Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Blasted with Regularity and Order

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), "The Good of Disorder," in Eyes and Ears (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862), pp. 413-419 (at 417-418):
She steals in! She views the happy scene! There was Bayle lying on the floor, with Mape's Farmer in his lap, and an Atlas genially covering both. There was a squadron of Living Ages lying around, like a picket of cavalry at ease. In one corner was a thicket of newspapers, on the sofa a ream of paper, a shawl, an Affghan, a Concordance, a Bible, new books uncut, magazines, and various other treasures; near the window all the books that at various times for a month we had bought up, but had not put up, waiting till we had time to arrange; near the door a stack of portfolios, and here and there a picture, patiently waiting to be hung. The book-cases were in benevolent sympathy with the floor. Indeed, the book-case might be called a vertical floor, and the floor a horizontal book-case. Whichever way the eye turned it found unexpected contrasts. Nothing was tame. Everything was fitted to excite surprise in a well-regulated housekeeper's mind. It was a stimulating sight. No art could have designedly arranged it. It was the workmanship of distributive and gradual chance. Like frostwork on the window, it defied invention and challenged imitation.

The same remorseless hand that would rub out a windowful of frost etchings, for the sake of seeing vulgar things outside, has invaded our room and "put everything to rights." Two months of industrious carelessness will scarce suffice to bring back my paradise! And all the time that fatal fear will overhang us that, in an unguarded hour, the same calamity will sweep through the room again, and where it found all, everything in disorder and loneliness, leave everything blasted with regularity and order!
Could "loneliness" in the last sentence perhaps be a printer's error for "loveliness"?

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