The Fine Art of Repartee
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Repartee is the skillful use of a witty reply. It is a highly developed skill calling for fast and analytical thinking. Most of us can think of the clever reply after the occasion has passed, but repartee calls for the ability to speak at the psychological moment. This requires attention and alertness.
Repartee is an art worth cultivating, but like all good things it can be carried too far. Like food that is too highly seasoned is the conversation heard in some "smart" circles, where everyone appears to be straining to give some unusual turn to every idea expressed, where the talk consists entirely of an exchange of bon mots or epigrams or "wisecracks." All sense of reality, of sincerity, is lost. These witticisms are like hors d'oeuvres, which are all right in their place, but should not constitute the entire diet. It is well to remember, too, that you will prove more popular if you bring out the cleverness in others than you will if you are noted for your own trenchant wit.