Page images
PDF
EPUB

ce

care being taken that there be no grit upon it. Then let a rag containing the finely levigated powder of soap-stone, about the quantity commonly tied up in a pounce-bag, be dabbed upon every part of the wall, and let the wall be pressed and rubbed with the flat surface of a piece of polished agate, or glass, and at times with the hand first dusted with the soap-earth. Let these processes be repeated every day, until no more moisture exudes from it, or collects on the surface.

This is a very imperfect sketch of the mode of preparing and using the mortar which is employed by the European inhabitants of Madras in India, for the coating of their walls, and is popularly called Chunam. This has a polish not much inferior to that of well-wrought marble, but in the purity of its appearance much surpasses it.

Now let the reader call to his imagination the walls of an apartment finished in the manner above described, and contrast it, if he can, with the hollow case of lath and plaster of the present generation, and the wainscoating of the past. Let him take into his contemplation, with their beauty and simplicity, the comparative safety of each. Can it be a doubt to which he shall give the preference ?

The next subject which is proposed for amendment is that incorporated member of the house which forms the floor and ceiling. Of these, it is required, that the ceiling be wholly excluded from it. The beams may be planed, and carved into any fashion of ornament that will please the eye, equally at least to any decoration of a ceiling; and will admit of as much beauty and variety of color, if that be desirable, in a situation in which they cannot be viewed without an ungraceful and painful contortion of the body. A taste, regulated by judgment, would reject them altogether as absurdities. If the expense be not too great, it were much to be wished that bars of cast iron might be substituted for beams and rafters of wood. A flooring of boards might be laid over them for the principal apartments, and plaster, or mortar on the rest, and on the garrets especially. A covo ering of carpets will contribute very much to defend the former from the casual access of fire, and equally to conceal the coarse appearance of the latter.

In this place notice may be taken, and it deserves it, of the modern contrivance of a lattice of wire, sometimes suspended to the bars of a grate, and sometimes placed erect before it, by the descriptive, if not established, name of a guard. It is not among the splendid inventions of the last speculative century; but it may claim a precedence of most for its utility. Though it does not properly belong to this treatise, not being an essential part of architectural composition, it has all the effects of permanent security, both to the house, and especially to its most delicate inmates, from the approach of their light garments to the flame, or the emission of a coal upon them. They are still capable of improvement.

Of the stairs nothing more needs to be observed, than that, whether they be the appendage of a poor or rich habitation, they ought invariably to be built of stone.

In the present defective state of the arts of domestic life, doors and window-shutters must continue generally to be made of wood; but fortunately their insular position insures their safety in a great measure from the accidental approach of fire, though not from a conflagration. The least inflammable woods may be selected for their composition. The larch is universally reputed to possess this quality above all other timber, and it may be improved by plating, or inlaying it with silver, brass, tin, or any other metal. The frames of the windows being, from their uses, immoveable, may be made of stone, or any other incombustible material. The inventive powers of the hunian mind may at no distant time

ve

ess.

discover the means of forming indurations that shall possess all the tenacity and levity of wood, with the faculty of resisting fire in its destructive state. Some dissolutions and re-compositions of animal glutens have approached very near already to this desideratum. The same, or a similar process, that can convert a fragment of horn, or tortoiseshell, into a snuff-box or a drinking horn, may be improved, and extended to the dimensions of a window-shutter. To those who can afford the cost, the metallic substances offer something better than a substitute in this application of them. For an instance; a plate of brass, or compound metal, fifty inches in length, sixteen in breadth, and one eighth of an

inch in thickness, will not much exceed, if at all, the weight - of a plate of oak, of the same superficies, and one inch in

thickness. It would equally serve for one division of a set of window shutters; and, in the hands of taste, unite the splendor of wealth, uncontaminated by the pride of it, with the modesty of economy.

Garrets and attics may be built entirely of masonry, in thę form of arches, and their floors of mortar.

Cellars do not fall specifically within the compass of this plan, yet a few words may be not unusefully bestowed upon them. Being excavations of the natural ground, and sur., rounded by it, cellars are always damp, and generate an atmosphere equally injurious to every article of furniture, and to animal life. When they are used as the receptacles of * malt liquor, in its immediate delivery from the brew-house.

these effects are much stronger. The greatest care bestowed on the masonry will prove insufficient to prevent the unwholesome effluvia of the new wort in fermentation from making their way into the apartments above, to the great annoyance of the inhabitants, and worse consequences to their health ; and this evil sometimes proves of some weeks' duration.

To bring them nearer home to the general subject, the air inclosed in the cellars being naturally colder than that of the rooms above them, when these are inhabited and artificially warmed, it is reasonable to suppose, that it will rush towards the flames with a force proportioned to the rarefaction occasioned by them, whenever the house is in a state of general ignition. Wherefore, to provide for the safety, comfort, and health of its occupants, it would be advisable, whenever it can be done with convenience, and a due attention to economy, to dispose of the cellars in places detached from the house, either by piercing the side of a hill, or by opening them under out-houses, or other build. ings where they can produce no harm. The brewhouse, from its contingent occupation, seems the fittest for their destination. These rules, as it has been indirectly premised, are not intended for the habitation of a town, especially of the capital, where lateral room is wanted, and every square foot has its assigned price : but in the country, where this is never the case, there can be no reason in nature for appropriating the space over which the apartments intended for health and comfort are disposed, to these laboratories of dry rot and agues.

The last article intended for consideration in this work, and essential to it, is the furniture, or moveable contents of houses. These are, first, the furniture properly so denominated, that is, the appropriate implements, such as chairs, sofas, tables, desks, presses, bureaus, coffers, chests of drawers, pictures, bookcases, and libraries. Under the second head may be comprised bedsteads, with their appurtenances; curtains, festoons, and other similar decorations. All these of both kinds are either necessary in themselves, or will be deemed so in defiance of all that common sense can hold forth against them. The first kind consisting mostly of solid substances, solitary, and such of them as

les

contain articles of an inflammable nature, holding them in close coverture at all times, but when they are immediately wanted, are but little and rarely exposed to the peril of fire. All that can be wished perhaps for their better security is, that such as are not of constant requisition should be deposited in offices not connected with the house, and of easy approach from it. The last description of furniture may not be so composedly dismissed. Their qualities partake of every character of folly. They excite pleasure in the eyes of the unthinking; horror, and all the accompaniments of death in the minds of those who look into the list of those casualties by which society is embittered, and life endangered. Besides their common affinity to fire, bed-curtains are, in their professed uses. very injurious to health, being made to draw round the bed, and exclude all access of the fresh and wholesome air ; thus compelling the sleeper to inhale again and repeatedly, the air which he has before breathed; the very idea of which is disgusting to a delicate mind. Something might be gained, if fashion could be prevailed upon to sacrifice her hangings of chints, linen and muslins, and allow only woollens and silks to be applied to their uses. These being animal substances are much less attractive of fire, and by their position alone, and that but slightly, tenacious of it. They are susceptible of all the beauties of coloring in a greater degree than the manufactures of linen and cotton, richer in substance, and of equal grace in their foldings.

A house built and accommodated according to the foregoing precepts, may be assumed to be effectually defended against all accidents from fire. - An approximate security may be obtained by the moral agencies of vigilance and circumspection. Much also may be effected by sobriety, regularity, and tidiness, a homely, but estimable virtue. But neither can the mind be for ever on the watch, nor the

NO. X. Pam. VOL. V. .

[ocr errors]

2 E

« PreviousContinue »