serious discussion are introduced, indeed whenever the affections are not concerned, it is vous. With the least soupçon of tenderness the tu returns.'

Yet,' I said, you never use the tu before a third person.'

Never,' he answered, 'in good company. Among the

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