By WILLIAM SUGG, of London.
Ever since the introduction of electric lighting, the public have been assured, by those interested in the different kinds of lamps - arc, glow or otherwise - that henceforth, by means of such lamps, rooms are to be lighted without heat or baneful products such as they assert attend the use of gas, lamps, or candles. But I think it must not be implied, from what any one has said in favor of the electric light as a means of lighting our dwellings, that gas is unsuitable for the purpose, or that the glow lamp is a perfect substitute for gas, or that there is a very large difference throughout the year on the points of health, convenience, or comfort, or that the balance in favor rests with electric light upon all or any of these points. The fact is, the glow lamp is only one more means (not without certain disadvantages) of producing light added to those which already exist, and of which the public have the choice. Now, looking to best means of lighting rooms, and particularly the principal rooms of a small dwelling-house, I beg to say that the arguments which can be adduced in favor of gas lighting in preference to any other means greatly preponderate, and that it can be substantiated that, light for light, under the heads of convenience, health, comfort, reliability, readiness, and cheapness, gas is superior to all.
As a scientific means for the purposes mentioned, gas is comparatively untried. This assertion may sound somewhat astounding; but I think it is a true one. More than that, even in the crude and unscientific way in which it has most frequently been used up to the present, it has been far from unsuccessful in comparison with electricity or other means of lighting; and in the future it will prove the best and cheapest practical means, although, for effect, glow lamps may be used in palatial dwellings in conjunction with it.
It must be remembered that, in laying down a system of artificial lighting, we have to imitate, as well as we can, that most beautiful and perfect natural light which, without our aid, and without even a thought from us, shines regularly every day upon all, in such an immense volume, so perfectly diffused, and in such wonderful chemical combination, that it may safely be said that not one atom of the whole economy of Nature is unaffected by it, and that we and all the animal kingdom, in common with trees and plants, derive health and vigor therefrom. This glorious natural light leaves our best gas, electricity, oil lamp, and all our multiplicity of candles, immeasurably behind. But although we cannot hope to equal, in all its beneficent results, the effects of daylight, or to perfectly replace it, we can more perfectly make the lighting of our homes comfortable (and as little destructive to the eyes and to the general health) by the aid of gas than by any other means. It must also be borne in mind that, in this country at least, we have to fulfill the conditions of artificial lighting under frequent differences of temperature and barometric influence, exaggerated by the manner in which our homes are built; and that for at least nine months of the year we require heat as well as light in our dwellings, and that for the other three months (excepting in some few favored localities) the nights are often chilly, even though the days may be hot.
Therefore, independently of any effect produced by the lighting arrangements, there must be widely different effects produced in the temperature and conditions of the air in rooms by influences entirely beyond our control.
As an example of what I mean, a short time ago I had to preside over a meeting which was held in a large room - one of two built exactly alike, and in communication with each other by means of folding doors. These rooms formed part of one of the best hotels in London - let us call it the "Magnificent." Of course, it was lighted by electric glow lamps, in accordance with the latest fashion in that department of artificial lighting, viz., suspension lamps, in which the glow lamps grew out of leaves and scrolls, twisted and twirled in and out, very much after the pattern of our most aesthetic gas lamps, which, of course, are in the style of the most artistic (late eighteenth century) oil lamps, which were in imitation of the most classic Roman lamps, which followed the Persian, and so on back to the time of Tubal Cain, the great arch-artificer in metals, who most likely copied in metal some lamps he had seen in shells or flints. Both rooms were heated by means of the good old blazing coal fire so dear to a Briton's heart; and they were ventilated with all due regard to the latest state of knowledge on the subject among architects and builders.
In fact, no pains had been spared to make these rooms comfortable in the highest acceptation of the word.
There were, some of our members remarked, no gas burners to heat and deteriorate the atmosphere, or to blacken the ceilings; and therefore, under the brilliant sparkle of glow lamps, the summit of such human felicity as is expected by a body of eighteen or twenty business men, intent on dispatching business and restoring the lost tissue by means of a nice little dinner afterward, ought, according to the calculations of the architect of the building, to have been reached. I instance this case because it is a typical one, which, under most aspects, does not materially differ from the conditions of home life in such residences as those whose occupiers are likely to use electric lighting. The rooms were spacious (about 20 feet by 35 feet, and about 15 feet high); and they were lighted during the day by means of large lantern ceiling-lights, with double glass windows. The evening in question was chilly, not to say cold.
Upon commencing our business, we all admired the comfort of the room; but as time went on, most of the company began to complain of a little draught on the head and back of the neck. The draught, which at first was only a suspicion, became a certainty, and in another hour or so, by the time our business was over, notwithstanding a screen placed before the door, and a blazing fire, we were delighted to make a change to the comfortable dining-room, which communicated with the room we had just left by means of folding doors, closed with the exception of just sufficient space left at one end of the room to allow a waiter to pass in and out. Very curiously, before the soup was finished, we became aware that the candles which assisted the electric glow lamps (merely for artistic effect) began to flare in a most uncandlelike manner - the flames turning down, as if some one were blowing downward on the wicks; and at the same time the complaints of "Draughts, horrid draughts!" became general, and from every quarter. Finding that, as the dinner went on, the discomfort became unbearable, even although the doors were shut and screens put before them, I gave up dining, and took to scientific discovery.
The result of a few moments' observation induced me to order "those gas jets," which I saw peeping out from among the foliage of the electroliers, to be lighted up. In two or three minutes the flames of the candles burned upright and steadily, and in less than ten minutes the draughts were no longer felt; in fact, the room became really comfortable.