Sunday, March 24, 2013


O, For a Morsel of Dirt!

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), "The Virtue and Fanaticism of Neatness," in Eyes and Ears (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862), pp. 167-173 (at 172-173):
You live under a perpetual and sounding, "Take care." It is "Take care, don't touch that silver, you will tarnish it." "Take care of that sofa, it is newly covered." "Take care! don't sit on that clean chintz; you ought to know better than to sit down on such a chair!" "Take care! let that hat alone, you will soil it." "Take care! pray don't go near that sideboard, you'll scratch it." "Take care! a stick! a knife too!! Whittling in the parlor!!! Go out—out with you; go out of the yard, go into the road; go behind the barn, where the wind won't blow your shavings back." "Take care! don't eat apples in the sitting-room,—you always drop some seeds." "Take care, child, come away from that door. You are not going into that room; it is just put in order!" And thus, family discipline, domestic life, and the whole end of living seems to be, to avoid dirt, and secure neatness. Is there anything so tormenting as ecstatic neatness? O, for a morsel of dirt, as a luxury! How good dust looks! A ploughed field with endless dirt,—all hail! The great sentence itself, which consigns man finally to dust again, becomes a consolation!

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