Good housekeeping compatible with intellectual culture. - Persevering attention rewarded. - Effects of unhealthy diet. - Responsibleness of women. - Application of the principles of religion to the duties of domestic life.
A symmetrical education is extremely rare in this country. Nothing is more common than to see young ladies, whose intellectual attainments are of a high order, profoundly ignorant of the duties which all acknowledge to belong peculiarly to women. Consequently many have to learn, after marriage, how to take care of a family; and thus their housekeeping is, frequently, little else than a series of experiments; often unsuccessful, resulting in mortification and discomfort in the parlor, and waste and ill temper in the kitchen.
So numerous are these instances, that excellence in housekeeping has come to be considered as incompatible with superior intellectual culture. But it is not so. The most elevated minds fulfil best the every-day duties of life. If young women would resolve, let the effort cost what it will, to perfect themselves in their appropriate duties, a defective domestic education would soon be remedied. Observation and persevering attention would give the requisite knowledge, and their efforts would bring a speedy and ample reward. It were far better, when they enter upon the station of a mistress of a family, to be already possessed of such experience as would enable them easily to regulate the expenditures, and so to systematize the work of every day, as to secure economy, comfort, neatness, and order. But if this knowledge has not been previously acquired, let not the learner be discouraged, or for a moment yield to the idea of "letting things take their course." No woman can innocently or safely settle down upon this conclusion. The good to be lost, and the evils incurred, are too great to admit of such a decision. The result will certainly be uncomfortable; and it would not be strange if the dearest domestic affections were thus chilled, and the most valuable family interests sacrificed.
How often do we see the happiness of a husband abridged by the absence of skill, neatness, and economy in the wife ! Perhaps he is not able to fix upon the cause, for he does not understand minutely enough the processes upon which domestic order depends, to analyze the difficulty; but he is conscious of discomfort. However improbable it may seem, the health of many a professional man is undermined, and his usefulness curtailed, if not sacrificed, because he habitually eats bad bread.
How frequently, in case of students in the various professions, is the brightest promise of future attainment and honor overshadowed by a total loss of health; and the young scholar, in whom the choicest hopes were garnered up, is compelled to relinquish his studies, and turn his unwilling thoughts to other pursuits; or, worse than this, he becomes a helpless invalid for life. Yet even this is an enviable lot, compared with his, whose noble intellectual powers have become like the broken chords of an instrument that shall never again utter its melody. But are such evils as these to be traced to the use of unwholesome food ? Every intelligent physician, every superintendent of our insane hospitals, testifies that in very many instances, this is the prominent cause.
"We often see the most pious Christians heavy-hearted, and doubting their share in the great salvation; mistaking the salutary discipline of their Heavenly Father for the rod of an offended judge; forgetting the freeness of the mercy offered, looking only at their own unworthiness, and refusing to be comforted. Instances of this sort, resulting in incurable melancholy, may frequently be traced to the same cause. The human body and mind are so intimately associated, that the functions of the one cannot be disturbed without deranging the action of the other; and it is doubtless true, that many a hopeless heart and feeble body would be more benefited by a wholesome diet, than by the instructions of the minister, or the prescriptions of the physician. To say the least, the good offices of these will avail little while counteracted by the want of the other.
If this subject has a direct bearing upon the health of families, so also does it exert an immediate influence upon their virtue. There are numerous instances of worthy merchants and mechanics whose efforts are paralyzed, and their hopes chilled by the total failure of the wife in her sphere of duty; and who seek solace under their disappointment in the wine-party, or the late convivial supper. Many a day-laborer, on his return at evening from his hard toil, is repelled by the sight of a disor-. derly house and a comfortless supper; and perhaps is met by a cold eye instead of "the thriftie wifie's smile;" and he makes his escape to the grog-shop or the underground gambling-room. Can any human agency hinder the series of calamities entailed by these things ? No! the most active philanthropy, the best schemes of organized benevolence, cannot furnish a remedy, unless the springs of society are rectified. The domestic influence of woman is certainly one of these. Every woman is invested with a great degree of power over the happiness and virtue of others. She cannot escape using it, and she cannot innocently pervert it. There is no avenue or channel of society through which it may not send a salutary influence; and when rightly directed, it is unsurpassed by any human instrumentality in its purifying and restoring efficacy.
The Bible sanctions this view of female obligation and influence, in the description it gives of the virtuous woman. "Her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh diligently with her hands. She is like the merchant's ships, she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field and buyeth it; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good, and her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household; for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates."