« ZurückWeiter »
their pristine appearance. The storm abates, and all would be well again, but it is impossible that so great a convulsion, in so small a community, should not produce some farther effects. For two or three weeks after the operation, the family are usually afflicted with sore throats or sore eyes, occasioned by the caustic quality of the lime, or with severe colds from the exhalations of wet floors or damp walls.
I know a gentleman, who was fond of accounting for every thing in a philosophical way. He considers this, which I have called a custom, as a real periodical disease, peculiar to the climate. His train of reasoning is ingenious and whimsical ; but I am not at leisure to give you a detail. The result was that he found the distemper to be incurable; but after much study he conceived he had discovered a method to divert the evil he could not subdue. For this purpose he caused a small building, about twelve feet square, to be erected in his garden, and furnished with some ordinary chairs and tables; and a few prints of the cheapest sort were hung against the walls. His hope was, that when the white-washing frenzy seized the females of his family they might repair to this apartment and scrub, and smear, and scour, to their heart's content; and so spend the violence of the disease in this outpost, while he enjoyed himself in quiet at head quarters. But the experiment did not answer his expectation; it was impossible it should, since a principal part of the gratification consists in the lady's having an uncontrolled right to torment her husband at least once a year, and to turn him out of doors, and take the reins of government in to her own hands.
There is a much better contrivance than this of the philosopher's, which is to cover the walls of the house with paper : that is generally done ; and though it cannot abolish, it at least shortens the period of female dominion. The paper is decorated with flowers of various fancies, and made so ornamental, that the women have admitted the fashion without perceiving the design.
There is also another alleviation of the husband's distress : he generally has the privilege of a small room or closet for his books and papers, the key of which he is allowed to keep. This is considered as a privileged place, and he stands like the land of Goshen amid the plagues of Egypt But then he must be extremely cautious, and ever on his guard ; for should he inadvertently go abroad and leave the key in his door, the housemaid, who is always on the watch for such an opportunity, immediately enters in triumph with buckets brooms and brushes; takes possession of the premises, and forthwith puts all his books and papers to rightsto his utter confusion, and sometimes serious detriment. For instance:
A gentleman was sued by the executors of a tradesman, on a charge found against him in the deceased's books, to the amount of thirty pounds. The defendant was strongly impressed with an idea that he had discharged the debt and taken a receipt ; but as the transaction was of long standing, he knew not where to find the receipt. The suit went on in course, and the time approached when judgment would be obtained against him. He then sat seriously down to examine a large bundle of old papers, which he had untied and displayed on a table for that purpose. In the midst of his search, he was suddenly called away on business of importance; he forgot to lock the door of his room. The housemaid, who had been long looking out for such an opportunity, immediately entered with the usual implements, and with great alacrity fell to cleaning the room, and putting things to rights. The first object that struck her eye was the confused situation of the papers on the table; these were without delay bundled together like so many dirty knives and forks; but in the action a small piece of paper fell unnoticed on the floor, which happened to be the very receipt in question ; as it had no very respectable appearance, it was soon after swept out with the common dirt of the room, and carried in a rubbish-pan into the yard. The tradesman had neglected to enter the credit in his book; the defendant could find nothing to obviate the charge, and so judgment went against him for the debt and costs. A fortnight after the whole was settled, and the money paid, one of the children found the receipt among the rubbish in the yard.
There is also another custom peculiar to the city of Philadelphia, and nearly allied to the former. I mean that of washing the pavement before the doors every Saturday evening. I at first took this to be a regulation of the police; but, on further inquiry, find it is a religious rite, preparatory to the Sabbath; and is, I believe, the only religious rite in which the numerous sectaries of this city perfectly agree. The ceremony begins about sunset, and continues till about ten or eleven at night. It is very difficult for a stranger to walk the streets on those evenings, he runs a continual risk of having a bucket of dirty water thrown against his legs; but a Philadelphian born is so much accustomed to the dangers, that he avoids it with surprising dexterity. It is from this circumstance that a l'hila. delphian may be known any where by his gait. The streets of New York are paved with rough stones; these indeed are not washed, but the dirt is so thoroughly swept from before the doors, that the stones stand up sharp and prominent, to the great inconvenience of those who are not accustomed to so rough a path. But habit reconciles every thing. It is diverting enough to see a Philadelphian at New York ; he walks the streets with as much most painful caution, as if his toes were covered with corns, or his feet lamed with the gout; while a New Yorker, as little approving the plain masonry of Philadelphia, shuffles along the pavement like a parrot on a mahogany table. 2. It must be acknowledged, that the ablutions I have mentioned are attended with no small inconvenience, but the women would not be induced, from any consid eration, to resign their privilege. Notwithstanding this, I can give you the strongest assurances, that the women of America make the most faithful wives and the most attentive mothers in the world; and I am sure you will join me in opinion, that if a married man is made miserable only one week in a whole year, he will have no great cause to complain of the matrimonial bond. [am, &c.
ANSWER TO THE FOREGOING, IN THE CHARACTER OF A
LADY, BUT REALLY BY THE SAME HAND,
SIR, I have lately seen a letter upon the subject of white-washing, in which that necessary duty of a good housewife is treated with unmerited ridicule. I should probably have forgot the foolish thing by this time : but the season coming on which most women think suitable for cleansing their apartments from smoke and dirt of the winter, I find this saucy author dished up in every family, and his flippant performance quoted wherever a wife attempts to exercise her reasonable prerogative, or execute the duties of her station. Women generally employ their time to better purpose than scribbling. The cares and comforts of a family rest principally upon their shoulders ; hence it is that there are but a few female authors; and the men, knowing how necessary our attentions are to their happiness, take every opportunity of discouraging literary accomplishments in the fair sex. You hear it echocd from every quarter-“My wife cannot make verses, it is true ; but
she makes an excellent pudding; she can't correct the press, but she can correct her children, and scold her servants with admirable discretion ; she can't unravel the intricacies " of political economy and federal gov. ernment; but she can knit charming stockings.” And this they call praising a wife, and doing justice to her character, with much nonsense of the like kind.
I say, women generally employ their time to much better purpose than scribbling; -otherwise this facetious writer had not gone so long unanswered. We have ladies who sometines lay down the needle and take up the pen ; I wonder none of them have attempted some reply. For my part, I do not pretend to be an author. I have never appeared in print in my life, but I can no longer forbear to say something in answer to such impertinence, circulate how it may. Only, sir, consider our situation. Men are naturally inattentive to the decencies of life; but why should I be so complaisant? I say they are naturally filthy creatures. If it were not that their connexion with the refined sex polished their manners, and had a happy influence on the general economy of life, these lords of creation would wallow in filth, and populous cities would infect the atmosphere with their noxious vapours. It is the attention and assiduity of the women that prevent men from degenerating into mere swine. How important then are the services we render; and yet for these very services we are made the subject of ridicule and fun. Base ingratitude! Nauseous creatures! Perhaps you may think I am in a passion. No, Sir, I do assure you I never was more composed in my life; and yet it is enough to provoke a saint to see how unreasonably we are treated by the men. Why now, there's my husband
a good enough sort of a man in the main-hut I will give you a sample of him. He comes into the parlour the other day, where to be sure, I was cutting up a piece of linen. “ Lord!" says he," what a flutter here js! I can't bear to see the parlour look like a tailor's shop, besides, I am going to make some important philosophical experiments, and must have sufficient room!" You must know my husband is one of your would be philosophers. Well, I bundled up my linen as quick as I could, and began to darn a pair of ruffles, which took no room, and could give no offence. I thought, however, I would watch my lord and master's important business. In about half an hour the tables were covered with all manner of trumpery ; bottles of water, phials of drugs, pasteboard, paper and cards, glue, paste, and guin-arabic; files, knives, scissors, needles, rosin, wax, silk, thrrad, rags, jags, tags, books,
servants to chea parlour exhibiteuttice it to sa
pamphlets, and papers. Lord bless me! I am almost out of breath, and yet I have not enumerated half the articles. Well, to work he went, and although I did not understand the object of the manœuvres, yet I could sufficiently discover that he did not succeed in any one operation. I was glad of that, I confess, and with good reason too: for, after he had fatigued himself with mischief, like a monkey in a china shop, and called the servants to clear every thing away, I took a view of the scene my parlour exhibited. I shall not even attempt a minute description; suffice it to say, that he had overset his inkstand, and stained my best mahogany table with ink; he had spilt a quantity of vitriol, and burnt a large hole in my carpet: my marble hearth was all over spotted with melted rosin: besides this, he had broken three china cups, four wine glasses, two tumblers, and one of my handsomest decanters. And, after ail, as I said before, I perceived that he had not succeeded in any one operation. By the by, tell your friend, the white-wash scribbler, that this is one means by which our closets become furnished with halves of china bowls, cracked tumblers, broken wine-glasses, tops of teapots, and stoppers of departed decanters. I say, I took a view of the dirt and devastation my philosophic husband had occasioned; and there I sat, like Patience on a monument, smiling at grief; but it work, ed inwardly. I would almost as soon the melted rosin and vitriol had been in his throat, as on my dear marble hearth, and my beautiful carpet. It is not true that women have no power over their own feelings; for notwithstanding this provocation, I said nothing, or next to nothing; for I only observed, very pleasantly, what a lady of my acquaintance had told me, that the reason why philosophers are called literary men, is because they make a greater litter : not a word more: however, the servant cleared away, and down sat the philosopher. A friend dropt in soon after - Your servant, Sir, how do you do?" "O Lord! I am almost
fatigued to death ; I have been all the morning making · philosophical experiinents.” I was now more hardly
put to it to smother a laugh than I had been just before to contain my rage; my precious went out soon after, and I, as you may suppose, mustered all my forces : brushes, buckets, soap, sand, limeskins, and cocoanut shells, with all the powers of housewifery, were immediately employed. I was certainly the best philosopher of the two ; for my experiments succeeded, and his did not. All was well again, except my poor carpet-my vitriolized carpet, which still continued a mournful nicmento of philosophic fury, or rather phi