As the New York Times said in 1903, this lesser-known work by Jerome K. Jerome does not display “the wit of Congreve or even the glittering sort Mr. Jerome employs in some of his other books.”It takes the form of imaginary conversations between the writer and a number of un-named characters at the afternoon tea table. The Woman of the World, the Old Maid, the Girton Girl, the Philosopher and the Minor Poet wax lyrical on subjects like marriage, art, society and politics. Frequently they appear to prefer the sound of their own voice to that of others.Although I couldn’t agree with the NY Times that it is the Baedeker guide to conversation, it is certainly an eye-opening glimpse into this now almost extinct art. The participants are already bemoaning the lack of invigorating conversation in society: “Conversation has become a chorus; or, as a writer wittily expressed it, the pursuit of the obvious to no conclusion.”
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