The Victorian Home

A while a go I read a book.  But that is an overstatement.  I more or less attacked it like a chipmunk.  Gnawing at the edges here and there when I had 30 seconds.  In which case, don’t consider me an expert.  But I did come away with a few things.  The Victorians prized their homes.  And from there they waged constant and vigilant warfare against the world.  Well, mostly it’s dirt.  They whitewashed the front steps every morning.  Only so they could do it again the next morning.  Soot infiltrated everything.  Cleaning was done on an intense, and slightly psychotic, schedule.  But they knew where to draw the line.


Work and the world weren’t everything.  At the end of the day they changed their clothes, sat down to dinner, relaxed in front of the fire, and pulled the plug.  They didn’t even have a plug and they still pulled it.  The husband did not sully the home by bringing his work into it, nor did the wife burden her husband with the numerous chores she repeated everyday or with what they might have for dinner over the next fortnight.  I don’t think this was so much because the husband thought the wife was an idiot or that the wife didn’t dare bore her husband with her menu planning, but that they saw their home as something pure, or even sacred.  I don’t think this sacredness was found within the walls themselves, but in the peace they offered.  A fragile and elusive quality not to be sullied with fears or foes

One of our dinner readings lately was on the Red Badge of Courage.  The story of a bored farm boy who couldn’t wait to go to battle.  And after all the depraved fighting in the cold and in the mud, where the men began to resemble animals – he realized that what they were fighting for was the very thing he had casually thrown away.  Peace.  Home.  It’s something you can really put your finger on, and you can’t see it until it’s gone.  And when it does show up missing we find it took a whole lot else went with it.  It makes me want to look around and shut a few doors.  Kick out a few strays.

Practically speaking, the first one to go was facebook.  That was like a septic leak in the living room.  I thought I would miss it, because it seemed to be so useful.  And it was, I used it for everything.  But the moment I ran a wooden stake through it’s soul sucking heart there was nothing but blue skies, blue skies smiling at me.  So skip the excuses.  My advice it to just kill it.  The other thing I don’t countenance is TV.  I like to have some TV in our house simply as a means of immunizing against it.  I grew up without TV so I know what that’s like.  We let our kids watch one movie a week, I watch something from Masterpiece, and Boy vainly tries to watch a soccer game while getting dressed for church.  But that’s it.  The other door I slammed shut, a long time ago, was the news.  Because it’s hardly that.  It’s more like an educational soap opera set in a trailer park with WWF style fanfare.  Tawdry sensationalism.  And it seems like internet sources are even worse.  My mother-in-law sent me an innocuous article about food expiration dates the other week and there in the sidebar was more than I ever wanted to know about Miley Cyrus.  And that’s just how it goes.  Give the world an inch and it’s going to cram it full of Miley Cyruses.

Personally, I like the Victorian model.  Leave it at the door.  What I like even better is that I have a man who slogs through the filth on my behalf.  When he comes home, he can leave his shoes on our freshly limed steps.  We can shut the door on streets and the soot.  The enemy may have the world, but it doesn’t have my home.  And rather than living in blind ignorance, I would rather say I simply choose to have a filter.  Namely, my husband.  I was also somewhat shocked by how highly the Victorians valued innocence and purity.  It seems in our day we think nothing of it.  In fact, we expect everyone to suffer the same degree of jadedness.  All for the sake of being “informed.”  But not the Victorians.  I think they recognized that the most powerful thing in the world is not any man-engineered weapon or strategy, but true and simple goodness.  The angel in the home and the peace her work affords.

“With Christianity there came into the world a new example and a new thought. To woman’s whole nature appealed that life of self-sacrifice, of love, and of willing service that has created a new Heaven and a new earth. From the foot of the Cross there arose and went out into the world a womanhood that did not demand, or claim, or threaten, or arrogate; a womanhood renouncing, yielding, loving, and, therefore, conquering. For twenty centuries that has been the law of woman’s life. It is sneered at and rejected today by the clamorous, but it has made of woman what we now find her. You see it in your mothers, your daughters, your wives. Do you wish to have that ideal changed? Woman has become to man not only a companion, but an inspiration. Out of the crucible of the centuries has come what we not only love but adore; before which, in certain hours, we bow with a reverence that links us unconsciously with the Divine. It is Christian civilization that is in the balance.”

Woman's Mission: Companion of Manhood 1863 by George Elgar Hicks 1824-1914


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