This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
IN former numbers, we have given oar space to generalities, and touched upon topics universal to all. If we take the country in its realities, we shall have to regret that, generally speaking, the numbers of congenial spirits congregated in one neighborhood are too few to render what is called society in cities as sociable and gay as some could wish; there are neighbors matched for intercourse, but we are safe in saying that more frequently than otherwise " people in the country" are too much indisposed to mingle, too little inclined to be sociable, and to bring the true graces of life into assembled groups.
A country is settled often at bap-hazard. Neighbors are brought together not because there is a prospect of sociability, but because of the accident that such a site is vacant, such a farm is for sale; the surroundings in that most important point, who are to be our companions, do not always sufficiently influence the selection of the situation. The divisions which shut men and women out of each other's houses, are so numerous - the variety of education, fortune, religion (to say nothing of tastes), divides poor humans into so many classes - that when you take a country circle, and name the people who by merit or standing should be social, you find the reality very much diminishes the happy expectations formed.
One mode in which people of education and leisure enjoy themselves, is in dining together. The beauty of a dinner consists in uniting at one table the refined enjoyments which are enhanced by welcome smiles and good breeding. Talfourd, perhaps, has put this in the best language. It occurs in that beautiful passage in the life of Charles Lamb, where he contrasts the dinners at Holland House, and the evening parties at Lamb's more humble lodgings - both charming things to have known, and yet so different; both pleasing because peopled by agreeable persons. He says of the dinners: "All are assembled for the purpose of enjoyment. The anxieties of the minister, the feverish struggles of the partisan, the silent toils of the artist or critic, are finished for the week; professional and literary jealousies are hushed; sickness, decrepitude, and death, are silently voted shadows; and the brilliant assemblage is prepared to exercise to the highest degree the extraordinary privilege of mortals to live in the knowledge of mortality without its consciousness, and to people the present hour with delights, as if a man lived, and laughed, and enjoyed in this world, forever.
Every appliance of physical luxury which the most delicate art can supply, attends on each; every faint wish which luxury creates, is anticipated; the noblest and most gracious countenance in the world smiles over the happiness it is diffusing, and redoubles it by cordial invitations and encouraging words, which set the humblest stranger guest at ease." The entire description is one of those delightful efforts not to be appreciated fully but by those who have been welcomed as expected guests in some house where humanity is greeted as humanity should always be. To remember such scenes, is remembrance of felicity, whether the mansion has been that of a nabob, or the low-ceilinged rooms of Charles Lamb; the welcome the same, the congeniality greater, give us the rooms of the latter, with the wisdom and the pervading spirit of social progress. Could we impress upon this working world the pleasures i which well regulated society, whether it assembles at the sumptuous board, or ] gathers, at the bidding of the more humble, to a corn-husking or a "Bee," may enjoy when it determines so to do, we should lay down our pen contented with the feat.
Bat country life presents all and more of the obstacles which we have hinted at Once we were a guest where an attempt was made, by an amiable and hospitable host, to bring together his leisured neighbors, and to form a social dining club, where the members could meet once a week and be social. They assembled once, but once only ! And why? The dinner was all that a dinner ought to be, and it was enlivened by the good humor and good sense of all present. Why was it not repeated at the houses of the guests? There was no good reason. Perhaps sickness in the next whose term had been fixed, was the cause - indifference, we could scarcely infer - but the affair was dropped, and clever and well informed people, who could see the smoke ascend from each other's chimneys, met so rarely that it was almost painful to meet.
Depend upon it, this is not the state of things which will make the country a desirable residence. People who shut themselves up in solitude - who have no taste for the genial social afternoon and evening - who partake not in the pleasures or sorrows of their fellows - are not neighbors to be sought. In choosing a location to build your earthly mansion, the books tell you all about the advantages of a hill-side, a valley, or a stream; but give us the situation where social life is cultivated with at least as much eagerness as the farm or the garden, and where the well informed are unselfish enough to surround themselves with that charity which gives a portion of their time to the delights of social intercourse.
Too often - ah! how sadly often - the social position of neighborhoods is broken up by a single error of one or other party. Misunderstandings on trivial matters foreclose for life the pleasant meetings which should occur. We leave this portion of our topic in sorrow for the fact, and with a single quotation: - " Annoyances and trespasses will be, Which 'twere as well thou didst not choose to see; By gentle bearing prove thy gentle blood - Shine, thou, the mirror of good neighborhood".