A Treatise on Domestic Economy - For the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School
by Catherine Esther Beecher
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This makes it important to secure a proper proportion of animal and vegetable diet. Some medical men suppose, that an exclusively vegetable diet is proved, by the experience of many individuals, to be fully sufficient to nourish the body; and bring, as evidence, the fact, that some of the strongest and most robust men in the world, are those, who are trained, from infancy, exclusively on vegetable food. From this, they infer, that life will be shortened, just in proportion as the diet is changed to more stimulating articles; and that, all other things being equal, children will have a better chance of health and long life, if they are brought up solely on vegetable food.

But, though this is not the common opinion of medical men, they all agree, that, in America, far too large a portion of the diet consists of animal food. As a nation, the Americans are proverbial for the gross and luxurious diet with which they load their tables; and there can be no doubt that the general health of the Nation would be increased, by a change in our customs in this respect. To take meat but once a day, and this in small quantities, compared with the common practice, is a rule, the observance of which would probably greatly reduce the amount of fevers, eruptions, headaches, bilious attacks, and the many other ailments which are produced or aggravated by too gross a diet.

The celebrated Roman physician, Baglivi, (who, from practising extensively among Roman Catholics, had ample opportunities to observe,) mentions, that, in Italy, an unusual number of people recover their health in the forty days of Lent, in consequence of the lower diet which is required as a religious duty. An American physician remarks, "For every reeling drunkard that disgraces our Country, it contains one hundred gluttons;—persons, I mean, who eat to excess, and suffer in consequence." Another distinguished physician says, "I believe that every stomach, not actually impaired by organic disease, will perform its functions, if it receives reasonable attention; and when we perceive the manner in which diet is generally conducted, both in regard to quantity and variety of articles of food and drink, which are mixed up in one heterogeneous mass,—instead of being astonished at the prevalence of indigestion, our wonder must rather be, that, in such circumstances, any stomach is capable of digesting at all."

In regard to articles which are the most easily digested, only general rules can be given. Tender meats are digested more readily than those which are tough, or than many kinds of vegetable food. The farinaceous articles, such as rice, flour, corn, potatoes, and the like, are the most nutritious, and most easily digested. The popular notion, that meat is more nourishing than bread, is a great mistake. Good bread contains one third more nourishment than butcher's meat. The meat is more stimulating, and for this reason is more readily digested. A perfectly healthy stomach can digest almost any healthful food; but when the digestive powers are weak, every stomach has its peculiarities, and what is good for one, is hurtful to another. In such cases, experiment, alone, can decide, which are the most digestible articles of food. A person, whose food troubles him, must deduct one article after another, till he learns, by experience, which is the best for digestion. Much evil has been done, by assuming that the powers of one stomach are to be made the rule in regulating every other.

The most unhealthful kinds of food, are those, which are made so by bad cooking; such as sour and heavy bread, cakes, pie-crust, and other dishes consisting of fat, mixed and cooked with flour; also rancid butter, and high-seasoned food. The fewer mixtures there are in cooking, the more healthful is the food likely to be.

There is one caution, as to the mode of eating, which seems peculiarly needful to Americans. It is indispensable to good digestion, that food be well chewed and taken slowly. It needs to be thoroughly chewed, in order to prepare it for the action of the gastric juice, which, by the peristaltic motion, will be thus brought into universal contact with the minute portions. It has been found, that a solid lump of food requires much more time and labor of the stomach, than divided substances. It has also been found, that, as each bolus, or mouthful, enters the stomach, the latter closes, until the portion received has had some time to move around and combine with the gastric juice; and that the orifice of the stomach resists the entrance of any more, till this is accomplished. But, if the eater persists in swallowing fast, the stomach yields; the food is then poured in more rapidly than the organ can perform its duty of digestion; and evil results are sooner or later developed. This exhibits the folly of those hasty meals, so common to travellers, and to men of business, and shows why children should be taught to eat slowly.

After taking a full meal, it is very important to health, that no great bodily or mental exertion be made, till the labor of the stomach is over. Intense mental effort draws the blood to the head, and muscular exertions draw it to the muscles; and in consequence of this, the stomach loses the supply which it requires when performing its office. When the blood is thus withdrawn, the adequate supply of gastric juice is not afforded, and indigestion is the result. The heaviness which follows a full meal, is the indication which Nature gives of the need of quiet. When the meal is moderate, a sufficient quantity of gastric juice is exuded in an hour, or an hour and a half; after which, labor of body and mind may safely be resumed.

When undigested food remains in the stomach, and is at last thrown out into the bowels, it proves an irritating substance, producing an inflamed state in the lining of the stomach and other organs. The same effect is produced by alcoholic drinks.

It is found, that the stomach has the power of gradually accommodating its digestive powers to the food it habitually receives. Thus, animals, which live on vegetables, can gradually become accustomed to animal food; and the reverse is equally true. Thus, too, the human stomach can eventually accomplish the digestion of some kinds of food, which, at first, were indigestible.

But any changes of this sort should be gradual; as those which are sudden, are trying to the powers of the stomach, by furnishing matter for which its gastric juice is not prepared.

In regard to the nature of the meals prepared, the breakfast should furnish a supply of liquids, because the body has been exhausted by the exhalations of the night, and demands them more than at any other period. It should not be the heartiest meal, because the organs of digestion are weakened by long fasting, and the exhalations. Dinner should be the heartiest meal, because then the powers of digestion are strengthened, by the supplies of the morning meal. Light and amusing employments should occupy mind and body for an hour or more after a full meal.

But little drink should be taken, while eating, as it dilutes the gastric juice which is apportioned to each quantity of food as it enters the stomach. It is better to take drink after the meal is past.

Extremes of heat or cold are injurious to the process of digestion. Taking hot food or drink, habitually, tends to debilitate all the organs thus needlessly excited. In using cold substances, it is found that a certain degree of warmth in the stomach is indispensable to their digestion; so that, when the gastric juice is cooled below this temperature, it ceases to act. Indulging in large quantities of cold drinks, or eating ice-creams, after a meal, tends to reduce the temperature of the stomach, and thus to stop digestion. This shows the folly of those refreshments, in convivial meetings, where the guests are tempted to load the stomach with a variety, such as would require the stomach of a stout farmer to digest, and then to wind up with ice-creams, thus destroying whatever ability might otherwise have existed, to digest the heavy load. The fittest temperature for drinks, if taken when the food is in the digesting process, is blood heat. Cool drinks, and even ice, can be safely taken at other times, if not in excessive quantity. When the thirst is excessive, or the body weakened by fatigue, or when in a state of perspiration, cold drinks are injurious. When the body is perspiring freely, taking a large quantity of cold drink has often produced instant death.

Fluids taken into the stomach are not subject to the slow process of digestion, but are immediately absorbed and carried into the blood. This is the reason why drink, more speedily than food, restores from exhaustion. The minute vessels of the stomach inhale or absorb its fluids, which are carried into the blood, just as the minute extremities of the arteries open upon the inner surface of the stomach, and there exude the gastric juice from the blood.

When food is chiefly liquid, (soup, for example,) the fluid part is rapidly absorbed. The solid parts remain, to be acted on by the gastric juice. In the case of St. Martin,[F] in fifty minutes after taking soup, the fluids were absorbed, and the remainder was even thicker than is usual after eating solid food. This is the reason why soups are deemed bad for weak stomachs; as this residuum is more difficult of digestion than ordinary food. In recovering from sickness, beef-tea and broths are good, because the system then demands fluids to supply its loss of blood.

Highly-concentrated food, having much nourishment in a small bulk, is not favorable to digestion, because it cannot be properly acted on by the muscular contractions of the stomach, and is not so minutely divided, as to enable the gastric juice to act properly. This is the reason, why a certain bulk of food is needful to good digestion; and why those people, who live on whale oil, and other highly-nourishing food, in cold climates, mix vegetables and even sawdust with it, to make it more acceptable and digestible. So, in civilized lands, bread, potatoes, and vegetables, are mixed with more highly-concentrated nourishment. This explains why coarse bread, of unbolted wheat, so often proves beneficial. Where, from inactive habits, or other causes, the bowels become constipated and sluggish, this kind of food proves the appropriate remedy. One fact on this subject is worthy of notice. Under the administration of William Pitt, for two years or more, there was such a scarcity of wheat, that, to make it hold out longer, Parliament passed a law, that the army should have all their bread made of unbolted flour. The result was, that the health of the soldiers improved so much, as to be a subject of surprise to themselves, the officers, and the physicians. These last came out publicly, and declared, that the soldiers never before were so robust and healthy; and that disease had nearly disappeared from the army. The civic physicians joined and pronounced it the healthiest bread; and, for a time, schools, families, and public institutions, used it almost exclusively. Even the nobility, convinced by these facts, adopted it for their common diet; and the fashion continued a long time after the scarcity ceased, until more luxurious habits resumed their sway. For this reason, also, soups, gellies, and arrow-root, should have bread or crackers mixed with them. We thus see why children should not have cakes and candies allowed them between meals. These are highly-concentrated nourishments, and should be eaten with more bulky and less nourishing substances. The most indigestible of all kinds of food, are fatty and oily substances; especially if heated. It is on this account, that pie-crust, and articles boiled and fried in fat or butter, are deemed not so healthful as other food.

The following, then, may be put down as the causes of a debilitated constitution, from the misuse of food. Eating too much, eating too often, eating too fast, eating food and condiments that are too stimulating, eating food that is too warm or too cold, eating food that is highly-concentrated, without a proper admixture of less nourishing matter, and eating food that is difficult of digestion.


[F] The individual here referred to,—Alexis St. Martin,—was a young Canadian, of eighteen years of age, of a good constitution, and robust health, who, in 1822, was accidentally wounded by the discharge of a musket, which carried away a part of the ribs, lacerated one of the lobes of the lungs, and perforated the stomach, making a large aperture, which never closed; and which enabled Dr. Beaumont, (a surgeon of the American army, stationed at Michilimackinac, under whose care the patient was placed,) to witness all the processes of digestion and other functions of the body, for several years. The published account of the experiments made by Dr. B., is highly interesting and instructive.



Although intemperance in eating is probably the most prolific cause of the diseases of mankind, intemperance in drink has produced more guilt, misery, and crime, than any other one cause. And the responsibilities of a woman, in this particular, are very great; for the habits and liabilities of those under her care, will very much depend on her opinions and practice.

It is a point fully established by experience, that the full developement of the human body, and the vigorous exercise of all its functions, can be secured without the use of stimulating drinks. It is, therefore, perfectly safe, to bring up children never to use them; no hazard being incurred, by such a course.

It is also found, by experience, that there are two evils incurred, by the use of stimulating drinks. The first, is, their positive effect on the human system. Their peculiarity consists in so exciting the nervous system, that all the functions of the body are accelerated, and the fluids are caused to move quicker than at their natural speed. This increased motion of the animal fluids, always produces an agreeable effect on the mind. The intellect is invigorated, the imagination is excited, the spirits are enlivened; and these effects are so agreeable, that all mankind, after having once experienced them, feel a great desire for their repetition.

But this temporary invigoration of the system, is always followed by a diminution of the powers of the stimulated organs; so that, though in all cases this reaction may not be perceptible, it is invariably the result. It may be set down as the unchangeable rule of physiology, that stimulating drinks (except in cases of disease) deduct from the powers of the constitution, in exactly the proportion in which they operate to produce temporary invigoration.

The second evil, is, the temptation which always attends the use of stimulants. Their effect on the system is so agreeable, and the evils resulting are so imperceptible and distant, that there is a constant tendency to increase such excitement, both in frequency and power. And the more the system is thus reduced in strength, the more craving is the desire for that which imparts a temporary invigoration. This process of increasing debility and increasing craving for the stimulus that removes it, often goes to such an extreme, that the passion is perfectly uncontrollable, and mind and body perish under this baleful habit.

In this Country, there are five forms in which the use of such stimulants is common; namely, alcoholic drinks, tea, coffee, opium mixtures, and tobacco. These are all alike, in the main peculiarity of imparting that extra stimulus to the system, which tends to exhaust its powers.

Multitudes in this Nation are in the habitual use of some one of these stimulants; and each person defends the indulgence by these arguments:

First, that the desire for stimulants is a natural propensity, implanted in man's nature, as is manifest from the universal tendency to such indulgences, in every nation. From this, it is inferred, that it is an innocent desire, which ought to be gratified, to some extent, and that the aim should be, to keep it within the limits of temperance, instead of attempting to exterminate a natural propensity.

This is an argument, which, if true, makes it equally proper to use opium, brandy, tea, or tobacco, as stimulating principles, provided they are used temperately. But, if it be granted that perfect health and strength can be gained and secured without these stimulants, and that their peculiar effect is to diminish the power of the system, in exactly the same proportion as they stimulate it, then there is no such thing as a temperate use, unless they are so diluted, as to destroy any stimulating power; and in this form, they are seldom desired.

The other argument for their use, is, that they are among the good things provided by the Creator, for our gratification; that, like all other blessings, they are exposed to abuse and excess; and that we should rather seek to regulate their use, than to banish them entirely.

This argument is based on the assumption, that they are, like healthful foods and drinks, necessary to life and health, and injurious only by excess. But this is not true; for, whenever they are used in any such strength as to be a gratification, they operate, to a greater or less extent, as stimulants; and, to just such extent, they wear out the powers of the constitution; and it is abundantly proved, that they are not, like food and drink, necessary to health. Such articles are designed for medicine, and not for common use. There can be no argument framed to defend the use of one of them, which will not equally defend all. That men have a love for being stimulated, after they have once felt the pleasurable excitement, and that Providence has provided the means for securing it, are arguments as much in favor of alcohol, opium, and tobacco, as of coffee and tea. All that can be said in favor of the last-mentioned favorite beverages, is, that the danger in their use is not so great. Let any one, who defends one kind of stimulating drink, remember, then, that he uses an argument, which, if it be allowed that stimulants are not needed, and are injurious, will equally defend all kinds; and that all which can be said in defence of tea and coffee, is, that they may be used, so weak, as to do no harm, and that they actually have done less harm than some of the other stimulating narcotics.

The writer is of opinion, that tea and coffee are a most extensive cause of much of the nervous debility and suffering endured by American women; and that relinquishing such drinks would save an immense amount of such suffering. But there is little probability that the present generation will make so decided a change in their habits, as to give up these beverages; and the subject is presented rather in reference to forming the habits of children.

It is a fact, that tea and coffee are, at first, seldom or never agreeable to children. It is the mixture of milk, sugar, and water, that reconciles them to a taste, which in this manner gradually becomes agreeable. Now, suppose that those who provide for a family conclude that it is not their duty to give up entirely the use of stimulating drinks, may not the case appear different, in regard to teaching their children to love such drinks? Let the matter be regarded thus:—The experiments of physiologists all prove, that stimulants are not needful to health, and that, as the general rule, they tend to debilitate the constitution. Is it right, then, for a parent to tempt a child to drink what is not needful, when there is a probability that it will prove, to some extent, an undermining drain on the constitution? Some constitutions can bear much less excitement than others; and, in every family of children, there is usually one, or more, of delicate organization, and consequently peculiarly exposed to dangers from this source. It is this child who ordinarily becomes the victim to stimulating drinks. The tea and coffee which the parents and the healthier children can use without immediate injury, gradually sap the energies of the feebler child, who proves either an early victim, or a living martyr to all the sufferings that debilitated nerves inflict. Can it be right, to lead children, where all allow that there is some danger, and where, in many cases, disease and death are met, when another path is known to be perfectly safe?

Of the stimulating drinks in common use, black tea is least injurious, because its flavor is so strong, in comparison with its narcotic principle, that one who uses it, is much less liable to excess. Children can be trained to love milk and water sweetened with sugar, so that it will always be a pleasant beverage; or, if there are exceptions to the rule, they will be few. Water is an unfailing resort. Every one loves it, and it is perfectly healthful.

The impression, common in this Country, that warm drinks, especially in Winter, are more healthful than cold, is not warranted by any experience, nor by the laws of the physical system. At dinner, cold drinks are universal, and no one deems them injurious. It is only at the other two meals that they are supposed to be hurtful.

There is no doubt that warm drinks are healthful, and more agreeable than cold, at certain times and seasons; but it is equally true, that drinks above blood heat are not healthful. If any person should hold a finger in hot water, for a considerable time, twice every day, it would be found that the finger would gradually grow weaker. The frequent application of the stimulus of heat, like all other stimulants, eventually causes debility. If, therefore, a person is in the habit of drinking hot drinks, twice a day, the teeth, throat, and stomach are gradually debilitated. This, most probably, is one of the causes of an early decay of the teeth, which is observed to be much more common among American ladies, than among those in European countries.

It has been stated to the writer, by an intelligent traveller, who had visited Mexico, that it was rare to meet an individual with even a tolerable set of teeth; and that almost every grown person, he met in the street, had merely remnants of teeth. On inquiry into the customs of the Country, it was found, that it was the universal practice to take their usual beverage at almost the boiling point; and this, doubtless, was the chief cause of the almost entire want of teeth in that Country. In the United States, it cannot be doubted that much evil is done, in this way, by hot drinks. Most tea-drinkers consider tea as ruined, if it stands until it reaches the healthful temperature for drink.

The following extract from Dr. Andrew Combe, presents the opinion of most intelligent medical men on this subject.[G]

"Water is a safe drink for all constitutions, provided it be resorted to in obedience to the dictates of natural thirst, only, and not of habit. Unless the desire for it is felt, there is no occasion for its use during a meal."

"The primary effect of all distilled and fermented liquors, is, to stimulate the nervous system and quicken the circulation. In infancy and childhood, the circulation is rapid, and easily excited; and the nervous system is strongly acted upon, even by the slightest external impressions. Hence slight causes of irritation readily excite febrile and convulsive disorders. In youth, the natural tendency of the constitution is still to excitement; and consequently, as a general rule, the stimulus of fermented liquors is injurious."

These remarks show, that parents, who find that stimulating drinks are not injurious to themselves, may mistake in inferring, from this, that they will not be injurious to their children.

Dr. Combe continues thus: "In mature age, when digestion is good and the system in full vigor, if the mode of life be not too exhausting, the nervous functions and general circulation are in their best condition, and require no stimulus for their support. The bodily energy is then easily sustained, by nutritious food and a regular regimen, and consequently artificial excitement only increases the wasting of the natural strength. In old age, when the powers of life begin to fail, moderate stimulus may be used with evident advantage."

It may be asked, in this connection, why the stimulus of animal food is not to be regarded in the same light, as that of stimulating drinks. In reply, a very essential difference may be pointed out. Animal food furnishes nutriment to the organs which it stimulates, but stimulating drinks excite the organs to quickened action, without affording any nourishment.

It has been supposed, by some, that tea and coffee have, at least, a degree of nourishing power. But it is proved, that it is the milk and sugar, and not the main portion of the drink, which imparts the nourishment. Tea has not one particle of nourishing properties; and what little exists in the coffee-berry, is lost by roasting it in the usual mode. All that these articles do, is simply to stimulate, without nourishing.

It is very common, especially in schools, for children to form a habit of drinking freely of cold water. This is a debilitating habit, and should be corrected. Very often, chewing a bit of cracker will stop a craving for drink, better than taking water; and when teachers are troubled with very thirsty scholars, they should direct them to this remedy. A person who exercises but little, requires no drink, between meals, for health; and the craving for it is unhealthful. Spices, wines, fermented liquors, and all stimulating condiments, produce unhealthful thirst.


[G] The writer would here remark, in reference to extracts made from various authors, that, for the sake of abridging, she has often left out parts of a paragraph, but never so as to modify the meaning of the author. Some ideas, not connected with the subject in hand, are omitted, but none are altered.



It appears, by calculations made from bills of mortality, that one quarter of the human race perishes in infancy. This is a fact not in accordance with the analogy of Nature. No such mortality prevails among the young of animals; it does not appear to be the design of the Creator; and it must be owing to causes which can be removed. Medical men agree in the opinion, that a great portion of this mortality, is owing to mismanagement, in reference to fresh air, food, and clothing.

At birth, the circulation is chiefly in the vessels of the skin; for the liver and stomach, being feeble in action, demand less blood, and it resorts to the surface. If, therefore, an infant be exposed to cold, the blood is driven inward, by the contracting of the blood-vessels in the skin: and, the internal organs being thus over-stimulated, bowel complaints, croup, convulsions, or some other evil, ensues. This shows the sad mistake of parents, who plunge infants in cold water to strengthen their constitution; and teaches, that infants should be washed in warm water, and in a warm room. Some have constitutions strong enough to bear mismanagement in these respects; but many fail in consequence of it.

Hence we see the importance of dressing infants warmly, and protecting them from exposure to a cold temperature. It is for this purpose, that mothers, now, very generally, cover the arms and necks of infants, especially in Winter. Fathers and mothers, if they were obliged to go with bare arms and necks, even in moderate weather, would often shiver with cold; and yet they have a power of constitution which would subject them to far less hazard and discomfort, than a delicate infant must experience from a similar exposure. This mode of dressing infants, with bare necks and arms, has arisen from the common impression, that they have a power of resisting cold superior to older persons. This is a mistake; for the experiments of medical men have established the fact, that the power of producing heat is least in the period of infancy.

Extensive investigations have been made in France, in reference to this point. It is there required, in some districts, that every infant, at birth, be carried to the office of the maire, [mayor,] to be registered. It is found, in these districts, that the deaths of newly-born infants, are much more numerous in the cold, than in the warm, months; and that a much greater proportion of such deaths occurs among those who reside at a distance from the office of the maire, than among those in its vicinity. This proves, that exposure to cold has much to do with the continuance of infant life.

But it is as dangerous to go to the other extreme, and keep the body too warm. The skin, when kept at too high a temperature, is relaxed and weakened by too profuse perspiration, and becomes more sensitive, and more readily affected by every change of temperature. This increases the liabilities to sudden colds; and it frequently happens, that the children, who are most carefully guarded from cold, are the ones most liable to take sudden and dangerous chills. The reason is, that, by the too great accumulation of clothing, the skin is too much excited, and the blood is withdrawn from the internal organs, thus weakening them, while the skin itself is debilitated by the same process.

The rule of safety, is, so to cover the body, as to keep it entirely warm, but not so as to induce perspiration in any part. The perspiration induced by exercise is healthful, because it increases the appetite; but the perspiration produced by excess of clothing is debilitating. This shows the importance of adjusting beds and their covering to the season. Featherbeds are unhealthful in warm weather, because they induce perspiration; and in all cases, those, who have the care of children, should proportion their covering by night to the season of the year. Infants and children should never be so clothed, as either to feel chilly, or to induce perspiration.

The greatest trouble, in this respect, to those who have the care of children, is owing to their throwing off their covering in the night. The best guard, against such exposures, is a nightgown, of the warmest and thickest flannel, made like pantaloons at the lower part, and the legs long, so that they can be tied over the feet. This makes less covering needful, and saves the child from excessive cold when it is thrown off.

The clothing ought always to be proportioned to the constitution and habits. A person of strong constitution, who takes much exercise, needs less clothing than one of delicate and sedentary habits. According to this rule, women need much thicker and warmer clothing, when they go out, than men. But how different are our customs, from what sound wisdom dictates! Women go out with thin stockings, thin shoes, and open necks, when men are protected by thick woollen hose and boots, and their whole body encased in many folds of flannel and broadcloth.

Flannel, worn next the skin, is useful, for several reasons. It is a bad conductor of heat, so that it protects the body from sudden chills when in a state of perspiration. It also produces a kind of friction on the skin, which aids it in its functions, while its texture, being loose, enables it to receive and retain much matter, thrown off from the body, which would otherwise accumulate on its surface. This is the reason, why medical men direct, that young children wear flannel next the body, and woollen hose, the first two years of life. They are thus protected from sudden exposures. For the same reason, laboring men should thus wear flannels, which are also considered as preservatives from infection, in unhealthy atmospheres. They give a healthy action to the skin, and thus enable it to resist the operation of unhealthy miasms. On this account, persons residing in a new country should wear such clothing next the skin, to guard them from the noxious miasms caused by extensive vegetable decompositions. It is stated, that the fatal influence of the malaria, or noxious exhalations around Rome, has been much diminished by this practice. But those who thus wear flannel, through the day, ought to take it off, at night, when it is not needed. It should be hung so that it can be well aired, during the night.

But the practice, by which females probably suffer most, is, the use of tight dresses. Much has been said against the use of corsets by ladies. But these may be worn with perfect safety, and be left off, and still injury, such as they often produce, be equally felt. It is the constriction of dress, that is to be feared, and not any particular article that produces it. A frock, or a belt, may be so tight, as to be even worse than a corset, which would more equally divide the compression.

So long as it is the fashion to admire, as models of elegance, the wasp-like figures which are presented at the rooms of mantuamakers and milliners, there will be hundreds of foolish women, who will risk their lives and health to secure some resemblance to these deformities of the human frame. But it is believed, that all sensible women, when they fairly understand the evils which result from tight dressing, and learn the real model of taste and beauty for a perfect female form, will never risk their own health, or the health of their daughters, in efforts to secure one which is as much at variance with good taste, as it is with good health.

Such female figures as our print-shops present, are made, not by the hand of the Author of all grace and beauty, but by the murderous contrivances of the corset-shop; and the more a woman learns the true rules of grace and beauty for the female form, the more her taste will revolt from such ridiculous distortions. The folly of the Chinese belle, who totters on two useless deformities, is nothing, compared to that of the American belle, who impedes all the internal organs in the discharge of their functions, that she may have a slender waist.

It was shown, in the article on the bones and muscles, that exercise was indispensable to their growth and strength. If any muscles are left unemployed, they diminish in size and strength. The girding of tight dresses operates thus on the muscles of the body. If an article, like corsets, is made to hold up the body, then those muscles, which are designed for this purpose, are released from duty, and grow weak; so that, after this has been continued for some time, leaving off the unnatural support produces a feeling of weakness. Thus a person will complain of feeling so weak and unsupported, without corsets, as to be uncomfortable. This is entirely owing to the disuse of those muscles, which corsets throw out of employ.

Another effect of tight dress, is, to stop or impede the office of the lungs. Unless the chest can expand, fully, and with perfect ease, a portion of the lungs is not filled with air, and thus the full purification of the blood is prevented. This movement of the lungs, when they are fully inflated, increases the peristaltic movement of the stomach and bowels, and promotes digestion; any constriction of the waist tends to impede this important operation, and indigestion, with all its attendant evils, is often the result.

The rule of safety, in regard to the tightness of dress, is this. Every person should be dressed so loosely, that, when sitting in the posture used in sewing, reading, or study THE LUNGS can be as fully and as easily inflated, as they are without clothing. Many a woman thinks she dresses loosely, because, when she stands up, her clothing does not confine her chest. This is not a fair test. It is in the position most used when engaged in common employments, that we are to judge of the constriction of dress. Let every woman, then, bear in mind, that, just so long as her dress and position oppose any resistance to the motion of her chest, in just such proportion her blood is unpurified, and her vital organs are debilitated.

The English ladies set our countrywomen a good example, in accommodating their dress to times and seasons. The richest and noblest among them wear warm cotton hose and thick shoes, when they walk for exercise; and would deem it vulgar to appear, as many of our ladies do, with thin hose and shoes, in damp or cold weather. Any mode of dress, not suited to the employment, the age, the season, or the means of the wearer, is in bad taste.



The importance of cleanliness, in person and dress, can never be fully realized, by persons who are ignorant of the construction of the skin, and of the influence which its treatment has on the health of the body. Persons deficient in such knowledge, frequently sneer at what they deem the foolish and fidgety particularity of others, whose frequent ablutions and changes of clothing, exceed their own measure of importance.

The popular maxim, that "dirt is healthy," has probably arisen from the fact, that playing in the open air is very beneficial to the health of children, who thus get dirt on their persons and clothes. But it is the fresh air and exercise, and not the dirt, which promotes the health.

In a previous article, it was shown, that the lungs, bowels, kidneys, and skin, were the organs employed in throwing off those waste and noxious parts of the food not employed in nourishing the body. Of this, the skin has the largest duty to perform; throwing off, at least, twenty ounces every twenty-four hours, by means of insensible perspiration. When exercise sets the blood in quicker motion, it ministers its supplies faster, and there is consequently a greater residuum to be thrown off by the skin; and then the perspiration becomes so abundant as to be perceptible. In this state, if a sudden chill take place, the blood-vessels of the skin contract, the blood is driven from the surface, and the internal organs are taxed with a double duty. If the constitution be a strong one, these organs march on and perform the labor exacted. But if any of these organs be debilitated, the weakest one generally gives way, and some disease ensues.

One of the most frequent illustrations of this reciprocated action, is afforded by a convivial meeting in cold weather. The heat of the room, the food, and the excitement, quicken the circulation, and perspiration is evolved. When the company passes into the cold air, a sudden revulsion takes place. The increased circulation continues, for some time after; but the skin being cooled, the blood retreats, and the internal organs are obliged to perform the duties of the skin as well as their own. Then, in case the lungs are the weakest organ, the mucous secretion becomes excessive; so that it would fill up the cells, and stop the breathing, were it not for the spasmodic effort called coughing, by which this substance is thrown out. In case the nerves are the weakest part of the system, such an exposure would result in pains in the head or teeth, or in some other nervous ailment. If the muscles be the weakest part, rheumatic affections will ensue; and if the bowels or kidneys be weakest, some disorder in their functions will result.

But it is found, that the closing of the pores of the skin with other substances, tends to a similar result on the internal organs. In this situation, the skin is unable perfectly to perform its functions, and either the blood remains to a certain extent unpurified, or else the internal organs have an unnatural duty to perform. Either of these results tends to produce disease, and the gradual decay of the vital powers.

Moreover, it has been shown, that the skin has the power of absorbing into the blood particles retained on its surface. In consequence of these peculiarities, the skin of the whole body needs to be washed, every day. This process removes from the pores the matter exhaled from the blood, and also that collected from the atmosphere and other bodies. If this process be not often performed, the pores of the skin fill up with the redundant matter expelled, and being pressed, by the clothing, to the surface of the body, the skin is both interrupted in its exhaling process, and its absorbents take back into the system portions of the noxious matter. Thus the blood is not relieved to the extent designed, while it receives back noxious particles, which are thus carried to the lungs, liver, and every part of the system.

This is the reason why the articles worn next to the skin should often be changed; and why it is recommended that persons should not sleep in the article they wear next the skin through the day. The alternate change and airing of the articles worn next the body by day or night, is a practice very favorable to the health of the skin. The fresh air has the power of removing much of the noxious effluvia received from the body by the clothing. It is with reference to this, that on leaving a bed, its covering should be thrown open and exposed to the fresh air.

The benefit arising from a proper care of the skin, is the reason why bathing has been so extensively practised by civilized nations. The Greeks and Romans considered bathing as indispensable to daily comfort, as much so, as their meals; and public baths were provided for all classes. In European countries, this practice is very prevalent, but there is no civilized nation which pays so little regard to the rules of health, on this subject, as our own. To wash the face, feet, hands, and neck, is the extent of the ablutions practised by perhaps the majority of our people.

In regard to the use of the bath, there is need of some information, in order to prevent danger from its misuse. Persons in good health, and with strong constitutions, can use the cold bath, and the shower-bath, with entire safety and benefit. But if the constitution be feeble, cold bathing is injurious. If it is useful, it can be known by an invigorated feeling, and a warm glow on the skin; but if, instead of this, there be a feeling of debility, and the hands and feet become cold, it is a certain sign, that this kind of bathing is injurious. A bath at ninety-five degrees of Fahrenheit, is about the right temperature. A bath, blood warm, or a little cooler than the skin, is safe for all constitutions, if not protracted over half an hour. After bathing, the body should be rubbed with a brush or coarse towel, to remove the light scales of scarfskin, which adhere to it, and also to promote a healthful excitement.

A bath should never be taken, till three hours after eating, as it interrupts the process of digestion, by withdrawing the blood from the stomach to the surface. Neither should it be taken, when the body is weary with exercise, nor be immediately followed by severe exercise. Many suppose that a warm bath exposes a person more readily to take cold; and that it tends to debilitate the system. This is not the case, unless it be protracted too long. If it be used so as to cleanse the skin, and give it a gentle stimulus, it is better able to resist cold than before the process. This is the reason why the Swedes and Russians can rush, reeking, out of their steam baths, and throw themselves into the snow, and not only escape injury, but feel invigorated. It is for a similar reason, that we suffer less in going into the cold, from a warm room, with our body entirely warm, than when we go out somewhat chilled. When the skin is warm, the circulation is active on the surface, and the cold does not so reduce its temperature, but that increased exercise will keep up its warmth.

When families have no bathing establishment, every member should wash the whole person, on rising or going to bed, either in cold or warm water, according to the constitution. It is especially important, that children have the perspiration and other impurities, which their exercise and sports have occasioned, removed from their skin before going to bed. The hours of sleep are those when the body most freely exhales the waste matter of the system, and all the pores should be properly freed from impediments to this healthful operation. For this purpose, a large tin wash-pan should be kept for children, just large enough, at bottom, for them to stand in, and flaring outward, so as to be very broad at top. A child can then be placed in it, standing, and washed with a sponge, without wetting the floor. Being small at bottom, it is better than a tub; it is not only smaller, but lighter, and requires less water.

These remarks indicate the wisdom of those parents, who habitually wash their children, all over, before they go to bed. The chance of life and health, to such children, is greatly increased by this practice; and no doubt much of the suffering of childhood, from cutaneous eruptions, weak eyes, earache, colds, and fevers, is owing to a neglect of the skin.

The care of the teeth should be made habitual to children, not merely as promoting an agreeable appearance, but as a needful preservative. The saliva contains tartar, an earthy substance, which is deposited on the teeth, and destroys both their beauty and health. This can be prevented, by the use of the brush, night and morning. But, if this be neglected, the deposite becomes hard, and can be removed only by the dentist. If suffered to remain, it tends to destroy the health of the gums; they gradually decay, and thus the roots of the teeth become bare, and they often drop out.

When children are shedding their first set of teeth, care should be taken, to remove them as soon as they become loose; otherwise the new teeth will grow awry. When persons have defective teeth, they can often be saved, by having them filled by a dentist. This also will frequently prevent the toothache.

Children should be taught to take proper care of their nails. Long and dirty nails have a disagreeable appearance. When children wash, in the morning, they should be supplied with an instrument to clean the nails, and be required to use it.



There is no practice, which has been more extensively eulogized, in all ages, than early rising; and this universal impression, is an indication that it is founded on true philosophy. For, it is rarely the case, that the common sense of mankind fastens on a practice, as really beneficial, especially one that demands self-denial, without some substantial reason.

This practice, which may justly be called a domestic virtue, is one, which has a peculiar claim to be styled American and democratic. The distinctive mark of aristocratic nations, is, a disregard of the great mass, and a disproportionate regard for the interests of certain privileged orders. All the customs and habits of such a nation, are, to a greater or less extent, regulated by this principle. Now the mass of any nation must always consist of persons who labor at occupations which demand the light of day. But in aristocratic countries, especially in England, labor is regarded as the mark of the lower classes, and indolence is considered as one mark of a gentleman. This impression has gradually and imperceptibly, to a great extent, regulated their customs, so that, even in their hours of meals and repose, the higher orders aim at being different and distinct from those, who, by laborious pursuits, are placed below them. From this circumstance, while the lower orders labor by day, and sleep at night, the rich, the noble, and the honored, sleep by day, and follow their pursuits and pleasures by night. It will be found, that the aristocracy of London breakfast near mid-day, dine after dark, visit and go to Parliament between ten and twelve at night, and retire to sleep towards morning. In consequence of this, the subordinate classes, who aim at gentility, gradually fall into the same practice. The influence of this custom extends across the ocean, and here, in this democratic land, we find many, who measure their grade of gentility by the late hour at which they arrive at a party. And this aristocratic tendency is growing upon us, so that, throughout the Nation, the hours for visiting and retiring are constantly becoming later, while the hours for rising correspond in lateness.

The question, then, is one which appeals to American women, as a matter of patriotism; as having a bearing on those great principles of democracy, which we conceive to be equally the principles of Christianity. Shall we form our customs on the principle that labor is degrading, and indolence genteel? Shall we assume, by our practice, that the interests of the great mass are to be sacrificed for the pleasures and honors of a privileged few? Shall we ape the customs of aristocratic lands, in those very practices which result from principles and institutions that we condemn? Shall we not rather take the place to which we are entitled, as the leaders, rather than the followers, in the customs of society, turn back the tide of aristocratic inroads, and carry through the whole, not only of civil and political, but of social and domestic, life, the true principles of democratic freedom and equality? The following considerations may serve to strengthen an affirmative decision.

The first, relates to the health of a family. It is a universal law of physiology, that all living things flourish best in the light. Vegetables, in a dark cellar, grow pale and spindling,[H] and children, brought up in mines, are wan and stinted. This universal law, indicates the folly of turning day into night, thus losing the genial influence, which the light of day produces on all animated creation.

There is another phenomenon in the physiology of Nature, which equally condemns this practice. It has been shown, that the purification of the blood, in the lungs, is secured, by the oxygen of the atmosphere absorbing its carbon and hydrogen. This combination forms carbonic acid and water, which are expired from our lungs into the atmosphere. Now all the vegetable world undergoes a similar process. In the light of day, all the leaves of vegetables absorb carbon and expire oxygen, thus supplying the air with its vital principle, and withdrawing the more deleterious element. But, when the light is withdrawn, this process is reversed, and all vegetables exhale carbonic acid, and inspire the oxygen of the air. Thus it appears, that the atmosphere of day is much more healthful than that of the night, especially out of doors.

Moreover, when the body is fatigued, it is much more liable to deleterious influences, from noxious particles in the atmosphere, which may be absorbed by the skin or the lungs. In consequence of this, the last hours of daily labor are more likely to be those of risk, especially to delicate constitutions. This is a proper reason for retiring to the house and to slumber, at an early hour, that the body may not be exposed to the most risk, when, after the exertions of the day, it is least able to bear it.

The observations of medical men, whose inquiries have been directed to this point, have decided, that from six to eight hours, is the amount of sleep demanded by persons in health. Some constitutions require as much as eight, and others no more than six, hours of repose. But eight hours is the maximum for all persons in ordinary health, with ordinary occupations. In cases of extra physical exertions, or the debility of disease, or a decayed constitution, more than this is required. Let eight hours, then, be regarded as the ordinary period required for sleep, by an industrious people, like the Americans. According to this, the practice of rising between four and five, and retiring between nine and ten, in Summer, would secure most of the sunlight, and expose us the least to that period of the atmosphere, when it is most noxious. In Winter, the night air is less deleterious, because the frost binds noxious exhalations, and vegetation ceases its inspiring and expiring process; and, moreover, as the constitution is more tried, in cold, than in warm, weather, and as in cold weather the body exhales less during the hours of sleep, it is not so injurious to protract our slumbers beyond the proper period, as it is in the warm months. But in Winter, it is best for grown persons, in health, to rise as soon as they can see to dress, and retire so as not to allow more than eight hours for sleep.

It thus appears, that the laws of our political condition, the laws of the natural world, and the constitution of our bodies, alike demand that we rise with the light of day to prosecute our employments, and that we retire within doors, when this light is withdrawn.

In regard to the effects of protracting the time spent in repose, many extensive and satisfactory investigations have been made. It has been shown, that, during sleep, the body perspires most freely, while yet neither food nor exercise are ministering to its wants. Of course, if we continue our slumbers, beyond the time required to restore the body to its usual vigor, there is an unperceived undermining of the constitution, by this protracted and debilitating exhalation. This process, in a course of years, renders the body delicate, and less able to withstand disease; and in the result shortens life. Sir John Sinclair, who has written a large work on the Causes of Longevity, states, as one result of his extensive investigations, that he has never yet heard or read of a single case of great longevity, where the individual was not an early riser. He says, that he has found cases, in which the individual has violated some one of all the other laws of health, and yet lived to great age; but never a single instance, in which any constitution has withstood that undermining, consequent on protracting the hours of repose beyond the demands of the system.

Another reason for early rising, is, that it is indispensable to a systematic and well-regulated family. At whatever hour the parents retire, children and domestics, wearied by play or labor, must retire early. Children usually awake with the dawn of light, and commence their play, while domestics usually prefer the freshness of morning for their labors. If, then, the parents rise at a late hour, they either induce a habit of protracting sleep in their children and domestics, or else the family is up, and at their pursuits, while their supervisors are in bed. Any woman, who asserts that her children and domestics, in the first hours of day, when their spirits are freshest, will be as well regulated without her presence, as with it, confesses that, which surely is little for her credit. It is believed, that any candid woman, whatever may be her excuse for late rising, will concede, that, if she could rise early, it would be for the advantage of her family. A late breakfast puts back the work, through the whole day, for every member of a family; and, if the parents thus occasion the loss of an hour or two, to each individual, who, but for their delay in the morning, would be usefully employed, they, alone, are responsible for all this waste of time. Is it said, that those, who wish to rise early, can go to their employments before breakfast? it may be replied, that, in most cases, it is not safe to use the eyes or the muscles in the morning, till the losses of the night have been repaired by food. In addition to this, it may be urged, that, where the parents set an example of the violation of the rules of health and industry, their influence tends in the wrong direction; so that whatever waste of time is induced, by a practice which they thus uphold, must be set down to their account.

But the practice of early rising has a relation to the general interests of the social community, as well as to that of each distinct family. All that great portion of the community, who are employed in business and labor, find it needful to rise early; and all their hours of meals, and their appointments for business or pleasure, must be accommodated to these arrangements. Now, if a small portion of the community establish very different hours, it makes a kind of jostling, in all the concerns and interests of society. The various appointments for the public, such as meetings, schools, and business hours, must be accommodated to the mass, and not to individuals. The few, then, who establish domestic habits at variance with the majority, are either constantly interrupted in their own arrangements, or else are interfering with the rights and interests of others. This is exemplified in the case of schools. In families where late rising is practised, either hurry, irregularity, and neglect, are engendered in the family, or else the interests of the school, and thus of the community, are sacrificed. In this, and many other concerns, it can be shown, that the wellbeing of the bulk of the people, is, to a greater or less extent, impaired by this aristocratic practice. Let any teacher select the unpunctual scholars,—a class who most seriously interfere with the interests of the school;—and let men of business select those who cause them most waste of time and vexation, by unpunctuality; and it will be found, that they are among the late risers, and rarely among those who rise early. Thus, it is manifest, that late rising not only injures the person and family which practise it, but interferes with the rights and convenience of the community.


[H] Shooting into a long, small, stalk or root.



In the preceding chapters, we have noticed the various causes, which, one or all, operate to produce that melancholy delicacy and decay of the female constitution, which are the occasion of so much physical and mental suffering throughout this Country.

These, in a more condensed form, may be enumerated thus:

A want of exercise, inducing softness in the bones, weakness in the muscles, inactivity in the digestive organs, and general debility in the nervous system: A neglect of the care of the skin, whereby the blood has not been properly purified, and the internal organs have been weakened: A violation of the laws of health, in regard to food, by eating too much, too fast, and too often; by using stimulating food and drinks; by using them too warm or too cold; and by eating that which the power of the stomach is not sufficient to digest: A neglect of the laws of health, in regard to clothing, by dressing too tight, and by wearing too little covering, in cold and damp weather, and especially by not sufficiently protecting the feet: A neglect to gain a proper supply of pure air, in sleeping apartments and schoolrooms, and too great a confinement to the house: The pursuit of exciting amusements at unseasonable hours, and the many exposures involved at such times: And lastly, sleeping by day, instead of by night, and protracting the hours of sleep, beyond the period of repose demanded for rest; thus exhausting, instead of recruiting, the energies of the system.

But all the other causes, combined, probably, do not produce one half the evils, which result from a want of proper exercise. A person who keeps all the functions of the system in full play, by the active and frequent use of every muscle, especially if it be in the open air, gains a power of constitution, which can resist many evils that would follow from the other neglects and risks detailed. This being the case, there can be no subject, more important for mothers and young ladies to understand, than the influence on the health, both of body and mind, of the neglect or abuse of the muscular system.

It has been shown, in the previous pages, that all the muscles have nerves and blood-vessels, running in larger trunks, or minute branches, to every portion of the body. The experiments of Sir Charles Bell and others, have developed the curious fact, that each apparently single nerve, in reality consists of two distinct portions, running together in the same covering. One portion, is the nerve of sensation or feeling, the other, the nerve of motion. The nerves of sensation are those which are affected by the emotions and volitions of the mind; and the nerves of motion are those which impart moving power to the muscles. Experiments show, that, where the nerves issue from the spine, the nerve of sensation may be cut off without severing the nerve of motion, and then the parts, to which this nerve extends, lose the power of feeling, while the power of motion continues; and so, on the other hand, the nerve of motion may be divided, and, the nerve of sensation remaining uninjured, the power of feeling is retained, and the power of motion is lost.

In certain nervous diseases, sometimes a limb loses its power of feeling, and yet retains the power of motion; in other cases, the power of motion is lost, and the power of sensation is retained; and in other cases, still, when a limb is paralysed, both the power of motion and of sensation are lost.

Now, the nerves, like all other parts of the body, gain and lose strength, according as they are exercised. If they have too much, or too little, exercise, they lose strength; if they are exercised to a proper degree, they gain strength. When the mind is continuously excited, by business, study, or the imagination, the nerves of feeling are kept in constant action, while the nerves of motion are unemployed. If this is continued, for a long time, the nerves of sensation lose their strength, from over action, and the nerves of motion lose their power, from inactivity. In consequence, there is a morbid excitability of the nervous, and a debility of the muscular, system, which make all exertion irksome and wearisome. The only mode of preserving the health of these systems, is, to keep up in them an equilibrium of action. For this purpose, occupations must be sought, which exercise the muscles, and interest the mind; and thus the equal action of both kinds of nerves is secured. This shows why exercise is so much more healthful and invigorating, when the mind is interested, than when it is not. As an illustration, let a person go a shopping, with a friend, and have nothing to do, but look on; how soon do the continuous walking and standing weary! But suppose one, thus wearied, hears of the arrival of a very dear friend: she can instantly walk off a mile or two, to meet her, without the least feeling of fatigue. By this is shown the importance of furnishing, for young persons, exercise in which they will take an interest. Long and formal walks, merely for exercise, though they do some good, in securing fresh air and some exercise of the muscles, would be of triple benefit, if changed to amusing sports, or to the cultivation of fruits and flowers, in which it is impossible to engage, without acquiring a great interest. It shows, also, why it is far better to trust to useful domestic exercise, at home, than to send a young person out to walk, for the mere purpose of exercise. Young girls can seldom be made to realize the value of health, and the need of exercise to secure it, so as to feel much interest in walking abroad, when they have no other object. But, if they are brought up to minister to the comfort and enjoyment of themselves and others, by performing domestic duties, they will constantly be interested and cheered in their exercise, by the feeling of usefulness, and the consciousness of having performed their duty.

There are few young persons, it is hoped, who are brought up with such miserable habits of selfishness and indolence, that they cannot be made to feel happier, by the consciousness of being usefully employed. And those who have never been accustomed to think or care for any one but themselves, and who seem to feel little pleasure in making themselves useful, by wise and proper influences, can often be gradually awakened to the new pleasure of benevolent exertion to promote the comfort and enjoyment of others. And the more this sacred and elevating kind of enjoyment is tasted, the greater is the relish induced. Other enjoyments, often cloy; but the heavenly pleasure, secured by virtuous industry and benevolence, while it satisfies, at the time, awakens fresh desires for so ennobling a good.

But, besides the favorable influence on the nervous and muscular system, thus gained, it has been shown, that exercise imparts fresh strength and vitality to all parts of the body. The exertion of the muscles quickens the flow of the blood, which thus ministers its supplies faster to every part of the body, and, of course, loses a portion of its nourishing qualities. When this is the case, the stomach issues its mandate of hunger, calling for new supplies. When these are furnished, the action of the muscles again hastens a full supply to every organ, and thus the nerves, the muscles, the bones, the skin, and all the internal organs, are invigorated, and the whole body developes its powers, in fair proportions, fresh strength and full beauty. All the cosmetics of trade, all the labors of mantuamakers, milliners, makers of corsets, shoemakers, and hairdressers, could never confer so clear and pure a skin, so fresh a color, so finely moulded a form, and such cheerful health and spirits, as would be secured by training a child to obey the laws of the benevolent Creator, in the appropriate employment of body and mind in useful domestic exercise. And the present habits of the wealthy, and even of those without wealth, which condemn young girls so exclusively to books or sedentary pursuits, are as destructive to beauty and grace, as they are to health and happiness.

Every allowance should be made for the mistakes of mothers and teachers, to whom the knowledge which would have saved them from the evils of such a course has never been furnished; but as information, on these matters, is every year becoming more abundant, it is to be hoped, that the next generation, at least, may be saved from the evils which afflict those now on the stage. What a change would be made in the happiness of this Country, if all the pale and delicate young girls should become blooming, healthful, and active, and all the enfeebled and care-worn mothers should be transformed into such fresh, active, healthful, and energetic matrons, as are so frequently found in our mother land!

It has been stated, that the excessive use of the muscles, as much as their inactivity, tends to weaken them. Nothing is more painful, than the keeping a muscle constantly on the stretch, without any relaxation or change. This can be realized, by holding out an arm, perpendicularly to the body, for ten or fifteen minutes, if any one can so long bear the pain. Of course, confinement to one position, for a great length of time, tends to weaken the muscles thus strained.

This shows the evil of confining young children to their seats, in the schoolroom, so much and so long as is often done. Having no backs to their seats, as is generally the case, the muscles, which are employed in holding up the body, are kept in a state of constant tension, till they grow feeble from overworking. Then, the child begins to grow crooked, and the parents, to remedy the evil, sometimes put on bracers or corsets. These, instead of doing any good, serve to prevent the use of those muscles, which, if properly exercised, would hold the body straight; and thus they grow still weaker, from entire inactivity. If a parent perceives that a child is growing crooked, the proper remedy is, to withdraw it from all pursuits which tax one particular set of muscles, and turn it out to exercise in sports, or in gardening, in the fresh air, when all the muscles will be used, and the whole system strengthened. Or, if this cannot be done, sweeping, dusting, running of errands, and many household employments, which involve lifting, stooping, bending, and walking, are quite as good, and, on some accounts, better, provided the house is properly supplied with fresh air.

Where persons have formed habits of inactivity, some caution is necessary, in attempting a change; this must be made gradually; and the muscles must never be excessively fatigued at any time. If this change be not thus gradually made, the weakness, at first caused by inactivity, will be increased by excessive exertion. A distinguished medical gentleman gives this rule, to direct us in regard to the amount of fatigue, which is safe and useful. A person is never too much fatigued, if one night of repose gives sufficient rest, and restores the usual strength. But, if the sleep is disturbed, and the person wakes with a feeling of weariness and languor, it is a sure indication that the exercise has been excessive. No more fatigue, then, should be allowed, than one night's rest will remedy.

Some persons object to sweeping, on account of the dust inhaled. But free ventilation, frequent sweeping, and the use of damp sand, or damp Indian meal, or damp tea leaves, for carpets, will secure a more clear atmosphere than is often found in the streets of cities. And the mother, who will hire domestics, to take away this and other domestic employments, which would secure to her daughters, health, grace, beauty, and domestic virtues, and the young ladies, who consent to be deprived of these advantages, will probably live to mourn over the languor, discouragement, pain, and sorrow, which will come with ill health, as the almost inevitable result.

The following are extracts from 'The Young Ladies' Friend,' on this subject:—

"Whether rich or poor, young or old, married or single, a woman is always liable to be called to the performance of every kind of domestic duty, as well as to be placed at the head of a family; and nothing, short of a practical knowledge of the details of housekeeping, can ever make those duties easy, or render her competent to direct others in the performance of them.

"All moral writers on female character, treat of Domestic Economy as an indispensable part of female education; and this, too, in the old countries of Europe, where an abundant population, and the institutions of society, render it easy to secure the services of faithful domestics."

"All female characters that are held up to admiration, whether in fiction or biography, will be found to possess these domestic accomplishments; and, if they are considered indispensable in the Old World, how much more are they needed, in this land of independence, where riches cannot exempt the mistress of a family from the difficulty of procuring efficient aid, and where perpetual change of domestics, renders perpetual instruction and superintendence necessary.

"Since, then, the details of good housekeeping must be included in a good female education, it is very desirable that they should be acquired when young, and so practised as to become easy, and to be performed dexterously and expeditiously."

"The elegant and accomplished Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who figured in the fashionable, as well as the literary, circles of her time, has said, that 'the most minute details of household economy become elegant and refined, when they are ennobled by sentiment;' and they are truly ennobled, when we do them either from a sense of duty, or consideration for a parent, or love to a husband. 'To furnish a room,' continues this lady, 'is no longer a commonplace affair, shared with upholsterers and cabinet-makers; it is decorating the place where I am to meet a friend or lover. To order dinner is not merely arranging a meal with my cook; it is preparing refreshment for him whom I love. These necessary occupations, viewed in this light, by a person capable of strong attachment, are so many pleasures, and afford her far more delight, than the games and shows which constitute the amusements of the world.'

"Such is the testimony of a titled lady of the last century, to the sentiment that may be made to mingle in the most homely occupations. I will now quote that of a modern female writer and traveller, who, in her pleasant book, called 'Six Weeks on the Loire,' has thus described the housewifery of the daughter of a French nobleman, residing in a superb chateau on that river. The travellers had just arrived, and been introduced, when the following scene took place.

"'The bill of fare for dinner was discussed in my presence, and settled, sans facon,[I] with that delightful frankness and gayety, which, in the French character, gives a charm to the most trifling occurrence. Mademoiselle Louise then begged me to excuse her for half an hour, as she was going to make some creams, and some pastilles.[J] I requested that I might accompany her, and also render myself useful; we accordingly went together to the dairy. I made tarts a l'Anglaise,[K] whilst she made confections and bonbons,[L] and all manner of pretty things, with as much ease as if she had never done any thing else, and as much grace as she displayed in the saloon. I could not help thinking, as I looked at her, with her servants about her, all cheerful, respectful, and anxious to attend upon her, how much better it would be for the young ladies in England, if they would occasionally return to the habits of their grandmammas, and mingle the animated and endearing occupations of domestic life, and the modest manners and social amusements of home, with the perpetual practising on harps and pianos, and the incessant efforts at display, and search after gayety, which, at the present day, render them any thing but what an amiable man, of a reflecting mind and delicate sentiments, would desire in the woman he might wish to select as the companion of his life.'"


[I] Without formality, or useless ceremony.

[J] Rolls of paste, or pastry, or sugarplums.

[K] According to the English fashion.

[L] Nice things or dainties, such as sweetmeats.



Good-manners are the expressions of benevolence in personal intercourse, by which we endeavor to promote the comfort and enjoyment of others, and to avoid all that gives needless uneasiness. It is the exterior exhibition of the Divine precept, which requires us to do to others, as we would that they should do to us. It is saying, by our deportment, to all around, that we consider their feelings, tastes, and convenience, as equal in value to our own.

Good-manners lead us to avoid all practices which offend the taste of others; all violations of the conventional rules of propriety; all rude and disrespectful language and deportment; and all remarks, which would tend to wound the feelings of another.

There is a serious defect, in the manners of the American people, especially in the free States, which can never be efficiently remedied, except in the domestic circle, and during early life. It is a deficiency in the free expression of kindly feelings and sympathetic emotions, and a want of courtesy in deportment. The causes, which have led to this result, may easily be traced.

The forefathers of this Nation, to a wide extent, were men who were driven from their native land, by laws and customs which they believed to be opposed both to civil and religious freedom. The sufferings they were called to endure, the subduing of those gentler feelings which bind us to country, kindred, and home, and the constant subordination of the passions to stern principle, induced characters of great firmness and self-control. They gave up the comforts and refinements of a civilized country, and came, as pilgrims, to a hard soil, a cold clime, and a heathen shore. They were continually forced to encounter danger, privations, sickness, loneliness, and death; and all these, their religion taught them to meet with calmness, fortitude, and submission. And thus it became the custom and habit of the whole mass, to repress, rather than to encourage, the expression of feeling.

Persons who are called to constant and protracted suffering and privation, are forced to subdue and conceal emotion; for the free expression of it would double their own suffering, and increase the sufferings of others. Those, only, who are free from care and anxiety, and whose minds are mainly occupied by cheerful emotions, are at full liberty to unveil their feelings.

It was under such stern and rigorous discipline, that the first children in New England were reared; and the manners and habits of parents are usually, to a great extent, transmitted to children. Thus it comes to pass, that the descendants of the Puritans, now scattered over every part of the Nation, are predisposed to conceal the gentler emotions, while their manners are calm, decided, and cold, rather than free and impulsive. Of course, there are very many exceptions to these predominating results.

The causes, to which we may attribute a general want of courtesy in manners, are certain incidental results of our democratic institutions. Our ancestors, and their descendants, have constantly been combating the aristocratic principle, which would exalt one class of men at the expense of another. They have had to contend with this principle, not only in civil, but in social, life. Almost every American, in his own person, as well as in behalf of his class, has had to assume and defend the main principle of democracy,—that every man's feelings and interests are equal in value to those of every other man. But, in doing this, there has been some want of clear discrimination. Because claims, based on distinctions of mere birth, fortune, or position, were found to be injurious, many have gone to the extreme of inferring that all distinctions, involving subordination, are useless. Such, would regard children as equals to parents, pupils to teachers, domestics to their employers, and subjects to magistrates; and that, too, in all respects.

The fact, that certain grades of superiority and subordination are needful, both for individual and public benefit, has not been clearly discerned; and there has been a gradual tendency to an extreme, which has sensibly affected our manners. All the proprieties and courtesies, which depend on the recognition of the relative duties of superior and subordinate, have been warred upon; and thus we see, to an increasing extent, disrespectful treatment of parents, from children; of teachers, from pupils; of employers, from domestics; and of the aged, from the young. In all classes and circles, there is a gradual decay in courtesy of address.

In cases, too, where kindness is rendered, it is often accompanied with a cold, unsympathizing manner, which greatly lessens its value, while kindness or politeness is received in a similar style of coolness, as if it were but the payment of a just due.

It is owing to these causes, that the American people, especially the inhabitants of New England, do not do themselves justice. For, while those, who are near enough to learn their real character and feelings, can discern the most generous impulses, and the most kindly sympathies, they are so veiled, in a composed and indifferent demeanor, as to be almost entirely concealed from strangers.

These defects in our national manners, it especially falls to the care of mothers, and all who have charge of the young, to rectify; and if they seriously undertake the matter, and wisely adapt means to ends, these defects will be remedied. With reference to this object, the following ideas are suggested.

The law of Christianity and of democracy, which teaches that all men are born equal, and that their interests and feelings should be regarded as of equal value, seems to be adopted in aristocratic circles, with exclusive reference to the class in which the individual moves. The courtly gentleman, addresses all of his own class with politeness and respect; and, in all his actions, seems to allow that the feelings and convenience of others are to be regarded, the same as his own. But his demeanor to those of inferior station, is not based on the same rule.

Among those, who make up aristocratic circles, such as are above them, are deemed of superior, and such as are below, of inferior, value. Thus, if a young, ignorant, and vicious coxcomb, happens to be born a lord, the aged, the virtuous, the learned, and the wellbred, of another class, must give his convenience the precedence, and must address him in terms of respect. So, when a man of noble birth is thrown among the lower classes, he demeans himself in a style, which, to persons of his own class, would be deemed the height of assumption and rudeness.

Now, the principles of democracy require, that the same courtesy, which we accord to our own circle, shall be extended to every class and condition; and that distinctions, of superiority and subordination, shall depend, not on accidents of birth, fortune, or occupation, but solely on those relations, which the good of all classes equally require. The distinctions demanded, in a democratic state, are simply those, which result from relations, that are common to every class, and are for the benefit of all.

It is for the benefit of every class, that children be subordinate to parents, pupils to teachers, the employed to their employers, and subjects to magistrates. In addition to this, it is for the general wellbeing, that the comfort or convenience of the delicate and feeble, should be preferred to that of the strong and healthy, who would suffer less by any deprivation, and that precedence should be given to their elders, by the young, and that reverence should be given to the hoary head.

The rules of good-breeding, in a democratic state, must be founded on these principles. It is, indeed, assumed, that the value of the happiness of each individual, is the same as that of every other; but, as there must be occasions, where there are advantages which all cannot enjoy, there must be general rules for regulating a selection. Otherwise, there would be constant scrambling, among those of equal claims, and brute force must be the final resort; in which case the strongest would have the best of every thing. The democratic rule, then, is, that superiors, in age, station, or office, have precedence of subordinates; age and feebleness, of youth and strength; and the feebler sex, of more vigorous man.[M]

There is, also, a style of deportment and address, which is appropriate to these different relations. It is suitable for a superior to secure compliance with his wishes, from those subordinate to him, by commands; but a subordinate must secure compliance with his wishes, from a superior, by requests. It is suitable for a parent, teacher, or employer, to admonish for neglect of duty; but not for an inferior to adopt such a course towards a superior. It is suitable for a superior to take precedence of a subordinate, without any remark; but not for an inferior, without previously asking leave, or offering an apology. It is proper for a superior to use language and manners of freedom and familiarity, which would be improper from a subordinate to a superior.

The want of due regard to these proprieties, occasions the chief defect in American manners. It is very common to hear children talk to their parents, in a style proper only between companions and equals; so, also, the young address their elders, those employed, their employers, and domestics, the members of the family and their visiters, in a style, which is inappropriate to their relative positions. A respectful address is required not merely towards superiors; every person desires to be treated with courtesy and respect, and therefore, the law of benevolence demands such demeanor, towards all whom we meet in the social intercourse of life. "Be ye courteous," is the direction of the Apostle in reference to our treatment of all.

Good-manners can be successfully cultivated, only in early life, and in the domestic circle. There is nothing which depends so much upon habit, as the constantly recurring proprieties of good-breeding; and, if a child grows up without forming such habits, it is very rarely the case that they can be formed at a later period. The feeling, that it is of little consequence how we behave at home, if we conduct properly abroad, is a very fallacious one. Persons, who are careless and ill bred at home, may imagine that they can assume good-manners abroad; but they mistake. Fixed habits of tone, manner, language, and movements, cannot be suddenly altered; and those who are illbred at home, even when they try to hide their bad habits, are sure to violate many of the obvious rules of propriety, and yet be unconscious of it.

And there is nothing, which would so effectually remove prejudice against our democratic institutions, as the general cultivation of good-breeding in the domestic circle. Good-manners are the exterior of benevolence, the minute and often recurring exhibitions of "peace and good-will;" and the nation, as well as the individual, which most excels in the external, as well as the internal, principle, will be most respected and beloved.

The following are the leading points, which claim attention from those who have the care of the young.

In the first place, in the family, there should be required, a strict attention to the rules of precedence, and those modes of address appropriate to the various relations to be sustained. Children should always be required to offer their superiors, in age or station, the precedence in all comforts and conveniences, and always address them in a respectful tone and manner. The custom of adding "Sir," or "Ma'am," to "Yes," or "No," is valuable, as a perpetual indication of a respectful recognition of superiority. It is now going out of fashion, even among the most wellbred people; probably from a want of consideration of its importance. Every remnant of courtesy of address, in our customs, should be carefully cherished, by all who feel a value for the proprieties of good-breeding.

If parents allow their children to talk to them, and to the grown persons in the family, in the same style in which they address each other, it will be vain to hope for the courtesy of manner and tone, which good-breeding demands in the general intercourse of society. In a large family, where the elder children are grown up, and the younger are small, it is important to require the latter to treat the elder as superiors. There are none, so ready as young children to assume airs of equality; and, if they are allowed to treat one class of superiors in age and character disrespectfully, they will soon use the privilege universally. This is the reason, why the youngest children of a family are most apt to be pert, forward, and unmannerly.

Another point to be aimed at, is, to require children always to acknowledge every act of kindness and attention, either by words or manner. If they are so trained as always to make grateful acknowledgements, when receiving favors, one of the objectionable features in American manners will be avoided.

Again, children should be required to ask leave, whenever they wish to gratify curiosity, or use an article which belongs to another. And if cases occur, when they cannot comply with the rules of good-breeding, as, for instance, when they must step between a person and the fire, or take the chair of an older person, they should be required either to ask leave, or to offer an apology.

There is another point of good-breeding, which cannot, in all cases, be understood and applied by children, in its widest extent. It is that, which requires us to avoid all remarks which tend to embarrass, vex, mortify, or in any way wound the feelings, of another. To notice personal defects; to allude to others' faults, or the faults of their friends; to speak disparagingly of the sect or party to which a person belongs; to be inattentive, when addressed in conversation; to contradict flatly; to speak in contemptuous tones of opinions expressed by another;—all these, are violations of the rules of good-breeding, which children should be taught to regard. Under this head, comes the practice of whispering, and staring about, when a teacher, or lecturer, or clergyman, is addressing a class or audience. Such inattention, is practically saying, that what the person is uttering is not worth attending to; and persons of real good-breeding always avoid it. Loud talking and laughing, in a large assembly, even when no exercises are going on; yawning and gaping in company; and not looking in the face a person who is addressing you, are deemed marks of ill-breeding.

Another branch of good-manners, relates to the duties of hospitality. Politeness requires us to welcome visiters with cordiality; to offer them the best accommodations; to address conversation to them; and to express, by tone and manner, kindness and respect. Offering the hand to all visiters, at one's own house, is a courteous and hospitable custom; and a cordial shake of the hand, when friends meet, would abate much of the coldness of manner ascribed to Americans.

The last point of good-breeding, to be noticed, refers to the conventional rules of propriety and good taste. Of these, the first class relates to the avoidance of all disgusting or offensive personal habits, such as fingering the hair; cleaning the teeth or nails; picking the nose; spitting on carpets; snuffing, instead of using a handkerchief, or using the article in an offensive manner; lifting up the boots or shoes, as some men do, to tend them on the knee, or to finger them;—all these tricks, either at home or in society, children should be taught to avoid.

Another branch, under this head, may be called table manners. To persons of good-breeding, nothing is more annoying, than violating the conventional proprieties of the table. Reaching over another person's plate; standing up, to reach distant articles, instead of asking to have them passed; using one's own knife, and spoon, for butter, salt, or sugar, when it is the custom of the family to provide separate utensils for the purpose; setting cups, with tea dripping from them, on the tablecloth, instead of the mats or small plates furnished; using the tablecloth, instead of the napkins; eating fast, and in a noisy manner; putting large pieces in the mouth; looking and eating as if very hungry, or as if anxious to get at certain dishes; sitting at too great a distance from the table, and dropping food; laying the knife and fork on the tablecloth, instead of on the bread, or the edge of the plate;—all these particulars, children should be taught to avoid. It is always desirable, too, to require children, when at table with grown persons, to be silent, except when addressed by others; or else their chattering will interrupt the conversation and comfort of their elders. They should always be required, too, to wait, in silence, till all the older persons are helped.

All these things should be taught to children, gradually, and with great patience and gentleness. Some parents, with whom good-manners is a great object, are in danger of making their children perpetually uncomfortable, by suddenly surrounding them with so many rules, that they must inevitably violate some one or other, a great part of the time. It is much better to begin with a few rules, and be steady and persevering with these, till a habit is formed, and then take a few more, thus making the process easy and gradual. Otherwise, the temper of children will be injured; or, hopeless of fulfilling so many requisitions, they will become reckless and indifferent to all.

But, in reference to those who have enjoyed advantages for the cultivation of good-manners, and who duly estimate its importance, one caution is necessary. Those, who never have had such habits formed in youth, are under disadvantages, which no benevolence of temper can remedy. They may often violate the tastes and feelings of others, not from a want of proper regard for them, but from ignorance of custom, or want of habit, or abstraction of mind, or from other causes, which demand forbearance and sympathy, rather than displeasure. An ability to bear patiently with defects in manners, and to make candid and considerate allowance for a want of advantages, or for peculiarities in mental habits, is one mark of the benevolence of real good-breeding.

The advocates of monarchical and aristocratic institutions, have always had great plausibility given to their views, by the seeming tendencies to insubordination and bad-manners, of our institutions. And it has been too indiscriminately conceded, by the defenders of the latter, that such are these tendencies, and that the offensive points, in American manners, are the necessary result of democratic principles.

But it is believed, that both facts and reasoning are in opposition to this opinion. The following extract from the work of De Tocqueville, exhibits the opinion of an impartial observer, when comparing American manners with those of the English, who are confessedly the most aristocratic of all people.

He previously remarks on the tendency of aristocracy to make men more sympathizing with persons of their own peculiar class, and less so towards those of lower degree; and he then contrasts American manners with the English, claiming that the Americans are much the most affable, mild, and social. "In America, where the privileges of birth never existed, and where riches confer no peculiar rights on their possessors, men acquainted with each other are very ready to frequent the same places, and find neither peril nor advantage in the free interchange of their thoughts. If they meet, by accident, they neither seek nor avoid intercourse; their manner is therefore natural, frank, and open." "If their demeanor is often cold and serious, it is never haughty or constrained." But an "aristocratic pride is still extremely great among the English; and, as the limits of aristocracy are ill-defined, every body lives in constant dread, lest advantage should be taken of his familiarity. Unable to judge, at once, of the social position of those he meets, an Englishman prudently avoids all contact with them. Men are afraid, lest some slight service rendered should draw them into an unsuitable acquaintance; they dread civilities, and they avoid the obtrusive gratitude of a stranger, as much as his hatred."

Thus, facts seem to show that when the most aristocratic nation in the world is compared, as to manners, with the most democratic, the judgement of strangers is in favor of the latter.

And if good-manners are the outward exhibition of the democratic principle of impartial benevolence and equal rights, surely the nation which adopts this rule, both in social and civil life, is the most likely to secure the desirable exterior. The aristocrat, by his principles, extends the exterior of impartial benevolence to his own class, only; the democratic principle, requires it to be extended to all.

There is reason, therefore, to hope and expect more refined and polished manners in America, than in any other land; while all the developements of taste and refinement, such as poetry, music, painting, sculpture, and architecture, it may be expected, will come to a higher state of perfection, here, than in any other nation.

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