* movement and for work, the way it faces, the shade

about it, the figures on its carpets and its walls, are all unconscious educators and directors, not of my mere outward life, but of that which is deeper within. It is the influences which cannot be detected or analyzed which oftentimes exert the greatest power over us for good or for evil. It is coming to be understood by the philanthropist, that one of the surest ways of elevating the poor man is to give him appropriate house accommodation, make his home comfortable, convenient, and desirable, – a pleasant place to think of and to go to ; and Mr. Lawrence leaves a legacy for the building of “model houses,”—that great discovery of modern benevolence, which seems the only method in great cities of counteracting the terrible evils which spring from the filthy and crowded tenements allotted to the poor. In Queen Elizabeth's reign an act was passed forbidding cottages to be erected unless a certain quantity of land were attached to each, and calling such as failed in this respect “silly cottages.” I wish that law might revive, and that epithet attach to more modern houses. The idea was to give every man a homestead, and encourage him to economy in his wages till he had secured it. Had that idea been carried out and made a fundamental principle of English law, established by our fathers here and respected by their sons, it would have proved * of immense importance to the race, and secured homes

to that large class which now knows nothing about them. A recent New York paper says, and what it says is equally applicable to other meridians: “If we look well into the causes of the increase of crime and of the growing immorality and corruption, we cannot fail to perceive that the mass of the population have not room to live comfortably, or even decently. Neither physical nor moral health can exist where people are packed into apartments too miserable and too inconvenient to afford the ordinary comforts and conveniences of life. There is nothing like home in such dwellings, nothing like the social and friendly intercourse, and fireside recreations and amusements, which make home happy under other circumstances. The crowding of several families into a building fit for but one, gives rise to bickerings and annoyances which destroy anything like satisfaction in the domestic circle. Certain physical comforts and conveniences, as well as room, are absolutely necessary for the proper home education of children, and where these are wanting the morals of a community must suffer.” A walk through some parts of any large town or city is enough to make the heart ache. Look at the houses that are built on cheap and low lands; think of the money that is coined out of the necessities of the poorer classes, taken, not out of the pocket merely, but out of the best life. Look into these abodes, erected by the rapacity of landlords who care only for a large return to a small outlay, who grow rich on the penury of their fellow-beings, and tell me if it is possible that they should become homes 2 * Nor is it only the poorer classes who suffer in this way. High rents and the wretchedness of accommodation afforded, the niggardliness of landlords, have operated unfavorably upon a large class whose circumstances are considered good. How many a man is compelled to live in quarters which he can never love, never feel to be home, – which always fret him by their bad arrangement, their want of small repairs, their cramped stair-way and entry and chamber, poor cellar and paltry yard, – simply because a class of selfish speculators have gotten possession of the land and crowded it with cheap houses, leaving to him no choice, no mercy, and no hope? How many of those who are compelled to hire houses feel that they get any thing like a just equivalent for what they give 2 How many when “the lease is up” leave with any feeling akin to that of leaving home 2 I think that these wooden houses which spring up like mushrooms everywhere about us, many of them double with but a lath and plaster partition between, having no beauty on the outside, no real convenience within, standing anyhow, anywhere, are not only provocatives and food for some huge conflagration, and so should be forbidden by law, - not only perpetuate bad taste, and so should be frowned upon by public sentiment, — but stand in the way of the establishment of genuine, independent homes, and should receive the hearty reprobation of every well-wisher of his kind. The buildings, public and private, of a city or village, are not only exponents of the taste of the generation erecting them, but they educate the taste of the generation succeeding. They explain to the traveller the history of the past as much as the hoary monuments of an older civilization do, and they shape the growing sentiment as truly as the grand churches and cathedrals and monuments of antiquity. How much our own Northampton, Springfield, Portsmouth, New Bedford, quiet and sober Salem, say for the past, of the presentl Somehow there is a home-spirit which looks out from these and many a lesser New England village you look for in vain in the crowded streets of the city and its suburbs. In them men built houses for their own living in, and the house reflects the home. They were a generation in that respect wiser than this, whose civilization, striding rapidly forward in purely material interests, overlooks the things of sentiment and affection, and leaves them to be plagued by the speculator, who has no higher idea than that of build

ing houses that will pay, not homes that shall bless.

I would place in the front rank of philanthropy, I would more honor than a hero, the man who should set himself to building homes for the people, – buildings neat, snug, separate, and in good taste, which a man would be content to live in for years, and would come to love. But better than this will it be when every man shall build his own home, or shall find that to buy which shall be his home. Is this the impossible thing many make it? Perhaps so, if we are to foster the foolish notion that we must equal or eclipse our neighbor; perhaps so, if we have to wait to grow rich before we can have homes. But I think the essentials of a home are nearer every man's reach than he supposes. A house to be a true home must be strictly adapted to the owner's position in society, his calling and means. The houses of the laborer, the mechanic, the merchant, the professional man, must differ as their callings do. I could not be at home in a laborer's house, or he in mine. The house must be adapted to the man. If you build or buy otherwise, you jeopard the home. Now, I believe that every industrious laborer or mechanic may have a home of his own, if he will drop all ambition, and, to use the homely proverb, “cut his coat according to his cloth.” It is not large houses, costly houses, the houses with all modern conveniences, which make the homes, but the houses adapted to the circumstances

« ElőzőTovább »