MoboReader > Literature > America, Through the Spectacles of an Oriental Diplomat

   Chapter 11 No.11

America, Through the Spectacles of an Oriental Diplomat By Tingfang Wu Characters: 37062

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Dinner, as we all know, indicates a certain hour and a certain habit whose aim is the nourishment of the body, and a deliverance from hunger; but in our modern civilized life it possesses other purposes also. Man is a gregarious animal, and when he takes his food he likes company; from this peculiarity there has sprung up the custom of dinner parties. In attending dinner parties, however, the guests as a rule do not seek sustenance, they only go to them when they have nothing else to do, and many scarcely touch the food that is laid before them. Their object is to do honor to the host and hostess, not to eat, but to be entertained by pleasant and congenial conversation. Nevertheless, the host, at whose invitation the company has assembled, is expected to provide a great abundance and a large variety of savory dishes, as well as a good supply of choice wines. Flesh and wine are indispensable, even though the entertainers eschew both in their private life, and most of the guests daily consume too much of each. Few have the courage to part with conventional practices when arranging a social function.

American chefs are excellent caterers, and well know how to please the tastes of the American people. They concentrate on the art of providing dainty dishes, and human ingenuity is heavily taxed by them in their efforts to invent new gustatory delicacies. The dishes which they place before each guest are so numerous that even a gourmand must leave some untouched. At a fashionable dinner no one can possibly taste, much less eat, everything that is placed before him, yet the food is all so nicely cooked and served in so appetizing a manner, that it is difficult to resist the temptation at least to sample it; when you have done this, however, you will continue eating until all has been finished, but your stomach will probably be a sad sufferer, groaning grievously on the following day on account of the frolic of your palate. This ill-mated pair, although both are chiefly interested in food, seldom seem to agree. I must not omit to mention however that the number of courses served at an American millionaire's dinner is after all less numerous than those furnished at a Chinese feast. When a Chinese gentleman asks his friends to dine with him the menu may include anywhere from thirty to fifty or a hundred courses; but many of the dishes are only intended for show. The guests are not expected to eat everything on the table, or even to taste every delicacy, unless, indeed, they specially desire to do so. Again, we don't eat so heartily as do the Americans, but content ourselves with one or two mouthfuls from each set of dishes, and allow appreciable intervals to elapse between courses, during which we make merry, smoke, and otherwise enjoy the company. This is a distinct advantage in favor of China.

In Europe and America, dessert forms the last course at dinner; in China this is served first. I do not know which is the better way. Chinese are ever ready to accept the best from every quarter, and so many of us have recently adopted the Western practice regarding dessert, while still retaining the ancient Chinese custom, so that now we eat sweetmeats and fruit at the beginning, during dinner, and at the end. This happy combination of Eastern and Western practices is, I submit, worthy of expansion and extension. If it were to become universal it would help to discourage the present unwholesome habit, for it is nothing more than a habit, of devouring flesh.

One of the dishes indispensable at a fashionable American dinner is the terrapin. Those who eat these things say that their flesh has a most agreeable and delicate flavor, and that their gelatinous skinny necks and fins are delicious, but apparently the most palatable tidbits pall the taste in time, for it is said that about forty years ago terrapins were so abundant and cheap that workmen in their agreement with their employers stipulated that terrapin should not be supplied at their dinner table more than three times a week. Since then terrapins have become so rare that no stylish dinner ever takes place without this dish. Oysters are another Western sine qua non, and are always served raw. I wonder how many ladies and gentlemen who swallow these mollusca with such evident relish know that they are veritable scavengers, which pick up and swallow every dirty thing in the water. A friend of mine after taking a few of them on one occasion, had to leave the table and go home; he was ill afterward for several days. One cannot be too careful as to what one eats. The United States has a Pure Food Department, but I think it might learn a great deal that it does not know if it were to send a commission to China to study life in the Buddhist monasteries, where only sanitary, healthful food is consumed. It is always a surprise to me that people are so indifferent to the kind of food they take. Public health officers are useful officials, but when we have become more civilized each individual will be his own health officer.

Some of the well-known Chinese dishes are very relishable and should not be overlooked by chefs and dinner hostesses. I refer to the sharks' fins, and birds' nest-the Eastern counterpart of the Western piece de resistance-the terrapin. From a hygienic point of view sharks' fins may not be considered as very desirable, seeing they are part of the shark, but they are certainly not worse, and are perhaps better, than what is called the "high and tender" pheasant, and other flesh foods which are constantly found on Western dining tables, and which are so readily eaten by connoisseurs. Birds' nest soup is far superior to turtle soup, and I have the opinion of an American chemist who analyzed it, that it is innocuous and minus the injurious uric acid generated by animal flesh, the cause of rheumatic and similar painful complaints.

The "chop suey" supplied in the Chinese restaurants in New York, Chicago, and other places, seems to be a favorite dish with the American public. It shows the similarity of our tastes, and encourages me to expect that some of my recommendations will be accepted.

Will some one inform me why so many varieties of wines are always served on American tables, and why the sparkling champagne is never avoidable? Wealthy families will spare neither pains nor expense to spread most sumptuous dinners, and it has been reported that the cost of an entertainment given by one rich lady amounted to twenty thousand pounds sterling, although, as I have said, eating is the last thing for which the guests assemble.

I do not suppose that many will agree with me, but in my opinion it would be much more agreeable, and improve the general conversation, if all drinks of an intoxicating nature were abolished from the dining table. It is gratifying to know that there are some families (may the number increase every day!) where intoxicating liquors are never seen on their tables. The first instance of this sort that came under my notice was in the home of that excellent woman, Mrs. M. F. Henderson, who is an ardent advocate of diet reform and teetotalism. Mr. William Jennings Bryan, the Secretary of State, has set a noble example, as from newspaper reports it appears that he gave a farewell dinner to Ambassador Bryce, without champagne or other alcoholic drinks. He has a loyal supporter in Shanghai, in the person of the American Consul-General, Dr. A. P. Wilder, who, to the great regret of everybody who knows him in this port, is retiring from the service on account of ill-health. Dr. Wilder is very popular and figures largely in the social life of the community, but Dr. Wilder is a staunch opponent of alcohol, and through his influence wines at public dinners are always treated as extras. So long as the liquor traffic is so extensively and profitably carried on in Europe and America, and so long as the consumption of alcohol is so enormous, so long will there be a difference of opinion as to its ill effects, but in this matter, by means of its State Prohibition Laws, America is setting an example to the world. In no other country are there such extensive tracts without alcohol as the "Dry States" of America. China, who is waging war on opium, recognizes in this fact a kindred, active moral force which is absent elsewhere, and, shaking hands with her sister republic across the seas, hopes that she will some day be as free of alcoholic poisons as China herself hopes to be of opium. Every vice, however, has its defense. Some years ago I met a famous Dutch artist in Peking, who, though still in the prime of life, was obliged to lay aside his work for a few days each month, due to an occasional attack of rheumatism. I found he was fond of his cup, though I did not understand that he was an immoderate drinker. I discoursed to him somewhat lengthily about the evil effects of drink, and showed him that unless he was willing to give up all intoxicating liquor, his rheumatism would never give him up. He listened attentively, pondered for a few minutes, and then gave this characteristic answer: "I admit the soundness of your argument but I enjoy my glass exceedingly; if I were to follow your advice I should be deprived of a lot of pleasure. Indeed, I would rather have the rheumatic pains, which disappear after two or three days, and continue to enjoy my alcoholic drinks, than endure the misery of doing without them." I warned him that in course of time his rheumatism would be longer in duration and attack him more frequently, if he continued to ignore its warnings and to play with what, for him, was certainly poison. When anyone has a habit, be it injurious or otherwise, it is not easy to persuade him to abandon it.

"The Aristocracy of Health" written by the talented Mrs. Henderson is an admirable work. I owe much to it. The facts and arguments adduced against tobacco smoking, strong drink and poisonous foods, are set forth in such a clear and convincing manner, that soon after reading it I became a teetotaler and "sanitarian"[1] and began at once to reap the benefits. I felt that I ought not to keep such a good thing to myself, but that I should preach the doctrine far and wide. I soon found, however, that it was an impossible task to try to save men from themselves, and I acquired the unenviable sobriquet of "crank"; but I was not dismayed. From my native friends I turned to the foreign community in Peking, thinking that the latter would possess better judgment, appreciate and be converted to the sanitarian doctrine. Among the foreigners I appealed to, one was a distinguished diplomat, and the other a gentleman in the Chinese service, with a world-wide reputation. Both were elderly and in delicate health, and it was my earnest hope that by reading Mrs. Henderson's book, which was sent to them, they would be convinced of their errors and turn over a new leaf-I was disappointed. Both, in returning the book, made substantially the same answer. "Mrs. Henderson's work is very interesting, but at my time of life it is not advisable to change life-long habits. I eat flesh moderately, and never drink much wine." They both seemed to overlook the crucial problem as to whether or not animal food contains hurtful poison. If it does, it should not be eaten at all. We never hear of sensible people taking arsenic, strychnine, or other poisons, in moderation, but many foolish women, I believe, take arsenic to pale their complexions, while others, both men and women, take strychnine in combination with other drugs, as a tonic, but will anyone argue that these substances are foods? The rule of moderation is applicable to things which are nutritious, or at least harmless, but not to noxious foods, however small the quantity of poison they may contain.

Pleasant conversation at the dinner table is always enjoyable, and a good talker is always welcome, but I often wonder why Americans, who generally are so quick to improve opportunity, and are noted for their freedom from traditional conventionalisms, do not make a more systematic use of the general love of good conversation. Anyone who is a witty conversationalist, with a large fund of anecdote, is sure to be asked by every dinner host to help to entertain the guests, but if the company be large the favorite can be enjoyed by only a few, and those who are too far away to hear, or who are just near enough to hear a part but not all, are likely to feel aggrieved. They cannot hear what is amusing the rest, while the talk elsewhere prevents their talking as they would if there were no interruptions. A raconteur generally monopolizes half the company, and leaves the other half out in the cold. This might be avoided if talkers were engaged to entertain the whole company during dinner, as pianists are now sometimes engaged to play to them after dinner. Or, the entertainment might be varied by engaging a good professional reciter to reproduce literary gems, comic or otherwise. I am sure the result would bring more general satisfaction to the guests than the present method of leaving them to entertain themselves. Chinese employ singing girls; Japanese, geishas to talk, sing or dance. The ideal would here again seem to be an amalgamation of East and West.

It is difficult for a mixed crowd to be always agreeable, even in the congenial atmosphere of a good feast, unless the guests have been selected with a view to their opinions rather than to their social standing. Place a number of people whose ideas are common, with a difference, around a well-spread table and there will be no lack of good, earnest, instructive conversation. Most men and women can talk well if they have the right sort of listeners. If the hearer is unsympathetic the best talker becomes dumb. Hosts who remember this will always be appreciated.

As a rule, a dinner conversation is seldom worth remembering, which is a pity. Man, the most sensible of all animals, can talk nonsense better than all the rest of his tribe. Perhaps the flow of words may be as steady as the eastward flow of the Yang-tse-Kiang in my own country, but the memory only retains a recollection of a vague, undefined-what? The conversation like the flavors provided by the cooks has been evanescent. Why should not hostesses make as much effort to stimulate the minds of their guests as they do to gratify their palates? What a boon it would be to many a bashful man, sitting next to a lady with whom he has nothing in common, if some public entertainer during the dinner relieved him from the necessity of always thinking of what he should say next? How much more he could enjoy the tasty dishes his hostess had provided; and as for the lady-what a number of suppressed yawns she might have avoided. To take great pains and spend large sums to provide nice food for people who cannot enjoy it because they have to talk to one another, seems a pity. Let one man talk to the rest and leave them leisure to eat, is my suggestion.

The opportunities afforded at the dining table may be turned to many useful purposes. Of course not all are ill-paired, and many young men and ladies meet, sit side by side, engage in a friendly, pleasant conversation, renew their acquaintance at other times, and finally merge their separate paths in the highway of marriage. Perhaps China might borrow a leaf from this custom and substitute dinner parties for go-betweens. The dinner-party method, however, has its dangers as well as its advantages-it depends on the point of view. Personal peculiarities and defects, if any, can be easily detected by the way in which the conversation is carried on, and the manner in which the food is handled. It has sometimes happened that the affianced have cancelled their engagement after a dinner party. On the other hand, matters of great import can often be arranged at the dinner table better than anywhere else. Commercial transactions involving millions of dollars have frequently been settled while the parties were sipping champagne; even international problems, ending in elaborate negotiations and treaties, have been first discussed with the afterdinner cigar. The atmosphere of good friendship and equality, engendered by a well-furnished room, good cheer, pleasant company, and a genial hostess, disarms prejudice, removes barriers, melts reserve, and disposes one to see that there is another side to every question.

In China when people have quarreled their friends generally invite them to dinner, where the matters in dispute are amicably arranged. These are called "peace dinners". I would recommend that a similar expedient should be adopted in America; many a knotty point could be disposed of by a friendly discussion at the dinner table. If international disputes were always arranged in this way the representatives of nations having complaints against each other might more often than now discover unexpected ways of adjusting their differences. Why should such matters invariably be remanded to formal conferences and set speeches? The preliminaries, at least, would probably be better arranged at dinner parties and social functions. Eating has always been associated with friendship. "To eat salt" with an Arab forms a most binding contract. Even "the serpent" in the book of Genesis commenced his acquaintance with Eve by suggesting a meal.

It almost seems as if there were certain unwritten laws in American society, assigning certain functions to certain days in the week. I do not believe Americans are superstitious, but I found that Thursday was greatly in favor. I remember on one occasion that Mrs. Grant, widow of the late President, sent an invitation to my wife and myself to dine at her house some Thursday evening; this was three weeks in advance, and we readily accepted her invitation. After our acceptance, about a dozen invitations came for that same Thursday, all of which we had, of course, to decline. Curiously enough we received no invitations for any other day during that week, and just before that eventful Thursday we received a letter from Mrs. Grant cancelling the invitation on account of the death of one of her relations, so that we had to dine at home after all. Now we Chinese make no such distinctions between days. Every day of the week is equally good; in order however to avoid clashing with other peoples' engagements, we generally fix Fridays for our receptions or dinners, but there is not among the Chinese an entertainment season as there is in W

ashington, and other great cities, when everybody in good society is busy attending or giving "At Homes", tea parties or dinners. I frequently attended "At Homes" or tea parties in half-a-dozen places or more in one afternoon, but no one can dine during the same evening in more than one place. In this respect America might learn a lesson from China. We can accept half-a-dozen invitations to dinner for one evening; all we have to do is to go to each place in turn, partake of one or two dishes, excuse ourselves to the host and then go somewhere else. By this means we avoid the seeming rudeness of a declination, and escape the ill feelings which are frequently created in the West by invitations being refused. The Chinese method makes possible the cultivation of democratic friendships without violating aristocratic instincts, and for candidates at election times it would prove an agreeable method by which to make new friends. We are less rigid than Americans about dropping in and taking a mouthful or two at dinner, even without a special invitation.[2]

Washington officials and diplomats usually give large entertainments. The arranging of the seats at the dinner table is a delicate matter, as the rule of precedence has to be observed, and inattention to the rule, by placing a wrong seat for a gentleman or lady who is entitled to a higher place, may be considered as a slight. It is at such functions as these that the professional story-teller, the good reciter, the clever reader, the perfect entertainer would make the natural selfish reserve of mankind less apparent.

Fashionable people, who entertain a good deal, are, I understand, often puzzled to know how to provide novelties. In addition to the suggestions I have made, may I be pardoned another? There are many good cooks in the U.S.A. Why not commission these to sometimes prepare a recherche Chinese dinner, with the food served in bowls instead of plates, and with chop-sticks ("nimble lads" we call them) for show, but forks and spoons for use. I see no reason why Chinese meals should not become fashionable in America, as Western preparations are frequently favored by the Elite in China. One marked difference between the two styles is the manner in which the Chinese purveyor throws his most delicate flavors into strong relief by prefacing it with a diet which is insipid, harsh or pungent. Contrasts add zest to everything human, be it dining, working, playing, or wooing.

This suggests an occasional, toothsome vegetarian repast as a set-off to the same round of fish, flesh, fowl and wine fumes. No people in the world can prepare such delicious vegetarian banquets as a Chinese culinary artist.

A banquet is a more formal affair than the dinner parties I have been discussing. It is generally gotten up to celebrate some special event, such as the conclusion of some important business, or the birthday of some national hero like Washington, Lincoln, or Grant; or the Chambers of Commerce and Associations of different trades in the important cities of America will hold their annual meetings to hear a report and discuss the businesses transacted during the year, winding up by holding a large banquet.

The food supplied on these occasions is by no means superior to that given at private dinners, yet everybody is glad to be invited. It is the inevitable rule that speeches follow the eating, and people attend, not for the sake of the food, but for the privilege of hearing others talk. Indeed, except for the opportunity of talking, or hearing others talk, people would probably prefer a quiet meal at home. Speakers with a reputation, orators, statesmen, or foreign diplomats are frequently invited, and sometimes eminent men from other countries are the guests of honor. These functions occur every year, and the Foreign Ministers with whose countries the Associations have commercial relations are generally present.

The topics discussed are nearly always the same, and it is not easy to speak at one of these gatherings without going over the same ground as that covered on previous occasions. I remember that a colleague of mine who was a clever diplomat, and for whom I had great respect, once when asked to make an after-dinner speech, reluctantly rose and, as far as I can remember, spoke to the following effect: "Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I thank your Association for inviting me to this splendid banquet, but as I had the honor of speaking at your banquet last year I have nothing more to add, and I refer you to that speech;" he then sat down. The novelty of his remarks, of course, won him applause, but I should like to know what the company really thought of him. For my part, I praised his wisdom, for he diplomatically rebuked all whose only interest is that which has its birth with the day and disappears with the night.

Banquets and dinners in America, as in China, are, however, often far removed from frivolities. Statesmen sometimes select these opportunities for a pronouncement of their policy, even the President of the nation may occasionally think it advisable to do this. Speeches delivered on such occasions are generally reported in all the newspapers, and, of course, discussed by all sorts of people, the wise and the otherwise, so that the speaker has to be very careful as to what he says. Our President confines himself to the more formal procedure of issuing an official mandate, the same in kind, though differing in expression, as an American President's Inaugural Address, or one of his Messages to Congress.

Commercial men do not understand and are impatient with the restrictions which hedge round a Foreign Minister, and in their anxiety to get speakers they will look anywhere. On one occasion I received an invitation to go to Canada to attend a banquet at a Commercial Club in one of the principal Canadian cities. It would have given me great pleasure to be able to comply with this request, as I had not then visited that country, but, contrary to inclination, I had to decline. I was accredited as Minister to Washington, and did not feel at liberty to visit another country without the special permission of my Home Government.

Public speaking, like any other art, has to be cultivated. However scholarly a man may be, and however clever he may be in private conversation, when called upon to speak in public he may sometimes make a very poor impression. I have known highly placed foreign officials, with deserved reputations for wisdom and ability, who were shockingly poor speakers at banquets. They would hesitate and almost stammer, and would prove quite incapable of expressing their thoughts in any sensible or intelligent manner. In this respect, personal observations have convinced me that Americans, as a rule, are better speakers than.... (I will not mention the nationality in my mind, it might give offense.) An American, who, without previous notice, is called upon to speak, generally acquits himself creditably. He is nearly always witty, appreciative, and frank. This is due, I believe, to the thorough-going nature of his education: he is taught to be self-confident, to believe in his own ability to create, to express his opinions without fear. A diffident and retiring man, whose chief characteristic is extreme modesty, is not likely to be a good speaker; but Americans are free from this weakness. Far be it from me to suggest that there are no good speakers in other countries. America can by no means claim a monopoly of orators; there are many elsewhere whose sage sayings and forcible logic are appreciated by all who hear or read them; but, on the whole, Americans excel others in the readiness of their wit, and their power to make a good extempore speech on any subject, without opportunity for preparation.

Neither is the fair sex in America behind the men in this matter. I have heard some most excellent speeches by women, speeches which would do credit to an orator; but they labor under a disadvantage. The female voice is soft and low, it is not easily heard in a large room, and consequently the audience sometimes does not appreciate lady speakers to the extent that they deserve. However, I know a lady who possesses a powerful, masculine voice, and who is a very popular speaker, but she is an exception. Anyhow I believe the worst speaker, male or female, could improve by practising private declamation, and awakening to the importance of articulation, modulation, and-the pause.

Another class of social functions are "At Homes", tea parties, and receptions. The number of guests invited to these is almost unlimited, it may be one or two dozen, or one or two dozen hundreds. The purpose of these is usually to meet some distinguished stranger, some guest in the house, or the newly married daughter of the hostess. It is impossible for the host or hostess to remember all those who attend, or even all who have been invited to attend; generally visitors leave their cards, although many do not even observe this rule, but walk right in as if they owned the house. When a newcomer is introduced his name is scarcely audible, and before the hostess, or the distinguished guest, has exchanged more than one or two words with him, another stranger comes along, so that it is quite excusable if the next time the hosts meet these people they do not recognize them. In China a new fashion is now in vogue; new acquaintances exchange cards. If this custom should be adopted in America there would be less complaints about new friends receiving the cold shoulder from those who they thought should have known them.

In large receptions, such as those mentioned above, however spacious the reception hall, in a great many instances there is not even standing room for all who attend. It requires but little imagination to understand the condition of the atmosphere when there is no proper ventilation. Now, what always astonished me was, that although the parlor might be crowded with ladies and gentlemen, all the windows were, as a rule, kept closed, with the result that the place was full of vitiated air. Frequently after a short time I have had to slip away when I would willingly have remained longer to enjoy the charming company. If I had done so, however, I should have taken into my lungs a large amount of the obnoxious atmosphere exhaled from hundreds of other persons in the room, to the injury of my health, and no one can give his fellows his best unless his health is hearty. No wonder we often hear of a host or hostess being unwell after a big function. Their feelings on the morning after are often the reverse of "good-will to men", and the cause is not a lowered moral heartiness but a weakened physical body through breathing too much air exhaled from other people's lungs. When man understands, he will make "good health" a religious duty.

In connection with this I quote Dr. J. H. Kellogg, the eminent physician and Superintendent of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. In his book, "The Living Temple"[3], the doctor speaks as follows on the importance of breathing pure air: "The purpose of breathing is to obtain from the air a supply of oxygen, which the blood takes up and carries to the tissues. Oxygen is one of the most essential of all the materials required for the support of life.... The amount of oxygen necessarily required for this purpose is about one and one-fourth cubic inches for each breath.... In place of the one and one-fourth cubic inches of oxygen taken into the blood, a cubic inch of carbonic acid gas is given off, and along with it are thrown off various other still more poisonous substances which find a natural exit through the lungs. The amount of these combined poisons thrown off with a single breath is sufficient to contaminate, and render unfit to breathe, three cubic feet, or three-fourths of a barrel, of air. Counting an average of twenty breaths a minute for children and adults, the amount of air contaminated per minute would be three times twenty or sixty cubic feet, or one cubic foot a second.... Every one should become intelligent in relation to the matter of ventilation, and should appreciate its importance. Vast and irreparable injury frequently results from the confinement of several scores or hundreds of people in a schoolroom, church, or lecture room, without adequate means of removing the impurities thrown off from their lungs and bodies. The same air being breathed over and over becomes densely charged with poisons, which render the blood impure, lessen the bodily resistance, and induce susceptibility to taking cold, and to infection with the germs of pneumonia, consumption, and other infectious diseases, which are always present in a very crowded audience room. Suppose, for example, a thousand persons are seated in a room forty feet in width, sixty in length, and fifteen in height: how long a time would elapse before the air of such a room would become unfit for further respiration? Remembering that each person spoils one foot of air every second, it is clear that one thousand cubic feet of air will be contaminated for every second that the room is occupied. To ascertain the number of seconds which would elapse before the entire air contained in the room will be contaminated, so that it is unfit for further breathing, we have only to divide the cubic contents of the room by one thousand. Multiplying, we have 60*40*15 equals 36,000, the number of cubic feet. This, divided by one thousand, gives thirty-six as the number of seconds. Thus it appears that with closed doors and windows, breath poisoning of the audience would begin at the end of thirty-six seconds, or less than one minute. The condition of the air in such a room at the end of an hour cannot be adequately pictured in words, and yet hundreds of audiences are daily subjected to just such inhumane treatment through ignorance."

The above remarks apply not only to churches, lecture rooms, and other public places, but also with equal force to offices and family houses. I should like to know how many persons pay even a little attention to this important subject of pure air breathing? You go to an office, whether large or small, and you find all the windows closed, although there are half-a-dozen or more persons working in the room. No wonder that managers, clerks, and other office workers often break down and require a holiday to recuperate their impaired health at the seaside, or elsewhere.

When you call at a private residence you will find the same thing, all the windows closed. It is true that there are not so many persons in the room as in an office, but if your sense of smell is keen you will notice that the air has close, stuffy exhalations, which surely cannot be sanitary. If you venture to suggest that one of the windows be opened the lady of the house will at once tell you that you will be in a draught and catch cold.

It is a matter of daily occurrence to find a number of persons dining in a room where there is no opening for the contaminated air to leak out, or for the fresh air to come in. After dinner the gentlemen adjourn to the library to enjoy the sweet perfumes of smoking for an hour or so with closed windows. What a picture would be presented if the bacteria in the air could be sketched, enlarged, and thrown on a screen, or better still shown in a cinematograph, but apparently gentlemen do not mind anything so long as they can inhale the pernicious tobacco fumes.

It is a common practice, I fear, to keep the windows of the bedroom closed, except in hot weather. I have often suggested to friends that, for the sake of their health, they should at least keep one of the windows, if not more, open during the night, but they have pooh-poohed the idea on account of that bugaboo-a draught. It is one of the mysteries of the age that people should be willing to breathe second-hand air when there is so much pure, fresh air out of doors to be had for nothing; after inhaling and exhaling the same air over and over again all through the night it is not strange that they rise in the morning languid and dull instead of being refreshed and in high spirits. No one who is deprived of a sufficiency of fresh air can long remain efficient. Health is the cornerstone of success. I hear many nowadays talking of Eugenics. Eugenics was founded ten years ago by Sir Francis Galton, who defined it thus: "The study of agencies under control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations, either physically or mentally." The University of London has adopted this definition, where a chair of Eugenics has been founded. This science is undoubtedly of the first importance, but what advantage is good birth if afterward life is poisoned with foul air? A dust-laden atmosphere is a germ-laden atmosphere, therefore physicians prescribe for tubercular convalescents conditions in which the air is 90% free from dust. However, the air of the city has been scientifically proven to be as pure as the air of the country. All that is necessary to secure proper lung food is plenty of it,-houses so constructed that the air inside shall be free to go out and the air outside to come in. Air in a closed cage must be mischievous, and what are ill-ventilated rooms but vicious air cages, in which mischiefs of all sorts breed?

America professes to believe in publicity, and what is "publicity" but the open window and the open door? Practise this philosophy and it will be easy to keep on the sunny side of the street and to discourage the glooms. The joys fly in at open windows.

[1] I have never been a smoker and have always eschewed tobacco, cigarettes, etc.; though for a short while to oblige friends I occasionally accepted a cigarette, now I firmly refuse everything of the sort.

[2] Since writing the above, I have heard from an American lady that "progressive dinners" have recently been introduced by the idle and rich set of young people in New York. The modus operandi is that several dinners will, by arrangement, be given on a certain day, and the guests will go to each house alternately, eating one or two dishes only and remaining at the last house for fruit. I can hardly believe this, but my friend assures me it is a fact. It seems that eating is turned into play, and to appreciate the fun, I would like to be one of the actors.

[3] "The Living Temple", by J. H. Kellogg, pp. 282 et al. Published by Good Health Publishing Co., Battle Creek, Mich., U.S.A.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares