Peach baskets

In conversation there must be, as in love and in war, some hazarding, some rattling on; nor need twenty falls affect you, so long as you take cheerfulness and good humor for your guides; but careful and measured conversation is always, though perfectly correct, extremely dull and tedious—a vast blunder from first to last.

~ Arthur Martine from, Martine’s Hand-book of Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness


“Kid, anyone can fix it with the right tools. It takes a real mechanic to fix it with a peach basket full of junk,” was the punch-line life-lesson from a story my dad used to tell from his first days in the elevator trade.

I’ve mentioned this book by Martine before. Large parts of it are patently ridiculous. But there are parts of it which are solid.

Anyone can learn something from a well-written book. But it takes a first-rate mind, and a lot of practice, to read through a peach-basket full of assorted crap, find the right parts, and find a lesson or three along the way.



The power of preserving silence is the very first requisite to all who wish to shine, or even please in discourse; and those who cannot preserve it, have really no business to speak. … The silence that, without any deferential air, listens with polite attention, is more flattering than compliments, and more frequently broken for the purpose of encouraging others to speak, than to display the listener’s own powers. This is the really eloquent silence. It requires great genius—more perhaps than speaking—and few are gifted with the talent …

~ Arthur Martine, from

Months ago, I presume, I had marked this Parrish article for later reading because it’s stuffed full of wonderful insight about conversation. That’s something about which I happen to be passionate, you know? Today I was giving it a thorough, leisurely read and the bit I quoted above screamed at me to be the lead quote of a post. I’d wager it caught my eye when I months-ago marked it for later reading. Turns out I have the book containing the original source, Martine, A. (1866), Martine’s Hand-Book of Etiquette, and Guide to True Politeness, pp 8-9,

I read the book a decade (or more?) ago when I obtained it. But now I’m inspired to re-read a few of its chapters now that I’ve become reacquainted with conversation as an art in itself.

“Okay, Craig, get to the point.”

Sometimes bricks of thinking and action click perfectly into place. In this case: A web page from 2013 which I’m only just reading in 2020, a different web page I read a decade ago, an author working just after our Civil War, my personal journey, my interest in conversations and podcasting. I quite often worry about all the things I regularly jam into my brain; they’re good things, but they are so numerous that my brain sometimes feels overstuffed! And then, click. It’s all worth it.

Do you have ways of regularly exposing your self to… well… whatever it is you need to feed your mind?