« AnteriorContinua »
for he lost not only his suit of clothes, but his suit at law.
These smearings and scratchings, washings and dashings, being duly performed, the next ceremonial is to cleanse and replace the distracted furniture.! You may have seen a house raising, or a ship-launch, when all the hands within reach are collected to gether: recollect if you can the hurry, bustle, confu. sion, and noise of such a scene, and you will have some idea of this cleaning match. The misfortune is, that the sole object is to make things clean; it matters not how many useful, ornamental, or valua ble articles are mutilated, or suffer death under the operation; a mahogany chair and carved frame un. dergo the same discipline; they are to be made clean at all events; but their preservation is not wor thy of attention. For instance a fine large engraving is laid flat upon the floor; smaller prints are piled upon it, and the superincumbent weight cracks the glasses of the lower tier; but this is of no consequence.
valuable picture is placed leaning against the sharp corner of a table; others are made to lean against that, until the pressure of the whole forces the corner of the table through the canvass of the first. The frame and glass of a fine print are to be cleaned; the spirit and oil used on this occasion are suffered to leak through and spoil the engraving;, no matter, if the glass is cleen, and the frame shine, it is sufficient; the rest is not worthy of consideration. An able Arithmeticianade an accurate calculation, founded on longperience, and has discovered, that the losses and destruction incident to two white-washings are equal to one removal, and three removals equal to one fire.
The cleaning frolic over, matters begin to resume 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 affiicted 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, a real periodical disease, peculiar to the climate. His train of reasoning is ingenuious 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 to spend the violence of the disease in this out-post, 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 having an uncontrolled right to torment her husband at least once a year, and to turn him out of doors, and take the reigns of government into 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: this 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 stands like the land of Goshen amid the plagues of Egypt. But then he must be extremely caution, 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 rights-to his utter confusion, and some. times serious detriment. For instance:
A gentleman was sued by the executors of a trades. man, on a charge found against him in the deceased's books, to the amount of 301. The defendant was strongly impressed with an idea that he had discharg ed 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 obtain. ed 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 pursose. 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 hap. pened 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 paveinent 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 sun-set, 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 danger, that he avoids it with surprising dexterity. It is from this circumstance that a Philadelphian 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 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.
It must be acknowledged, that the ablutions I have mentioned are attended with no small inconvenience; but the women would not be induced, from ary consideration, 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 inatrimonial bond.
I am, &c.
ANSWER TO THE ABOVE.
In the Character of a Lady; but really by
THE SAME HAND.
I HAVE lately see a letter upon the subject of white-washing, in which that necessary duty of a good house-wife 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 apartme from smoke and dirt of the winter, I find this sati author aished 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 purposes than scribbling. The cares and comforts of a family rest principally upon their shoulders; hence it is that there are but 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 echoed 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 scolds her servants with admirable discretion: she can't unravel the intricacies of political economy and federal government; 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.