Bores

It requires a sense of superiority, assurance and self confidence, to write about bores at all, except as one of them. But since your true bore is always unconscious of his borishness, and indeed usually thinks of himself as the most companionable of men, to write as one of them is to acquit oneself of the stigma.

   None the less, at some time, I fear, everybody is a bore, because everybody now and again has a fixed idea to impart, and the fixed ideas of the few are the boredom of the many.Also, even the least self-centred of men can now and then have a personal experience sufficiently odd to lose its true proportions and force him to inflict it over much overmuch on others.But bores as a rule are bores always, for egotism is beyond question the bore’s foundation stone; his belief being that what interests him and involves himself as a central figure must interest you.Since he lives all the time, and all the time something is happening in which he is the central figure, he has always something new to discourse upon: himself, his house, his garden, himself, his wife, his children, himself, his car, his handicap, himself, his health, his ancestry, himself, the strange way in which, without inviting them to, all kinds of people confide in him and ask his advice, his humorous way with waiters, his immunity from influenza, his travels, the instinct which always leads him to the best restaurants, his clothes, his dentist, his freedom from shibboleths, he being one of those men who look upon the open air as the best church, his possible ignorance of the arts but certitude as to what he himself likes, his triumphs over the income-tax people. These are happy men, these world’s axle trees.
(I have been referring to bores exclusively as men. Whether that is quite just, I am not sure; but I shall leave it there.)

     Bores are happy largely because they have so much to tell and come so well out of it; but chiefly because they can find people to tell it to. The tragedy is, they can always find their listeners, me almost first. And why can they? Why can even notorious bores always be sure of an audience? The answer is, the ineradicable kindness of human nature. Few men are strong enough to say, ‘For Heaven’s sake, go away, you weary me.’ Bores make cowards of us all, and we are left either to listen and endure or take refuge in craven flight. We see them in the distance and turn down side streets or hasten from the room. One man I know has a compact with a page-boy, whose duty it is, whenever my friend is attacked by a certain bore in the club, to hasten up and say he is wanted on the telephone. In ingenious device, but it must not be worked too often; because my dear friend, although he can stoop to deceit and subterfuge, would not for anything let the bore think that he was avoiding him; would not bring grief to that complacent candid face. For it is one of the bore’s greatest assets that he has a simplicity that disarms. Astute, crafty men are seldom bores; very busy men are seldom bores.

Of all bores the most repellent specimen is the one who comes close up; the buttonholing bore. This is the kind described by a friend of mine with a vivid sense of phrase as ‘the man who spreads birdlime all over you.’ A bore who keeps a reasonable way off can be dealt with; but when they lean on you, you are done. It is worst when they fix your eyes, only a foot away, and tell you a funny story that isn’t funny. Nothing is so humiliating as to have to counterfeit laughter at the bidding of a bore; but we do it. The incurable weakness and benignancy of human nature once again!

Then there is the bore who begins a funny story, and although you tell him you have heard it, doesn’t stop. What should be done with him? Another of the worst types of bore is the man who says, ‘Where should we be without our sense of humour?’ He is even capable of saying, ‘Nothing but my unfailing sense of humour saved me.’ There is also the man who says, ‘“Live and let live” as my poor dear father used to say.’

There was once an eccentric peer- I forget both his name and the place where I read about him- who had contracted, all unconsciously, the habit of thinking out loud; and in this world of artifice, where society is cemented and sustained very largely by a compromise between what we think and what we say, his thoughts were very often at a variance with his words. One of the stories in the memoirs in which I found him describes how he met an acquaintance in St. James’ Street, and, after muttering quite audibly to himself for a few minutes as they walked side by side, ‘Confound it, what a nuisance meeting this fellow. I’ve always disliked him. But now that we have met I suppose I must ask him to dinner,’ he stopped and said with every appearance of cordiality, ‘You’ll dine with us this evening, won’t you?’ Well, as a sheet of armour plate against bores, I don’t think we could do much better than cultivate the habit of thinking truthfully aloud. Unless we can do this or train ourselves to be downright offensive, there is no remedy against bores, except total evasion. No bore ever says, after no matter how many hints, ‘I’ll avoid that man in future; I know I bore him.’

So they will always flourish. But if a certain famous weekly humorous paper were to cease publication (distasteful and incredible thought!) there would automatically be a decrease in bore topics, because then no one could any longer repeat those sayings of his children which are ‘good enough for Punch.’

-An essay by E.V.Lucas

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