As a Conversationalist
In conversation, whether in private or social circles, he was beyond expression delightful, versatile, great. The favored guests at his fireside often found themselves dumb in his presence – struck into listening silence – so that only the one magnetic voice was heard. He was at his best in his own home circle. Here he showed his shining self as nowhere else. Here his abandon was complete.
Here he threw off all trammels of convention, all reserve, all consciousness of power, and spoke and acted as he felt, – with the exuberance of youth, forgetful of his mature years and ripe experience. Around his hospitable board his chosen friends feasted on food for mind and body, heart and soul. Those table-talks day after day, joined in by his family and guests whom he stimulated by question and rally and the force of his genial, gentle leadership, – who could forget them?
And those informal Sunday evening receptions held week after week in his Washington home! Here distinguished men and women, – scientists, scholars, philosophers, thinkers, judges, lawyers, merchants, bankers, capitalists, clerks, artists and artisans, religious and nonreligious professors, and even theologian – saints and sinners – gathered in his parlors and drawing-room and joined in the discussions which he led on all topics of human interest.
It is fair to say that no social or intellectual functions of the day in Washington were better attended, more attractive and distinguished, or so truly cosmopolitan, as those enjoyed in the home of Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll. On one occasion no less than five Presidential aspirants mingled in the throng. It was a frequent wish of his auditors on these occasions that he had had an audience of thousands to hear him. He spoke as no man living spoke.