Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/190

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178
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

the other players in the game. As Holmes says himself, 'The whole force of conversation depends on how much you can take for granted'—that is, in your hearers. I have no doubt of the excellence of Holmes's talk; but it was, I guess, partly due to the fact that it was part of a spontaneous concert. Talking is, as Holmes said, 'one of the fine arts,' and it is one which requires above all things a harmonious co-operation. The hearers must join themselves, and must also act as an effective sounding-board. They must catch the ball quickly, and return it nimbly, or the best performer will flag.

Holmes found his best co-operators in his famous 'Saturday Club.' He was always referring to it fondly, and Mr. Morse produces various testimonies to its merits. Lowell said that he had never seen equally good society in London. Colonel Higginson observes that Holmes and Lowell were the most brilliant talkers he ever heard, but suggests a qualification of this comparison. They had not, he says,‘the London art of repression,’ and monopolised the talk too much. They could, he intimates, overlook the claims of their interlocutors. He once heard Lowell demonstrating to the author of Uncle