« PreviousContinue »
HOW TO UNITE DOMESTIC ECONOMY, LIBERALITY, AND EASE.
IN A LETTER FROM A LADY TO HER NIECE.
MY DEAR NIECE, Economy is so important a part of a woman's character, so necessary to her own happiness, and so essential to her performing properly the duties of a wife and of a mother, that it ought to have the precedence of all other accomplishments, and take its rank next to the first duties of life. It is, moreover, an art as well as a virtue ; and meaning persons, from ignorance or from inconsideration, are strangely deficient in it. Indeed it is too often wholly neglected in a young woman's education; and she is sent from her father's house to govern a family without the least degree of that knowledge which should qualify her for it: this is the source of much inconvenience; for though experience and attention may supply, by degrees, the want of instruction, yet this requires time; the family, in the mean time, may get into habits which are very difficult to alter; and, what is worse, the husbands opinion of his wife's incapacity may be fixed too strongly to suffer him ever to think justly of her gradual improvements.
Economy consists of so many branches, some of which descend to such minuteness, that it is impossible for me in writing to give you particular directions. The rude outlines may perhaps be described, and I shall be happy if I can furnish
with any hint that may hereafter be use. fully applied.
The first and greatest point is to lay out your general plan of living in a just proportion to your fortune and rank ; if these two will not coincide, the last must certainly give way: for if you have right principles, you cannot fail of
being wretched under the sense of the injustice as well as danger of spending beyond your income, and your distress will be continually increasing. No mortifications, which you can suffer from retrenching in your appearance, can be comparable to this unhappiness.
Perhaps it may be said, that the settling the general scheme of expenses is seldom the wife's province, and that many men do not choose even to acquaint her with the real state of their affairs. Where this is the case, a woman can be answerable for no more than is intrusted to her ; but I think it a very ill sign, for one or both of the parties, where there is such a want of openness in what equally concerns them. As I trust you will deserve the confidence of your husband, so I hope you will be allowed free consultation with him on your mutual interests; and I believe there are few men who would not hearken to reason on their own af. fairs, when they saw a wife ready and desirous to give up her share of vanities and indulgences, and only earnest to promote the common good of the family.
In order to settle your plan, it will be necessary to make a pretty exact calculation : and if, from this time, you ac. custom yourself to calculations in all the little expenses intrusted to you, you will grow expert and ready at them, and be able to guess very nearly, where certainty cannot be attained. Many articles of expense are regular and fixed : these may be valued exactly; and, by consulting with experienced persons, you may calculate nearly the amount of others : any material article of consumption, in a family of any given number and circumstances, may be estimated pretty nearly. Your own expenses of clothes and pocket money should be settled and circumscribed, that you may be sure not to exceed the just proportion. I think it an admirable method to appropriate such a portion of your income, as you judge proper to bestow in charity, to be sacredly kept for that purpose, and no longer considered as your own. By which means, you will avoid temptation of
giving less than you ought, through selfishness, or more than you ought, through good nature weak. ness. If your circumstances allow of it, you might set apart another fund for acts of liberality or friendship, which do not come under the head of charity. The having such funds ready at hand, makes it easy and pleasant to give; and when acts of bounty are performed without effect, they are generally done more kindly and effectually. If you are obliged in conscience to lay up for a family, the same method of an appropriated fund for saving will be of ex. cellent use, as it will prevent that continual and often in. effectual anxiety, which a general desire of saving, without having fixed the limits, is sure to create.
I am sensible, my dear child, that very little more can be gathered from what I have said on economy, than the general importance of it, which cannot be too much im. pressed on your mind, since the natural turn of young people is to neglect and even despise it: not distinguishing it from parsimony and narrowness of spirit. But, be assured, my dear, there can be no true generosity without it; and that the most enlarged and liberal mind will find itself not debased but ennobled by it. Nothing is more common than
see the same person, whose want of economy is ruining his family, consumed with regret and vexation at the effect of his profusion; and, by endeavouring to save in such trifles as will not amount to twenty pounds in a year, that which he wastes by hundreds, incur the character and suffer the anxieties of a miser, together with the misfortunes of a prodigal. A rational plan of expense will save you from all these corroding cares, and will give you the full and liberal enjoyment of what you spend. An air of ease, of hospitality, and frankness, will reign in your house, which will make it pleasant to your friends and to yourself. “ Better is a morsel of bread” where this is found, than the most elaborate entertainment, with that air of constraint
and anxiety, which often betrays the grudging heart through all the disguises of civility.
That you, my dear, may unite in yourself the admirable virtues of generosity and economy, which will be the grace and crown of all your attainments, is the earnest wish of
Your ever affectionate.
TENDERNESS OF FRIENDSHIP A NECESSARY INGREDIENT IN
THE MARRIED STATE.
No man can tell the dangers of each hour,
When a man is in a serious mood, and ponders upon his own make with a retrospect to the actions of his life, and the many fatal miscarriages in it which he owes to ungoverned passions, he is then apt to say to himself, that ex. perience shall guard him against such errors for the future; but nature often recurs in spite of his best resolutions, and it is, to the very end of our days, a struggle between our reason and our temper which shall have the empire over
However, this is very much to be helped by circumspection and a constant alarm against the first outsets of passion. As this is in general a necessary care to make a man’s life easy and agreeable to himself, so it is more particularly the duty of such as are engaged in friendship and nearer commerce with others. Those who have their joys have also their griefs in proportion; and none can extremely exalt or depress friends, but friends. The harsh things which come from the rest of the world are received and repulsed with that spirit which every honest man bears for his own vindication; but unkindness, in words or actions, among friends, affects us at the first instant in the in. most recesses of our soul. Indifferent people, if I may so say, can wound us only in heterogeneous parts, maim us in our legs or arms ; but the friend can make no pass but at the heart itself. On the other side, the most impotent