« PreviousContinue »
Another set, it is true, deny the beauty or the virtue of eyes being wiped at all. But with persons so far gone in the science of self-torment, we have no more to do, than with the hook-swingers of Indian Fanaticism. They are hardly likely to establish a church or a colony in this Utilitarian England of ours, where
Everything is done by steam,
And men are killed with powder. The moderate class of grumblers and objectors are more troublesome, not to say formidable : since they represent prejudices which are tainted with plausibility, and paralyse the timid with warnings, and half-reasons; or they are for“ waiting by the road-side, from a sense of duty," so long, that the proper time for a start is passed. Time was, when they raised their voices against Education of the People. Anarchy, they preached, was to come in with the Alphabet: the humbler classes, taught to read and write, would, thenceforth and for ever, declare against work : help themselves to the meat, clothes, and fire of their betters, and when all was eaten, worn, and burned out, we were, gentle and simple, to be all of us hopelessly ruined! Well, ten times more has been done, than it roused their holy fears to hear of; and still, it is only now for the first time clearly seen, that England is merely at the beginning of a progressive and comprehensive Educational movement; from which, nevertheless, ruin will not accrue. Now, they seem disposed to growl and groan, because of certain plans for the diffusion of intellectual enjoyment, physical comfort, and honourable intercourse, which are working their way through the under-currents of society. Their talk is of “privileges. They profess to be uneasy for the future of Science and Scholarship, because of the diffusion of cheap literature. They sneer, with a well-managed sort of sad contempt, at the imaginary picture of Art in the Kitchen, and Music in the Pantry under the stairs. Counting-houses, to please them, must be the airless and cobwebbed holes, in which no clerk can be distracted over his ledger-work, by the waving of a tree-branch, or a sight of the sunshine. Shops are to be kept wisely open till bed-time, lest the shop-boy should enter the labyrinths of Dancing or the seductions of Music, or cquire ideas above his station, by light or heavy reading. The relief from small, grinding, domestic cares, which co-operation, judiciously administered, might be made to furnish, is to be discountenanced, on the original hypo
thesis of respecting the sanctity of home by maintaining such
strong yet tender ties” as the smell of ill-cooked food—the steam of wet linen—the loaded atmosphere of small chambers perpetually inhabited. Things are to go on as Miss Edgeworth's Farmer Goodenough wished. They hold comfort, luxury, and permissible amusement in as holy a horror as that with which the Second George regarded “Boetry and Bainting.
Perhaps—to be fair—the sanguineness of persons “ given to move ” may have, in part, exasperated their stupidity. In the matters, for instance, which I am about to treat, the cry of “ Clubs” has been mixed up with all manner of extraneous matters—to the mystification of those sybilline leaves, the PenceTable and the Ready-Reckoner. There have been visions of this grand staircase, and the other ceiling, painted in encaustic (by some hairy Herr from foreign parts, or some noticeable native talent); of damask curtains, true Opera-colour—" bouton d'or, and velvet chairs-of Soyers presiding over the confection of
• Lucullusian dinners ” — of all the dainty delights and lavish luxuries, in short, which the combination of many rich persons is required to produce. And, perhaps, these dreams-monstrous though they seem, when simply stated—on which too much time has been bestowed and stress laid,--have not, unnaturally, distanced those useful but unpalatable persons, whose vocation in life is to play the part of Weight-behind-the-Door, and Wet-Blanket. Of these I profess myself one. Resisting, to the death if need be, all the insolent and stupid apportionments of "privilege," refinement, social comfort, or public enjoyment, as belonging to any one class alone, and going out, with all my heart, to meet those who popularise good in every form, I am still cold enough to recollect that a penny is not a pound—that limited cash and unlimited credit are two distinct things: and to apprehend that there is more suffering in breaking down after one has enjoyed pleasure, than in waiting for a while, till it can be placed on a permanent basis. Good morals forbid that any class of English society should sink into the squalor of Crabbe's Clelia—who, when unable any longer to queen it in boxes of the Theatre, could derive a dismal satisfaction from queening it in the Gallery, and pointing out to her new associates, her old magnificence.
She would to plays on lowest terms resort,
And, strange delight! to the same house where she
How she too triumphed in the years of old ! Let us never go back. Let us not fall into the debauchery of a cynical acquiescence with what is coarse and second-rate, after we have tasted of better things. But that such an anti-climax may not happen—a misery to those wbo feel it, a degradation to those who submit to it cheerfully. Let us “take heed to our ways : let us look warily, while we feel warmly and work unweariedly.
Thus, under (perhaps) the Utopian notion of combining prudence and sympathy, I venture to tender a few considerations, experiences, warnings, and other like precious matters, to those interested in the Whittington Club, and the Whittington Fund. As an Operative who must needs labour for his penny-as a Bachelor who has been sworn at Highgate to prefer white bread to brown, etc.—as a Citizen who has a holy horror of the sound of Bow Bells, heard “ within the rules”-I think, of course,
wisdom is worth laying to heart. There are four points to be treated in turnThe House The Guests—The Entertainment–Their Behaviour.
THE HOUSE. In warning all persons concerned against house-pride, it must never be forgotten, that, since a cheap Club is, essentially, an establishment for use at all seasons, not for show during one ; since it must be arranged to be perpetually frequented by the largest possible number of guests, there is one element of splendour which becomes a necessity—spaciousness. There will be favourite hours of the four-and-twenty, when, be it June or January—the Epsom week, or the Long Vacation—the readingroom ought never to be empty ; and, as reading is hungry rather than composing, with those to whom it comes as a treat, the eating-room will do well to bear a close proportion, in its dimensions, to the same. Further, where the party is a mixed one, it will never do to crowd your members to the point at which the lady cried to Sir Terence O'Fay, in Miss Edgeworth's novel, “Sir, you have your finger in my ear! Space there must be : and this is hardly to be got on the continental plan of arrangement so largely obtaining in our new London houses--namely, by piling story on
story. The best of accommodation thus obtained, is little more convenient, under the circumstances, than that managed for dear, huge Lablache, who, wishing ease on a railway journey, desired to have two places secured in the same carriage :—and found them taken opposite to each other! Needless stair-climbing, tooas every member belonging to that choice olla of blunders, architectural as well as political, the Carlton Club, can attest—is on every account objectionable. If there be garrets in a given Club, let them be made over to the Smokers: whose place is legitimately “high and dry,” and whose disputes (if Smokers ever do dispute) will evaporate without producing distemperature in the world below, among those who prefer a quiet chair and an old book in a corner, to the best Nicotian wisdom which Mr. Nisby hath to propound concerning The Grand Turk.
As much space to turn in, as possible, then, being taken for granted, the next thing is, good air, good light, and, above all, for winter time-good fire! On the chapter of these blessings there is no need to be tedious. They are sure to be managed. There is a passion for the first. A whimsical acquaintance of mine, complains that the fancy for ventilation has become as engrossing and oppressive as the Tar-water mania, or the craze for Metallic Tractors. But in his complaint, he is pretty nearly as lonely as the sparrow on the house-top. Mr. Bernan's pleasant treatise has shown us how the rage for foul air-and scorching heat alternately with withering cold-has been appeased in proportion as men have become civilised and believers in Soap and Water ; or, to be serious, our high civilisation, which has brought with it new combinations of Disease and Disorganisation, has rendered indispensable that nice care for the nerves, which was sure to be answered by Science in the form of discovery. Here and there starts up a troublesome Reid who will poke holes in every one's walls :-here and there a new safety-valve inventor arises, always on the trot, to recommend his last, newest panacea; and such enthusiastic persons are teasing—most of all, when they do not succeed. But there is no call for our Club lending itself to the madness ; howsoever loudly it claims to be delivered from all kitchen odours from the exhaustion of gas, unaccompanied by proper outlets, and the like. As to Fire, that matter needs no stirring. With the improvements in the consumption of fuel, we have contemporaneously lived to enjoy the fall of price, which comes so welcomely home to every London hearth. It was religiously believed in our coalcounties, when I was a boy, that your Cockney was not worth a poker ;-that he looked at his fire, believed in it, but dared not touch it. That reproach, at all events, is passing away from us, as well as our profligacy in confounding “v's ” and “w's,” and and in tacking “qo's” to the feminine termination of certain words. Those who desire to comfort their self-consequence by the sight of a genteel, shivering metropolis, must cross the Channel, and study Paris, with its wood-yards, and its fuel-baskets.
Next we come to the aspect of our rooms, the usual out-let for house pride and house extravagance, which has ruined many a Mr. Ludgate (as Miss Edgeworth's fearful story, “Out of Debt, out of Danger,” will warrant), and has “ dipped" more than one crack West-end Club to a depth which, I trust, we have none of us any fancy to sound. In order that Taste may be indulged, it must be watched. But Taste may be indulged, and no ruin ensue. There is always a choice in proportion, form, and colour ; due regard to which never fails to produce an agreeable and beautiful effect. And let me observe in respect of the last element of Beauty: we are now beginning to understand that the humid climate of our island, the length and darkness of our winters, and the loaded atmosphere of our metropolis, call for rich and enlivening hues, in place of those poor and sorrowful dead and stone-colour and Quaker-gray tints, preferred some thirty years since, as chaste and classical. By judiciously using the primitive colours, there are few rooms—let the situation be ever so disadvantageous—to which an appearance of warmth, welcome, and habitation, may not be imparted. They have another immense recommendation, when the question is a building which is to be somewhat mercilessly used; namely, that of showing wear and tear less than more delicate and undecided tints. It was an odd notion that red, blue, green, and yellow were vulgarer than ash-colour, or dust-colour, or a miserable sick lilac ; but it is now scouted out of our housepainters' and paper-stainers' heads ;-partly in consequence of some slight progress made by us in the arts of design ; partly—who knows ?-by the spread of the doctrines of the Symbolists, who tolerate uncanonical mixtures as little as they do tabernacular hymns, or mottos on stained glass, which any unlettered Christian can read and profit by.
There is another important matter, partly involved in the question of wear and tear; to wit, freshness. Our great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers furnished their houses as they dressed