Jan. 9, 1864.]
ONCE A WEEK.
of domestic life; and seeing it, only natural that they should grow up with very lax opinions of marriage.”
This verbatim statement from an Austrian lady, and one well qualified to give her opinion, is good testimony to an unwelcome fact. Single women in Vienna are not well off. Doubtless time and intercourse with other nations will do much towards altering the condition of the whole gentler sex in the Imperial territory; but such progress, slow as it is in all Germany, is slowest there.
To revert again to marriage. The celibacy of the priesthood, and the excessive preponderence of military, naturally make the settlement of one’s daughters a serious thing to Austrian papas. Officers cannot marry without at least a moderate dowry, for travelling from place to place renders a soldier’s family more expensive than that of a civilian’s—both at the present epoch expensive enough. Thus, no one marries a girl without a dowry of some sort and an immense trousseau, almost a dowry in itself. Fancy six dozen jupons, six dozen robes de nuit, six dozen stockings, six dozen pocket-handkerchiefs, six dozen of every article necessary to a young lady’s linen-chest! Why, the husband may think himself a lucky fellow if he ever lives to buy his wife a yard of calico! Yet such is the customary outfit of a bride, no matter what the condition of her parents; they have, moreover, to find every article of house linen, kitchen furniture, &c. The husband furnishes his own room, and there his part of the preparation for house-keeping ends; but, even yet, we have not enumerated the various items of the wife’s. She must present her lord and master with six fine shirts of her own making! This idea has certainly a wholesome meaning in it, for what blushing beauty would dare to offer slovenly specimens of needlework on such an occasion? At least the gift incites to skilfulness in the handling of needle and thread,—those old-world implements for fair fingers!
And now I have a funny revelation to make. In England the very name of bedroom suggests comfort, privacy, and snugness—a sanctum, in fact, dedicate “to sleep and soft forgetfulness.” What were my feelings of consternation, on finding that the Austrian ménages had veritably no sleeping apartments! Yet such is the case. Traverse the whole length and breadth of your friend’s house (as the étage he hires is called) after ten o’clock in the morning and until ten at night, and you would be sorely at a loss to know where the worthy Herr and Frau are stowed; where the pretty Fraulein, their daughter; where the two idle young gentlemen, her brothers; where Monsieur their tutor; finally, where the three domestic servants. There is room enough, certainly, for all; you see elegant salon after salon with velvet sofas and polished floors, but then people cannot sleep without beds! Long and sorely did I ponder on this amazing subject, not presuming to ask so impertinent a question—not discovering the least clue for myself, till at length chance put me in the way of truth.
One morning I paid an early and unexpected visit to some acquaintances living in the old but aristocratic Schottenhof. The hour was nine, and I should not have presented myself but for urgent necessity; still, on my host’s cordial entreaty, I consented to enter. In the vorsaal, or entrance hall, lay a pile of small mattresses, perhaps eight in all, exactly fitting an ordinary sized couch, and I accordingly framed my conclusions. The handsome velvet sofas of the day were turned into bedsteads at night, and the double debt thereby “contrived to pay” also answered the purpose of a good appearance.
But where do the servants sleep? To English notions the French system of sending housemaids to the seventh storey attic is repulsive enough, for we are so domestic that even our kitchens must be home-like and happy. What should wo say to the fact of servants having no bedrooms at all? A folded up bed in the entrance-hall, chest-wise, wardrobe-wise, or drawer-wise—a screen put up during toilette for mass or market—this is the sole accommodation thought necessary for maid-servants in Vienna. Often have I come unexpectedly upon one of these paravents
in the landing, which half an hour later would be removed, leaving no trace of the office it had fulfilled except a strong perfume of pomatum. Where the poor creatures stow their finery, Heaven only knows, but on holy-days they array themselves with no little taste and expense. The reason for so strange a custom seems to be in the extreme dearness of house-rent, and the thereby resultant desire of economizing space. Hiring a set of rooms is a very different thing to hiring a house, as in the first case you have to pay for every extra square foot of flooring; and the idea of hiring an apartment for domestic servants never seems to enter the heads of Austrian householders. The rents are certainly exorbitant; I think, without exaggeration, I may say half again as dear as anywhere else, Paris only excluded. For a comfortable set of rooms, not too high up—say kitchen, dining-room, and four other apartments, you would have to pay 150l’
. a year; for a single furnished room in a good situation, without cooking or attendance, 1l
. a week; and so on. Every one bewails the extrava-