on the Art of Conversation

“The power of preserving silence is the very first requisite to all who wish to shine, or even please in discourse; and those who cannot preserve it, have really no business to speak. Of course, I do not mean the dull, ignorant, sulky, or supercilious silence, of which we see enough in all conscience; but the graceful, winning and eloquent silence. The silence that, without any deferential air, listens with polite attention, is more flattering than compliments, and more frequently broken for the purpose of encouraging others to speak, than to display the listener’s own powers. This is the really eloquent silence. It requires great genius–more perhaps than speaking–and few are gifted with the talent; but it is of such essential advantage, that I must recommend its study to all who are desirous to take a share in conversation, and beg they will learn to be silent, before they attempt to speak.”

–Arthur Martine