« EelmineJätka »
med into the windows; chairs and tables, bedsteads and cradles, crowd the yard; and the garden fence bends beneath the weight of carpets, blankets, cloth cloaks, old coats, and ragged breeches. Here may be seen the lumber of the kitchen, forming a dark and confused mass, for the foreground of the picture, gridirons and fryingpans, rusty shovels and broken tongs, spits and pots, and the fractured remains of rush-bottomed chairs. There a closet has disgorged its bowels, cracked tumblers, broken wine-glasses, phials of forgotten physic, papers of unknown powders, seeds and dried herbs, handfuls of old corks, tops of teapots, and stoppers of departed decanters ;-from the raghole in the garret to the rathole in the cellar, no place escapes unrummaged. It would seem as if the day of general doom was come, and the utensils of the house were dragged forth to judgment. In this tempest the words of Lear naturally present themselves, and might, with some alteration, be made strictly applicable:
- Let the great gods,
o'er our heads,
- Close pent-up guilt,
This ceremony completed, and the house thoroughly evacuated, the next operation is to smear the walls and ceilings of every room and closet with brushes dipped in a 80lution of lime, called white-wash; to pour buckets of water over every floor, and scratch all the partitions and wainscots with rough brushes, wet with soap suds, and dipped in stone-cutter's sand. The windows by no means escape the general deluge. A servant scrambles out upon the penthouse, at the risk of her neck, and with a mug in her hand, and a bucket within reach, she dashes away innumerable gallons of water against the glass panes; to the great annoyance of the passengers in the streets.
I have been told that an action at law was once brought against one of these water-nymphs, by a person who had a new suit of clothes spoiled by this operation; but, after a lang argument, it was determined by the whole court that the action would not lie, inasmuch as the defendant was in the exercise of a legal right, and not answerable for the consequences; and so the poor gentleman was doubly nonsuited; for he lost not only his suit of clothes, but his suit at law.
These smearings, scratchings, washings and dashings, being duly performed, the next ceremony 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 together: recollect, if you can, the hurry, bustle, confusion, 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 valuable articles are mutilated, or suffer death under the operation: а mahogany chair and carved frame undergo the same discipline; they are to be made clean at all events; but their preservation is not worthy 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. A 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 canvas 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 clean and the frame shine, it is sufficient: the rest is no: worthy of consideration. An able arithmetician has made an accurate calculation, founded on long experience, and has discovered that the losses and destruction incident to two white-washings are equal to one removal, and three remavals 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 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 knew 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 12 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 whitewashing 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 out-post, while he enjoyed himself in quiet at headquarters. But the experiment did not answer his expectation: it was impossible it should, since a prinicpal 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 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 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 rights to 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 un. noticed 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 enquiry, 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 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 ta 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.
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 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 eat cause to complain of the matrimonial bond.
I am, &c.
ANSWER TO THE ABOVE,
IN THE CHARACTER OF A LADY: BUT REALLY BY
THE SAME HAND,
I have lately seen a letter upon the subject of whitewashing, 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 an: dirt of the winter, I find this saucy author dished up in every family, and his fllppant 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 pur.