It is worth every man’s while to study the important art of living happily. Even the poorest man may by this means extract an increased amount of joy and blessing from life. The world need not be a “vale of tears,” unless we ourselves will it to be so. We have the command, to a great extent, over our own lot. At all events, our mind is our own possession; we can cherish happy thoughts there; we can regulate and control our tempers and dispositions to a considerable extent, we can educate ourselves, and bring out the better part of our nature, which in most men is allowed to sleep a deep sleep; we can read good books, cherish pure thoughts and lead lives of peace, temperance and virtue, so as to secure the respect of good men, and transmit the blessing of a faithful example to our successors.
The art of living is best exhibited in the home. The first condition of a happy home, where good influences prevail over bad ones, is comfort. Where there are carking cares, querulousness, untidiness, slovenliness, and dirt, there can be little comfort either for man or woman. The husband who has been working all day expects to have something as a compensation for his toil. The least that his wife can do for him is to make his house snug, clean and tidy against his home-coming at eve. That is the truest economy, the best housekeeping, the worthiest domestic management, which makes the home so pleasant and agreeable that a man feels, when approaching it, that he is about to enter a sanctuary; and that when there, there is no attraction that can draw him away from it.
We are not satisfied merely with a home. It must be comfortable. The most wretched, indeed, are those who have no homes—the homeless! But not less wretched are those whose homes are without comfort—those of whom Charles Lamb once said, “The homes of the very poor are not homes.” It is comfort, then, that is the soul of the home—its essential principle, its vital element.
Comfort does not merely mean warmth, good furniture, good eating and drinking. It means something higher than this. It means cleanliness, pure air, order, frugality; in a word, house-thrift and domestic government. Comfort is the soil in which the human being grows, not only physically, but morally. Comfort lies, indeed, at the root of many virtues.
Wealth is not necessary for comfort. Luxury requires wealth, but not comfort. A poor man’s house, moderately supplied with the necessities of life, presided over by a cleanly, frugal housewife, may contain all the elements of comfortable living. Want of comfort is for the most part caused, not so much by the absence of sufficient means as by the absence of the requisite knowledge of domestic management.
Comfort depends as much on persons as on “things.” It is out of the character and temper of those who govern homes that the feeling of comfort arises, much more than out of handsome furniture, heated rooms, or household luxuries and conveniences.
Comfortable people are kindly-tempered. Good temper may be set down as an invariable condition of comfort. There must be peace, mutual forbearance, mutual help and disposition to make the best of everything. “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”
Comfortable people are persons of common sense, discretion, prudence and economy. They have a natural affinity for honesty and justice, goodness and truth. They do not run into debt, for that is a species of dishonesty. They live within their means, and lay by something for a rainy day. They provide for the things of their own household, yet they are not wanting in hospitality and benevolence on fitting occasions. And what they do is done without ostentation.