« PreviousContinue »
upon the premises is very fine and very new; for it is an axiom in our domestic economy that the furniture of a “good liver” must be replaced every five or ten years. The drawing-room is ornamented with rosewood and velvet, with expensive tables and broad mirrors, with étagères upon which are throngs of knick-knacks, miniature cups and saucers, dapper statuettes of china and all manner of tasteless, grotesque and vulgar devices and monstrosities. Upon the centre-table or the “what-not” you will discover a number of volumes, gilt-edged and showily bound, whose chief value in the eyes of the owner seems to be the price they cost. The portraits of the interesting family circle, executed in the first style of art” and set in gorgeous frames, decorate the walls. These together with the above-mentioned articles of virtu, constitute the only works of art upon the premises, except the very magnificent clock which ticks away the moments upon the mantel, and probably a pair of elaborate vases of terrific ugliness. This room is exclusively for those guerilla visits made by fashionable ladies, and dignified by the appellation of " calls ;” and in addition, once or twice per annum, for the guests at an entertainment styled "a party.' Over its door might be written with justice the description, “ Cabinet Furniture Ware-room-no admittance except on business." The family apartments are less splendid, yet have an exceedingly new and
fine look; and you instinctively imagine that the appliances of the establishment are to be looked at, not used. There is every convenience, but little comfort.
Those evolutions of the household which concern the respectable head of the family are ordered with great promptitude and punctuality. Breakfast is eaten at an early hour; tea is taken about dark. Dinner is for the lady and her children; as her husband“ eats down town,” except on Sundays. The food is rapidly dispatched; there is little or no conversation; the table is to be eaten from, then quitted with precipitancy. After tea, the gentleman has his newspaper, his accounts, and his letters to attend to, wherefore he dons his dressing-gown and slippers, and takes his statuesque place by the sitting-room table; the children must not speak a word, for
; “papa is busy.” The little ones are put to bed, and mamma sews on in silence. If she address a remark to her liege, she is probably so curtly answered that she will not venture it again, or else she is reminded that he is occupied. In this unsocial way the hours pass until bedtime; when they retire, he jaded and careworn, she sick at heart. The father and husband is never less at home than when at home; and yet he expresses wonder that his children are never contented to be in the house in the evening unless they have company. What contribution does he make to
their enjoyment or instruction? What light of tran. quillity or jwy does he shed throughout the household? How he frets if a little one toddles up to him to claim his attention, to l'istract his thought from consuming care! How he fu mes if breakfast be not ready at the moment, or his shirt be minus a button! He is thinking of money. Is it strange that the Penates are transformed into golden calves?
Let me illustrate the love of Mammon which is diffusing its accursed lust as a leprosy throughout the households of the land, by two or three instances which fell under my own observation. A gentleman of moderate means, addicted to literary and scholastic pursuits, settled a few months since in New York. Three of his children, ranging in age from three to nine, with the strong instinct of childhood for companionship sought playmates among their neighbors. As the little ones were engaged in friendly romps with some new-found fellows upon the adjoining sidewalk, a stately dame in elaborate toilet, curls, ribbons, laces, flounces, hoops, made her appearance upon the steps, and thus harangued the little strangers : “Go home, children: go home. I can't allow poor people's brats to play with my children!” Her children lived in a house four stories high ; the “brats,” in one of three and a half. These, coming home, piteously asked their mother if it was naughty not to be rich ?
The same family had occasion to employ a semps
tress; and secured for that purpose an Irish girl. She had been in the house at work a day, when she received a visit from her sister, a strapping red-faced cook, who, putting her arms a-kimbo, surveyed the apartments with lofty disdain, and then commenced in the rudest and vilest manner to abuse her sister for taking service in such an establishment. The lady of the house, entering the room to know the reason of the outcry, was next most bitterly assailed for daring to bring a “dacent girl” into such a little house, and one so “ manely” furnished. “What right has such a poor family as yez are wid a sempstress ?” cried she, in fiery indignation. The sewinggirl, upon being questioned by the perplexed family, who could not yet comprehend the significance of this demonstration, informed them that her sister would not permit her to live with “the kind of people they were; for she had always been accustomed to live with “very respectable people in very rich
A bright little girl, at one of our fashionable watering-places came sadly to the mother, with the complaint that she had no one to play with. Why not, my child ? was the maternal inquiry. “Because I am not nice, my clothes are not fine enough, these children will not play with me. They have silk dresses and flounces, and broad, gay ribbons, and chains, while my dress is only muslin and I have not any broad sash or chain, and they say I am not good enough to go with them.” The mother looked on the broad saloon, where groups of little ones were gathered promiscuously, and saw in many faces whose tender years should not have out-grown the marks on brow and feature of the benediction of Him who once took just such in his arms and blessed them, only the vul. gar artificial stare of worldliness and folly. And in such an atmosphere her darlings must breathe, and either share the infection, or brave it out at fearful risk—a commentary on fashionable life sadder and darker than any of the homilies.
These trivial instances illustrate the fearfully debauched state of opinion upon social morals and manners, prevalent among large masses of the community; in which a man's expenditure is made the standard of his respectability; and ostentatious display and extravagance the test of qualification for social life. The greed for gold, like a canker, is eating out the heart of our healthful life ; and what is acquired by painstaking toil, speculation, with the fevered haste of a gambler, is lavished in reckless profusion, with flaunting display. There never was a country where money was so rapidly made; there never was a country where money was so vulgarly and indecently spent.
Besides this artificial and hollow form of domestic