The Home of Taste
By Timothy Shay Arthur, 1853
There are three words, in the utterance of which more power over the feelings is gained, than in the utterance of any other words in the language. These are "Mother," "Home," and "Heaven." Each appeals to a different emotion — each bears influence over the heart from the cradle to the grave. And just in the degree that this influence is active — are man's best interests secured for time and eternity.
Only of "HOME" do we here intend to speak; and, in particular, as to the influence of the home of taste. We hear much, in these days, of enlarging the sphere of woman's social duties; as if, in the sphere of home, nothing remained to be done, and she must either fold her hands in idleness — or step forth to engage with man in life's sterner conflicts. But it is not true, that our homes might be far happier, if their presiding mistress fully comprehended all that was needed to make home what the word implies. Among those in poorer circumstances, this is especially so. They are too apt to regard matters of taste as mere superfluities; to speak lightly of order, neatness, and ornament; to think time and money spent on such things, as useless. But this is a serious mistake, involving, often, the most lamentable consequences.
If we expect our children to grow up with a love for things pure and orderly — we must surround them with the representations thereof, in the homes where first impressions are formed. The mind rests upon and is molded by things external, to a far greater extent than many suppose. These are not only a mirror, reflecting all that passes before the surface, but a highly sensitive mirror, that, like a photograph, retains the image it receives. If the image is orderly and beautiful — it will ever have power to excite orderly and beautiful thoughts in the mind; but if the image is impure and disorderly — its lasting influence will be debasing. If you meet with a coarse, vulgar-minded man or woman, and are able to trace back the thread of life to the period of early years — you will be sure to find the existence of coarse and vulgar influences; and, in most cases, the opposite will alike be found to hold good.
There is no excuse for disorder in a household, no matter how small or how low the range of income. Disorder is always caused by idleness or indifference. The time required to maintain neatness, order, and cleanliness, is small — if the will is active and the hands prompt. Every home, even the poorest, may become a home of taste, and present order and forms of beauty — if there is only a willing purpose in the mind.
It is often charged upon men — particularly those with low wages — that they do not love their homes, preferring to spend their evening hours in bar-rooms, or wandering about with other men as little attracted by the household sphere as themselves, until the time for sleep. If you were to go into the homes of such, in most cases, you would hardly wonder at the aversion manifested. The dirty, disordered rooms, which their toiling wives deem it a waste of time and labor to make tidy and comfortable for their reception — it would be a perversion to call homes. Home attracts; but these repel. And so, with a feeling of discomfort, the men wander away, fall into temptation, and usually spend, in self-indulgence, money which otherwise would have gone to increase home comforts, if there had been any to increase.
And so it is, in its degree, in the homes of every class. The more pleasant, orderly, and tasteful home is made, in all its departments and associations — the stronger is its attractive power, and the more potent its influence over those who are required to go forth into the world and meet its thousand allurements. If everything is right at home, it will surely draw them back, with a steady retraction, through all their absent moments; and they will feel, on repassing the threshold, that, in the wide, wide world — there is no spot to them so full of blessings.
What true woman does not aspire to be the governor in such a home?