|MY DAYS AND DREAM|
Edward Carpenter's Autobiography
|The Edward Carpenter Archive|
by Simon Dawson
It must be admitted, however, that the acclimatisation to the new and somewhat limited and strenuous life at Millthorpe did not take place all at once; and perhaps the fact of my having burnt my boats, as it were, and committed myself as I had done, was after all a good thing. For some little time I felt restive and unsettled at the enchainment - partly, as I have said, because the Thoreau ideal, opening out underneath, took the bottom out of the commercial and rather materialistic life in the way of Trade in which I was embarking; and partly because anyhow the latter sort of life - though valuable as an experience was not by its nature likely to hold my interest for long. The rustics too and farmfolk around me were on my first arrival a little strange, and inclined, as often happens in such cases, to hold off and be suspicious of a new-comer; my reputation as a Socialist alarmed them; there was none of the cordiality of little Bradway; the climate was damp and the winters were long; and I had occasional relapses of feeling about it all.
Yet if I had cut the painter and floated my little boat away onto the great deep I doubt whether the result would have been favorable. After all, all life means a denial of part of oneself. It is obviously impossible to find a situation or conditions which will satisfy all the demands of one's nature - millionfold complex as they are. Some must be sacrificed. To moan over that necessity or to pose as a martyr is absurd. All one can reasonably do is to find a situation which will satisfy the root demands, and the rooting demands - those that have the power of growth in them. Then the seed, though it seem to die in its prison-house, will assuredly find its outlet and quicken into a new life.
I could not complain in this case that the root-needs of my temperament were unsatisfied. Quite the contrary. I was plunged in the very heart of Nature - that Nature which for many years I had felt the need of - in a singularly beautiful Derbyshire valley with plentiful woods, streams and moors; I had already become familiar with the mass-folk of Sheffield, and found friends among the workers in many trades; and was beginning to know the rustics of my own neighborhood. I was leading an outdoor life, and my health was every day becoming firmer and more consolidated. I had escaped from the domination of Civilization in its two most fatal and much-detested forms, respectability and cheap intellectualism. In my happy valley there was no resident squire of any kind, nor even a single "villa", while the church, more than a mile distant, was quite amiably remote! We were just a little population of manual workers, sincerely engrossed in our several occupations. And finally, and perhaps more than all, I had found a firm basis and secure vantage-ground for my literary and productive work.
People have often asked me if I did not miss the life I had left behind. I cannot truly say that I ever did. At Brighton and at Cambridge and partly in London I had had my fill of balls and dinner-parties and the usual entertainments, and when at the close of those two dispensations (somewhere in the early 'eighties) I gave my dress clothes away, I did so without any misgiving and without any fear that I should need them again. The fact is that though it is perfectly true that by steadily and persistently going to evening parties and social functions one may come into touch with interesting or remarkable people of sorts, yet the game is hardly worth the candle. Through leagues of boredom, platitudes and general futility one occasionally has the satisfaction of exchanging a wink of recognition, so to speak, with some really congenial and original woman or man; but at all such functions the severe flow of amiable nonsense soon cuts any real conversation short, and if one wants to continue the latter the only way is to arrange a meeting quite outside and apart - which after all one might have done in other and simpler ways. As to the matter of dress, the adoption of a pleasant yet not strictly conventional evening garb of one's own has the useful effect of automatically closing doors which are not "worth while" and opening those that are - so in that way it is much to be recommended!
On the whole, though just the first few years at Millthorpe were somewhat isolated I believe my independent life there has really enabled me to see more of the great world than I should otherwise have done. Visitors from a distance have often many and intimate things to tell one and questions can be discussed in a more leisurely way than in a great centre where everyone stands watch in hand, counting the minutes. And on the other hand, by going myself to London for a fortnight or so three or four times a year, I found I could get into touch with all sorts of cliques and circles - such as I perhaps should not have cared to be involved in if I had been permanently living there! The country became a splendid basis for literary work, with the opportunity it afforded (so priceless to me) of writing in the open air and in close contact with the ordinary realities of life; it supplied a good basis for my lecturing and other excursions into the Northern Towns; and with its market-gardening and sandal trades kept my hands busy when my head required a rest.
Of the many years mainly spent here at Millthorpe, the first fifteen - from 1883 to 1898 - were some-what handicapped for me by the presence of a small working-family in the house; first, for ten years, the Fearnehoughs of whom I have already spoken; and afterwards, for five years, the Adams'. No other arrangement was at that time possible. Both families were charming and interesting in their different ways; but necessarily they hampered my freedom a good deal. With children in the house (in both cases) the domestic arrangements had largely to be suited to their necessities and convenience, and my interests had to come very decidedly second. This did not so much matter at the beginning of the time, but later with the expansion of my own sphere of operations a different household arrangement became imperative.
Fearnehough, as I have said, was of a "powerful uneducated" type - a good specimen of the British worker - a bit slow in brain, but exceedingly thorough and downright in all his dealings. His wife possessed the infinite patience and kindliness of the household guardian - going always about her work with untiring forethought and industry - even when, as often happened, she was silently suffering from bad headaches. There was a certain native grace about her, and dignity about him, which well became them. The two children, boy and girl of about nine and ten when they first arrived, were sensible and natural too. To have this family living with me - though it may have been hampering in some ways - was for some years very helpful. Whether at meals, or working in the fields, or sitting round the fire of an evening, to be in close touch with so sane and simple an outlook on life, and one so entirely different from that to which I had generally been accustomed, was in itself an education. The very downrightness of daily existence among those who live close upon absolute necessity is a thing hardly realized even by the most well-meaning of the well-to-do, unless they positively share that existence. Of course it cuts away a vast deal of sentimentalism, aestheticism, and all that. But on the whole it is rather healthy.
I remember one day - in later years when Annie, the daughter, had gone away to work in Sheffield - speaking to her mother about the girl (whose absence I knew she felt) and saying rather sentimentally, "I expect you miss Annie a good deal nowadays." The answer was characteristic, and in its way quite lovely: "Yes, I do miss her - especially on washingdays!" It was not that Mrs. Fearnehough cared one whit less for her daughter than many a very cultured mother might, but simply that her answer allowed the bed-rock of human nature to be seen. At any rate it took the wind out of my sentimentality! Not long ago I was asking a neighboring farmer - whose son had just got married and migrated on to a little farm of his own - how the son liked his new place. "Like it" said the old man with a dryish sort of laugh - "well, I guess he'll like it if he can any way make a living out of it - and if he can't he won't; he'll be better able to say in a year or two." It is from answers like these that one perceives how close on the rocks the lives of the mass peoples are thrust - too close indeed to allow much scope for expression of their real life or liking.
Fearnehough and I stumbled away at our market-gardening for a good many years. Being both to begin with quite ignorant of the trade we made our full complement of mistakes and purchased our experience sometimes dearly. Yet by degrees we got the land into good order. We dug it over, made drains to carry off the water, planted a hundred or two of fruit and forest trees, built bits of walls and fences, kept a horse,and fowls, and grew our crops, and took our produce into market - a strenuous time, but greatly interesting in its way. My commercial instinct was weak, but Albert's was perhaps even weaker! With his real love of good work he would spend as much time preparing an onion-bed as could only be paid for by ten times the value of the crop; and at one period he insisted on rooting every bit of rock and stone out of the subsoil so persistently that I began to think the garden would be turned into a quarry! It was characteristic of him when I remonstrated, to say "I can't help it - if I didn't do my work thorough when I'm at it, I should only keep awake at night thinking about it." I have already given some of the general results and conclusions of our labours of that time. When the period of our experiment came to an end, Fearnehough returned again to his scythe-making trade in Sheffield, which he still carries on, hale and hearty, down to this day .
I cannot pass this period by without dwelling for a moment on another
friend at that time a member of the household. I mean my dog Bruno - so called
not from his colour, for he was a very handsome black spaniel, but from
some fanciful association with Giordano Bruno the Italian. That dog - like
so many black animals, black horses, black cats, black poodles, black-plumaged
birds, rooks, jackdaws, starlings, and so forth-had something demonic
about him. The tenderness and gentleness of his spirit, combined with a
penetrative vision which searched one's very soul, was almost superhuman.
I came first to know him when he was merely a puppy at a friend's house.
We almost fell in love with each other then and there, and I was not altogether
surprised when a few weeks afterwards he arrived at my door, sent on as
a present from the said friends. He never doubted for a moment that he
had come to his true home, and he settled down at once, a most loving member
of the household. The Fearnehoughs took to him right cordially, and Albert
himself a year or so later had the great satisfaction of saving him from
a horrible death.
ALBERT FERNEHOUGH AND "BRUNO"
I had been out somewhere on foot with Bruno and arriving back within a couple of hundred yards of my gate I perceived the local pack of foxhounds(the pests of this as of all countrysides!) scattered about the road between me and home - the huntsmen having gone into the public-house for a moment to have a drink. But that moment was more than sufficient - for hounds are dangerous things unless under severe control. Something occurred - I know not what. A hound gave cry; the others joined in; and in an instant, to my horror and despair, the whole pack was yelling in pursuit, and Bruno flying for his life - in the only direction he could at the moment fly, away from home! The dog was swift and active, but what chance had he? I gave him up for lost. With extraordinary agility however and much presence of mind he doubled and, clearing ever so many garden walls and gates, dashed through the little hamlet back again, finally racing across one of my fields with the whole pack close behind and of course gaining on him. Most luckily Albert was in our yard at the moment, and hearing the hulla-baloo rushed out with a pitchfork in his hand, just in time to check the ravening horde while Bruno rushed past him to safety. A moment more and the dog would have been torn to fragments.
Bruno showed in high degree that curious quality resembling conscience in man, by which dogs, having contracted and adopted a new standard of life from their masters, betray an emotional conflict going on within them. Sometimes - as is often the case where fowls are kept - we would have a nest of newly-hatched chicks being kept warm and dry in a basket on the hearth. On such occasions Bruno was torn by conflicting passions. The very sight and smell of the chicks roused the old primitive hunting instinct, and he would creep nearer and nearer to the basket in a very ecstasy of excitement - his limbs trembling and his nose quivering as he sniffed the prey. Yet he knew perfectly well that he must not touch; and his fidelity was so absolute that I firmly believe he harboured no intention of doing so. But who can tell? We felt that possibly a sudden frenzy of the animal nature might overtake him; and we could not do otherwise than keep on the watch. As a matter of fact he never did do anything rash but the tension on him, poor dog, was so great that sometimes for two or three days he would hardly touch his food, and he positively grew quite thin under the strain. It was really a relief for all of us when the hatching days were over.
There is something strangely touching in the fact that dogs not only thus develop a conscience and a morality foreign to their canine nature, but that also from their intense devotion to their so-called 'masters' they are severed and alienated to some degree from the natural loves of their race - at any rate on the affectional side. I think Bruno nourished in his heart a strange susceptibility to beauty. His amours with other dogs were only of the ordinary kind ; but he cherished for a certain white kitten a positive adoration. The kitten was certainly beautiful - snow-white and graceful to a degree - and to Bruno obviously a goddess; but alas! like other goddesses only too fickle and even cruel. When Bruno arrived on the scene, the kitten would skip on to the vantage-ground of a chair-seat; and from thence torment the pathetic and pleading nose of the dog with naughty scratches. Again and again would Bruno - wounded in his heart as well as in his head - return to his ineffectual suit, only to have his advances rejected as before. At last he had to abandon this quest, but it was curious that a year or two later he fell in love with another white kitten in much the same way and with much the same result.
"Everything however comes to him who waits"; and the most curious and pathetic part of this story is its ending. For, a good many years afterwards when Bruno had become quite an old dog and had lost much of his activity, a cat came and fell in love with him! This cat used to come from a neighboring farm and spend much of its time with the dog, and frequently at night would stay with him in the little outhouse which he used as a kennel, sleeping between the dog's paws. Ultimately the cat was there when Bruno died.
Fearnehough's place, when he returned to Sheffield, was taken by George Adams, who (also with wife and two children) came to share the Millthorpe Cottage with me. Adams was in most ways the very reverse of Albert Fearnehough. Town bred, rather slight and thin, with a forward stoop and a shock of black hair, he was of an impetuous humorous and rather artistic temperament - not too exact or precise about details, but one who could cover a good deal of ground in a day. Born in the poorest slums of Sheffield he told me more than once how, after his mother died, he was left alone a mere urchin in a tiny lodging with his father. His father was a cobbler by trade rather given to drink, and in the habit of going out early of a morning to work as a wage-slave in some shop, and returning late. When he went out he left a halfpenny on the table for the boy to find his food with during the day! Not a very good start in life. The boy roamed about, half-starved, cadging or 'snaking' what he could - but developed, perhaps in consequence, a singular resourcefulness. When about thirteen his father died, and he was left absolutely alone in the world. The neighbours may have been kind in their way, but he was alone and without refuge to flee to. Then something pathetic happened. An orphanage for little girls had lately been opened in the neighborhood, and the boy knew one or two of these girls. One evening, at closing time, the matron discovered among her little flock this large-eyed, thin-legged almost rickety ragamuffin sitting! Asked what he was doing there he replied that he wanted to be taken in. "But the orphanage is for girls only," said the matron, "and you are not a girl." It was no use, he would not go; tears ran down his face; he told his plight; and they were fain to find him a bed in an attic for the night. Needless to say he remained a second and a third night. The pale mobile face made friends; and the end of it was that a boys' side was created in the orphanage and added to that of the girls!
After remaining in the orphanage for a year or two a place was found for George Adams in the villa-residence of a Sheffield manufacturer, where he went first as knife and boot boy and afterwards as under-gardener. The good people of the villa discovered his taste for drawing and painting, and sent him to a School of Art for lessons; and so when at the age of twenty or so he left 'service' and started for himself as an insurance-collector (most depressing of occupations) he had a fair knowledge of gardening and a fair artistic ability at his command. He married, and joining the Socialist movement became one of our most lively and adventurous spirits. The departure of the Fearnehoughs gave me the opportunity of offering their place at Millthorpe to him (and his family) - which he accepted as a joyful exchange from the dismal trade of eternally dunning the needy denizens of mean streets for their funeral and coffin monies.
With his arrival at Millthorpe things took on a more lively air there. His knowledge of gardening was a decided help, and the financial side of the venture - if not exactly a success from the purely commercial pointof view - did certainly under the circumstances (absence of any rent, etc.) yield a small profit to the good. He took up cordially with the sandal-making, which I had at first carried on alone, and which came in useful in winter when the outdoor work was slack; and he added bee-keeping to our activities. My literary work and connections were increasing, and the place became more social, and more especially socialistic, than it had been before - so much so indeed that the country folk (or some of them at any rate) became a little alarmed!
A year or two after George Adams' arrival the Parish Councils Act came into operation, and the first election was the cause of much excitement in the villages. Adams and I - though knowing perfectly well that we had no chance of success - decided - chiefly for the fun of the thing - to come forward as candidates; and almost a panic ensued among the larger farmers and the parson as to what we might possibly do or propose. Strange stories were circulated of the Socialist programme, and of the expenses into which the community would certainly be plunged if it were adopted. But the finishing touch to our chances was given by an election address printed and circulated by one candidate of decidedly Conservative type, in which he did not hesitate to say that "it is reported publicly in Holmesfield that one of our opponents advocates the burning of the Bible,and also working on the Sabbath Day." After that we had no prospect of success! Which of us two was really pointed at in this accusation we never quite knew, though we entered into a sort of friendly rivalry for the honour. But the printed card containing the address I retain to this day, and it is a treasured possession.
Adams was certainly not mealy-mouthed; and I am afraid he made very blasphemous remarks at times, but his intense sense of fun and his twinkling delight over ‘good stories' quite redeemed any such deficiencies. His courageous humour was all the more remarkable because, poor thing, he was always suffering from ill-health. Dating from the early life which I have described, his internal arrangements, as can easily be imagined, never worked really properly; and at times he would suffer a lot of pain, and become seriously emaciated. How he managed to keep up his gardening and other activities in spite of frequent illness was always a wonder but his vivid imagination carried him on, and if he were downcast at times, new plans and enterprises were sure to come in and disperse the pessimistic mood.
The gardening work however at Millthorpe was too much for his slight frame; and after some five years' stay there he elected to retire with his family into a cottage not far off in the same parish and devote himself to the sandal-trade and to the occasional sale of his water-colour drawings. This he did; and after remaining for four or five years moved on to the Letchworth Garden City where his labours and his personality were much appreciated, and where he occupied a little home of his own until his death in 1910.
The Adams' left Millthorpe early in February '98 and the next day - trundling with the help of two boys all his worldly goods in a handcart over the hills, and through a disheartening blizzard of snow - George Merrill arrived. This extraordinary being, in many ways so kindred a spirit to my own, had now been known to me for some years. I had met him first on the outskirts of Sheffield immediately after my return from India, and had recognized at once a peculiar intimacy and mutual understanding. Bred in the slums quite below civilization, but of healthy parentage of comparatively rustic origin, he had grown so to speak entirely out of his own roots; and a singularly affectionate, humorous, and swiftly intuitive nature had expanded along its own lines - subject of course to some of the surrounding conditions, but utterly untouched by the prevailing conventions and proprieties of the upper world. Always - even in utmost poverty - clean and sweet in person and neat in attire, he was attractive to most people; and children (of whom he was especially fond) would congregate round him. Yet being by temperament loving and even passionate - to a degree indeed which sometimes scandalized the "unco' guid - he was, it may safely be said, never 'respectable.' Fortunately he was either too careless or too unconscious of public opinion to trouble much about that; and despite the shafts of occasional criticism he remained always fairly assured of himself - with the same sort of unconscious assurance that a plant or animal might have in it’s own nature. What struck me most, however, on my first meeting with him, was the pathetic look of wistfulness in his face. Whatever his experiences up to then may have been, it assured me that the desire of his heart was still unsatisfied.
To George Merrill the arrival at Millthorpe was the fulfilment of a dream; and a blizzard ten times as bad as the actual one would not I believe have daunted him. The departure of the Adams' had left the house largely denuded of furniture, and for some days we bivouacked with a trestle table for meals and a sanded floor. By degrees we got things into order, acquired the necessaries of life and comfort; and started housekeeping on a new footing. For seven years the possibility of this arrangement had I believe wavered before George's eyes, and it had certainly been considered by me. But we had hardly spoken about it. It was too remote. On my side other arrangements and engagements precluded the plan; on his, the various situations he had found - once in a newspaper office, once in an hotel, and lastly in an ironworks - were not to be lightly thrown aside. It was only now, when the Adams were leaving and George at the same time was out of work, that the Fates pointed favorably and the thing was done.
GEORGE MERRILL (Photo Lena Connel)
If the Fates pointed favorably I need hardly say that my friends (with a few exceptions) pointed the other way! I knew of course that George had an instinctive genius for housework, and that in all probability he would keep house better than most women would. But most of my friends thought otherwise. They drew sad pictures of the walls of my cottage hanging with cobwebs, and of the master unfed and neglected while his assistant amused himself elsewhere. They neither knew nor understood the facts of the case. Moreover they had sad misgivings about the moral situation. A youth who had spent much of his early time in the purlieus of public-houses and in society not too reputable would do me no credit, and would only by my adoption be confirmed in his own errant ways. Such was their verdict. For myself if I entertained any of these misgivings it was but very faintly. Of the fellow's essential goodness I felt no doubt. What rather troubled me was the question whether he would be able to endure the dulness and quiet of a country life.
With a remarkably good ear for music, and a sympathetic baritone voice,he had a ready talent which would have taken him far on the music-hallstage. In fact I hardly know how it was that he did not find a vocation on that stage. Anyhow he was known in not a few circles for his musical quips and his comic or sentimental songs; and was pretty familiar with the doings and personnel of the theatres. To take such an one away into the depths of rustic life might have been a great mistake. Probably if this had been the prevailing side of his character it would have been a mistake. As it was the move proved a complete success. In a few months or a year my friend was quite acclimatized, and while enjoying (like myself) a day or two in town was always genuinely glad to get back again to our little home in Cordwell Valley.
As I have said, the families I had with me before were both kindly and good sorts, and in their different ways helpful and useful. But a time had come with the growing expansion of my work when it became quite impossible to continue running things on the old footing, and quite necessary for me to have the house really at my own command. The arrival of George Merrill rendered this possible. And immediately a new order of things began. Merrill from the first developed quite a talent for housework. He soon picked up the necessary elements of cookery, vegetarian or otherwise; he carried on the arts of washing, baking and so forth with address and dispatch; he took pride in making the place look neat and clean, and insisted on decorating every room that was in use with flowers. I, for my part, finally gave up the market garden business and contracted the garden ground into merely sufficient to supply the needs of the house. This I cultivated partly myself and partly with the occasional help of an outsider; and in addition I made it a rule to dust my own study and light the fire in it every morning. These little garden and household works - if not amounting to much - I have still always found very helpful and rather pleasant - as giving the bodily side of life some decent expression, and at the same time rendering the mental perspective more just.
Thus we settled down, two bachelors: keeping the mornings intact for pretty close and rigorous work; and the afternoons and evenings for more social recreation. As a rule I find the housekeeper who is a little particular and 'house-proud'is inclined, not unnaturally to be somewhat set against visitors - especially those who may bring some amount of dirt and dishevelment with them. But George - though occasionally disposed that way - was so genuinely sociable and affectionate by nature that the latter tendency overcame the former. The only people he could not put up with were those whom he suspected (sometimes unjustly) of being pious or puritanical. For these he had as keen a flair as the orthodox witch-finder used to have for heretics; and I am afraid he was sometimes rude to them. On one occasion he was standing at the door of our cottage, looking down the garden brilliant in the sun, when a missionary sort of man arrived with a tract and wanted to put it in his hand.
"Keep your tract"said George. "I don’t want it." "But don't you wish to know the way to heaven?" said the man. "No I don’t," was the reply, "can’t you see that we’re in heaven here - we don’t want any better than this, so go away." And the man turned and fled. Like the archdeacon in Eden Phillpotts’ Human Boy he flew and was never heard of again.
No doubt his objection to the pious and puritanical was returned with interest by their objection to him. Whatever faults or indiscretions he may have been guilty of, they were (in true provincial style) fastened on and magnified and circulated about as grave scandals. It was on such occasions however that the real affection of the country people for us showed itself, and they breathed slaughter against our assailants. George in fact was accepted and one may say beloved by both my manual worker friends and my more aristocratic friends. It was only the middling people who stumbled over him; and they did not so much matter! Anyhow our lives had become necessary to each other, so that what any one said was of little importance.
It thus became possible to realize in some degree a dream which I had had in mind for some time - that of making Millthorpe a rendezvous for all classes and conditions of society. I had by this time made acquaintances and friends among all the tribes and trades of manual workers, as well as among learned and warlike professions. Architects, railway clerks, engine-drivers, signalmen, naval and military officers, Cambridge and Oxford dons, students, advanced women, suffragettes, professors and provision-merchants, came into touch in my little house and garden; parsons and positivists, printers and authors, scythesmiths and surgeons, bank managers and quarrymen, met with each other. Young colliers from the neighboring mines put on the boxing-gloves with sprigs of aristocracy; learned professors sat down to table with farm-lads. Not, thank heaven! that this happened all in the lump but little by little and year by year my friends of various degrees and shades got to know each other-and this was a real satisfaction to me. Many lady friends also came to stay with us - some of them unmarried (which may, who knows? have been a cause for scandal); and not a few married couples who liked our way of life and enjoyed talking over questions of household arrangement and simplification.
Of course, after reading Thoreau's Walden, what-ever simplifications I may have effected in my own household management seemed very negligible and unimportant. Still I felt that some move in that direction, and some propaganda on the subject, was really needed. I tried hard to get some lady friend or other - who would probably understand household affairs much better than I - to write about the subject; but tried in vain. None would take it up. And so ultimately I was reduced to writing on the question myself - in England's Ideal and elsewhere.
To-day I feel the importance of the subject as much as - perhaps more than - I did then. I certainly often wish that our household life, plain as it is, was even more plain. But I find that Time - mere Time - has a sinister effect in complicating life. Things arrive, and cannot so easily be got rid of again. Presents are made by well-meaning people, and cannot very well be returned to the donors; new habitudes of life are grafted on the old ones without actually displacing the latter; the wheel of life turns one way, like a ratchet, but will not turn back again; and so the complications grow and the embarrassments multiply - often to such a degree that they become almost unendurable; and one realizes at last why Death came into the world, and how necessary as a Deliverer of souls and a loosener of mortal knots he is. For myself I can truly say that the Waste Paper Basket stands as a signal of one of my greatest pleasures; and that when I feel depressed (which is not very often) I go about the house and hunt up things to destroy or give away - after which ritual act I feel ever so much better and happier.
Simplicity and plainness of life are necessary, on account of the frightful waste of time and strength which the opposite policy entails - a waste which is obviously becoming daily worse and worse. Nor is it necessary to point out that if you employ servants to keep all these beggarly elements of life in order for you, instead of looking after them yourself, you still only waste your time and strength in securing (or appropriating in some way) the money with which you pay those servants, as well as in the extra labour and anxiety of looking after the said servants - a state of affairs probably worse than the first.
Plainness again is necessary from foundation considerations of humanity and democracy. To live in opulent and luxurious surroundings is to erect a fence between yourself and the mass-world which no self-respecting manual worker will pass. It is consequently to stultify yourself and to lose some of the best that the world can give.
Thirdly, from mere considerations of health the thing is necessary. My Japanese friend, Sanshiro Ishikawa, calls our houses prisons. Plain food, the open air, the hardiness of sun and wind, are things practically unobtainable in a complex menage.
And lastly, and most important, the complexity of material possessions
and demands all around one almost inevitably has the effect of stifling
the life of the heart and of the spirit. "The thorns sprang up and choked
them." The endless distraction of material cares, the endless temptation
of material pleasures, inevitably has the effect of paralysing the great
free life of the affections and of the soul. One loses the most precious
thing the world can give - the great freedom and romance of finding expression
and utterance for one's most intimate self in the glorious presence of
Nature and one's fellow's.