Lilian Bell.

From a girl's point of view online

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It is not wilful cruelty which makes us
say that (to a woman) the word "bore" is
in the masculine gender and objective case,
object of our deepest detestation. Men are
oftener bores than women, for two reasons :
One is that they seldom stop to think that
they could be a bore to anybody ; and the
second is that we women never let them
see that we are being bored, for it is our
aim in life to look pleasant and to keep the
men's vanity done up in pink cotton, no
matter if we are secretly almost dropping
from our chairs with weariness the utter,


unspeakable weariness of the soul, com-
pared to which weariness of the body is a

Women are too tender-hearted. A woman
cannot bear to hurt a man's feelings by let-
ting him know that he is killing her by his
stupidity. And even if she did, in the no-
ble spirit of altruism, rather than selfish-
ness, the next woman, with one reproachful
glance at her, would pick up the mutilated
remains of the man's vanity and apply the
splints of her respectful attention and the
balm of her admiration, partly to add a new
scalp to her belt, and partly to show off the
unamiability of her sister woman.

So it is of no use to kick against the
pricks. Bores are in this world for a pur-
pose to chasten the proud spirit of women,
who otherwise might become too indolent
and ease-loving to be of any use and they
are here to stay. We have no conscience
concerning women bores. We escape from
them ruthlessly. And, perhaps, because
women are quicker to take a hint is the
reason there are fewer of them. It is only
the men who are left helpless in their ig-


norance, because no woman has the cour-
age to tell them.

Our only defence is in telling the men in
bulk what we have not the courage nor the
wish to tell the individual, and letting them
sit down and think hard, applying the re-
lentless microscope of self-analysis to their
carefully tended Ego, to see if, haply, any
of these things we say apply to them-

Of course, this is hard on men, because
very likely some of those who have been led
by women to believe that they are entertain-
ing, even to the verge of fascination, are the
very ones who are the greatest bores. But
we women do our best. We are hampered
by our supposed amiability, and bound up
by a thousand invisible cords of tact and
policy to a line of action which dupes the
cleverest of men. And we are shrewd
enough to know that if we should become
what they now, in the smart of their wound-
ed vanity, would call honest, they would
simply turn their broadcloth backs upon our
uncalled-for frankness and seek the hon-
eyed society of some sweet woman who flat-


tered them exactly as we used to flatter
them before we became so " honest."

Ah, well-a-day ! Enter the self-made man.
And with him the commercial spirit of the
age. Enter the clink of coin and the unctu-
ous corpulence of a roll of bills. Enter the
essence of self-satisfaction, the glorious spec-
tacle of a man who spells " myself " with a
capital M, and Jehovah with a little j.

Have you never noticed the change in
conversation with the entrance of a new
person ? How, when a lovely girl enters, the
men all straighten their ties and the women
moisten their lips ? How, when the new
person is a self-made man, with his newness
so apparent that he seems to exhale the
odor of varnish and gilt how all repose
vanishes, and whatever of crudity there is
anywhere suddenly makes itself known, and
rushes forth to meet the wave of self-boast-
ing which sweeps all before it when the
self-made man speaks ?

And yet I approve of the self-made man
in the abstract. It is the true spirit of
Americanism which caused him to raise
himself from the ranks of the poor and ob-


scure, and educate himself, or, more likely
still, grow rich without education. But is it
necessary for him to have the bad taste to
boast of it, and never let you forget for one
moment that he is the product of man's
hand and that the Creator only acted in the
capacity of sponsor ?

I admire the pluck, the perseverance, the
indomitable energy, the ambition which pro-
duced the n>an of prominence from the raw
boy; but, kind Heaven, let us forget for one
brief moment, if we can, that he did this

It is not the fact that he is a self-made
man that bores us we honor him for that.
But it is his vain boasting the tactless
forcing of his unwelcome personality into
general conversation, his weak vanity, which
demands our admiration for the toil and
hardships he has undergone, which, if they
had served the purpose they should have
done, would have made him too strong a
man, and too much of a man, to force either
pity or admiration from people when it was
not freely offered.

The favorite gibe of the self-made man is


directed against the college graduate. Let
there be a young fellow present who is fresh
from college, and let him mention any sub-
ject connected with college life, from hon-
ors to athletics, and then, if you are hostess,
sit still and let the icy waves of misery creep
over your sensitive soul, for this is the op-
portunity of his life to the self-made man.
Hear him tear colleges limb from limb, and
cite all the failures of which, he ever has
known to be those of college men. Hear
him tell of the futile efforts of college boys
to get into business. Hear him drag in
all the evidences of shattered constitutions,
ruined by study, and then hold your breath ;
for all this is but preliminary to the telling
of the story of a colossal success the his-
tory of the self-made man. You might as
well lean back and let him have his say,
for he has only been waiting all this time
for an opening in the conversation to in-
sert the wedge of his Ego.

It seems to be the prerogative of some
self-made men not only to boast of them-
selves, their wives, their sons, their daugh-
ters, their houses, their horses everything !


but to decry all methods of achievement
not their own, and all successes not won
by their methods. These are the self-made
men who bring into disrepute all the gran-
deur and glorious achievement of their kind.
Why must they spoil it ? I implore them to
assume a virtue if they have it not. I beg
them, with all their 'getting, to get under-
standing. And if they will not open their
eyes and see the anguish they are causing,
if they cannot detect the fixed smile of po-
lite endurance on the tired faces of their
patient women friends, there will come a
day, and we can already see its faint glim-
mering in the East, when we shall not care
whether they are self-made, and we could
even live through it if they were not made
at all.


THE dyspeptic generally wants to tell you
all about it. That is a bore to begin with ;
for nobody in the world wants to hear any-
body in the world tell all about anything in
the world. Oh, those wearisome, breathless
people, who insist upon giving you the tire-
some details of insipid trivialities ! There
is no escape from them ; they are every-
where. They are to be found on farms,
in mining- camps, in women's clubs, in
churches, jails, and lunatic asylums, and
the nearest approach to a release from them
is to be fashionable, for in society nobody
ever is allowed to finish a sentence.

This sort of a bore can only be explained
on the microbe theory. None other can ac-
count for its universality. You can carry
contagion of it in your clothes and inocu-


late a person of weak mental constitution,
who is of a build to take anything, until, in
a fortnight, he or she will be a hopeless
slave to the tell-all-about-everything habit.
There is nothing like the pleasing swiftness
of some of our modern diseases about it
such as heart failure, which nips you off
painlessly. It is rather like the old-fash-
ioned New England consumption, which
gives you a hectic flush and an irritating
hack, but which you can thrive on for fifty
years and then die of something else.

I never heard of a yacht which did not
carry at least one of this particular breed of
bores upon every trip. I never heard of a
private -car party which was free from it.
Or, if you do not carry them with you, you
meet them on the way, and they ruin the
sunset for the whole party.

Something ought to be done about it.
There ought to be a poll-tax on bores.
Mothers ought to train their children to
avoid lying and boring people with equal
earnestness. Infirmaries should be estab-
lished for the purpose of making the stupid
interesting, or classes organized on " How


to be Brief," or on "The Art of Relating
Salient Points," or on "The Best Method
of Skipping the Unessentials in Conversa-
tion." /would go, for one.

I quite envy a man who is an acknowl-
edged bore. He is so free from responsi-
bility. He does not care that the conversa-
tion dies every time he shows his face. He
is used to it. It is nothing to him that
clever men and women ache audibly in his
presence. He has no reputation to lose.
The hostess is not a friend of his, for whom
he feels that he must exert himself. A bore
has no friends. He is a social leech.

It implies, first of all, a superb conceit to
think anybody wishes one to tell all about
anything, but conceit is a natural attribute
a twin brother of its sister, vanity and
everybody has it to a greater or less de-
gree. Indeed, the cleverest man I know
quite the cleverest is one who always pan-
ders to this particular foible because he
recognizes its universality. He has a coun-
try-house, which is always full of guests, with
a great many girls among them. Every af-
ternoon, when he drives out from town, his


first sentence is, " Now come, children, and
tell me all about everything. Who has been
here, and what they said, and what you
thought, and everything that has happened,
including all that is going to happen. Don't
skip a word."

See the base flattery of that ! Is it any
wonder that his house is always full ? What
bores he would be responsible for making
if we were stupid enough to do as he asks!
The chief reason people do not is that ten
people cannot tell all they know about every-
thing, even if they want to. He is only
furnished with two ears.

The dyspeptic is one who makes the most
valiant effort to try. His dyspepsia is the
most important issue of the world with him,
and he will talk about it. He cannot keep
still and let other people enjoy their sound
digestion and healthful sleep. He will not
even let other people eat in peace. When
he refuses a dish at table he must needs
tell you why just as if you cared!

" Have some coffee, Mr. Bore ?"

" No, I thank you, Madame Sans-Gene.
I like coffee, but it doesn't like me!"


Irritating, maddeningly reiterated words
the trade-mark of the dyspeptic bore! I
feel like saying, "I agree with the coffee. /
don't like you either !"

A dyspeptic disagrees with me as relig-
iously as if I had eaten him.

No wonder a man is ill who never thinks
or talks of anything but the seat of his ail-
ment, for talk about it he will, and tell you
that he cannot eat hot breads or pastry or
griddle-cakes or waffles. And if any of those
adorable things which your soul loves are on
the table, he will sit and watch you eat them,
with his hand on his own pulse, and will en-
tertain you with cheerful statements of how
he would be feeling if he were eating any of
the deadly poisons, until it nearly gives you
indigestion to hear him describe it.

I dare say I know plenty of women dys-
peptics, as long as dyspepsia is said to be
our national ailment, but if I do I never
hear them talk about it.

Of course every woman knows that a
sick man is sicker than a thousand sick
women, each of whom is twice as sick as
he is. We all know that he can groan



louder and roll his eyes higher and keep
more people flying about, and all this
with just a plain pain, than his wife would
do with seven fatal ailments. Then to hear
him tell about it, after he has recovered, is
to imagine that he is Lazarus over again,
and that the day of miracles has returned,
that he ever lived to tell the tale. All this
refers to an acute attack. But when his
trouble is chronic, and it has to do, like dys-
pepsia, with a man's eating ! you cannot es-
cape. He will tell you all about it.

In the first place, dyspepsia is such a
refined and lady-like trouble. It has no dis-
gusting details. You can refer to it at all
times without fear of nauseating your hear-
ers. In the second place, you can count
on nearly half of your hearers having it too,
as dyspepsia is almost as catching as Chris-
tian Science.

Carlyle was the most famous of dyspep-
tics. But magnificent as he was in his
growling, I fancy it is more bearable to read
about it than it was for that adorable wife
of his to hear him talk about it. How well
we can imagine her feelings when she wrote,


"The amount of bile that he brings home
is awfully grand."

But one forgives much of his dyspeptic
talk, and even allows the mantle of one's
Christian charity to cover the sins of lesser
bile-cursed men to hear how he sums up
the subject :

"With stupidity and sound digestion, man
may front much. But what, in these dull,
unimaginative days, are the terrors of con-
science to the diseases of the liver? Not
on morality, but on cookery, let us build
our stronghold. There, brandishing our fry-
ing-pan as censer, let us offer sweet incense
to the devil and live at ease on the fat
things he has provided for his elect."

I really do feel sorry for dyspeptics when
I read a thing like that. I am not heartless.
It must be a sad thing not to be able to eat
lobster and ice-cream together, and to have
to say " No " to broiled mushrooms, and not
to dare to eat Welsh-rarebits after the the-
atre, and to have to lock up your chafing-
dish. But I do say this : unless a man
can talk of his trouble as cleverly as Car-
lyle and some of the choice dyspeptics I


know can almost do that I want them not
to talk at all. If they suffer, let them do
it in silence. If they die, let them die en-
tertainingly, or else, I say, don't die in

I never see a dyspeptic with his little
pair of silver scales on the table, weighing
out two ounces of meat, or one ounce of
bread, and looking like a death's-head at a
feast, and talking like a grave-digger with
Yorick's skull for a theme, that I do not
think of this :

" Fantastic tricks enough man has played
in his time ; has fancied himself to be most
things, even down to an animated heap of
glass ; but to fancy himself a dead iron bal-
ance for weighing pains and pleasures on
was reserved for this, his latter era."


WOMEN often complain that men in so-
ciety will not return measure for measure
in conversation, but stalk about dumb and
unanswering, leaving women gasping from
the fatigue of entertaining them.

But I am on the side of the men. I
always am. They are a misjudged and
maligned set. I approve of men keeping
silence when they have nothing to say. It
shows that they recognize their limitations
and refuse to rush in where angels fear to

Is not a wise silence sometimes to be
preferred to the wisest speech ? Is there
not often a finer eloquence in an answer-
ing silence than the cleverest words could
express ?

A man who talks constantly has a thou-


sand ways always at hand in which to make
a fool of himself. A silent man has but
one, and even then there are always
those who insist upon thinking that he is
silent because of his wisdom, and not from
lack of it, although Eliza Leslie says, "We
cannot help thinking that when a head is
full of ideas some of them must involun-
tarily ooze out."

But as a stimulus to conversation, an
intelligently silent man is as instantaneous
in his effect as music or eating. Men have
become famous as conversationists who
only sat and looked admiringly at vivacious
women. It is a rare accomplishment, that
of wise silence. It is more of a delicate
compliment, more condensed and boiled-
down flattery, more scent of incense than
the most fulsome speech. And if one's
victim is rather a voluble talker, with a
reputation for wit, a man need never rack
his brains beforehand, wondering what to
say, or how he can keep up with her. Let
him listen to her, with his metaphorical
mouth open in wrapt admiration, and she
is his.


Silence is a weapon. It is a powerful
corrective when used against a silent per-
son, who then sees himself as others see
him. It is a defence, used against the in-
discreet, and in the hands of wise men it
is a suit of armor. Silence is never dan-
gerous, unless, like a gun, in the hands of a
fool. How, then, can women complain of
silent men, unless they mean fools, and if
they do, why not say so, and fortify their
drawing-rooms with music-boxes or magic
lanterns ?

But anything so negatively unhappy as
silence is the least of one's bores. One is
seldom annoyed by the persistence of a si-
lent man, for silence often means shyness ;
therefore it is in our power to curtail his
usefulness. But, on the other hand, take a
type of the talkative man, the literal, too-
accurate man, who insists upon finishing
his sentences, and who will stop to dot his
i's and to cross his t's, and whose dates are
of more moment than his soul's salvation
can anything be done for him ?

" Avoid giving invitations to bores," says
a clever woman, " they will come without."


Alas, how true ! The too-accurate man is
ubiquitous. If you hear of him, and refuse
to meet him, it is only to find that he has
married your best friend, whom worlds
could not bribe you to give up. If you
weed him out of your acquaintance, it is
only to realize that he was born into your
relationship a generation ago, before you
could prevent it. Sometimes he is your
father, sometimes your brother. Both of
these, however, can be lived down. But
occasionally you discover that, in a mo-
ment of frenzy, you have married him !
Heaven help you then, for " marriage
stays with one like a murder !"

Imagine living all one's life with a man
who relates thus the trivial incident of
having walked with a friend up Broadway
last Thursday afternoon, when he met two
little boys about ten years old who asked
him to buy a paper :

" Last week Thursday, I think it was,
though perhaps it was Friday, or, maybe,
Saturday. Let me see: when did I leave
my office early ? It must have been Thurs-
day, because Friday I stayed later than


usual. Yes, it was Thursday. It was about
four o'clock, perhaps a little later a quar-
ter after four, or maybe half -past, but I
hardly think it could have been as late as
that. I think it was nearer four than half-
past. Anyway, I was walking up Broad-
way with a man by the name of Bigelow.
Bigelow? Bigelow? Was that his name?
It commenced with B, and had two sylla-
bles. Boswell? Blackwell? Blayney? What
was that fellow's name ? I never can tell a
story unless I get the man's name right. Bil-
ton ? Bashforth ? Buckby ? No, not Buck-
by, but that sounds like it. Buckley ? That's
it. That was his name ! I knew I'd get
it. Well, I was walking up Broadway with
Buckley, and at about Thirty-fourth Street
Wait a moment was it Thirty-fourth Street ?
It couldn't have been that far up. About
Thirty-second Street, I think. I don't quite
remember whether we had passed the Im-
perial or not. But it was within a block of
it, anyway, when we met two little boys
about ten years old perhaps one was a
little older ; one looked about ten, and the
other about eleven, or perhaps even twelve,


although I think ten would come nearer to
it and they asked us in a tone between a
whine and a cry the word whimper more
nearly describes it if we would buy either
a Sun or a World I've forgotten which."

Delectable as honesty is in a bank clerk,
or would be in a lawyer, one yearns for a
little less accuracy in the moral make-up
of the too-accurate man ; for a little of the
celestial leaven of exaggeration in the dusty
dryness of his dead -level garrulousness.
What difference does it make whether the
Revolutionary War took place before or
after the discovery of America, as long as
you make your war anecdote interesting?
Who cares whether Napoleon or Welling-
ton came out ahead at Waterloo, as long
as your listener is kept awake by your re-
cital ?

I related a sprightly incident only last
night about a watch which Francis the Sec-
ond gave to Mary Stuart, only with my usual
airy touch I said Francis the Second gave
it to Marie Antoinette ! What difference
does it make ? They were both Marys, and
they are both dead.


A most unpleasant old party corrected
me, and added : " Francis died about two
hundred years before Marie Antoinette was

" Then all the more of a compliment that
he should have given her the watch !" I
said. And I fancy I had him there.

That is the sort of man who interrupts
his wife's dinner-stories all the way through
with, " 1812, my dear"; "Ouida, not Emer-
son"; "Herod, not Homer"; until I
shouldn't be surprised to see her throw a
plate at his head. Oh, isn't it fine that
one does not dare to do all the things one
feels like doing in society?
' There is only one way to get even with
the too-accurate man, and that is, when he
has finished his most exciting story, to say,
" And then what happened next ?"

Accuracy is almost fatal to a flow of spir-
its. If one is obliged to weigh one's words,
one may live to be called a worthy old soul,
but one will not be in demand at dinner-

The too-accurate man need not pride him-
self upon his honesty above his fellow-men.


Oftenest he is to be found paying tithe of
mint, anise, and cumin, and neglecting the
weightier matters of the law. justice, mercy,
and truth. He strains at a gnat and swal-
lows a camel. He is not more trustworthy
than the man whose conversation is embel-
lished with hyperbole, because he at least
has the wit to discriminate, and the too-
accurate man is only stupid.

In essentials, the man who decorates his
conversation with mild but pleasing pat-
terns of that style of statement made famous
by one Ananias, is to be depended upon
quite as surely as the man who takes all
the sunshine from the day, and leads one's
thoughts to dwell on high, by spending ten
minutes trying to recall whether he dropped
that stone on his foot before or after dinner.
He, and not your own evil nature, should be
responsible for your instinctive wish that
he had happened to be toying with a bowl-
der instead of a small stone which could
only mutilate.

The painful accuracy which makes some
men such deadly bores is a form of mono-
mania. It is the same sort of trouble which


afflicts a kleptomaniac. She will steal the
veriest trash, just so she can be stealing.
He hoards the most useless trifles until
his mind is nothing but a garret filled with
isolated bits of rubbish that nobody wants
to hear, unless one has an essay to write ;
and even then it is easier to consult the

I never believe a statement made by a
too-accurate man one bit more quickly than
one made by a genial, entertaining diner-
out. If it were on the subject of time-
tables, just between ourselves, I should
take the trouble to verify both.


To other men, the irresistible man too
often means the man who publicly ogles
women. That is because men can see him.
But to women, what we can see forms but
a small portion of our lives. We hear more
than we see, and feel more than we hear.
George Eliot says : "The best of us go about
well wadded with stupidity, otherwise we
would die of the roar that lies on the other
side of silence."

But most men have to see things, and they
can always see the ogling man, and he al-
ways makes them perfectly furious. Queer,
isn't it, when the Simon Tappertits of this
life are the least of the men who bore us ?
In fact, I never should have thought of him
if some man had not spoken of him. And
\vhile I occasionally have been honored by


the exertions of one of these insects to at-

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Online LibraryLilian BellFrom a girl's point of view → online text (page 6 of 8)