Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/546

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

and a still more indifferent hand at repairs." As a consequence, he says, the English workman has often no alternative but to wear his garments in holes or to replace them by others. Given an equal income, there is probably no doubt that a French working-class family will be better fed and better clad than a corresponding English family dealing in the same market, and will lay up a larger stock of the household goods, and especially linen, which are the pride of the French

The waste resulting from the immoderate use of alcohol and from the widespread habit of betting, serious as it is, need not detain me, as I wish to confine myself more particularly to waste which can hardly be called intentional. It is not suggested that every man should confine his expenditure to what is strictly necessary to maintain his social position. The great German writer on finance, Professor Wagner, is accustomed to say that "parsimony is not a principle." It is sometimes, indeed, a bad policy and a wasteful policy; and life would be a very dull business if its monotony were not relieved by amusement and variety, even at the occasional expense of thrift. Le Play refers to tobacco as "the most economical of all recreations." How else, he asks, could the Hartz miner "give himself an agreeable sensation" a thousand times in a year at so low a cost as 10 francs? But nobody would wish to see a free man using his tobacco like the Russian prisoners described to me by Prince Peter Krapotkin, as chewing it, drying and smoking it, and finally snuffing the ashes! Nor should we desire to eradicate from society the impulses of hospitality, and even of a certain measure of display. An austere and selfish avarice, if generally diffused, may strike at the very existence of a nation.

Another respect in which French example may be profitable to us is the municipal management of funerals (pompes funébres). Many a struggling family of the working classes has been seriously crippled by launching out into exaggerated expenses at the death of one of its members, and especially of a bread-winner. The French system, while preserving the highest respect for the dead, has some respect for the living, who are frequently unable and unwilling at a time of bereavement to resist any suggestion for expensive display, which seems to them a last token of affection as well as a proof of self-respect.

As regards housing the English cottage or artisan's house is regarded on the Continent rather as a model for imitation than as a subject for criticism; but the pressure of population upon space in our large cities, joined with a love of life in the town, may possibly prove too strong for the individualist's desire for a house to himself. If we should be driven to what Mrs. Leonard Courtney has proposed to call Associated Homes, the famillistère founded by M. Godin at Guise, and rooted in the idea of Fourier's phalanstère will show us what has already been