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Tea-table Talk

Tea-table Talk by Jerome K. Jerome
By: (1859-1927)

As the New York Times said in 1903, this lesser-known work by Jerome K. Jerome does not display “the wit of Congreve or even the glittering sort Mr. Jerome employs in some of his other books.”

It takes the form of imaginary conversations between the writer and a number of un-named characters at the afternoon tea table. The Woman of the World, the Old Maid, the Girton Girl, the Philosopher and the Minor Poet wax lyrical on subjects like marriage, art, society and politics. Frequently they appear to prefer the sound of their own voice to that of others.

Although I couldn’t agree with the NY Times that it is the Baedeker guide to conversation, it is certainly an eye-opening glimpse into this now almost extinct art. The participants are already bemoaning the lack of invigorating conversation in society: “Conversation has become a chorus; or, as a writer wittily expressed it, the pursuit of the obvious to no conclusion.”

First Page:

TEA TABLE TALK

CHAPTER I

"They are very pretty, some of them," said the Woman of the World; "not the sort of letters I should have written myself."

"I should like to see a love letter of yours," interrupted the Minor Poet.

"It is very kind of you to say so," replied the Woman of the World. "It never occurred to me that you would care for one."

"It is what I have always maintained," retorted the Minor Poet; "you have never really understood me."

"I believe a volume of assorted love letters would sell well," said the Girton Girl; "written by the same hand, if you like, but to different correspondents at different periods. To the same person one is bound, more or less, to repeat oneself."

"Or from different lovers to the same correspondent," suggested the Philosopher. "It would be interesting to observe the response of various temperaments exposed to an unvaried influence. It would throw light on the vexed question whether the qualities that adorn our beloved are her own, or ours lent to her for the occasion. Would the same woman be addressed as 'My Queen!' by one correspondent, and as 'Dear Popsy Wopsy!' by another, or would she to all her lovers be herself?"

"You might try it," I suggested to the Woman of the World, "selecting, of course, only the more interesting... Continue reading book >>


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