( Originally Published 1884 )
Healthy Existence.—Necessity for Pure Air.—Healthy Homes. Influence of the Home.—Intelligence of Women.—Wholesome Dwellings.
" The best security for civilization is the dwelling."—B. DISRAELI.
" Cleanliness is the elegance of the poor."—English Proverb.
" Virtue never dwells long with filth and nastiness."-COUNT RUMFORD.
HEALTH is said to be wealth. Indeed, all wealth is valueless without health. Every man who lives by labor, whether of mind or body, regards health as one of the most valuable of possessions. Without it, life would be unenjoyable. The human system has been so framed as to render enjoyment one of the principal ends of physical life. The whole arrangement, structure, and functions of the human system are beautifully adapted for that purpose.
The exercise of every sense is pleasurable the exercise of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and muscular effort. What can be more pleasurable, for instance, than the feeling of entire health health which is the sum total of the functions of life, duly performed?
Happiness is the rule of healthy existence; pain and misery are its exceptional conditions. Nor is pain almost together an evil; it is rather a salutary warning. It tells us that we have transgressed some rule, violated some law, disobeyed some physical obligation. It is a monitor which warns us to amend our state of living. It virtually says, " Return to Nature, observe her laws, and be restored to happiness." Thus, paradoxical though it may seem,. pain is one of the conditions of the physical well-being of man; as death, according to Dr. Thomas Brown, is one of the conditions of the enjoyment of life.
To enjoy physical happiness, therefore, the natural laws must be complied with. To discover and observe these laws, man has been endowed with the gift of reason. Does he fail to exercise this gift does he neglect to comply with the law of his being then pain and disease are the necessary consequence.
Wherever any number of persons live together, the atmosphere becomes poisoned, unless means be provided for its constant change and renovation. If there be not sufficient ventilation, the air becomes charged with carbonic acid, principally the product of respiration. Whatever the body discharges, becomes poison to the body if introduced again through the lungs. Hence the immense importance of pure air. A deficiency of food may be considerably less injurious than a deficiency of pure air. Every person above fourteen years of age requires about six hundred cubic feet of shut-up space to breathe in during the twenty-four hours. If he sleeps in a room of smaller dimensions, he will suffer more or less, and gradually approach the condition of being smothered.
The first method of raising a man above the life of an animal is to provide him with a healthy home. The home is, after all, the best school for the world. Children grow up into men and women there; they imbibe their best and their worst morality there; and their morals and intelligence are in a great measure well or ill trained there.
The home should not be considered merely as an eating and sleeping place; but as a place where self-respect may be preserved, and comfort secured, and domestic pleasures enjoyed. Three-fourths of the petty vices which degrade society, and swell into crimes which disgrace it, would shrink before the influence of self-respect. To be a place of happiness, exercising beneficial influences upon its members, and especially upon the children growing up within it, the home must be pervaded by the spirit of comfort, cleanliness, affection, and intelligence. And in order to secure this, the presence of a well-ordered, industrious, and educated woman is indispensable. So much depends upon the woman, that we might almost pronounce the happiness or unhappiness of the home to be woman's work. No nation can advance except through the improvement of the nation's homes; and they can only be improved through the instrumentality of women. They must know how to make homes comfortable; and before they can know, they must have been taught.
To build a wholesome dwelling costs little more than to build an unwholesome one. What is wanted on the part of the builder are, a knowledge of sanitary conditions, and a willingness to provide the proper accommodation. The space of ground covered by the dwelling is the same in both cases; the quantity of bricks and mortar need be no greater; and pure air is of the sane price as foul air. Light costs nothing.
A healthy home, presided over by a thrifty, cleanly woman, may be the abode of comfort, of virtue, and of happiness. It may be the scene of every ennobling relation in family life. It may be endeared to a man by many delightful memories by the affectionate voices of his wife, his children, and his neighbors. Such a home will be regarded, not as a mere nest of common instinct, but as a training-ground for young immortals, a sanctuary for the heart, a refuge from storms, a sweet resting-place after labor, a consolation in sorrow, a pride in success, and a joy at all times.