Housekeeping, whatever may be the opinion of the butterflies of the period, is an accomplishment in comparison to which, in its bearing on woman's relation to real life and to the family, all others are trivial. It comprehends all that goes to make up a well-ordered home, where the sweetest relations of life rest on firm foundations, and the purest sentiments thrive. It is an accomplishment that may be acquired by study and experiment, but the young and inexperienced housekeeper generally reaches success only through great tribulation. It ought to be absorbed in girlhood, by easy lessons taken between algebra, music and painting. If girls were taught to take as much genuine pride in dusting a room well, hanging a curtain gracefully, or broiling a steak to a nicety, as they feel when they have mastered one of Mozart's or Beethoven's grand symphonies, there would be fewer complaining husbands and unhappy wives. The great lesson to learn is that work well-done is robbed of its curse. The woman who is satisfied only with the highest perfection in her work, drops the drudge and becomes the artist. There is no dignity in slighted work; but to the artist, no matter how humble his calling, belongs the honor which is inseparable from all man's struggles after perfection. No mother, who has the happiness of her daughter at heart, will neglect to teach her first the duties of the household; and no daughter who aspires to be queen at home and in her circle of friends, can afford to remain ignorant of the smallest details that contribute to the comfort, the peace and the attractiveness of home. There is no luck in housekeeping, however it may seem. Every thing works by exact rule, and even with thorough knowledge, eternal vigilance is the price of success. There must be a place for every thing and every thing in its place, a time for every thing and every thing in its time, and "patience, patience," must be written in glowing capitals all over the walls. The reward is sure. Your husband may admire your grace and ease in society, your wit, your school-day accomplishments of music and painting, but all in perfection will not atone for an ill-ordered kitchen, sour bread, muddy coffee, tough meats, unpalatable vegetables, indigestible pastry, and the whole tram of horrors that result from bad housekeeping; on the other hand, success wins gratitude and attachment in the home circle, and adds luster to the most brilliant intellectual accomplishments.
One of the first ideas the young housekeeper should divest herself of is, that because she is able, or expects some time to be able, to keep servants, it is therefore unnecessary to understand household duties, and to bear their responsibility. "Girls" are quick to see and note the ignorance or the incapacity of the mistress of the house, and few are slow to take whatever advantage it brings them, but the capacity of a mistress at once establishes discipline. The model house should not be large, nor too fine and pretentious for daily use. The mistress of many a tine mansion is the veriest household drudge. A great house, with its necessary retinue of servants, is not in keeping with the simplicity of a republic where trained servants are not known, and is seldom pleasant for the family or attractive to friends. Furniture should be selected for comfort rather than show. Most modern chairs put their occupants to torture, and throw them into attitudes any thing but graceful. Comfortable chairs should have broad seats, and a part at least, low seats for women and children. Nothing is more out of taste and " shoddy" than to crowd rooms with furniture, no matter how rich or elegant it may be. Nor is it by any means necessary to have things in suites; variety is preferable, and each room, especially, should have an individuality of its own. Just now the "Eastlake " style is in high favor, and perhaps there is danger of too strong a reaction from the "modern styles," most of which, however, are a hap-hazard collection of styles, without any unity of idea in them. The "Eastlake" is, in the main, a protest against the falsehoods and shams of modern fine furniture, and so far it is a real reform. In a table, for example, we usually have a foundation of pine, put together mostly with glue; this is covered with a veneer of mahogany, walnut, or other wood, and ornamented with carvings, which may mean something or nothing, and which, are glued to the work. In a few years the pine framework warps and shrinks out of shape, the veneer peels, the carving gets chipped, and the whole becomes " shabby genteel." Eastlake and his followers would have the table honest, and be throughout what it appears to be on the surface, hence the table is made solid; and if a costly wood can be afforded - well; if not, take a cheaper wood, but let the table be just what it pretends to be; if braces or bars are needed for strength, let them show, and indicate why they are used; and if ornament is desirable, let it be worked in the material, and not glued on. A table of this kind will last, and may serve for several generations. Finding that our ancestors of a few centuries ago understood the matter of furniture better than the cabinet-makers of the present, Eastlake and the others reproduced many of the styles of bygone times, and with some dealers "Eastlake " is used for antique. But the matter does not depend so much upon antiquity of style, as solidity, honesty, and appropriateness. Sets are made of plain woods, such as ash and walnut, inlaid with procelain tiles, and ornamented with old-fashioned brass rings and handles. They are valued at from thirty to two hundred and fifty dollars. Bedroom sets of French and English walnut, with inlaid woods, gilt and bronze ornaments, and variegated marbles, are sold from thirty-five to fifteen hundred dollars. Parlor sets of rich, carved woods, and satin, damask, cashmere, brocade, and tapestry coverings, etc., range in price from one hundred to twelve hundred dollars. Ebony cabinets inlaid with ivory and richly ornamented, are worth from two to eighteen hundred dollars. Marquetry tables, work tables, library tables, Oriental chairs, lounges, easels, music racks, etc., of rich material and design, are valued at from ten to one hundred and fifty dollars. The principal woods used are walnuts of various kinds, ash, bird's-eye maple, satinwood and kingwood. Kingwood is almost crimson in color. Bookcases are of all prices from twenty to fourteen hundred dollars, and sideboards from seventy-five to one thousand dollars. It is a good rule in selecting furniture, not to buy any thing not actually needed, to buy the best of its kind, and to pay cash or not buy. Never get any thing because some one else has it, and do not be afraid to wait for bargains. Wise young housekeepers buy furniture in single pieces or small lots, as they have means, rather than expend more than they can afford in entire sets, which are really less attractive.
Carpets should, as a rule, be of small patterns. The stoves - if grates or fire-places are not used - should be of the kind that may be thrown open or closed at pleasure. If a furnace is used, great care must be taken that the rooms are not kept too hot in winter, and that there is most thorough ventilation, as the health of the family depends as much on the quality of the air they breathe as the food they eat. To waste heat is not so bad as to waste health and vigor, and fuel is always cheaper, on the score of economy, than doctors' bills. In furnace-heated houses - and the furnace seems to be accepted as the best heater, though apparatus for steam and hot water seems likely to be so perfected as to supplant it by furnishing a milder and more agreeable heat, entirely free from noxious gases - there should always be grates or fireplaces in living or sleeping rooms; and whenever the furnace heat is turned on, there should be a little fire, at least enough to start the column of air in the chimney and secure ventilation. It is a common mistake to buy too small a furnace or other heating apparatus. This ought to be ample for the coldest weather, so that ordinarily it need not be kept up to its full capacity. When a furnace is heated too hot, the little particles of dust afloat in the air are charred, and the air has a burnt flavor, as unwholesome as it is disagreeable. Without fire, chimneys are apt to draw down a current of cold air. If there are no grates or fire-places, do not rely on airing rooms from the halls, but throw open the windows and take in the outside air. This is especially necessary when a room is used as a study, or for an invalid. The air from the halls, although cold, is not pure. House-plants will not thrive in furnace-heated houses where gas is burned, and human beings, especially the young and delicate, need quite as pure air as plants. In a study, or other room much occupied, the windows may be dropped during meals, and the room warmed anew before it is needed again. There must also be plenty of sunlight, floods of it in every room, even if the carpets do fade; and the housekeeper must be quick to note any scent of decay from vegetables or meats in the cellar, or from slops or refuse carelessly thrown about the premises. Many a case of fatal diphtheria or typhoid fever may be traced directly to the noxious vapors arising from decaying matter in a cellar, the outside of which is fair to look upon, while the parlors and living rooms are kept with perfect neatness. Such houses are whited sepulchers, and the inmates are doomed to pay the penalty of ignorance or carelessness. Every room must be clean and sweet. In sickness, care in all these respects must be doubled. In damp and chill autumn and spring days, a little fire is comfortable morning and evening. The food for the family must be fresh to be wholesome, and it is economy to buy the best as there is less waste in it. No housekeeper ought to be satisfied with any but the very best cooking, without which the most wholesome food is unpalatable and distressing; and no considerations of economy should ever induce her to place on the table bread with the slightest sour tinge, cake or pudding in the least heavy or solid, or meat with the slightest taint. Their use means disease and costly doctor's bills, to say nothing of her own loss of repute as an accomplished housekeeper. If children and servants dp work improperly, she should quietly insist on its being done correctly, and in self-defense they will soon do it correctly without supervision. Order and system mean the stopping of waste, the practice of economy and additional means to expend for the table and for the luxuries and elegancies of life - things for which money is well expended. It requires good food to make good muscle and good brain, and the man or woman who habitually sits down to badly cooked or scanty dinners, fights the battle of life at a great disadvantage.