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 connection with the subject of furniture, a remark may be made on the room arrangement of the house, which might, perhaps, have been more fittingly made when discussing that subject, in the designs of our houses. Some people have a marvellous propensity for introducing into their houses a a suite of rooms, connected by wide folding-doors, which must always be opened into each other, furnished just alike, and devoted to extraordinary occasions; thus absolutely sinking the best rooms in the house, for display half a dozen times in the year, and at the sacrifice of the everyday comfort of the family. This is nothing but a bastard taste, of the most worthless kind, introduced from the city - the propriety of which, for city life, need not here be discussed. The presence of such arrangement, in a country house, is fatal to everything like domestic enjoyment, and always followed by great expense and inconvenience. No room, in any house, should be too good for occupation by the family themselves - not every day, and common place - but occupation at any and all times, when convenience or pleasure demand it.
If a large room be required, let the single room itself be large; not sacrifice an extra room to the occasional extension of the choicer one, as in the use of folding-doors must be done. This " parlor" may be better furnished - and so it should be - than any other room in the house. Its carpet should be not too good to tread or stand upon, or for the children to roll and tumble upon, provided their shoes and clothes be clean. Let the happy little fellows roll and tumble on it, to their heart's content, when their mother or elder sisters are with them - for it may be, perhaps, the most joyous, and most innocent pleasure of their lives, poor things! The hearth rug should be in keeping with the carpet, also, and no floor-cloth should be necessary to cover it, for fear of soiling; but everything free and easy, with a comfortable, inviting, hospitable look about it.
" Go into the houses of our great men - such as live in the country - whom God made great, not money - and see how they live. We speak not of statesmen and politicians alone, but great merchants, great scholars, great divines, great mechanics, and all men who, in mind and attainments, are head and shoulders above their class in any of the walks of life, and you find no starch or flummery about them. We once went out to the country house - he lived there all the time for that matter - of a distinguished banker of one of our great cities, to dine, and spend the day with him. He had a small farm attached to his dwelling, where he kept his horses and cows, his pigs, and his poultry. He had a large, plain two-story cottage house, with a piazza running on three sides of it, from which a beautiful view of the neighboring city, and water, and land, was seen in nearly all directions. He was an educated man. His father had been a statesman of distinguished ability and station at home, and a diplomatist abroad, and himself educated in the highest circle of business, and of society. His wife, too, was the daughter of a distinguished city merchant, quite his equal in all the accomplishments of life.
His own wealth was competent; he was the manager of millions of the wealth of others; and his station in society was of the highest. Yet, with all this claim to pretension, his house did not cost him eight thousand dollars - and he built it by " days-work," too, so as to have it faithfully done: and the furniture in it aside from library, paintings, and statuary, never cost him three thousand. Every room in it was a plain one, not more highly finished than many a farmer's house can afford. The furniture of every kind was plain, saving, perhaps, the old family plate, and such as he had added to it, which was all substantial and made for use. The younger children - and of these, younger and older, he had several - we found happy, healthy, cheerful, and frolicking on the carpets; and their worthy mother, in the plainest, yet altogether appropriate garb, was sitting among them, at her family sewing, and kindly welcomed us as we took our seats in front of the open, glowing fireplace.' "Why, sir," we exclaimed, rubbing our hands in the comfortable glow of warmth which the fire had given - for it was a cold December day - "you are quite plain, as well as wonderfully comfortable, in your country house - quite different from your former city residence!" "To be sure we are," was the reply; " we stood it as long as we could, amid the starch and the gimcracks of------street, where we rarely bad a day to ourselves, and the children could never go into the streets but they must be tagged and tassel led, in their dress, into all sorts of discomfort, merely for the sake of appearance.
So, after standing it as long as we could, my wife and I determined we would try the country, for a while, and see what we could make of it. We kept our town-house, into which we returned for a winter or two; but gave it up for a permanent residence here, with which we are perfectly content. We see here all the friends we want to see; we all enjoy ourselves, and the children are healthy and happy." And this is but a specimen of thousands of families in the enjoyment of country life, including the families of men in the highest station, and possessed of sufficient wealth.
" Why, then, should the farmer ape the fashion, and the frivolity of the butterflies of town life, or permit his family to do it? It is the sheerest possible folly in him to do so. Yet, it is a folly into which many are imperceptibly gliding, and which, if not reformed, will ultimately lead to great discomfort to themselves, and ruin to their families. Let thoughtless people do as they choose. Pay no attention to their extravagance; but watch them for a dozen years, and see how they come out in their fashionable career; and observe the fate of their families, as they get "established" in the like kind of life, He who keeps aloof from such temptation, will then have no cause to regret that he has maintained his own steady course of livinpr, and taught his sons and daughters that a due attention to their own comfort, with economical habits in everything relating to house-keeping, will be to their lasting benefit in future".
Another point in which we join hands entirely with the author, is his dislike of close stoves, which seem to have crept into farmer's houses, even of the best description, to steal away both health and cheerfulness from the family circle. We have but little respect for those housewives or their daughters, who tell us it "is so much less trouble" to use a close stove, when we know that this grudgery of trouble lays the foundation of innumerable diseases, and costs ten times its value in doctor's bills. Though we observe that in compliance with the building fashion of the day, Mr. Allen has omitted all open fire-places in his bed-rooms, and only shown flues for stove-pipes, he protests against the stove poison in the following frank and straight forward manner:
"The general introduction of cooking stoves, and other stoves and apparatus for warming houses, within the last twenty years, which we acknowledge to be a great acquisition in comfort as well as in convenience and economy, has been carried to an extreme, not only in shutting up and shutting out the time honored open fireplace and its broad hearthstone, with their hallowed associations, bat also in prejudice to the health of those who so indiscriminately use them, regardless of other arrangements which ought to go with them. A (arm house should never be built without an ample, open fireplace in its kitchen, and other principally occupied rooms; and in all rooms where stoves are placed, and fires are daily required, the open Franklin should take place of the close or air-tight stove, unless extraordinary ventilation to such rooms be adopted also. The great charm of the farmer's winter evening is the open fireside, with its cheerful blaze and glowing embers; not wastefully expended, but giving out that genial warmth and comfort which, to those who are accustomed to its enjoyment, is a pleasure not made up by any invention whatever; and although the cooking stove or range be required - which, in addition to the fireplace, we would always recommend, to lighten female labor - it can be so arranged as not to interfere with the enjoyment or convenience of the open fire".
One of the most valuable parts of the book is the latter half, in which all the out-buildings of the farm - bee-house, piggery, poultry-houses, dairy buildings - as well as domestic animals of all kinds, are briefly and practically treated of. Here Mr. Allen is completely at home, and his remarks will be texts for those who are beginners in those matters. Altogether, we look upon his volume as one of the most valuable contributions to the country library yet made by an American farmer. It is a good harbinger of that general enlightenment of our great industrial class, that we so fully believe to await the American agriculturists.