“The fact is, that when we consider the correlation of forces, the apparent sympathy of spirit manifestations with electric conditions, the almost revealed mysteries of what may be called the odic force, and the relation of all these phenomena to the nervous system in man, it is not safe to do anything to the nervous system that will—”
“Hang the nervous system! Herbert, we can agree in one thing: old memories, reveries, friendships, center about that:—is n’t an open wood-fire good?”
“Yes,” says Herbert, combatively, “if you don’t sit before it too long.”
The best talk is that which escapes up the open chimney and cannot be repeated. The finest woods make the best fire and pass away with the least residuum. I hope the next generation will not accept the reports of “interviews” as specimens of the conversations of these years of grace.
But do we talk as well as our fathers and mothers did? We hear wonderful stories of the bright generation that sat about the wide fireplaces of New England. Good talk has so much short-hand that it cannot be reported,—the inflection, the change of voice, the shrug, cannot be caught on paper. The best of it is when the subject unexpectedly goes cross-lots, by a flash of short-cut, to a conclusion so suddenly revealed that it has the effect of wit. It needs the highest culture and the finest breeding to prevent the conversation from running into mere persiflage on the one hand—its common fate—or monologue on the other. Our conversation is largely chaff. I am not sure but the former generation preached a good deal, but it had great practice in fireside talk, and must have talked well. There were narrators in those days who could charm a circle all the evening long with stories. When each day brought comparatively little new to read, there was leisure for talk, and the rare book and the in-frequent magazine were thoroughly discussed. Families now are swamped by the printed matter that comes daily upon the center-table. There must be a division of labor, one reading this, and another that, to make any impression on it. The telegraph brings the only common food, and works this daily miracle, that every mind in Christendom is excited by one topic simultaneously with every other mind; it enables a concurrent mental action, a burst of sympathy, or a universal prayer to be made, which must be, if we have any faith in the immaterial left, one of the chief forces in modern life. It is fit that an agent so subtle as electricity should be the minister of it.