University of Wisconsin– Madison
13 Pages
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University of Wisconsin– Madison


Downloading requires you to have access to the YouScribe library
Learn all about the services we offer
13 Pages


  • cours - matière potentielle : content
  • cours - matière : chemistry
  • cours - matière : law
  • expression écrite
University of Wisconsin– Madison
  • nursing nursing school
  • physics atmospheric
  • public universities u.s.
  • studies anthropology
  • leadership
  • engineering
  • history
  • physics
  • life sciences
  • science



Published by
Reads 48
Language English


1(Noise of audience settling down. Rustling of programmes; creaking of chairs;
coughs; sneezes; blowings of noses; conversation in whispers)
LECTURER: (speaking through the noise) Ladies and gentlemen. (The noise
increases slightly. He speaks more loudly) Men and women. (Noise rises again. He
speaks very loudly) Chatterers and gossipers of both sexes. (Immediate silence) Thank
you. The subject of my lecture this evening is the Art of Conversation, to be
illustrated by what I may – I may? Thank you – call the lantern slides of sound, at
considerable expense, and with the aid of innumerable mechanical devices, I have
arranged for microphones to be set up in the private (and public) houses of many of
the most typical of today’s tame – but, in some cases, none the less dangerous -
conversationalists. A cross-section – and, in some cases, very cross – of English
intimate talk from Oscar Wilde the poet, who could talk the hind legs off a horse, to
Mr Humphrey Clack, the armchair-strategist, or carpet-general who could probably
have talked the hind legs off a Wilde. I intend that you shall hear the voices of the
famous paradoxical and platitude-inverting monologuists of the Yellow past; the
drones and rumbles of the best club bores wrestling, at St. James’s windows, with an
inadequate vocabulary and an open copy of The Times; the noises of vanity,
exhibitionism, pique, and desire to please; the rasp, or saw-voice of ‘that dreadful
woman who always holds the floor’; the whinny of the self-congratulatory and
facietious raconteur; the jolly bluster, or verbal backslap, of the blind-man-bluffer or
wishful-blinker; the squeaks and clacks of the cliques of the hearsayers and
professional rumourists; and the non-stop monotonous mince and moan of those queer
English natives beating, across the suburban wilds, their peeping Tom-Toms of
credulity, suspicion, and misinformation.
(Chattering and whispering, soft)
Now let us go back, through the whispering galleries of time, to a more dignified, but
hardly a less talkative, century than our own, when Victoria, and peace, reigned over
England and Oscar Wilde held quite another court. Please observe that one of the
principal sources of conversation at this time was – Conversation. Now Conversation.
. .
(Fade into chatter, the popping of corks and the clinking of glasses)
WILDE: Conversation, my dear Aubrey, is the art of putting the cart before the horse
and then putting it in a nutshell. Will you pass the decanter? I must confess, the grape
has a lot to answer for, but fortunately most of its conversation is off the point. Thank
you, no more. Too much is quite enough for anybody. Too much is as good as a feast.
BEARDSLEY: What leads to the road of excess, Oscar?
WILDE: The influence of inferiors, and one foot in the grave. I speak from long
inexperience. The art of conversation resembles in many ways the art of excess. In
both you leap before you look and in neither do you listen to any voice but your own.
Always take your own advice, which is invariably wrong. Excess and conversation
should be conducted as a game of skill against an opponent doomed to lose from the
beginning, one’s better self.
2DOWSON: Do you believe, then, in Conscience?
WILDE: Conscience, my dear Ernest, is the still, small voice that invites the wolf in
through the door. I should no more disbelieve in Conscience than I should in the
Devil. Did I tell you of my extraordinarily uninteresting dream last night? I have been
sleeping with such extravagance lately, that I never seem to have a wink awake. I
dreamed I went to Hell with the Marquese d’Orioli and Miss Plimsoll, and the Devil
took us all out to tea. Or it may have been ether. He was always a devil for the ladies.
I met his second wife only yesterday, impersonating Lady Matlock in the Strand. An
infernally good figure. The eyes of Helen. . .
BEARDSLEY: . . . Or Hell in the eye. . .
WILDE: Neat, Aubrey, neat. Too neat. You need a little soda-water in your wit, to
make it bubble. However, I shall remind myself to think of your remark,
spontaneously, tomorrow. Conversation. . .
(fade into the noise of whispering and muted chatter)
LECTURER: Conversation, ladies and gentlemen, is the politest art, pedantic,
dogmatic, abusive, cantankerous it may be, but always it must be polite. When the
great Dr. Johnson went out to dinner. . .
(whispering fades into)
DR JOHNSON: When I go out to dinner, Madam, I regard the tenderness of the
feelings of the company as studiously as I do that of this most excellent meat. Though
I set upon it with knife and fork, as heartily as a penurious scandalmonger upon a
reputation hitherto thought unassailable, I do not neglect to keep in mind the question
of cut and grain. Why, it would be barbarous indeed to inflict a wound except upon
that part which is most properly and eminently woundable: the pride and folly of
one’s neighbours.
MRS THRALE: Why now, Doctor Johnson, would you have the company think you a
wounding man?
DR JOHNSON: Madam, I wound nobody but myself if I set my wit upon the
goodness of a neighbour; my wit would go blunt, for virtue is unpiercable as Sir John
Hawkins’ generosity: it would buckle a butcher’s knife, for it has grown a double hide
to thwart the ravening appetite…
MRS THRALE: Then pride and folly you must find tender, Doctor? I confess, I find
them tough enough. . .
DR JOHNSON: It is the resilience of despair, madam; for cut you deep enough, and
in the right grain and, to be sure, folly is tender as a sucking pig, though in no ways so
sweet. Folly is nurtured in adiposity, and is as lean itself as the goodwill of a Scotch
dunce. . . You may converse with a Scotchman about everything under the sun save
charity and sense. Conversation. . .
3(fade into whispering etc which fades into)
LECTURER: Conversation of men of letters of the past has become familiar to the
serious student through the indefatigible labour of their attendant satellites. But what
of the voices of our men of letters of today? Must we remain satisfied that, always at
their elbows, go the Eckermans and Boswells, the Thrales and the Burneys of these
more strident, disrespectful times? Or shall we pay a visit, now and for posterity, to
the conversaziones of the modern intelligensia? Whatever your answer, it has all been
arranged. At this very moment, two established novelists of middle-age – both have
had recent publications selected by the Backward and Forward Book Clubs – are
talking in a well-appointed study not a book’s throw from Hampstead Underground
Station. If only there were television! One novelist, in an old corduroy smoking-coat
and a pair of ink-stained flannels, woolen tie carefully disarranged, is smoking a large,
curved pipe and skimming through his proofs; the other wears thick, horn-rimmed
glasses and enough hair to cover a sheepdog. There is sherry on the occasional table:
the best sherry.
(whispering etc fading into)
NOVELIST I: I always say this is the best sherry in London, Jack.. Lord knows what
you’ll do when it comes to an end. This uncivilised war. . .
NOVELIST II: I’ve got some rather good claret to carry me over the invasion.
Gordon left it to me. “To a sensitive mind and a rare palate”. Perhaps you read his
will in the Bookworm?
NOVELIST I: He left me an ebony-handled stick, you know “To a man with all
Sussex in his heart. Good walking!” It moved me. . . I’m not interrupting you, am I,
old man? See you’re pretty busy with the galleys. . .
NOVELIST II: Just skimming over ’em, Tom. Salmon and Finch want ’em for the
winter list Through the Dark Tunnel. It’s all rather topical. . .
NOVELIST I: Good terms?
NOVELIST II: One and a half on the first five thou. . . I think the Book of the
Second Club’ll take it up. I saw Glossop yesterday about it. . .
NOVELIST I: Hear he’s getting a commission.
NOVELIST II: Yes, and just when he’s coming round to using the bracket properly
for the first time. He’s pretty sick, I can tell you. After years and year of work. . .
NOVELIST I: I know, I know. I had exactly the same trouble with my colon. Rather
a good smoke this. Handmade?
NOVELIST II: I know a little place off Villiers Street. . . HG introduced me. . . only
12/6 a hundred. . . rather good value…
(whispering etc fading into )
4LECTURER: Not very good value. One expected perhaps a little less of the
commercial spirit, a little less insistence upon the minor luxuries of life and a more
explicit attitude to the intellectual and spiritual problems which must confront the
contemporary artist. Let us see what the younger men are up to. When the light
behind my head turns first pink and then green, I shall tune you in to a meeting, held
in the cocktail bar of the Blitz, of some of our most advanced poets. Not one of them
will see twenty one again. Several are sober. . .
(fade into )
POET I: No, but soberly speaking, Alistair, don’t you agree with Bryan that Peter’s
new poem leaves The Waste Land looking like an allotment in Barrow-on-Furness or
POET II: I have an uncle in Barrow-on-Furness. . .
POET III: Yes and no. You mustn’t underrate The Waste Land. Dialetically, it
appeared at the precisely important moment. All the Georgians were dead, or
lecturing; the Imagists were entirely exploded by Zemplar. . .
POET II: Met him in Smoky Pete’s last night; his wife’s an Arab…
POET III: And of course the whole traditional edifice. . .
POET I: (loudly) Zemplar’s not an Arab. . .
POET III: Because everything bears the seeds of its own destruction. The Waste
Land was a revolutionary organism, not a poem. . .
POET II: His wife, Julian, his wife, she’s as Arab as a horse. . .
POET III: I buried the whole subject in last month’s Advance Guard.
POET I: Basil wants an egg-nog.
BARMAN: No eggs. . .
POET I: (loudly) No eggs!
POET III: I’m taking a copy of the article back to my mess. There might be a chance
of starting a Post-Auden Discussion Group. . .
BARMAN: And no lemon!
(whispering etc fading into )
LECTURER: No lemon, ladies and gentlemen, which appears to be the answer. Now
from such depths of eloquence let me conduct you back, through the cocktail bars of
5(dance music, Blue Period, begins softly)
to the sad Gay Twenties, when Young Things were called Bright and all the old things
were blush-making.
(music rises, then fades into background)
BRIGHT YOUNG THING: Oh darling, it’s too too blush-making. It was absolute
death. There was Babs, looking like something nasty in Noel Coward, absolutely
introducing me to Bobby right after the treasure-hunt. You know when Toots pinched
the heavenly policeman’s helmet and sent it back to the police station next morning
absolutely full of roses: - in the middle of winter, darling, thirty shillings a dozen.
(solo trumpet, softly)
Oh, listen to that divine singer (murmuring to the music)
And when I die my no-town Margot
Talking the low-town argot
Don’t bury me in Chicago
To the rhythm of Handel’s Largo
I ain’t that sort of cargo
Oh blow my bones
Through the saxophones
You no-town low-town nigger trash
Oh, scatter my ash
Scatter my ash on Harlem stones…
Isn’t he celestial? He’s got the cutest accent, so frightfully old-fashioned. . . He says
“vaws” and “old boy”. . . shamingly English.
(music rises, and fades into)
LECTURER: English conversation was not dead but lying down. Are we right in
supposing that it has arisen now, rhythmical and virile, from its flaccid caremants?
We are wrong. The proof lies in the hearing. The microphones shall take you quickly
from the Dreadnought Club to the Kosy Palais de Danse – I need not remind you that
the K of Kosy is hard as in Komfy Kafe -- from tea at the Laburnams to wallop in the
George & Crown. . . These conversations are going on at this very minute. The ears
of the microphones stand pricked and ready in concealed places. You will notice that,
from time to time throughout these typical snatches of English social conversation,
references are made, and made in detail, to subjects which might be of considerable
assistance to the enemy. So that no information of any possible value to our enemy
can be passed over the air during this strictly cultural programme, I have instructed
our orchestra to play a loud chord. . .
(loud chord)
6. . . yes, that is the one – whenever a conversationalist appears to be in danger of
committing a breach of the National Defence Laws. I am afraid that you will be
surprised at how many times that chord will be needed. Now, when the light behind
my head turns first purple and then blood-red we shall be going over to. . .
(whispering etc fades quickly into)
BLIMP I: The Dreadnought Club has more than its reputation to think of. One might
say that England and the Dreadnought are one and the same. Let one fall, t’other falls
too. Flat. Like that.
(bang on table. Glasses rattle)
Ha. Nearly spilt your peg, Anstey. Heard from Gerald lately?
BLIMP II: Had a letter last week. Never was much of a fellow for writing. Deeds
not words. Always used to say, ‘Let the other fellow think; I’ll carry on’. Letter took
a devil of a time. I hear its’ because there’s a break in communication between….
(loud chord)
and. . .
(loud chord)
said his regiment was moving into. . .
(loud chord)
My old regiment, the. . .
(loud chord)
He’s a chip off the old what’s the phrase?
BLIMP I: Block.
BLIMP II: Anything in the news? Can’t see for meself today. Damned horse sat on
my eyeglass. Nearly 17 hands. Lovely canter though.
BLIMP I: The Senior Peripatetic’s moved into the old Madras and Malay.
BLIMP II: Noisy young devils. Heard a fellow sing once in the Senior Peripatetic.
Fellow named Turner. Died in debt in Chile.
BLIMP I: See there’s some more talk about food. Devil if I know where all the food
goes. Gluttony, I suppose. . .
BLIMP II: They’re putting it away, you know. In case of invasion. . .
7BLIMP I: Doomed from the beginning. . .
BLIMP II: As a matter of fact, there’s a pretty big dump, near my place down at. . .
(loud chord)
I often think of it all lying there, when the marmalade gets short at breakfast. Makes
a fellow think. All that food about, and he can’t have a second helping with his black
coffee. . .
(whispering etc, fading into)
LECTURER: Coffee and sandwiches are being served from 6 until 7 at the home of
(whispering etc very quickly into)
VICAR VOICE: Mrs Wharton, I must congratulate you upon your crab-and-lettuce.
Even more delicious than the cucumber.
MRS WHARTON: (coyly) I know your fondness for crab, Mr Farrow. Do you
remember, dear? Only at breakfast this morning I said, “Mr Farrow likes crab with
his lettuce”.
MR WHARTON: Yesterday morning, dear.
MRS WHARTON: Of course, I’m telling a lie. Yesterday breakfast. I remember I
said, “Mrs Armstead likes Marmite, Mrs Bush can’t bear fish paste, and Mr Farrow
has a real weakness for crab”.
VV: One man’s meat.
MRS WHARTON: Is another man’s, how true, Mr Farrow. We’ve been listening to
the most inventive recipes on the wireless, haven’t we, dear?
VV: A boon, a boon. A modern miracle.
MRS WHARTON: And the physical jerks and Mr Middleton and Sir Adrian Boult,
how can they do it all for ten shillings a year. I hear that. . .
VV: Leonard is joining the BBC? Quite true, Mrs Wharton. It’s his Spanish you
know. He’s going to the new transmitting studios at. . .
(loud chord)
But that’s between ourselves, of course.
MRS WHARTON: (coyly) I don’t think you’ll find Mr Hitler with a little notebook
under our table, do you?
8MR WHARTON: Wonder what they’re going to do to that man after the war. Make
him paint the League of Nations, I suppose. . .
VV: (laughing vicarly): I always told you, Mrs Wharton, that Mr Wharton ought to
write a book. “Paint the League of Nations”. It’s a thought! Ronald says that he
should be hanged in Trafalgar Square, but I think that hanging is really too English a
death. Do you know that they stopped his leave – Ronald’s, I mean. He was due
home next. . .
(loud chord)
but merely because
(chord, chord, chord)
LECTURER: Perhaps, ladies and gentlemen, we are not all such. . .
(chord, rather softly)
gossipers as that. But do we all realise how important to our enemy may be any
small piece of information that, carelessly and unthinkingly, we divulge in the course
of social conversation? We do not. Let me take you over – the light behind my head
turns first henna-coloured, then navy-blue - into the Kosy Palais de Dance.
(music, “Wine, Women & Son” by Strauss)
Wine, Women and Song. There is neither wine nor song. . .
(music rises, then fades into background)
WOMAN: I like a good waltz, don’t you?
SAILOR: Depends who I’m dancing with. You’re like Eleanor Powell.
WOMAN: Go on, Fred Astaire! Didn’t know sailors could dance like this. I though
all you could do was the hornpipe. . .
SAILOR: You’ve been reading books. Don’t you know we got the wireless now?
We got a portable 4 valve, you can get anything out of it except a free drink and
packet of fags. We got it on most of the time, except when there’s a feature
programme. Nobody listens to them. Funny to hear Lew Stone when Jerries are dive-
bombing us. I was on the . . .
(loud chord)
and there they was over us like wasps. They got a sting like dynamite. Did a bit of
damage, too, but we docked okay – we was laying mines all round. . .
(loud chord)
9Secret! Nobody knew where we was, except the Old Man, until afterwards.
WOMAN: How d’you lay mines, anyway? Do you just drop ‘em in? Sounds easy as
anything. . .
SAILOR: Easy! Listen Shirley Temple. We got a new method of laying magnetic
mines, see. Easy! We. . .
(loud chord drowns the waltz, and fades into)
LECTURER: Easy, ladies and gentlemen. Too easy. Does it ever occur to you,
while listening to such artless conversation, that there may be agents anywhere and
everywhere collecting these scraps of information and passing them into the hands of
the enemy? The little details, the snippets of fact and rumour, the tiny incidentals of
one man’s trade, may all be sent to a central organisation in a neutral country from
which they are transmitted directly to enemy headquarters. Hundreds of odds and
ends of hundreds of hearsays and rumours may, and can, be brought together into
such a pattern that a whole Allied enterprise is thwarted or destroyed. A wagging
tongue may sink a ship; a stray word over a mild-and-bitter may help to murder
(pub noises)
st1 VOICE: That’s what they are: baby killers. Go and bomb the hospitals, he says;
go and drop a thousand pounder on St Paul’s, he says; go and machine-gun the
lifeboats, he says; and up they go like a gang of Crippens.
nd2 VOICE: Go on! Crippen only did his old woman in. That bit of dirty-whisker-
on-his-lip, he kills off a whole town of Poles like they weren’t human beings at all but
just beetles.
1s VOICE: Except that you don’t torture beetles first.
nd2 VOICE: Hitler’s pal, that Doctor bloody Frank in Poland, he’d torture anything.
He’d pull the wings of flies, before breakfast, just to keep his hand in. Nice chap to
meet in a blackout in the slaughterhouse. Here’s how!
Wouldn’t like to dream what he dreams about at night.
st1 VOICE: He wouldn’t be dreaming much if he was in Germany. He’d be listening
to the Sterlings and trembling in his nightie. . .You should have seen the new
American fighter that came along to our drome this week.
(technical talk, interrupted by loud chords, to follow here)
Talk about protection! Our drome’s like the Maginot Line ought to have been.
There’s fifty. . .