The Downfall Of The Home by W L George

Story type: Essay

There is something the matter with the home. It may be merely the subtle decay which, in birth beginning and in death persisting, escorts all things human and perchance divine. It may be decay assisted by the violence of a time unborn and striving through novelty toward its own end, or toward an endlessness of change. But, whatever the causes, which interest little a hasty generation, signs written in brick and mortar and social custom, in rebellion and in aspiration, are not wanting to show that the home, so long the center of Anglo-Saxon and American society, is doomed. And, as is usual in the twentieth century, as has been usual since the middle of the nineteenth, woman is at the bottom of the change. It is women who now make revolutions. A hundred years ago it was men who made revolutions; nowadays they content themselves with resolutions. So it has been left for woman, more animal, more radical, more divinely endowed with the faculty of seeing only her own side, to sap the foundations of what was supposed to be her shelter.

I do not suppose that the household has ever been quite as much of a shelter for women as the Victorian philosophers said, and possibly believed; an elementary study of the feminist question will certainly incline the unprejudiced to see that the home, which has for so long masqueraded in the guise of woman’s friend, has on the whole been her enemy; that instead of being her protector it has been her oppressor; that it has not been her fortress, but her jail. Woman has felt in the home much as a workman might feel if he were given the White House as a present, told to live in it and keep it clean without help on two dollars a week. If the home be a precious possession, it may very well be a possession bought at too high a price–at the price of youth, of energy, and of enlightenment. The whole attitude of woman toward the home is one of rebellion–not of all women, of course, for most of them still accept that, though all that is may not be good, all that is must be made to do. Resignation, humility, and self-sacrifice have for a thousand generations been the worst vices of woman, but it is apparent that at last aggressiveness and selfishness are developing her toward nobility. She is growing aware that she is a human being, a discovery which the centuries had not made, and naturally she hates her gilded cage.

Woman is tired of a home that is too large, where the third floor gets dirty while she is cleaning the first; of a home that cannot be left lest it should be burglared; of a home where there is always a slate wrong, or a broken window, or a shortage of coal. She is tired of being immolated on the domestic hearth. One of them, neither advanced nor protesting, gave me a little while ago an account of what she called a characteristic day. I reproduce it untouched:

THE DAY OF A REALLY NICE ENGLISHWOMAN

8 A.M.–Early tea; rise; no bath. [The husband has the only bath, and the boiler cannot make another until ten.]

9 A.M.–Breakfast. [The husband takes the only newspaper away to the office.]

9.30 A.M.–Conversation with the cook: hardness of the butcher’s meat; difficulty because there are only three eatable animals; degeneration of the butter; grocery and milk problems.

Telephone.–A social engagement is made.

Conversation with the cook resumed: report on a mysterious disease of the kitchen boiler; report on the oil-man; report on the plumber.

Correspondence begun and interrupted by the parlor-maid, who demands a new stock of glass.

Correspondence resumed; interrupted by the parlor-maid’s demand for change with which to pay the cleaner.

Rush up-stairs to show which covers are to go.

Correspondence resumed, and interrupted by the telephone: the green-grocer states that some of the vegetables she wants cannot be procured.

Correspondence resumed; interrupted by the nurse, who wishes to change the baby’s milk.

Three telephone calls.

Correspondence resumed, and interrupted by the housemaid, who wants new brooms.

11 A.M.–The children have gone; the servants are at work. Therefore:

11-11.15 A.M.–Breathing space.

11.15-11.45 A.M.–Paying bills–electricity, gas, clothes; checking the weekly books, reading laundry circulars.

12 M.–Goes out. It is probably wet [this being England], so, not being very well off, she flounders through mud. Interview with the plumber as to the boiler; shoes for Gladys; glass for the parlor-maid; brooms for the housemaid; forgets various things she ought to have done; these worry her during lunch.

1.30 P.M.–Lunch.

2.30 P.M.–Fagged out, lies down, but–

2.45 P.M.–The husband telephones to tell her to go to the library and get him a book.

3.15 P.M.–Is fitted by the dressmaker. Feels better.

4.30 P.M.–Charming at tea.

5.45 P.M.–Compulsory games with the children.

6.15 P.M.–Ultimatum from the servants: the puppy must be killed for reasons which cannot be specified in an American magazine.

6.30-6.35 P.M.–Literature, art, music, and science. Then dress for dinner.

7.30 P.M.–Charming at dinner. Grand fantasia to entertain the male after a strenuous day in the city. Conversation: golf, business, cutting remarks about other people, and no contradicting.

8.45-9.15 P.M.–Literature, art, music, and science.

Last post: Circulars, bills, invitations to be answered; request from a brother in India to send jam which can be bought only in a suburb fourteen miles distant.

10.30 P.M.–Attempted bath, but the plumber has not mended the boiler, after all.

11 P.M.–Sleep … up to the beginning of another nice Englishwoman’s day.

She may exaggerate, but I do not think so, for as I write these lines three stories of a house hang over my head, and I hear culinary noises below. Being a man, I am supposed to rule all this, but, fortunately, not to govern it. And I am moved to interest when I reflect that in this street of sixty houses, that which is going on in my house is probably multiplied by sixty. I have a vision of those sixty houses, each with its dining room and drawing-room, its four to eight bedrooms, and its basement. There are sixty drawing-rooms in this street, and at 11 A.M. there is not a single human being in them; and at 3 P.M. there is nobody in the sixty dining rooms, except on Sunday, when a few men are asleep in them. And I have horrid visions of our sixty kitchens, our sixty sculleries, our sixty pantries; of our one hundred and fifty servants, and our sixty cooks (and cooks so hard to get and to bear with when you’ve got them!). And I think of all our dinner sets, of the twelve thousand pieces of crockery which we need in our little street. To think of twelve thousand articles of crockery is to realize our remoteness from the monkey. And the nurses, as they pass, fill me with wonder, for some of them attend one child, some two, while sometimes three children have two nurses–until I wonder what percentage of nurse is really required to keep in order an obviously unruly generation.

Complex, enormous, it is not even cheap. Privacy, the purest jewel humanity can find, seems to be the dearest. This inflated individual home, it is marvelous how it has survived! Like most human institutions, it has probably survived because it was there. It has taken woman’s time; it has taken much of her energy, much of her health and looks. Worst of all, it seems to have taken from her some of the consideration to which as a human being she was entitled. Let there be no mistake about that. In spite of proclamations as to the sacredness of the home and the dignity of labor, the fact remains that the domestic man, the kind that can hang a picture straight, is generally treated by male acquaintances with sorrowful tolerance; should he attempt to wash the baby, he becomes the kind of man about whom the comic songs are written. (I may seem rather violent, but I once tried to wash a baby.) So that apparently the dignified occupations of the household are not deemed dignified by man. This is evident enough, for office-cleaners, laundresses, step-girls, are never replaced by men. These are the feminine occupations, the coarse occupations, requiring no special intelligence.

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The truth is that the status of domestic labor is low. An exception is made in favor of the cook, but only by people who know what cooking is, which excludes the majority of the world. It is true that of late years attempts have been made to raise the capacity of the domestic laborer by inducing her to attend classes on cooking, on child nurture, etc., but, in the main, in ninety-nine per cent of bourgeois marriages, it is assumed that any fool can run a house. It matters very little whether a fool can run a house or not; what does matter from the woman’s point of view is that she is given no credit for efficient household management, and that is one reason why she has rebelled. It does not matter whether you are a solicitor, an archbishop, or a burglar, the savor goes out of your profession if it is not publicly esteemed at its true worth. We have heard of celebrated impostors, of celebrated politicians, but who has ever heard of a celebrated housekeeper?

The modern complaint of woman is that the care of the house has divorced her from growing interests, from literature and, what is more important, from the newspaper, partly from music, entirely from politics. It is a purely material question; there are only twenty-four hours in every day, and there are some things one cannot hustle. One can no more hustle the English joint than the decrees of the Supreme Court. Moreover, and this is a collateral fact, an emptiness has formed around woman; while on the one side she was being tempted by the professions that opened to her, by the interests ready to her hand, the old demands of less organized homes were falling away from her. Once upon a time she was a slave; now she is a half-timer, and the taste of liberty that has come to her has made her more intolerant of the old laws than she was in the ancient days of her serfdom. Not much more than seventy years ago it was still the custom in lower middle-class homes for the woman to sew and bake and brew. These occupations were relinquished, for the distribution of labor made it possible to have them better done at a lower cost.

In the ‘fifties and the ‘sixties the great shops began to grow, stores to rise of the type of Whiteley and Wanamaker. Woman ceased to be industrial, and became commercial; her chief occupation was now shopping, and if she were intelligent and painstaking she could make a better bargain with Jones, in Queen’s Road, than with Smith, in Portchester Street. But of late years even that has begun to go; the great stores dominate the retail trade, and now, qualities being equal, there is hardly anything to pick between universal provider Number 1, at one end of the town, and Number 2, equally universal, at the other. Also the stores sell everything; they facilitate purchases; the housekeeper need not go to ten shops, for at a single one she can buy cheese, bicycles, and elephants. That is only an indication of the movement; the time will come, probably within our lifetime, when the great stores of the towns will have crushed the small traders and turned them into branch managers; when all the prices will be alike, all the goods alike; when food will be so graded that it will no longer be worth the housekeeper’s while to try and discover a particularly good sirloin–instead she will telephone for seven pounds of quality AF, Number 14,692. Then, having less to do, woman will want to do still less, and the modern rebellion against house and home will find in her restlessness a greater impetus.

When did the rebellion begin? Almost, it might be said, it began in the beginning, and no doubt before the matriarchate period women were striving toward liberty, only to lose it after having for a while dominated man. In later years women such as Mary Wollstonecraft, but more obscure, strove to emancipate themselves from the thralldom of the household. The aspiration of woman, whether Greek courtesan, French worldling, or English factory inspector, has always been toward equality with man, perhaps toward mastery. And man has always stood in her path to restrict her, to arrest her development for his pleasure, as does to-day the Japanese to the little tree which he plants in a pot. The clamor of to-day against the emancipated woman is as old as the rebukes of St. Paul; Moliere gave it tongue in Les Femmes Savantes, when he made the bourgeois say to his would-be learned wife:

“Former aux bonnes moeurs l’esprit de ses enfants,
Faire aller son menage, avoir l’oeil sur ses gens
Et regler la depense avec economie
Doit etre son etude et sa philosophie.”

Man has laid down only three occupations: kirche, kueche, kinder.

Hence the revolt. If man had not so much desired that woman should be housekeeper and courtesan, she would not so violently have rebelled against him, for why should one rebel until somebody says, “Thou shalt”! At the words “Thou shalt”, rebellion becomes automatic, and, so long as woman has virility in her, so will it be. Still, leaving origins alone, and considering only the last fifty or sixty years of our history, it might be said that they are divided into three periods:

(
a

) The shiny nose and virtue period.

( b ) The powder-puff and possible virtue period.

( c ) The Russian ballet and leopard-skin period.

There are exceptions, qualifications, occasional retrogressions, but, taking it roughly, that is the history of English womanhood from wax fruit to Bakst designs. There were crises, such as the early ‘eighties, when bloomers came in and women essayed cigarettes, and felt very advanced and sick; when they joined Ibsen clubs and took up Bernard Shaw, and wore eyeglasses and generally tried to be men without succeeding in being gentlemen. There was another crisis about 1906, when suffrage put forward in England its first violent claims. That, too, was abortive in a sense, as is ironically recorded in a comic song popular at the time:

“Back, back to the office she went:
The secretary was a perfect gent.”

But still, in a rough and general way, there has been a continual and growing discontent with the heavy weight of the household, the complications of its administration. There has been a drive toward freedom which has affected even that most conservative of all animals, the male. There have been conscious rebellions as expressed, for instance, by Nora who “slammed the door”; by the many girls who decide to “live their own lives”, as life was expounded in the yellow-backs of the ‘nineties; by the growing demand for entry into the professions; for votes; for admission to the legislatures. There is nothing irrelevant in this; given that by the nature of her position in society and of the duties intrusted to her in the household, she was cut off from all other fields of human activity, it may be said that every attempt that woman has made to share in any activity that lay beyond her front door has been revolutionary and directed at the foundations of the English household system. Whether this has also been the case in America, where a curious type of woman has been evolved–pampered, selfish, intelligent, domineering, and wildly pleasure-loving–I cannot tell. Nor is it my business; like other men, the Americans have the wives they deserve.

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But behind the conscious rebellions are the subtle and, in a way, infinitely more powerful unconscious rebellions, the dull discontents of overworked and over-preoccupied women; the weariness, the desire for pleasure and travel, for change, for time to play and to love, and–what is more pathetic–for time just to sit and rest. The epitaph of the charwoman–

“Weep for me not, weep for me never,
I’m going to do nothing, nothing forever–“

embodies pains deep-buried in millions of women’s hearts. Most people do not know that, because women never smile so brightly as when they are unhappy. Sometimes I suspect that public pronouncements and suffrage manifestoes have had very much less to do with modern upheavals than these slumberous protests against the multiplicity of errands and the intricacies of the kitchen range.

Even man has been affected by the change, has begun to realize that it is quite impossible to alter custom while leaving custom unaltered, which, as anybody knows who reads parliamentary debates, is mankind’s dearest desire. Changes in his habits and in his surroundings, such as the weekend, the servant problem, the restaurant, the hotel; all these have been separate disruptive factors, have begun to bring about the downfall of the English household. I do not know that one can assign a predominant place to any one of these factors; they are each one as the drop of water that, joined with its fellows, wears away stone. Moreover, in socio-psychologic investigation it is often found that what appears to be a cause is an effect, and vice versa. For instance, with regard to restaurant dining, it may be that people frequent restaurants because the home cooking is bad, and, on the other hand, it may be that home cooking has become bad because people have neglected it as they found it easier to go to the restaurant. This attitude of mind must qualify the conclusion at which I arrive, and it is an attitude which must be sedulously cultivated by any one who wants to know the truth instead of wishing merely to have his prejudices confirmed.

But, all allowances made, it is perfectly clear that the first group of disruptive factors, such as the restaurant dinner, the week-end, the long and frequent holidays, the motor car, the spread of golf, is inimical to the home idea and, therefore, to the house idea. (Home means house, and does not mean flat, for which see further on.) The home idea is complex; it embraces privacy, possession; it implies a place where one can retreat, be master, be powerful in a small sphere, take off one’s boots, be sulky or pleasant, as one likes. It involves, above all, a place where one does not hear the neighbor’s piano, or the neighbor’s baby, or, with luck, the neighbor’s cat; but where, on the other hand, one’s own piano, one’s own baby, and one’s own cat are raised to a high and personal pitch of importance. It involves everything that is individual–one’s own stationery block, one’s crest, or, if one is not so fortunate, one’s monogram upon the plate. If the S.P.C.A. did not intervene, I think one might often see in the front garden a cat branded with a hot iron: “Thomas Jones. His Cat.” It is the rallying-point of domestic virtue, the origin of domestic tyranny. It is the place where public opinion cannot see you and where, therefore, you may behave badly. Most wife beaters live in houses; in flats they would be afraid of the opinion of the hall porter. And yet the home is not without its charm and its nobility, for its bricks and mortar enshrine a spirit that is worshiped and for which much may be sacrificed. Cigars have been given up so that the home might have a new coat of paint; amusements, holidays, food sometimes–all these have been sacrificed so that, well railed off from the outside world by a front garden, if possible by a back garden, too–or, still more delightful, far from the next house–a little social cosmos might be maintained. So far has this gone in the north of England that many people who could well afford servants will not have them because, as they say, they cannot bear strangers in the house. And very desirable houses in the suburbs of London, with old, walled gardens, have been given up because it was unbearable to take tea under the eyes of passengers on the top of the motor busses.

The home spirit, however, is not content merely with coats of paint and doilies; it demands mental as well as material worship. It demands importance; it insists that it is home, sweet home, and that there is no place like it (which is one comfort); that it is the last thought of the drowning sailor; that the trapper, lost in the deepest forests of Canada, sees rising in the smoke of his lonely camp fire a delicious vision of Aunt Maria’s magenta curtains. It lays down that it is wrong to leave it, quite apart from the question of burglars; it has invented scores of phrases to justify otherwise unpleasant husbands who had “given a good home” to their wives; phrases to censure revolting daughters “who had good homes, and what more could they want?” It has frowned upon everything that was outside itself, for it could not see anything that was not itself. It has hated theaters, concerts, dances, lectures, every form of amusement; and, as it has to bear them, likes to refer to them archly as debauches, or going on the razzle-dazzle, or the ran-dan, according to period. It has powerfully allied itself with the pulpit and, in impious circles, with fancy work and crochet; it has enlisted a considerable portion of the Royal Academy to depict it in various scenes for which the recipe is: One tired man with a sunny smile returning to his home; one delighted wife; suitable number of ebullient children and, inevitably, a dog. The dog varies. In England they generally put in a terrier, in war time a bulldog; in Germany it may be a dachshund; and in other countries it is another kind of dog, but it is always the same idea.

And so it is not wonderful that the home has looked censoriously upon everything that took people away from its orbit. Likewise it is not wonderful that people have fled to anything available so as to escape the charmed circle. The week-end is in general a very over-rated amusement, for it consists mainly in packing and preparing to catch a train, then thinking of packing and catching a train, then packing and catching a train; but still the week-end amounts to a desertion, and hardly a month passes without a divine laying of savage hands upon the excursion. There was a time when holidays themselves were looked upon as audacious breaches of the conventions. In the early nineteenth century nobody went to Brighton except the Regent and the smart set; even in the Thackerayan period people did not think it necessary to leave London in August, and when they took the Grand Tour they were bent on improving their minds. The Kickleburys could not go up the Rhine without a powerful feeling of self-consciousness; I think they felt that they were outraging the Victorian virtues, so they had to make up for it by taking a guide, who for four or five weeks lectured them day and night upon the ruins of Godesberg. All this was opposed to the spirit of the home, just as anything which is outside the home is opposed to the spirit of the home, as was, for instance, every dance that has ever been known. In the Observer, in 1820, appeared a poem expressing horror and disgust of the waltz, and, curiously enough, very much in the same terms as the diatribes in the American papers of 1914 against the turkey trot and the bunny hug. When the polka came in, in the middle of the nineteenth century, good people clustered to see it danced, just like the more recent tango, and it was considered very fast. All this may appear somewhat irrelevant, but my case is mainly that the old attitude, now decaying, is that anything that happened outside the home, whether sport or amusement, was anything between faintly and violently evil. The old ideal of home was concentrated in Sunday: a long night; heavy breakfast; church; walk in the park; heavy dinner, including roast beef; profound sleep in the dining room; heavy tea; then nothing whatever; church; heavy supper; nothing whatever; then sleep. There is not much of this left, and from the moment when Sunday concerts began and the picture galleries were opened, when chess was played and the newspaper read, the old solidities of the home trembled, for the home was an edifice from which one could not take one stone.

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In chorus with the cry for new pleasures, the reaction against the old discomfort, came a more powerful influence still, because it was direct–the servant problem. The Americans know this question, I think, better even than the British, for in their country a violent democracy rejects domestic service and compels, I believe, the use of recent emigrants from old enslaved Europe who have not yet breathed the aggressive and ambitious air that has touched the Stars and Stripes. In Great Britain the crisis is not yet, and it may never come, for this is not the English way. In England we are aware of a crisis only fifty years later, because for that half-century we have successfully pretended that there was no crisis. So we come in just in time for the reaction, and say: “There you are. I told you nothing was changed.” Yet, so persistent is the servant problem that even England has had to take some notice of it. As Mr. Wells said, the supply of rough, hardworking girls began to shrink. It shrank because so many opportunities for the employment of women were offered by the factories which arose in England in the ‘forties and the ‘fifties, by the demand for waitresses, for shorthand writers, typists, shopgirls, elementary schoolmistresses, etc. The Education Act of 1870 gave the young English girls of that day a violent shock, for it informed them of the existence of Paris, assisted them toward the piano. And then came the development of the factory system, the spread of cheapness; with the rise in wages came a rising desire for pretty, cheap things almost as pretty as the dear ones; substitutes for costly stuffs were found; compositions replaced ivory, mercerized cotton rivaled silk, and little by little the young girl of the people discovered that with a little cleverness she could look quite as well as the one whom her mother called “Madam”; so she ceased to call her “Madam.” Labor daily grows more truculent, so there is no knowing what she will call the ex-Madam next; but one thing is certain, and that is that she will not serve her. She will not, because she looks upon service as ignominious; she has her own pride; she will not tell you that she is in a shop, but that she is “in business”; if she is “in service”, often she will say nothing about it at all, for the other girls, who work their eleven hours a day for a few shillings a week, despise her. They at least have fixed hours and they do not “live in”; when they have done their work they are free. They may have had less to eat that day than the comfortable parlor-maid, and maybe they have less in their pockets, but they are free, and they do not hesitate to show their contempt to the helot. I think that new pride has done as much as anything to crush the old, large, unwieldy home, for its four stories and its vast basement needed many steady, hardworking slaves, who only spoke when they were spoken to and always obeyed. It is not that mistresses were bad; some were and some were not, but from the modern girl’s point of view they were all bad because they had power at any time of day or night to demand service, to impose tasks that were not contracted for, to forbid the house to the servant’s friends, to make her loves difficult, to forbid her even to speak to a man. Whether the mistress so behaved did not matter; she had the power, and in a society growingly individual, growingly democratic, that was bound to become a heavy yoke.

And so, very slowly, the modern evolution began. The first to go were the immense houses of Kensington, Paddington, Bayswater, Bloomsbury,–those old houses within hail of Hyde Park,–which once held large families, all of them anxious to live not too far from the Court. They fell because it was almost impossible to afford enough servants to keep in order their three or four reception rooms, and their eight, ten, twelve bedrooms; they fell because the birth rate shrank, and the large families of the early nineteenth century became exceptional; they fell also because the old rigidity, or rather the stateliness, of the home was vanishing; because the lady of the house ventured to have tea in her drawing-room when there were no callers, and little by little came to leave newspapers about in it and to smoke in it. With the difficulties of the old houses came a demand for something smaller, requiring less labor. This accounts for the villas, of which some four hundred thousand have been built in the suburbs of London, in the villages London has absorbed. They are atrocious imitations of the most debased Elizabethan style; they show concrete where they should use stone, but, as their predecessors showed stucco, they are not much worse. They exhibit painted black stripes where there should be beams; they have sloping roofs, gables, dormer windows, everything cunningly arranged to make as many corners as possible where no chair can stand. They have horrid little gardens where the builder has buried many broken bricks, sardine tins, and old hats; they represent the taste of the twentieth century; they are quite abominable. But still the fact remains that they are infinitely smaller, more manageable, more intelligently planned than the spacious old houses of the past, where every black cupboard bred the cockroach and the mouse. They are easy to warm and easy to clean; their windows are not limited by the old window tax; they have bathrooms even when their rent is only one hundred and fifty dollars a year; and especially they have no basement. The disappearance of the basement is one of the most significant aspects of the downfall of the old household, for it was essentially the servants’ floor, where they could be kept apart from their masters, maintaining their own sports and the mysterious customs of a strange people; when the door of the kitchen stairs was shut, one would keep out everything connected with the servants, except perhaps the smell of the roast leg of mutton. That did not matter, for that was homelike. The basement was a vestige of feudal English society; it was brother to the servants’ quarters and the servants’ hall. Now it is gone. In many places the tradesmen’s entrance has vanished, and the cabbage comes to the front door. The sacred suppressions are no more, and in a developing democracy the master and mistress of the house stately dine, while on the other side of a wall about an inch thick Jane can be heard conversing with the policeman.

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The growth of the small house has never stopped during the last forty or fifty years. A builder in the southwest of London, of whom I made inquiries, told me that he had erected four hundred and twenty houses, and that not one of them had a basement; this form of architecture had not even occurred to him. I have also visited very many homes in the suburbs of London, and I have looked in vain for the old precincts of the serving maid. The small house has powerfully affected the old individual attitude of home, for the hostile dignity of the past cannot survive when one man mows the lawn and the other clips the roses, each in his own garden, separated only by three sticks and some barbed wire. In detached houses it is worse, for they are now so close together that in certain architectural conditions preliminaries are required before one can take a private bath. The whole direction of domestic architecture is against the individual and for the group. The modern home takes away even the old stores; there are no more pickle cupboards and jam cupboards, and hardly linen cupboards. Why should there be when jam and pickles come from the grocer, and few men have more than twelve shirts? There is not even a store for coal. Some years ago I lived in a house that was built in 1820, and its coal cellar held eight tons; I now inhabit one, built in 1860, in which I can accommodate four tons; the house now being built in the suburbs cannot receive more than one ton. The evolution of the coal cellar is a little the evolution of English society from the time when every man had to live a good deal for himself, until slightly better distribution made it possible for him to combine with his fellows. He need not now store coal, for there is a service of coal to his doorstep. Besides, the offspring of coal are expelling their ancestor; gas and electricity, both centrally supplied from a single source, are sapping the old hearthstone that was fed by one small family, and for that family alone glowed. A continual socialization has come about, and it is not going to stop. What is done in common is on the whole better done, more cheaply done. But what is done in common is hostile to the old home spirit, because the principle of the home spirit is that anything done in common is–well, common!

As for the old houses of fifteen to sixteen rooms, they have had to accommodate themselves to the new conditions. First they tried to maintain themselves by reducing their rents. I know of a case, in Courtfield Gardens, where a house leased twenty-six years ago at one thousand dollars a year, was leased again about ten years ago at seven hundred and fifty dollars a year, and is now being offered at five hundred dollars a year. The owner does not want his premises turned into a boarding house, but he cannot find a private tenant, because hardly anybody nowadays can manage five floors and a basement. In my own district, where the houses tower up to heaven, I see the process at work,–rents falling, pitiful attempts of the landlords to prevent their houses from turning into maisonnettes and boarding houses, to prevent the general decay. But they are beaten. The vast Victorian houses within three miles of Charing Cross are, one by one, being cut up into flats; in the unfashionable districts they are being used for tenements; and there are splendid old houses in the neighborhood of Bloomsbury, where in the day of Dickens lived the fashionables, which now house half a dozen workingclass families and their lodgers. There is one of these old glories near Lamb’s Conduit Street, where a Polish furrier and his six unwashed assistants work under a ceiling sown with sprawling nymphs, while melancholic and chipped golden lions’ heads look down from either side of a once splendid Georgian mantelpiece. It is very reactionary of me, I am afraid, but I cannot help feeling it a pity that this old house, where would suitably walk the ghost of Brinsley Sheridan, must be one of the eggs broken to make the omelette of the future.

But these old houses must go. Why should one preserve an old house? One does not preserve one’s old boots. The old houses have been seized by the current of revolt against the home; they have mostly become boarding and apartment houses. This is not only because their owners do not know what to do with them; one does not run a boarding house unless it pays, and so evidently there has been a growing demand for the boarding house. Boarding houses fail, but for every one that fails two rise up, and there is hardly a street in London that has not its boarding house, or at least its apartment house. There are several in Park Lane itself; there is even one whose lodgers may look into the gardens of Buckingham Palace. I do not know how many boarding houses there are in London, for no statistics distinguish properly between the boarding house, the apartment house, the private hotel, the hotel, and the tavern. But, evidently, the increase is continuous, and part of the explanation is to be found elsewhere than in the traveler. Of course, the traveler has enormously increased, but he alone cannot account for the scores of thousands of people who pass their years in apartment and boarding houses. They live there for various reasons–because they cling to the old family idea and think to find “a home from home”; because they cannot afford to run separate establishments; and very many because they are tired of running them, tired of the plumber, tired of the housemaid. There are thousands of families in London, quite well-to-do, who prefer to live in boarding houses; they hate the boarding house, but they hate it less than home. They feel less tied; they have less furniture; they like to feel that their furniture is in store where they can forget all about it. They have lost part of their old love for Aunt Maria’s magenta curtains–the home idea has become less significant to them. And this applies also to hotels. The increase of hotels in London, in every provincial city, all over the world, is not entirely explained by the traveler, though, by the way, the increase in traveling is a sign of the decay of the home. The old idea, “You’ve got a good home and you’ve got to stay there,” suffers whenever a member of the home leaves it for any reason other than the virtuous pursuit of his business. All over the center of London, in Piccadilly, along Hyde Park, in Bloomsbury, hotels have risen–the Piccadilly, the new Ritz, the Park View, the Coburg, the Cadogan, the Waldorf, the Jermyn Court, the Marble Arch, so many that in some places they are beginning to form a row. And still they rise. An enormous hotel is being built opposite Green Park; another is projected at Hyde Park Corner; the Strand Palace is open, and at the Regent Palace there are, I understand, fourteen hundred bedrooms. The position is that a proportion of London’s population is beginning to live in these hotels without servants of their own, without furniture of their own, without houses of their own. A more detached, a freer spirit is invading them, and a desire to get all they can out of life while they can, instead of solemnly worshiping the Englishman’s castle.

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It does not come easily, and it does not come quickly. During the last twenty-five years most of the blocks of flats to be found in London have risen, with their villainously convenient lifts for passengers and their new-fangled lifts for dust bins and coal, with their electricity and their white paint, and other signs of emancipation. They were not popular when they came, and they are disliked by the older generation; it is still a little vicious to live in a West End flat. And when the younger generation points out that flats are so convenient because you can leave them, the older generation shakes its head and wonders why one should want to. In a future, which I glimpse clearly enough, I see many more causes of disquiet for the older generation, and I wonder with a certain fear whether I, too, shall not be dismayed when I become the older generation. For the destruction of the old home is extending now much farther than bricks and mortar. It is touching the center of human life, the kitchen. There are now in London quite a number of flats, such as, I think, Queen Anne’s Mansions, St. James’s Court, Artillery Mansions, where the tenants live in agreeable suites and either take their meals in the public restaurant or have them brought up to their flat. The difficulty of service is being reduced. The sixty households are beginning to do without the sixty cooks, and never use more than a few dozen at a time of their two hundred pieces of crockery. There are no more tradesmen, nor is there any ordering; there is a menu and a telephone. There are no more heated interviews with the cook, and no more notices given ten minutes before the party, but a chat with a manager who has the manners and the tact of an ambassador. There is no more home work in these places.

I think these blocks of flats point the way to the future much more clearly than the hotels and the boarding houses, for those are only makeshifts. Generally speaking, boarding houses are bad and uncomfortable, for the landlady is sometimes drunk and generally ill-tempered, the servants are usually dirty and always overworked; the furniture clamors for destruction by the city council. The new system–blocks of flats with a central restaurant–will probably, in a more or less modified form, be the home of new British generations. I conceive the future homes of the people as separate communities, say blocks of a hundred flats or perhaps more, standing in a common garden which will be kept up by the estate. Each flat will probably have one room for each inhabitant, so as to secure the privacy which is very necessary even to those who no longer believe in the home idea; it will also have a common room where privacy can be dispensed with. Its furniture will be partly personal, but not very, for a movement which is developing in America will extend, and we too in England may be provided, as are to-day the more fortunate Americans, with an abundance of cupboards and dressers ready fixed to the walls. There will be no coal, but only electricity and gas, run from the central plant. There will be no kitchens, but one central kitchen, and a central dining room, run–and this is very important– by a committee of tenants.

That committee will appoint and control cooks and all servants; it will buy all provisions, and it will buy them cheaply, for it will purchase by the hundredweight. It will control the central laundry, and a paid laundry maid will check the lists–there will no longer be, as once upon a time on Saturday evenings, a hundred persons checking a hundred lists. It is even quite possible that the central organization may darn socks. The servants will no longer be slaves, personally attached to a few persons, their chattel; they will be day workers, laboring eight hours, without any master save their duty. The whole system of the household will be grouped for the purpose of buying and distributing everything that is needed at any hour. There will be no more personal shopping; the wholesale cleaner will call on certain days without being told to; the communistic window cleaners will dispose of every window on a given day; there may even be in the garden a communistic system of dog kennels. I have no proposal for controlling cats, for I understand that no man can do that … but then there will be no mice in those days.

I think I will close upon that phrase: There will be no mice in those days. For somehow the industrious mouse, scuffling behind the loose wainscoting over the rotten boards, is to me curiously significant of the old, hostile order, when every man jealously held what was his own and determined that it should so remain–dirty, insanitary, tiresome, labor-making, dull, inexpressibly ugly, inexpressibly inimical to anything fresh and free, providing that it was wholly and sacredly his own.

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