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child; Barbara, the maid of honour, was dismissed with a big belly; brigadier Willliam was killed by a chairman in a pitched battle at an alehouse; the lord of the admiralty was transported for seven years; and duke Robert had the misfortune to be hanged at Tyburn.
No. CIII. THURSDAY, JANUARY 15.
.......Nihil videtur mundius.
The house so neat, so nice within,
To Mr. Town.
I AM married to a lady of a very nice and delicate disposition, who is cried up by all the good women of her acquaintance, for being the neatest body in her house they ever knew. This, Sir, is my griev ance: this extraordinary neatness is so very troublesome and disgusting to me, that I protest I had rather lodge in a carrier's inn, to take up my abode with the horses in the stables.
It must be confessed that a due regard to neatness and cleanliness is as necessary to be observed in our habitations as our persons: but though I should not chuse to have my hands begrimed like a chimneysweeper's, I would not, like the superstitious Mahometans, wash them six times a day: and though I should be loth to roll in a pig-stye, yet I do not like to have my house rendered useless to me under the pretence of keeping it clean.
For my own part, I cannot see the difference be
tween having an house that is always dirty, and an house that is always to be cleaned. I could very willingly compound to be washed out of my home, with other masters of families, every Saturday night: but my wife is so very notable, that the same cleansing work must be repeated every day in the week. All the morning long I am sure to be entertained with the domestic concert of scrubbing the floors, scouring the irons, and beating the carpets; and I am constantly hunted from room to room, while one is to be dusted, another dry-rubbed, another washed, and another run over with a dry mop. Thus, indeed, I may be said to live in continual dirtiness, that my house may be clean; for during these nice operations every apartment is stowed with soap, brick-dast, sand, scrubbing-brushes, hair-brooms, rag-mops, and dish
You may suppose, that the greatest care is taken to prevent the least speck of dirt from soiling the floors. For this reason all that come to our house (besides the ceremony of scraping at the door,) are obliged to rub their shoes for half an hour on a large ragged mat at the entrance; and then they must straddle their way along several lesser mats, ranged at due distances from each other in the passage, and (like boys at play) come into the room with an hop, step, and a jump. The like caution is used by all the family: I myself am scarce allowed to stir a step without slippers; my wife creeps on tip-toe up and down stairs; the maid servants are continually stumping below in clogs or pattens; and the footman is obliged to sneak about the house bare footed, as if he came with a sly design to steal something.
After what has been said, you will naturally conclude, that my wife must be no less nice in other particulars. But as it is observed by Swift, "that a nice
man is a man of nasty ideas," in like manner we
may affirm, that your very neat people, are the most slovenly on many occasions. They cannot conceive, that any thing, which is done by such delicate persons, can possibly give offence: I have, therefore, often been in pain for my wife, when I have seen her, before company, dust the tea-cups with a foul apron or a washing gown; and I have more than once blushed for her, when through her extreme cleanliness, she has not been contented without breathing into our drinkingglasses, and afterwards wiping them with her pocket handkerchief. People, Mr. Town, who are not very intimate with families, seldom see them (especially the female part) but in disguise: and it will be readily allowed, that a lady wears a very different aspect when she comes before company, than when she first sits down to her toilet. My wife appears decent enough in her apparel, to those who visit us in the afternoon: but in the morning she is quite another figure. Her usual dishabille then is, an ordinary stuff jacket and petticoat, a double clout thrown over her head and pinned under her chin, a black greasy bonnet, and a coarse dowlas apron; so that you would rather take her for a char-woman. Nor, indeed, does she scruple to stoop to the meanest drudgery of such an occupation for so great is her love of cleanliness, that I have often seen her on her knees scouring the hearth, and spreading dabs of vinegar and fuller's earth over the boards.
This extraordinary solicitude of my wife, for the cleanliness of her rooms and the care and preservation of her furniture, makes my house entirely useless, and takes away all that ease and familiarity, which is the chief comfort of one's own home. I am obliged to make shift with the most ordinary accommodations, that the more handsome pieces of furniture may remain unsoiled, and be always set out for shew and magnificence. I am never allowed to eat from any
thing better than a Delft plate, that the economy of the beaufait, which is embellished with a variety of China, may not be disarranged: and indeed my wife prides herself particularly on her ingenious contrivance in this article, having ranged among the rest some old China not fit for use, but disposed in such a manner as to conceal the streaks of white paint that cement the broken pieces together. I must drink my beer out of an earthen mug, though a great quantity of plate is constantly displayed on the side-board; while all the furniture, except when we have company, is done up in paper, as if the family, to whom it belongs, were gone into the country. In a word, Sir, any thing that is decent and cleanly is too good to be used, for fear it should be dirtied; and I live, with every convenience at hand, without the power of enjoying one of them. I have elegant apartments, but am almost afraid to enter them; I have plate, China, and the most genteel furniture, but must not use them; which is as ridiculous an absurdity and almost as great a hardship, as if I had hands without the power of moving them, the organs of sight, smell, taste, without being suffered to exert them, and feet without being permitted to walk.
Thus, Sir, this extravagant passion for cleanliness, so predominant in my wife, keeps the family in a per petual state of muck and dirt; and while we are surrounded with all necessaries, subjects us to every inconvenience. But what makes it still a greater grievance is, that it has been the ridiculous cause of many other misfortunes. I have sometimes created her anger by littering the room with throwing my garters on a chair, or hanging my peruke on one of the gilt sconces. Having once unluckily spilt a bottle of ink on one of the best carpets, she was irreconcileable for a month; and I had scarce brought her to temper again, when I most unfortunately ran against the
footman who was entering with the dinner, and threw down a leg of pork and peas-pudding on the parlour * floor. This super-abundant neatness did once also very nearly occasion my death; for while I lay ill of a fever, my delicate wife, thinking it would refresh me, ordered my bed-chamber to be mopped and the same scrupulous nicety was also the means of our losing a very considerable addition to our for
A rich old uncle, on whom we had great dependance, came up to town last summer on purpose to pay us a visit but though he had rode about sixty miles that day, he was obliged to stand in the passage till his boots were pulled off, for fear of soiling the Turkey carpet. After supper the old gentleman, as was his constant practice, desired to have his pipe : but this you may be sure could by no means be allowed, as the filthy stench of the tobacco would never be gotten out of the furniture again; and it was with much ado, that my wife would even suffer him to go down and smoke in the kitchen. We had no room to lodge him in, except a garret with nothing but bare walls; because the chints bed-chamber was, indeed, too nice for a dirty country squire. These slights very much chagrined my good uncle: but he had not been with us above a day or two, before my wife and he came to an open quarrel on the following occasion. It happened, that he had brought a favourite pointer with him, who at his first coming was immediately locked up in the coal-hole: but the dog having found means to escape, had crept slily up stairs, and (besides other marks of his want of delicacy) had very calmly stretched himself out upon a crimson damask settee. My wife not only sentenced him to the discipline of the whip, but insisted upon having the criminal hanged up afterwards; when the master interposing in his behalf, it produced such high words be