Thursday, January 11, 2018

Raspberries on a branch

Description of Illustration: photo of raspberries, red raspberries, stem, branch of , leaves of

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

City Window Garden

       But there is another gay season for the city lover than that of the winter and its routs; it is when spring opens, and before people begin to leave town, and the flower-boxes in varied windows are called into bloom. To be sure, all winter long the florists' windows are bowers of loveliness, and so are many of the windows of the wealthy, under which the children of the poor often stop in admiring groups. But let the chill once forsake earth and air and even in the poorer quarters of the town the little boxes at the windows begin to show that nature will everywhere repay love and care, show to make these flower-boxes answer a purpose, and how to make the miserable little backyards beautiful and useful, Miss Louise Forester may tell us in a way that shall perhaps help another young gardener in her work.
In 1950, the regeneration of Victorian window-boxes 
to add color and interest in an otherwise dismal and
depressing environment, of course!

The Gay Season

       Yes, there probably will always be a gay season so long as society holds together by its present structure, and even those who have and desire to have nothing to do with it must witness more or less of it and be aware of it, however unwillingly. Artistically considered, it has a certain value, if only as  showing the possibilities of beauty attainable under the present conditions of favorable life. We need not go to the ancients in these times for the ideal of loveliness in the outward forms of social mingling. Some daylight sacrificial festival by the blue waters of the Egean, with torches turning pale in the sunshine, with the flower-decked and filleted victim, the dancing youths and maidens under the festoons of their floral ropes and wreaths, may have been more remotely poetical; a Roman supper may have been more voluptuous; a Pompeiian revel may have been more wild and wanton; but a mask of the gods could hardly be more beautiful than are some of the nightly entertainments of the gay season of the present. Winter changed to summer, night into softly glowing day, bare walls to bowers of bloom out of which gleam statues like the gods just alit, and pictures like dreams of a yet lovelier life all this constitutes an enchanted background for the throngs that troop across it, the dark shadows of one class of the participants in the pleasure throwing out all the brilliance of the other portion with its rosy flesh and glistening hair and starry eyes and curving outlines, the brilliance, moreover, of the material in which this beauty robes itself, to whose lustrous wealth neither the dreams of poets nor the facts of antiquity ever approached; for laces and silks and velvets, at any rate, are of the modern world, and the substance in which poets clothe their dreams of beauty is filmy and vaporous stuff as thin as moonshine. And meanwhile, if the gay season is an artistic success, wherever it kindles the wit in any degree and puts a sparkle into conversation, it is intellectual success as well. Those who admire and excuse this series of festive pageants declare that there is another view of it worthy of a pause, and that is a consideration of its beneficent nature in our social economy, in the part of the good Samaritan which it so undoubtedly plays. Does this seem an impossible or Quixotic view? Give, then, but a glance to the army of workers glad and thankful to be workers whom this gay season calls to the front; not merely housemaid and cook, coachman and groom, milliner and seamstress, but the multitude of those who produce and prepare the raw material which these ultimately handle, the multitude of underlings who assist them all, till the work ramifies through a thousand far-extended avenues, so that some single ball not only calls into requisition the forces of market-men, the finest fancies of florists and designers, the running of the steamships that import its novelties, but saves from starvation and beggary the denizen of many an attic.
       The gay season may in itself as those who roll to swell its triumph, with plume and jewel, with epaulet or train, forget the existence of any others less fortunate than themselves be called as heartless as any other great machine; but, like most great machines, it does unconsciously a tremendous work, and, with the industries it necessitates, tides over the dark and cruel winter months, when there is little hope and less joy to those who otherwise might have no season at all. May there always be a gay season, then, its upholders exclaim net too gay a season, not a mad revel, but a brief and brilliant  tournament of youth and beauty! May the early years enjoy it, and the advancing years look on well pleased with the pageant ! May it charm for the passing moment, but not captivate one instant beyond its proper power; and, while its light burns ever so brightly, may it not put out the sun! For, after all, there are those of good reason who totally disapprove of the extravagance and the waste of time. The philosophers and the political economists deny that there is any advantage in the expenditure of wealth after this fashion, assuring us that only injury is wrought thereby.
       Mr. Ruskin says that as long as there is cold and nakedness in the land, splendor of dress is a crime. "As long as there are any," he says, "who have no blankets for their beds, and no rags for their bodies, so long it is blanket-making and tailoring we must set people to work at not lace."
       Society is of course a charming thing: the reunion of kindred souls in scenes made as lovely as artifice can make them ; people always at their best, and conscious of it; with every enjoyment to pass the time pleasure, excitement, admiration, the dance, the opera, the theatre, the drive. But it is life in too concentrated a form, like the nourishment where nothing goes to waste, and which, while it enriches the blood, causes the atrophy of certain of the organs. The experiment having been tried of feeding guinea-pigs with sugar alone, it was found that the little creatures lived a short space of time, and then those that did not die became blind. Too long and too undiluted a diet of gay life would be no better for the soul than the undiluted saccharine matter was for the unfortunate animal; and it is a merciful arrangement that, after the faculties have received sufficient stimulus and the senses sufficient enjoyment, puts an end to it all with the total and arbitrary change of habit that the Lenten season brings. Then the swift rout is succeeded by the quiet life, the nightly revel by the morning walk, the call of charity, the household duty, the neglected book, and the performance of all those little acts postponed when the days only waited on the nights to bring the next one round. Then one has time to recall the fact that there are those less favored by fate than one's self; then one has time to put one's self in one's enemies' place and see what their justification may be ; time to look over one's own life, and learn what has been amiss, to make new resolutions, and indulge them a little while before beginning to break them ; then there is time to enter on the search for those less favored ones, if they are not at the door, and to do what may be done toward striking the balance in this life that death will strike at last when the earth is cast upon one. 

Victorian's had to observe etiquette before entering
 into society. The "Gay Season" refers in this case,
 to the season of being introduced to society for 
arranged marriages.


       Such rooms as those of which the old china and rich draperies and costly bric-a-brac make part are necessary in a place where what is known as Society takes on its most splendid guise, and where there is such a positive thing as the gay season. For it makes no difference how much want and suffering may be abroad in the town or in the land, there is always a gay season in town, and probably there always will be one. For as one generation tires, another is springing upon the scene, and all the fardels belonging to the glitter and frolic that these are dropping from their hold those are ready to catch as they dance on. The new belles and the new beaux will always have a mutual attraction; the old belles drop off, to be sure, but the old beaux linger to see these fresh young beauties who are just taking up the business of life with such a sparkle in their wondering eyes, such a vitality in their veins, and when any of these old beaux drops off, some one of the young belles usually drops off with him.

A Victorian era ballroom dance reenactment.

The Advantures of a Pound of Cotton

       Since steam, that great afrite, has put the hand to shame, these wonders  have probably been eclipsed, and the adventures of a single pound of cotton, borne on its wings, and for sale in the London market, are like a tale of  the Arabian Nights journeying from the Indies to London docks, thence to  Lancashire to be spun, thence to Paisley to be woven, to Ayrshire to be tamboured, to Dumbarton to be hand-sewed, back to Paisley, on to Glasgow for a finish, and once more in London, having traveled five thousand miles by sea and one thousand by land, supporting by the labor spent on it one hundred and fifty people, and increasing its own value some two thousand per cent.
       The spinning-wheel, certainly as much as anything, has been a badge of woman's servitude. For while all her time was needed to make the clothing for her family, there was none for her to spend in illuminating her mind. And so it is not unpleasant to-day to see this old badge made the sport of circumstance, and what was once a slavery now affording pastime in the drawing-room. Broken and disused, and in dishonor, and shorn of its locks, as it is, it was once a mighty tyrant; and we should think the lovely ladies, free to pursue pleasure, art, learning, to mount the ladder to the stars with men, and who have adorned their drawing-rooms with the mimicry and mockery of its old estate, might in some twilight be haunted by a strange dream of it, pulling down the temple of their freedom and happiness about them. And as they play with it now, in all their liberty and possibilities and comparative enlightenment, they may do well to be mindful of the bondage in which it held their "forebys, " and in which its rude forerunner, the distaff, still holds certain of their sisters. "The art of spinning," says an elegant writer, "in one of its simplest and most primitive forms, is yet pursued in Italy, where the country-women of Caia still turn the spindle unrestrained by that ancient rural law which forbade its use without doors. The distaff has outlived the consular fasces, and survived the conquests of the Goth and the Hun But rustic hands alone now sway the sceptre of Tanaquil, and all but the peasant disdain a practice which once beguiled the leisure of high-born dames."

The Spinster

       The distinctive nature of the term spinster, as applicable to none above a viscount's daughter in rank, is a slight curiosity in history: it is probably due to the fact that the increase of wealth and the introduction cf printed literature enabled ladies of rank to find amusement and employment otherwheres than at the wheel, which was abandoned to the use of those unable to command the luxury of their own time women presumably below the rank of a viscount's daughter. Wonderful things used to be done with the wheel, though in those times before machinery made nothing of wonders. One girl was known to spin a pound of wool into eighty-four thousand yards of thread, almost equal to forty-eight miles; and another at a later period spun the same quantity into a thread something more than one hundred and fifteen miles in length but she was a famous spinner.
Karen Hainlen is a professional, contemporary spinster.