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PAGE 2

Good Company
by [?]

As for the dreadful crushes, what can one say? The absurd rooms where six hundred people try to move about in a space meant for three hundred; the staircase a Black-Hole tempered by flowers; the tired smile of the hostess; the set simper of long-recked shaven young men; the patient, tortured hypocrisy of hustled and heated ladies; the babble of scrappy nothings; the envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness; the magnificence turned into meanness; the lack of all feeling of home, and the discontented dispersal of ungrateful people–are these the things to occupy life? Are these the things to interest any manly man who is free to act for himself? Hardly.

But our “company” refers to the meeting of human souls and hearts, and not to the meeting of a fortuitous concourse of male and female evening-dresses. I have now before me a very brilliant published account of a reception at George Eliot’s house. Those assemblies were company, and company of the finest kind. The exaggerated fuss made by the sibyl’s husband in order to secure silence while she was speaking sometimes became a little embarrassing when men of a humorous turn were there; but nevertheless the best in England met in that drawing-room, and all that was highest in literature, science, and art was talked over in graceful fashion. The sniffing drawl of Society and the impudent affectation of cynicism were not to be found; and grave men and women–some of them mournful enough, it may be–agreed to make the useful hours fleet to some profit. No man or woman in England–or in Europe for that matter–was unwilling to enter that modest but brilliant assemblage, and I wish some one could have taken minute notes, though that of course would have been too entirely shocking. When I think of that little deep-voiced lady gathering the choicest spirits of her day together, and keeping so many notes in tuneful chime, I hardly know whether to use superlatives of admiration about her or superlatives of contempt about the fribbles who crush each other on staircases and babble like parrots in an aviary. If we cast back a little, we have another example of an almost perfect company. People have talked of Johnson, Burke, Boswell, Beauclerc, and Goldsmith until the subject is growing a thought stale; but, unless a reader takes Boswell and reads the book attentively after he has come to maturity, he can hardly imagine how fine was that admirable company. They were men of high aims and strong sense; they talked at their very best, and they talked because they wished to attain clear views of life and fate. The old gladiator sometimes argued for victory, but that was only in moments of whim, and he was always ready to acknowledge when he was in error. Those men may sometimes have drunk too much wine; they may have spoken platitudes on occasion; but they were good company for each other, and the hearty, manly friendship which all but poor Goldsmith and Boswell felt for every one else was certainly excellent. Assemblies like the Club are impossible nowadays; but surely we might find some modification suited even to our gigantic intellects and our exaggerated cleverness! I have defined bad company; I may define good company as that social intercourse which tends to bring out all that is best in man. I have said my bitter word about the artificial society of the capital; but I never forget the lovely quiet circles which meet in places far away from the blare of the city. In especial I may refer to the beautiful family assemblies which are almost self-centred. The girls are all at home, but the boys are scattered. Harry writes from India, with all sorts of gossip from Simla, and many longings for home; a neighbour calls, and the Indian letter gives matter for pleasant half-melancholy chat. Then the quiet evening passes with books and placid casual talk; the nerves from the family stretch perhaps all over the world, but all the threads converge on one centre. This life is led in many places, and the folk who so live are good company among themselves, and good company for all who meet them.