twenty-seven individual cups of tea._ Dr. Samuel Johnson's Dictionary appeared in 1755. For his horror of death, his fondness for tea, and his Highland tour with Boswell, see the latter's _Life of Johnson_; consult the late Dr. Hill's admirable index in his edition of the _Life_.]

[Note 19: _Mim-mouthed friends_. See J. Wright's _English Dialect Dictionary_. "Mim-mouthed" means "affectedly prim or proper in speech."]

[Note 20: "_A peerage or Westminster Abbey!_" Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), the most famous admiral in England's naval history, who won the great battle of Trafalgar and lost his life in the moment of victory. Nelson was as ambitious as he was brave, and his cry that Stevenson quotes was characteristic.]

[Note 21: _Tread down the nettle danger_. Hotspur's words in _King Henry IV_, Part I, Act II, Sc. 3. "Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety."]

[Note 22: _After Thackeray and Dickens had each fallen in mid-course?_ Thackeray and Dickens, dying in 1863 and in 1870 respectively, left unfinished _Denis Duval_ and _The Mystery of Edwin Drood_. Stevenson himself left unfinished what would in all probability have been his unquestioned masterpiece, _Weir of Hermiston_.]

[Note 23: _All who have meant good work with their whole hearts, have done good work_. See Browning's inspiring poem, _Rabbi Ben Ezra_, XXIII, XXIV, XXV:--

"Not on the vulgar mass Called "work," must sentence pass, Things done, which took the eye and had the price; O'er which, from level stand, The low world laid its hand, Found straightway to its mind, could value in a trice:

But all, the world's coarse thumb And finger failed to plumb, So passed in making up the main account; All instincts immature, All purposes unsure, That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount:

Thoughts hardly to be packed Into a narrow act, Fancies that broke through language and escaped; All I could never be, All, men ignored in me, This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped."]

[Note 24: _Whom the Gods love die young._ "Quem di diligunt adolescens moritur."--Plautus, _Bacchides_, Act IV, Sc. 7.]

[Note 25: _Trailing with him clouds of glory._ This passage, from Wordsworth's _Ode on the Intimations of Immortality_ (1807), was a favorite one with Stevenson, and he quotes it several times in various essays.]

IV

TALK AND TALKERS

I

"Sir, we had a good talk."[1]--JOHNSON.

"As we must account[2] for every idle word, so we must for every idle silence."--FRANKLIN.

There can be no fairer ambition than to excel in talk; to be affable, gay, ready, clear and welcome; to have a fact, a thought, or an illustration, pat to every subject; and not only to cheer the flight of time among our intimates, but bear our part in that great international congress, always sitting, where public wrongs are first declared, public errors first corrected, and the course of public opinion shaped, day by day, a little nearer to the right. No measure comes before Parliament but it has been long ago prepared by the grand jury of the talkers; no book is written that has not been largely composed by their assistance. Literature in many of its branches is no other than the shadow of good talk; but the imitation falls far short of the original in life, freedom and effect. There are always two to a talk, giving and taking, comparing experience and according conclusions. Talk is fluid, tentative, continually "in further search and progress;" while written words remain fixed, become idols even to the writer, found wooden dogmatisms, and preserve flies of obvious error in the amber[3] of the truth. Last and chief, while literature, gagged with linsey-woolsey, can only deal with a fraction of the life of man, talk goes fancy free[4] and may call a spade a spade.[5] It cannot, even if it would, become merely aesthetic or merely classical like literature. A jest intervenes, the solemn humbug is dissolved in laughter, and speech runs forth out of the contemporary groove into the open fields of nature, cheery and cheering, like schoolboys out of school.

Essays of Robert Louis Stevenson Page 28

Robert Louis Stevenson

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