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American Silence

The Illustrated London News, vol.41, no.1155, p.91.

July 19, 1862

American Silence.--I found no aptitude, no wish for conversation; nay, even a disinclination to converse. In the Western States I do not think that I was ever addressed first by an American sitting next to me at table. Indeed, I never held any conversation at a public table in the West. I have sat in the same room with men for hours and have not had a word spoken to me. I have done my very best to break through this ice, and have always failed. A West American man is not a talking man. He will sit for hours over a stove with a cigar in his month, and his hat over his eyes, chewing the cud of reflection. A dozen will sit together in the same way, and there shall not be a dozen words spoken between them in an hour. With the women one's chance at conversation is still worse. It seemed as though the cares of the world had been too much for them, and that all talking, except business (demands, for instance, on the servants for pickles for their children), had gone by the board. They were generally hard, dry, and melancholy. I am speaking, of course, of aged females--from five-and-twenty perhaps to thirty, and who had long since given up the amusements and levities of life. I very soon abandoned any attempt at drawing a word from these ancient mothers of families; but not the less did I ponder in my mind over the circumstances of their lives.--North America. By Anthony Trollope.

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