I see you as counsel in some causes which must have opened a charming field for your humourous vein. As it is more uncommon, so I verily believe it is more useful than the more serious exercise of reason; and, to a man who is to appear in publick, more eclat is to be gained, sometimes more money too, by a bon-mot, than a learned speech.
They "speak for Buncombe," are Barn-Burners, Old Hunkers, Hard Shells, Soft Shells, Log-Rollers, Pipe-Layers, Woolly Heads, Silver Grays, Locofocos, Fire-Eaters, Adamantines, Free Soilers, Freedom Shriekers, Border Ruffians. They spring from a bon-mot or a retort. The log-cabin and hard-cider watchwords were born of a taunt, like the "Gueux" of the Netherlands.
The man, however, did not approve of the jest, and took the Marquis before the municipality, who sentenced him to a month's imprisonment for his pleasantry. The French are becoming very grave, and a bon-mot will not now, as formerly, save a man's life.
And yet, though we thus justify contemporary writing, we can but think, that, after long ages of piecemeal and bon-mot literature, we shall at length return to serious studies, vast syntheses, great works. The nebulous world of letters shall be again concentred into stars.
The Abbe, with much coolness and good humour, turned to those nearest him, "Eh bien mes amis et quand je serois a la lanterne, en verriez vous plus clair?" Those who held him were disarmed, the bon-mot flew through the croud, and the Abbe escaped while they were applauding it. I have nothing to offer after this trait which is worthy of succeeding it, but will add that I am always Yours.
Tennyson's fountain always ran wine. Once more: In Mme. Recamier's salon, I have read, at the time when conversation was yet a fine art in Paris, guests famous for esprit would sit in the twilight round the stove, whilst each in turn let fly some sparkling anecdote or bon-mot, which rose and shone and died out into silence, till the next of the elect pyrotechnists was ready.
"Home! home!" he repeated, and continued vehemently: "Do you really expect me to believe that a girl of your age, with the choice of a dinner-party among the elite, with lace, silk, and feathers, champagne, bon-mot, and scandal, flattering speeches and soft looks from young gentlemen, biting words and hard looks from old ladies, or the alternative of a dull, lonely evening in this cold, dreary den of mine, shut up with mummies, MSS., and musty books, could deliberately decline the former and voluntarily select the latter?
Am I the life and soul of every company I come into? No, it cannot be said you are." That hard-faced gentleman a wit! Why, Nature wrote on his fanatic forehead fifty years ago, "Wit never comes, that comes to all." I should be as scandalized at a bon-mot issuing from his oracle-looking mouth as to see Cato go down a country-dance. God love you all!
Que les plaisanteries ne soient point comme celles des bouffons, qui font rire par des representations extrauagantes, & des actions deshonnestes: si vous rencontrez ioliment, si vous donnez quelque bon-mot, en faisant rire les autres, empeschez-vous-en, le plus qu'il vous sera possible. Do not divert yourself with equivoques, either in important or in mean matters.
I felt a strong inclination to joke the rotatory republican on this coquetry; but then I remembered how sweet any stolen indulgence becomes; and, for the life of me, I could not give utterance to a bon-mot.