Simple living/Rural Architecture
Observations on simple living, from Rural Architecture - Being a Complete Description of Farm Houses, Cottages, and Out Buildings by Lewis Falley Allen (1800-1890)
A short time ago we went to pay a former town friend a visit. He had removed out to a snug little farm, where he could indulge his agricultural and horticultural tastes, yet still attend to his town engagements, and enjoy the quietude of the country. We rang the door bell. A servant admitted us; and leaving overcoat and hat in the hall, we entered a lone room, with an "air-tight" stove, looking as black and solemn as a Turkish eunuch upon us, and giving out about the same degree of genial warmth as the said eunuch would have expressed had he been there--an emasculated warming machine truly! On the floor was a Wilton carpet, too fine to stand on; around the room were mahogany sofas and mahogany chairs, all too fine to sit on--at all events to _rest_ one upon if he were fatigued. The blessed light of day was shut out by crimson and white curtains, held up by gilded arrows; and upon the mantle piece, and on the center and side tables were all sorts of gimcracks, costly and worthless. In short, there was no _comfort_ about the whole concern. Hearing our friend coming up from his dining-room below, where too, was his _cellar kitchen_--that most abominable of all appendages to a farm house, or to any other country house, for that matter--we buttoned our coat up close and high, thrust our hands into our pockets, and walked the room, as he entered. "Glad to see you--glad to see you, my friend!" said he, in great joy; "but dear me, why so buttoned up, as if you were going? What's the matter?" "My good sir," we replied, "you asked us to come over and see you, 'a _plain farmer_,' and 'take a quiet family dinner with you.' We have done so; and here find you with all your town nonsense about you. No fire to warm by; no seat to rest in; no nothing like a farm or farmer about you; and it only needs your charming better half, whom we always admired, when she lived in town, to take down her enameled harp, and play
- 'In fairy bowers by moonlight hours,'
to convince one that instead of ruralizing in the country, you had gone a peg higher in town residence! No, no, we'll go down to farmer Jocelyn's, our old schoolfellow, and take a dinner of bacon and cabbage with him. If he does occupy a one-story house, he lives up in sunshine, has an open fireplace, with a blazing wood fire on a chilly day, and his 'latch string is always out.'"
Our friend was petrified--astonished! We meant to go it rather strong upon him, but still kept a frank, good-humored face, that showed him no malice. He began to think he was not exactly in character, and essayed to explain. We listened to his story. His good wife came in, and all together, we had a long talk of their family and farming arrangements; how they had furnished their house; and how they proposed to live; but wound up with a sad story, that their good farming neighbors didn't call on them the _second_ time--kind, civil people they appeared, too--and while they were in, acted as though afraid to sit down, and afraid to stand up;--in short, they were dreadfully embarrassed; for why, our friends couldn't tell, but now began to understand it. "Well, my good friends," said we, "you have altogether mistaken country life in the outset. To live on a farm, it is neither necessary to be vulgar, nor clownish, nor to affect ignorance. _Simplicity_ is all you require, in manners, and equal simplicity in your furniture and appointments. Now just turn all this nonsense in furniture and room dressing out of doors, and let some of your town friends have it. Get some simple, comfortable, cottage furniture, much better for all purposes, than this, and you will settle down into quiet, natural country life before you are aware of it, and all will go 'merry as a marriage bell' with you, in a little time"--for they both loved the country, and were truly excellent people. We continued, "I came to spend the day and the night, and I will stay; and this evening we'll go down to your neighbor Jocelyn's; and you, Mrs. N----, shall go with us; and we will see how quietly and comfortably he and his family take the world in a farmer's way."
We did go; not in carriage and livery, but walked the pleasant half mile that lay between them; the exercise of which gave us all activity and good spirits. Jocelyn was right glad to see us, and Patty, his staid and sober wife, with whom we had romped many an innocent hour in our childhood days, was quite as glad as he. But they _looked_ a little surprised that such "great folks" as their new neighbors, should drop in so unceremoniously, and into their common "keeping room," too, to chat away an evening. However, the embarrassment soon wore off. We talked of farming; we talked of the late elections; we talked of the fruit trees and the strawberry beds; and Mrs. Jocelyn, who was a pattern of good housekeeping, told Mrs. N---- how _she_ made her apple jellies, and her currant tarts, and cream cheeses; and before we left they had exchanged ever so many engagements,--Mrs. Patty to learn her new friend to do half a dozen nice little matters of household pickling and preserving; while she, in turn, was to teach Nancy and Fanny, Patty's two rosy-cheeked daughters, almost as pretty as their mother was at their own age, to knit a bead bag and work a fancy chair seat! And then we had apples and nuts, all of the very best--for Jocelyn was a rare hand at grafting and managing his fruit trees, and knew the best apples all over the country. We had, indeed, a capital time! To cut the story short, the next spring our friend sent his _fancy_ furniture to auction, and provided his house with simple cottage furnishings, at less than half the cost of the other; which both he and his wife afterward declared was infinitely better, for all house-keeping purposes. He also threw a neat wing on to the cottage, for an upper kitchen and its offices, and they now live like sensible country folks; and with their healthy, frolicksome children, are worth the envy of all the dyspeptic, town-fed people in existence.