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|The importance of conversation
Written by Line
(6/7/2007 10:43 p.m.)
During this GR, I've been struck more than ever by the importance that JA placed on good conversation. For her, it seemed to be almost a moral imperative - one of the signs of a lady or gentleman. Of course, part of it was that a lady or gentleman would do their best to put others at ease, but she also seems to have emphasized the importance of making *interesting* conversation:
The introduction was followed up on [Wickham's] side by a happy readiness of conversation -- a readiness at the same time perfectly correct and unassuming. (ch.15)
Their table was superlatively stupid. Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the game, except when Mrs. Jenkinson expressed her fears of Miss De Bourgh's being too hot or too cold, or having too much or too little light. (ch.29)
Colonel Fitzwilliam, who led the way, was about thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman... Colonel Fitzwilliam entered into conversation directly with the readiness and ease of a well-bred man, and talked very pleasantly. (ch.30)
[Elizabeth] entered the house with the wish of appearing cheerful as usual, and the resolution of repressing such reflections as must make her unfit for conversation. *gasp!* (ch.36)
Mr. Gardiner, whose manners were easy and pleasant, encouraged [Mrs. Reynolds'] communicativeness by his questions and remarks. (ch.43)
By Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley they were noticed only by a curtsey; and, on their being seated, a pause, awkward as such pauses must always be, succeeded for a few moments. It was first broken by Mrs. Annesley, a genteel, agreeable-looking woman, whose endeavour to introduce some kind of discourse proved her to be more truly well bred than either of the others.
Both Col. Fitzwilliam and Mrs. Annesley are described as well-bred because they do their best to start a conversation. Some people have interpreted *Wickham's* conversational skill as a sign that Elizabeth should beware of people who speak well, but I think it's more the opposite: One of the reasons Wickham is able to fool so many people so long and so often is that at least at first, he behaves like a real gentleman.
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