For instance, should you, as I said, desire above all other things to be hospitable, to have your house express welcome, you must not suppose that this means a throwing down of all the barriers in order to admit each visitor to the intimacies. "We treat you as one of the family," a certain woman once said to a visitor. But to be treated as one of the family, this visitor afterwards discovered, was to be made absolutely and thoroughly uncomfortable-
And here a delicate subject is touched upon, since there are many who urge that true hospitality consists in giving to guests only that to which you yourself are accustomed every day; only such a dinner as you would eat alone; only such a chair as that in which you would be comfortable. "What is good enough for me is good enough for my friends," the vulgar man expresses it. These persons would have no room for the reception of visitors except one used in the daily life of the family. But it seems to me that the hospitable instinct has to do only with the comfort and well-being of others, and that if it means anything it means giving to others your best. If, on the other hand, your guest wants only what you have, wants the intimacies and you want to admit him to them, then by all means do as he desires. But if your guest wants to make a formal visit when he comes, a family living-room is not the room in which that formal visit should be made.
At one time in this country there was a great outcry against the "best parlors" of small country houses, those vault-like chambers in which no sun ever shone, and into which the occasional visitor was invariably ushered, to shiver or to wilt according to his susceptibility or powers of resistance. The reaction away from these awful places, with their cold, musty odors, carried us into parlors in which it was obligatory to display some sign of having but that very instant been vacated by a mistress. It was fashionable to see an open book laid upside down on a sofa, or a few sheets of music spread carelessly on the open piano, and I remember a certain parlor in Boston in which a lady's worsted work always appeared on a particular table, a particular chair being drawn up by it. That was in the days when Morris had begun to educate the people in questions of beauty and when the rage of crewels began, especially for the greens, the olives, and dull golds. So this was why the work-bag of the lady in Boston was always left open on a table and showed the long strands of greens and olives in her crewels laid flat on a piece of spotless linen. How well I remember them! Indeed, why should I have forgotten them? I saw the same strands week after week throughout an entire winter. Everybody else in Boston knew those crewels, too. They used to remind me of the baby's little linen shirt which Becky Sharp kept in her work-basket on her drawing-room table. She never sewed on the shirt except when she wanted to make an impression, and her son Rawdon was a boy in trousers before it was half finished.
Another departure carried us away from parlors and living-rooms into reception-rooms furnished at great cost and hung with pictures, every effort being made to create an impression of elegance in them. But how dreary and unlivable and pretentious were these costly reception-rooms, almost as unendurable as the best parlors of an earlier generation. All of which goes to prove that the subject is absorbing and not easy of solution, and that only as men and women grow in grace and cultivation and in true consideration of their neighbors can we hope to arrive at that point where beauty and grace and all the hospitable virtues can be expressed within the limitations prescribed by formal codes. But then, after all, what else is art but a constant endeavor to do this very thing, to express beauty through limitations, and to do so with felicity?
There is a last word I would like to say about requirements. It seems to me that were the subject understood better, envy of one's neighbors would disappear, and the idle striving to imitate or outdo his splendor. We would understand that to the householder of conspicuous possession, fine apartments were a necessity, as they would not be to those in humbler places. Moreover, our feelings would not be so easily injured, since an understanding of requirements would quicken our understanding of the many differences of condition in life.