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Conversation What to Say and How to Say it   By:

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Minor punctuation errors have been changed without notice. Printer errors have been changed and are listed at the end.

CONVERSATION

What to Say and How to Say It

CONVERSATION

What to Say and How to Say It

BY

MARY GREER CONKLIN

FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY

NEW YORK AND LONDON

1912

COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY

FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY

All rights reserved for all countries

[ Printed in the United States of America ]

Published November, 1912

IN LOVING MEMORY

TO

A. E. C.

WHOSE DELIGHTFUL CONVERSATION STIMULATED MY YOUTH

AND IN GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THEIR SEVERE CRITICISM AND FRIENDLY AID TO

CHARLES TOWNSEND COPELAND

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH AT HARVARD COLLEGE

AND

FRANK WILSON CHENEY HERSEY

INSTRUCTOR IN ENGLISH AT HARVARD COLLEGE

PREFACE

"The best book that was ever written upon good breeding," said Dr. Johnson to Boswell, "the best book, I tell you, Il Cortegiano by Castiglione, grew up at the little court of Urbino, and you should read it." Il Cortegiano was first published by the Aldine Press at Venice, in 1528. Before the close of the century more than one hundred editions saw the light; French, Spanish, English, and German versions followed each other in rapid succession, and the Cortegiano was universally acclaimed as the most popular prose work of the Italian Renaissance. "Have you read Castiglione's Cortegiano ?" asks the courtier Malpiglio, in Tasso's dialog. "The beauty of the book is such that it deserves to be read in all ages; as long as courts endure, as long as princes reign and knights and ladies meet, as long as valor and courtesy hold a place in our hearts, the name of Castiglione will be held in honor."

In his Book of the Courtier , Castiglione said very little about perfection of speech; he discust only the standard of literary language and the prescribed limits of the "vulgar tongue," or the Italian in which Petrarch and Boccaccio had written. What he says about grace, however, applies also to conversation: "I say that in everything it is so hard to know the true perfection as to be well nigh impossible; and this because of the variety of opinions. Thus there are many who will like a man who speaks much, and will call him pleasing; some will prefer modesty; some others an active and restless man; still others one who shows calmness and deliberation in everything; and so every man praises or decries according to his mind, always clothing vice with the name of its kindred virtue, or virtue with the name of its kindred vice; for example, calling an impudent man frank, a modest man dull, an ignorant man good, a knave discreet, and so in all things else. Yet I believe that there exists in everything its own perfection, altho concealed; and that this can be determined through rational discussion by any having knowledge of the thing in hand."

If this superb courtier could not reach decisions regarding perfection in matters of culture and polish, I could scarcely hope to have entirely reconciled the contending phases of conversation, even if I have succeeded in impressing positively the evident faults to be avoided, and the avowed graces of speech to be attained. With Castiglione as a model I can only say regarding conversation what he said about the perfect courtier: "I praise the kind of courtier that I most esteem, and approve him who seems to me nearest right, according to my poor judgment.... I only know that it is worse not to wish to do well than not to know how."

Those heretofore interested in agreeable speech will at once recognize my obligation to the few men and women who have written entertainingly on conversation, and from whom I have often quoted... Continue reading book >>




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