Francis Hall.

The Century, Volume 11 online

. (page 49 of 163)
Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 49 of 163)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

penditures of this season which ought to be a help
to giver and receiver both spiritually and practically.
Wear the fiUl hat through the winter, and let the
parlor carpet serve another season, and so keep the
Christmas purse as full as it was last year. In the
employing of it, however, there should be a total
change in the ordinary custom. Usually we have
offered the cheap gift to our poorer neighbor, and
the costly trifle to the wealthy friend, whose tastes
we fancied were too luxurious to be satisfied with a
small outlay of money. On this Christmas let the
weighty end of the purse be emptied where there is
actual want Beggars can be satisfied at any time ;
but every family knows of cases of suffering where
help never wiU be asked, and is difficult to offer.
The happy Christmas time opens a way of approach
to the sternest of the self-respecting poor. The
barrel of flour, ham, or turkey, the comfortable
dress for the mother or flannel outfit for the baby,
can be sent under cover of a Christmas greeting,
and welcomed, which on another day would appear
an insult. Let us spend what little money we have
to spare in this practical, helpful direction, and give
to our weU-to-do friends and intimates something

better than money— the careful thought and consid-
eration which will discover a trifling gift especially
suitable to each. The usual practice in choosing
Christmas gifts is to start put with a full porte-mon-
naie and come home with it empty, having scoured
a dozen book and print and curio shops meantime,
to "find enough pretty things to go round." The .
gift sent to one fidend might have been offered with
equal propriety to a hundred others. Now every-
body (worth remembering at all on Christmas day)
has a fancy, or whim, or association, which a trifle
will recall and gratify. Now that we have so little
money, let us set our brains to work to remember
these whims or hobbies, and to find the suggestive
trifles, and, our word for it, we will startle our friends
with a more real pleasure than if we had sent them
the costliest unmeaning gift There must be a nice
discrimination, too, in assorting these trifles. There
are certain folk whom we know to be sorely in need
of articles for the wardrobe, and to whom we must
therefore give utterly useless follies, because they
know that we know it ; and there are other and bet-
ter folk in like condition, who will receive a collar
or a pair of gloves with as hearty and sincere feeling
as though the offering were a strain of Christmas
music. There is one cousin whose gift must smell
of the shops and the dollars paid for it, and another
who, if we sent her our worn copy of George Her-
bert, or the little broken vase which has stood for
years on the study table, would receive them with
wet eyes, and find them fragrant with old memories.
With genuine people of any sort the gift is valued,
of course, in proportion to the personal care and
thought bestowed upon it The bit of embroidery
by dear unskillful fingers assumes a worth which no
priceless Point ever knew. Some women's fingers
are not to be trained to hold the needle or pencil ;
for them the scroll-saw offers inexhaustible resources.
There is literally no end to the pretty trifles which
can be fashioned with one of these magic helps.
One of the most successful Christmas gifts we ever

Digitized by




saw was a quire of thidc white note-paper, on the
comer of which was a monogram of tiniest ferns or
autumn leaves. ** She thought of me every day for
months," cried the happy recipient with tears in her
eyes. Another was a little dieap photograph of a
room dear to the giver and to him to whom it was
sent In short, it is not money which we want for
our gifts, but the tender feeling and fine tact in its
expression, which no rules or hints can supply if
nature has denied it

Country Kitcheoa.

It is a mistake to suppose that a Idtdien must
necessarily be uncomfortable^ because it has not gas,
hot and cold water, stationary wash-tubs, and an
elevated range. "You can't expect city conven-
iences in a country place," b the formula. All these
conveniences, with iht exception of gas, can be put
into country kitchens, if the builder diooses to have
them. A man building his own house would will-
ingly sacrifice a fimciful cornice somewhere, or have
the parlors less ornamented, in order to have the
kitchen made convenient and comfortable, if the idea
were suggested to him. But usually he and the
architect laying their heads together, with no
woman's wisdom to guide them, arrive at the wise
conclusion that there must be a kitchen somewhere;
and, having determined in what place it will be least
conspicuous, consider diat part of die house dis-
poned ot

If they studied the matter a litde, they would, if
possible, have iwa kitchens — the front, or winter
kitchen, containing the range. With a cooking
stove in the back kitchen for summer use, the house
could be kept much cooler during the hot season.
The stationary tubs should be in the back room.
If there are no stationary tubs, the washing could
be done in the room that was out of season, thus
avoiding the necessity of the weekly slop and
steam, and soiled clothes in the cooking-room. If
this is too costly a plan, a small wash-room could
be substituted for the back kitchen at no great

But, supposing there is but one room for cooking,
washing, and ironing, and that there has been no
attempt to introduce into this the " modem conven-
iences" (which is the actual state of things in most
country houses), there is no need for a sublime res-
ignation to every imaginable kitchen discomfort and

A pump ought to be regarded as a necessity in a
coun^ kitchen. If the room has but one window,
and neither outside door nor open fire-place, it is
badly ventilated, and therefore uncomfortable. It
is also unwholesome. Papered walls and a row
of shelves, unenclosed, called, par complaisafue, a
dresser, are neither of them cleanly. Both uncom-
fortable, and uncleanly is the little pot closet ; too
shallow to admit of a proper disposition of the
cooking utensils, so that the big pot, indignant at
tiie pile of articles thrust upon him, bursts open the
door at the most unexpected times, and astonishes
the occupants of the kitchen with a vision of the fry-
ing-pan gyrating over the floor, or tiie gridiron leap-

ing Tip like a jack-in-a-box. There is no need
whatever for submitting to sudi discomforts as

The first consideration in a cooldng-room is clean-
liness. Tried by this test, papered waUs are an
abomination in such a place. You cannot darken
this room through part of the day in summer, as
you do others, and, consequently, fly specks will be
numerous. These walls absorb the kitchen odors
and steam, and the sm<^e rests lovingly upon them.
If creeping things get into a house, they are sure to
insinuate themselves into the paper on the walls.
Hard-finished walls are really more cleanly, for they
can be washed; but, unless the finishing is better
done than in the kitdiens we have seen, they soon
look dirty, and this is the next worst thing to being
so ; for such finishing soon becomes discolored and
"splotchy." There is nothing that will compare
with the old-fashioned whitewash ; not color wash,
but whitewash, pure and simple. The color wash
may give the walls a prettier tint, but it must be
put on by a practiced hand, whereas whitewash can
be applied by any one, whenever a dirty spot makes
its appearance. It is true that unpracticed hands do
not apply the brush as evenly as could be wished
but a few streaks more or less don't matter, when
we can all see that the streaks are white and clean.

Don't have the wood- work painted; don't have
anything painted. Things in a kitchen will . get
soUed. It follows that they must be deaned. Soap
is a foe, before which paint invariably quits the
field. Very soon the color will be off in spots, and
nothing less than repainting the whole room will
ever make it look clean again. It is still more
objectionable to leave the wood in its native state.
It requires hard and firequent scrubbing to keep
this dean, and even this process will not suffice to
keep all sorts of wood in good condition. Some
woods seem actually to blacken under the sorubbing
brash. But, if the native wood, even common pine,
is well oiled and vamished lightly, the room will be
the prettier for it ; and, with very little washing, the
wood-work can be kept sweet and dean.

The most deanly kitchen floor is similarly
treated— the native wood oiled. This oiling will
have to be renewed on the floor at long intervals.
If the boards are so roughly laid that they cannot
be thus treated, it may, perhaps, be well to stain
them instead with black walnut stain. This will
have to be renewed every spring and fall at a cost
of about fifty cents. Oil-doth is a deanly covering,
but it is costly, and will not retain its good looks
very long; and it requires much washing at the
expense of the servants' badcs. Carpeting collects
dust with marvelous rapidity, and gives it out very
liberally under Biddy's broom. But, alas ! in our
climate Biddy's feet will get cold in winter if she
habitually stands on bare floors or on oil-doth. To
prevent Uiis, some people lay rugs in front of the
tables and sink. If a carpet is laid in a kitchen, it
should be tacked down as lightly as possible, or
fiistened with carpet rings slipped over smooth-
headed tacks, because it should be taken up fre-
quently to be well shaken.

Digitized by




A dresser is one of the things absolutely neces-
sary. It may be well for the housekeeper to insist
upon the fact that a set of open shelves is no more a
dresser than twenty yards of silk is a dress. If you
have a dresser made under your own direction, the
best form is to have two wide closets below, and
three narrower ones above, with a row of drawers
at the top of the lower closets. The upper closets
should be far enough above the lower to allow the
top of the latter to be used as a table. These lower
dosets are intended for the cooking utensils, and
should be, at least, two feet deep. The upper clos-
ets may be a few inches less in depth, and it is a
good arrangement to have two of these provided
with shelves ; a small one as a place of temporary
deposit for meats, vegetables, and things taken from
the store-room to be presently cooked, instead of
having them standing about on the kitchen tables.
This closet should, of course, be nearest the range
or cooking stove, and in it the pepper, salt, and
other condiments will be near at hand. The middle
and largest closet contains the kitcfaen crockery ^d
tins that are not to be hung. The third one, with-
out shelves, is for tins and other things that must
be hung up. It might be well to have a shelf or
two at the top of this closet, on which the flat-irons,
soq>, starch, bluing, and silver-deaning artides
could be kept By this arrangement everything is
indosed from the dust and flies.

Shades, made of fine wooden slats, are very
suitable for kitchen windows, as they soften the light
without darkening the room. They are inexpen-
sive, only costing about seventy-five cents a yard,
and ** fixtures " are very simple.

Then, the lighting of the room is to be considered.
A lamp that has to be carried from place to place is
not a Idtchen comfort. If it could be managed, a hang-
ing fixture to hold a lamp, not too for from the range,
would be best, for it is very desirable to have the
light fall from above upon your work. Even two
lamps would not give too brilliant a light for such a
particularly nice job as cooking ought to be. • The
very best oil would only cost a cent or two a night
for the extra lamp. But we know it is often impos-
sible to hang a lamp in a kitchen with safety; and
the next best thing, perhaps, is to have the hunps in
brackets at each end of the room or at the sides.
The shape of the kitchen must determine where the
light is to be placed; only so dispose it that the
room shall be well illuminated.

These remarks may rouse the ambition of some
country housekeepers, and stir them up to revolu-
tionize thdr cooldng abodes of discomfort They
can, doubtless, improve upon the plans offered here,
and devise many a "convenience."

PoliteneM and Punctilio.

We have but a low opinion of etiquette books.
The politeness that is dedt out by weight and meas-
ure seems to us of a very poor quality. Yet we
know that there are many very good people to
whom written laws of etiquette are as sacred as the
Ten Commandments. Their only source of disquiet

in regard to them is that there does not seem to
be any one generally recognized set of command-
ments in regard to the daily recurring trifles most of
which involve an etiquette of a more complex kind
than that which decrees that we shall not eat with
our knives, or lean our elbows upon the dinner-

Vbiting and calling etiquette is one of these
things. Each social clique has its own unchangeable
ideas in regard to what is or is not etiquette in the
matter of calls ; and many have been the heart-burn-
ings and jealousies caused by misunderstandings of
these conflicting codes. Especially is this the case
in those smaller towns which it is just now our
republican affectation to call provincial Mrs.
Jones takes with her into some small Western dty
the notions of etiquette which she learned in some
small Eastern dty. She acts strictly upon her own
code, severely disregarding that of the place into
which she has come. Her new ndghbors, with an
equal degree of ri^teous inflexibility, adhere to
thdr codet ' PoHteness — ^which Lord Chatham well
defined to be '^benevokace in trifles" — withdraws
her flag of truce, indignant at the ill-usage she
recdves at the hands of the two conflicting eti-
quettes, and discord rdgns supreme.

The fimiily of Mrs. Jones (in addition to certain
male beings who, considered in this relation, do
not count for much) consists of herself, her unmar-
ried sister, and their mother. Their next-door
nei^bor, Mrs. Clarke, promptly upon the advent
of the Joneses, calls upon them, asking at the door
only for Mrs. Jones ; as she, Mrs. Clarke, has been
educated in the belief that a call upon the female
head of a family implies a similar courtesy to all of
its female members. Mistaken Mrs. Clarke ! She
has mortally offended not only the ladies, for whom
she omitted to directly inquire, but also Mrs* Jones,
who resents the supposed affiront to her relatives,
and the before-mentioned male beings who must,
perforce of gallantry, espouse the cause of the ladies
of their family. Mrs. Jones feels herself, in eti-
quette, bound to return the call of Mrs. Clarke;
but, "to sustain her dignity," does so only by drop-
ping an idde of a visiting card at the latter's door.
In due time Mrs. Clarke, in her turn, affronted by
the cool reception of her proffered cordiality, returns
the idde, and with such periodical exchanges the
social intercourse of the Joneses and Clarkes begins
and ends.

As the belief of Mrs. Clarke, that a call by a
lady upon the female head of a family implies one
upon all of its female members and guests who are
ready or willing to reodve her, is shared by all of
her townspeople, it being one of the ten or twenty
etiquette commandments to whose sacred observ-
ance they were all educated, Mrs. Jones soon finds
herself left in a sodally very cool place. If she is
" sure she never saw so ill-bred and disagreeable a
set of people" as her new neighbors, she is proba-
bly as correct as the same ndghbors when they
declare that they "never met so vulgar and alto-
gether disagreeable a family as those Joneses."

Both parties have totally forgotten that etiquette

Digitized by




is not an end, but a means, and that the end sought
is the very simple one of giving and getting as
much happiness as possible during our little stay
together in this world ; in other words, carrying into
practice the Golden Rule.

Etiquette is assuredly a useful thing in some
places and situations. Doubtless the King of
Dahomey would find it impossible to derive much
benefit ^m being King of Dahomey — ^would not,
perhaps, even know that he held that exalted posi-
tion, if it were not for the rigid etiquette of his court.
It is by this requiring, upon pain of death, that
various genuflexions and sundry prostrations shall
be paid to his dusky majesty, that majesty becomes
conscious of itself, and is happy. Even in more
civilized and less ro3ral society we are willing to
admit that etiquette has its uses. Espedally is it
convenient when one wishes to drop a troublesome
or a stupid acquaintance. Then some trifling breach
of its laws, real or fimcied, on the part of the
acquaintance, may become a strong wall of defense,
behind which we may securely intrench ourselves.
But, aside from similar cases, we are inclined to
consider an inflexible adherence to strict rules of
etiquette in social intercourse as a relic of barbarism,
and one which would render politeness, in the sense
of Lord Chatham's definition, an impossible virtue.

S«cond-hand Furnitura.

•• It costs but a trifle," says some housekeeper,
who has kept house long enough to learn the value
of money. "The upholsterers ask fifty dollars for
just such a duur, and I get this at Jones's auction
for fifteen." But her self-complacency may give
place to mortification before many days are past,
for the cost of a fifty dollar chair is not reduced to
fifteen out of pure benevolence. It may have a dis-
tressing lurch to one side, or an ungraceftil pitdi
forward, or rickety joints ; or, what is worse (and
very frequently happens), this admirable chair may
long have been the chosen abode of those disagreea-
ble insects known to the scientific under the name
of cimex lectularius*

But the purchaser does not take the lesson to
heart; these ••managing" housekeepers never do.
They cannot resist the temptation of •'getting a
bargain." So she goes on filling her house with
unsightly, inconvenient furniture, because it is more
economical to buy second-hand. •* Your new furni-
ture soon looks second-hand," she says ; **so where
is the difference?"

If she were to reckon up the small sums she has
spent in having her dismal stuff put in order and

made usable (nothing can make it pretty), she
would probably find she had spent quite as mudi
money as would have sufficed to furnish her house
with new well-made articles of beautiful design,
though, possibly, not of so costly a finish as her
second-hand furniture was originally. And then
the time she has spent at auction stores, and at
forced sales at private houses! It is evident that
she does not consider time to be money.

On the other hand, a young housekeeper generally
shuns these places. If she fimdes some article of
furniture, and is told it is second-hand, she turns
from it in contempt, and buys something new, not
half so good, at double the price. To purdiase
second-hand furiiiture seems to her a confession of
poverty ; and, besides, she has a dislike to having
things in her bouse that have been used J)y any one
else ; they only seem half her own. The cheapness
of the article has no especial attraction for her, for
she has not yet learned the value of money.

And yet, if she has but a moderate income, it
might be well for her, in many instances, to pur-
chase the second-hand table or sideboard, for she
may get a much better article for the same money;
and the feeling that it has once been the property
of some one else will probably soon wear off.

The rule in buying second-hand furniture is,
use common sense. Don't buy anything whatever
merely because it is cheap. If you don't need it,
don't buy it at all. If you do need it, buy either
the new or the second-hand, whichever, upon exam-
ination, appears to be the best. All things being
equal, of course one would naturally give the prefer-
ence to the article that costs the least

If a lady can procure second-hand furniture with- *
out too great an expenditure of time at auctions
and the like ; if the draft made upon her patience
and temper is not too strong, and if she makes no
sacrifice of refinement to economy ; if die furniture
has been well kept, and is tolerably firesh and rea-
sonably good-looking^ and if a proper reduction is
made in the price, it is a decided advantage to buy it

If you are so fortunate as to be able to purchase
the furniture you desire from some friend, you may
buy without fear; but otherwise there are certain
articles that cannot be bought without runnmg
great risks. Indeed, we might almost say they
should never be bought at auctions, or from the reg-
ular dealers in second-hand ware. These articles
are bedding, bedsteads, carpets, oil-cloths, and uphol-
stered furniture.

The above remarks only apply to ordinary house-
furnishing with comparatively modem articles, and
have, of course, no reference to antique furniture.


8tMlman*a "Victorian Poets."*
When the essay on " Tennyson and Theocritus,"
which forms the sixth chapter of this work, first

* Victofiui Poeta. By Edautnd Ckicoce Stodoian. Boston:
James R. Osgood & Co.

Vol. XL— 19.

appeared in print, some five years ago, it was a
welcome surprise even to those friends of Mr. Sted-
man who were most familiar with the fine and sym-
metrical qualities of his intellect. That pure poetic
insight which is the vital spirit of criticism is often

Digitized by




oombined with the faculty of song» and even with
the patient XxxX of the scholar ; but the calm, judi-
cial temperament, which restricts the warmth of the
one and the tendency of the other to minute and
wearisome detail, is a much rarer element in the
composition of an author's mind. The tone of the
essay, resulting from such a happy conjunction of
powers, was no less admirable than its substance;
and, since the author who earnestly i^prehends his
calling cannot but feel his own success, and be
stimulated to extend it, the present volume has
grown as naturally as a flower~or, let us rather say,
an oak — ^from the planted seed.

The readers of this magazine are already familiar
with the three leading qualities we have mentioned,
throu^ the series of pi^)ers, commencing with that
entitled ** Victorian Poets/' and terminating in our
October number, which have received such wide
perusal and comment £adi essay, fitted into its
place as a chapter of the ** Victorian Poets," is suffi-
ciently complete in itself; yet it now, for the first
time, gains its proper value as a part of one com-
plete and harmonious structure. The Prefiu:e, in
whidi the author, instead of dictatorially announcing
formulae of criticism to the reader, frankly reveals
the intellectual principles of his own nature, and
the habits and interests which slu4>ed his work ; the
first chi4)ter, broadly sketching the literary char-
acteristics of the whole period, with its relations to
other well-marked eras in English literature, and to
the general development of the race ; the dear and
logical re-arrangement of the contents, giving them
reciprocal support and elucidation, and lastly, the
analytical index which completes the volume, — are all
necessary portions of the author's plan. Whatever
might have seemed abruptly stated, or insufficiently
accounted for, in the essays as they appeared sepa-
rately, now falls into its logical connection with the
leading ideas. A reperusal of these essays thus
becomes almost a new reading.

The chief excellence of Mr. Stedmam's volume
might be called — especially with reference to the
prevalent tone of modem criticism— ethical, no less
than intellectual. We allude to that nobility of
judgment, at once just and sympathetic, which
seeks the true point of vision for every branch of
literary art ; whidi abnegates the author's personal
tastes and preferences, even restricting the dear
temptation to eloquence and imagery, whenever they
might mislead; which regards the substance of
poetry no less than its technical qualities; and
which, while religiously holding to its faith in the
eternal requisites of simplicity and proportion, re-
cognises the imperfect genius of the writers who
violate these requisites, or fail to attain them. This
is an excellence whidi only an author may ade-
quately honor ; for it implies both courage and the

Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 49 of 163)