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AN INTRODUCTION TO THE FOLLOWING TREATISE.
As my Life hath been chiefly spent in consulting the Honour and Welfare of my Country for more than Forty Years past, not without answerable Success, if the World and my Friends have not flattered me; so, there is no Point wherein I have so much labour’d, as that of improving and polishing all Parts of Conversation between Persons of Quality, whether they meet by Accident or Invitation, at Meals, Tea, or Visits, Mornings, Noons, or Evenings.
I have passed perhaps more time than any other Man of my Age and Country in Visits and Assemblees, where the polite Persons of both Sexes distinguish themselves; and could not without much Grief observe how frequently both Gentlemen and Ladies are at a Loss for Questions, Answers, Replies and Rejoinders: However, my Concern was much abated, when I found that these Defects were not occasion’d by any Want of Materials, but because those Materials were not in every Hand: For Instance, One Lady can give an Answer better than ask a Question: One Gentleman is happy at a Reply; another excels in a Rejoinder: One can revive a languishing Conversation by a sudden surprizing Sentence; another is more dextrous in seconding; a Third can fill the Gap with laughing, or commending what hath been said: Thus fresh Hints may be started, and the Ball of Discourse kept up.
But, alas! this is too seldom the Case, even in the most select Companies: How often do we see at Court, at public Visiting-Days, at great Men’s Levees, and other Places of general Meeting, that the Conversation falls and drops to nothing, like a Fire without Supply of Fuel; this is what we ought to lament; and against this dangerous Evil I take upon me to affirm, that I have in the following Papers provided an infallible Remedy.
It was in the Year 1695, and the Sixth of his late Majesty King William, the Third, of ever glorious and immortal Memory, who rescued Three Kingdoms from Popery and Slavery; when, being about the Age of Six-and-thirty, my Judgment mature, of good Reputation in the World, and well acquainted with the best Families in Town, I determined to spend Five Mornings, to dine Four times, pass Three Afternoons, and Six Evenings every Week, in the Houses of the most polite Families, of which I would confine myself to Fifty; only changing as the Masters or Ladies died, or left the Town, or grew out of Vogue, or sunk in their Fortunes, (which to me was of the highest moment) or because disaffected to the Government; which Practice I have followed ever since to this very Day; except when I happened to be sick, or in the Spleen upon cloudy Weather; and except when I entertained Four of each Sex at my own Lodgings once a Month, by way of Retaliation.
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