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2006-07-29 00:28

  I think that I love society as much as most, and am ready enough to fasten myself like a bloodsucker for the time to any full-blooded man that comes in my way.  I am naturally no hermit, but might possibly sit out the sturdiest frequenter of the bar-room, if my business called me thither.

  I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.  When visitors came in larger and unexpected numbers there was but the third chair for them all, but they generally economized the room by standing up.  It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain.  I have had twenty-five or thirty souls, with their bodies, at once under my roof, and yet we often parted without being aware that we had come very near to one another.  Many of our houses, both public and private, with their almost innumerable apartments, their huge halls and their cellars for the storage of wines and other munitions of peace, appear to be extravagantly large for their inhabitants.  They are so vast and magnificent that the latter seem to be only vermin which infest them.  I am surprised when the herald blows his summons before some Tremont or Astor or Middlesex House, to see come creeping out over the piazza for all inhabitants a ridiculous mouse,which soon again slinks into some hole in the pavement.

  One inconvenience I sometimes experienced in so small a house,the difficulty of getting to a sufficient distance from my guest when we began to utter the big thoughts in big words.  You want room for your thoughts to get into sailing trim and run a course or two before they make their port.  The bullet of your thought must have overcome its lateral and ricochet motion and fallen into its last and steady course before it reaches the ear of the hearer, else it may plow out again through the side of his head.  Also, our sentences wanted room to unfold and form their columns in the interval.  Individuals, like nations, must have suitable broad and natural boundaries, even a considerable neutral ground, between them.  I have found it a singular luxury to talk across the pond to a companion on the opposite side.  In my house we were so near that we could not begin to hear —— we could not speak low enough to be heard; as when you throw two stones into calm water so near that they break each other's undulations.  If we are merely loquacious and loud talkers, then we can afford to stand very near together,cheek by jowl, and feel each other's breath; but if we speak reservedly and thoughtfully, we want to be farther apart, that all animal heat and moisture may have a chance to evaporate.  If we would enjoy the most intimate society with that in each of us which is without, or above, being spoken to, we must not only be silent,but commonly so far apart bodily that we cannot possibly hear each other's voice in any case.  Referred to this standard, speech is for the convenience of those who are hard of hearing; but there are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout.  As the conversation began to assume a loftier and grander tone, we gradually shoved our chairs farther apart till they touched the wall in opposite corners, and then commonly there was not room enough.

  我想,我也跟大多数人一样喜爱交际,任何血气旺盛的人来时,我一定像吸血的水蛭似的,紧紧吸住他不放。我本性就非隐士,要有什么事情让我进一个酒吧间去,在那里坐得最长久的人也未必坐得过我。

  我的屋子里有三张椅子,寂寞时用一张,交朋友用两张,社交用三张。访客要是来了一大堆,多得出乎意料,也还是只有三张椅子给他们支配,他们一般都很节省地方,只是站着。奇怪的是一个小房间里竟可容纳这么多的男人和女人。有一天,在我的屋脊底下,来了二十五至三十个灵魂,外加上他们这许多个身体;然而,我们分手的时候似乎不觉得我们曾经彼此十分接近过。我们有很多幢房屋,无论公共的,私人的,简直有数不清的房间,有巨大的厅堂,还有贮藏酒液和其他和平时代的军需品的地窖,我总觉得对住在里面的人说来,它们大而无当。它们太大,又太华丽,住在里面的人仿佛是败坏它们的一些寄生虫。有时我大吃一惊,当那些大旅馆如托莱蒙,阿斯托尔或米德尔塞克斯的司阍,通报客来,却看到一只可笑的小老鼠,爬过游廊,立刻又在铺道上的一个小窟窿里不见了。

  我也曾感到我的这样小的房间不大方便,当客人和我用深奥字眼谈着大问题的时候,我就难于和客人保持一个适当的距离了。你的思想也得有足够的空间,好让它准备好可以开航,打两个转身,到达港岸。你的思想的子弹必须抑制了它的横跳和跳飞的动作之后,笔直前进,才能到达听者的耳内,要不然它一猾就从他的脑袋的一边穿过去了。还有,在这中间我们的语句也要有足够的地盘来展开它自己,排成队形。个人,正像国土一样,必须有适度的、宽阔而自然的疆界,甚至在疆界之间,要有一个相当的中立地带。

  我发现我跟一个住在湖那边的朋友隔湖谈天,简直是一种了不得的奢侈。在我的屋子里,我们太接近,以致一开始听不清话——我们没法说得更轻,好使大家都听清;好比你扔两块石子到静水中去,太近了的话,它们要破坏彼此的涟漪的。如果我们仅仅是蝶蝶不休、大声说话的人,那未,我们站得很近,紧紧挨着,彼此能相嘘以气的,这不要紧;可是如果我们说话很有含蓄,富于思想,我们就得隔开一点,以便我们的动物性的热度和湿度有机会散发掉。如果我们中间,每一个都有一些不可以言传,只可以意会的话语,若要最亲呢地享受我们的交流,我们光是沉默一下还不够,还得两个身体距离得远一点,要在任何情况下都几乎听不见彼此的声音才行。根据这个标准,大声说话只是为了聋子的方便;可是有很多美妙的事物,我们要是非大喊大叫不可,那就无法言传了。谈话之中当调子更崇高,更庄重时,我们就得渐渐地把椅子往后拖,越拖越后,直到我们碰到了两个角落上的墙壁,通常就要觉得房间不够大了。

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