The shadows on the perfect lawn were straight and angular; they were the shadows of an old man sitting in a deep wicker-chair near the low table on which the tea had been served, and of two younger men strolling to and fro, in desultory talk, in front of him.
-- Henry James Jr., "The Portrait of a Lady", The Atlantic Monthly, November 1880
In January 1905 Richard Watson Gilder approached the then-president of the Institute, the genteel poet and Wall Street broker Edmund Clarence Stedman, and urged him to hold a "formal discussion" on the question of women in both the Institute and the newly created Academy -- a formal discussion, he said, rather than the "desultory talk among members" that was all there had been so far.
-- Penelope Lively, The Five Thousand and One Nights
One way or the other, his once voluminous exchanges with Mrs. Swanson dwindled to almost nothing. For a year or two, they consisted of the odd, desultory postcard, then the store-bought Christmas greeting, and then, by 1976, they had stopped altogether.
-- Paul Auster, Timbuktu
Desultory comes from Latin desultorius, from desultor, "a leaper," from the past participle of desilire, "to leap down," from de-, "down from" + salire, "to leap."