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A my life hath been chiefly spent in consult
ing the honour and welfare of my country for more than forty years paft, not without an. swerable success, if the world and my friends have not flattered me;' so there is no point wherein I have so much laboured, as that of improving and polishing all parts of conversation between persons of quality, whether they meet by accident or invitation, at meals, tea, or visits, mornings, noons, or evenings.
I have passed, perhaps, more time than any other man of my age and country in visits and assemblies, where the polite persons of both fexes distinguish themselves; and could not,
[n] This treatise appears to have been written with the same view, as the tritical essay on the faculties of the mind, but upon a more general plan : the ridicule, which is there confined to literary composition, is here extended to conversation, but its object is the same in both ; the repetition of quaint phrases picked up by rote either from the living or the dead, and applied upon every occasion to conceal ignorance or stupidity, or to prevent the labour of thoughts to produce native Ten. timent, and combine such words as will precisely express it.
without much grief, observe how frequently both gentlemen and ladies are at a loss for questions, answers, replies, and rejoinders. However, my concern was much abated, when I found that these defects were not occafioned by any want of materials, but because those materials were not in every hand : for instance, one lady can give an answer better than ask a question : one gentleman is happy at a reply; another excels in a rejoinder : one can revive a languishing conversation by a sudden surprizing sentence; another is more dextrous in seconding; a third can fill the gap with laughing, or commending what has been said : thus fresh hints may
be started, and the ball of the discourse kept ир.
But, alas! this is too seldom the case, even in the most select companies. How often do we see at court, at publick visiting-days, at great men's levees, and other places of general meeting, that the conversation falls and drops to nothing, like a fire without fupply of fuel. This is what we all ought to lament; and against this dangerous evil I take upon me to affirm, that I have, in the following papers, provided an infallible remedy.
It was in the year 1695, and the fixth of his late majesty King WILLIAM the Third, of ever glorious and immortal memory, who rescued three kingdoms from popery and Navery, when, being about the age of fix-andthirty, my judgment mature, of good reputation in the world, and well acquainted with