MRS. WARREN'S "TWO HUNDRED A YEAR." TwEisrv years ago Mr.
Samuel Warren (now a Commissioner in Lunacy) showed to the world the enormous amount of misery and wretchedness that was entailed by the possession of ten thou- sand a year. To tell the truth, we were always inclined to doubt whether ten thousand a year would make us so very miserable. We have never had an opportunity of putting the matter to the test, but our doubts are now quieted. A lady of the same name has written a book which is to prove that the modest income of two hundred a year is all that is required for perfect peace of mind and satiety of appetite. The book has been a success, too. "The author feels much gratification in stating that in ten days two large editions of this work have been sold, and a third is now called for." The title has a tempting sound for thousands of British matrons who have been long endeavouring to manage their houses on just such a sum, and doubtless many a witerfamilias purchased a copy in the hope of finding in its pages the philosopher's stone that would fur- nish her, if not with gold, at least with a little spare silver now and then in her pocket. We observe by a prominent notice in the book that Mrs. Warren has been in print before. Her works may be counted by the half-dozen at least. They have enriched the pages of The Ladies' Treasury, a magazine which the public press (always ex- cepting ourselves, for we really never heard of it before, but then we live out of the world) has stamped "as second to none in its high tone of moral purity and refinement." Another "continuous tale" by Mrs. Warren—who is essentially a manager--is entitled "How I Managed my Children from Infancy to Marriage," a work which +doubtless is also popular amongst matrons, as its title would imply the " management " of eligible sons-in-law, the "management "of refractory young ladies, the "management" of young gentle- men during the latch key-and-latakia stage of life, and so on. To complete the series, we venture to suggest to Mrs. Warren that even a more popular title would be "How I Managed my Husband from First to Last." That book would assuredly be a success.
It is not quite clear whether the book before us is a story with a purpose or a purpose with a story. Mrs. Warren's experiences in the matter of dripping, cinders, old crusts, bare bones, and such mysteries of human life, are, as the phrase goes, "thrown into the form of a narrative." The story opens thus :—" It seems an odd thing, and possibly a presumptuous one, to narrate a history of the pitfalls and troubles of early married life arising solely from having no skill in the expenditure of a limited income." We are tempted to exclaim, *ith Hamlet, " Seems ! Madam, nay, it is" an odd thing to do, and it certainly is a presumptuous • How I Managed my House on Two Hundred Pounds a roar. By Mrs. Warren. Loudon lioulttou and Wright.
thing, inasmuch as it has been done delightfully by the author of David Copperfield.
Mrs. Warren's book is an autobiography, supposed to be written by one "Milly." It would appear that Milly's husband was by nature a good, easy sort of man, quite contented to leave the expen- diture of his income for the first two years of connubial bliss to his "little fairy." The little fairy, however, being "very young, and knowing nothingof the cost of any article of provision, wondered very much at the end of the first year of her marriage that she could not quite make both ends meet." Like Mr. and Mrs. Copper- field, this worthy young couple seem to have become aware that they were in debt by the simple fact of people knocking at the door and asking for money and there being none to give them. In fact while she managed her house on 2001. a year there would appear to have been for the first two years perfect domestic bliss, unlimited pet-naming and caressing, and twenty pounds of debt. Thenceforward there was ilauch cheesepaiing, much higgling with tradesmen and hectoring of servants,—some little meannesses and aping her betters, a good deal of gossip and letting other people pry into her affairs,—balance-sheet un- known, but supposed to be favourable. " Fred" is the husband of "Milly." The twenty pounds of debt rouses a spirit of deter- mination in Fred. His little fairy breaks the news to him. He is evidently much disgusted, for we learn that "This time there was no fondling, no half-measures." So he draws up a code, which is to be observed as the laws of the Medea and Persians that alter not. Subjoined is the code :-
Rent and taxes per annum ...
0 0 Coals, candles, and living for ourselves, our little one and
servant, 27s. per week, or ... •.• 70 0 0 Wages for servant—only one, mind ...
••• 10 0 0 Insurance for £1•000
••• 25 0 0 Clothes for myself ... ••• 20 0 0 wife ... ••• 15 0 0
„ babe... •••
••• 5 0 0 For washing ... ••• 10 0 0
For doctor's bills, unforeseen sundries, or exigencies ... 20 0 0
£200 0 0
"Here, Milly,' said he, 'is the sum and total of the whole, but you must sign the pledge to keep within the bounds of all here set down, even before you look at the list, or there will be nothing more or less than Rune !"
Of course the important qualification "only one, mind," applies to the "babe" as well as to the servant, for it is obvious that such contingencies as two, three, or x number of "little ones," or the possible occurrence of twihs, or the very strong prpbability of the "little one" becoming a "big one" even on theshort commons to be furnished out of twenty-seven shillings a week, are not provided for in the code, and should any of them arise the whole calculation must be disturbed. So Fred and Milly determine to lead a new life. They removed to London as the first step to economy, and they looked about until they found a healthy, bright- looking, Irish girl (Bridget by name), willing to be servant of all work, as the second. Bridget becomes a principal character in the book, and though "only one, mind," is nevertheless a host in herself. The first recorded sentence spoken by Bridget gives us a clue to the character of that extraordinary damsel, and shows what a treasure she must have been :—" The spalpeens won't let me have anything without I pay for it down, and fetch it away myself ; and how can I bring coals ? bad cess to 'em !' " 'This explains the remarkable statements of her mistress some pages further on :—
"I saw her temper was not to be trifled with. 'When Bridget was in this humour it was best never to notice it; all came round in time."
But the turning-point in the domestic life of this singular young couple is the appearance on the scene of "Bertha Chap- man," a thorough manager, a woman after Mrs. Warren's own heart, a woman who seems to have possessed all the cardinal virtues and a thorough knowledge of cookery, was a first-rate mantua-maker and pianist, a very Proserpine or queen of the lower regions in her management of servants, with the addition of drawing and vocal music, as the advertisements say, "if required." She was not a romantic young lady,—no. "At twenty-six she had married a widower of fifty, with four daughters and one son. She was a girl of spirit and intelligence." But it would seem that even all her spirit and intelligence lined to keep her own team in hand, for
"Robert Chapman, Bertha's husband, had gone to the West Indies, accompanied by his son. The eldest daughter was visiting an aunt, and the three youngest were at school." Being thus as it were out of work, Bertha took our young friends in hand, and trained them in the way they should go. She was a bit of a conjurer, too, in her way.
"'Bertha had the knack of turning everything to account, and many a time when I had thought it impossible we could make a dinner of what appeared bare bones, out of this bareness came forth a repast which I and my husband enjoyed as much as when we began the week with a joint."
Then follow dozens of pages that look suspiciously like clippings from old cookery-books and from the " family-matters " column of The London Journal, but supposed to be a treatise on domestic economy by the incomparable Bertha. But everything must have an end, and so had Bertha Chapman's schoolings. Having gone through a course of instruction in the management of dripping, candle-ends, rag-bags, frying-pans, sops, scraps, and servants, our young couple were in a fit state to receive their "finishing" lessons. Bertha Chapman's instruction bore reference principally to the fortiter in re,—that of two new dramatis person, "Mr. and Mrs. Gray," was devoted chiefly to the &tardier in modo. Mr. and Mrs. Gray, neighbours of our hero and heroine, were "well-informed people." "Everything in the furnishing of the rooms appeared neat, some even elegant, and all bore traces of a refinement much above the style of house they were inhabiting." The Grays in- vited our friends to spend the evening "Presently the folding-doors of the two small rooms were thrown open, and a charming laid-out supper appeared, There was a well- dressed lobster salad, the remains of a cold joint, bread, butter, and
cheese But what was it that made the whole affair look as if it had been spread for royalty ?"
The first royal arrangement was this :—" The table-cloth, although not spotless, looked nearly so." Then,—" The silver, if silver it was, sparkled in its brightness ; the glasses were clear and thin, and the knives shone with undimmed lustre." And last, but not least,—
" 'Soon after we commenced supper wine was introduced. It was sherry of a very indifferent quality, but served in an exquisitely-cut decanter. Without entering into further particulars, I need only say we spent a very pleasant evening.'"
It is thus plain that we may be quite luxurious (to look at) on 2001. a year, if we only have a little of the faculty possessed by Dick Swiveller's Marchioness, if we only "make believe very much." It is comforting to know that most, if not all, of the eatable and drinkable delicacies of life may be manufactured by a skilful housewife from the single vegetable rhubarb :—
" Many things can be made from rhubarb of which an inexperienced -person would never dream. Cider was at one time the basis of artificial wine, rhubarb answers better. Rhubarb makes a good imitation hock, =sell°, and champagne, both still and sparkling, and from it can also -be made an excellent imitation of sherry, to which sweet almonds, with a few bitter ones, would impart a 'nutty flavour." From rhubarb you may make what would be taken for preserved ginger,' a simple, inexpensive, and pleasant addition to the dessert. You may give it a fine name, and flavour it with orange, with lemon, or almond flavouring, and present it as a Chinese or Japanese novelty."
We should like to know whether these are the principles of morality in 'which the "little one" is to be brought up. Again,—
" You may boil rhubarb and black currants together till you have lextracted the juice from both, then strain it through two sieves of a different fineness ; then boil it with its weight in sugar, and you have black-currant jelly. Flavour the simple juice of rhubarb with lemon peel and stick cinnamon, and you have quince-jelly. Flavour it slightly with lemon and almond flavouring, and you have apple jelly. . . . In fact the capabilities of rhubarb are so various that they can scarcely be enumerated."
May we venture to suggest that one important " capability " of rhubarb not " enumerated " by Mrs. Warren is that it may be taken in a medicinal form as a mild corrective, and we should say a very necessary one after partaking of the dainties above mentioned ?
But enough of this foolish book. The last few extracts we have given furnish the best proof of its folly. We do not profess to advise those whose incomes do not exceed two hundred pounds a year as to the expenditure of it, but one thing is plain, let them avoid practising the flimsy, vulgar imposture of rhubarb cham- pagne and "laid-out suppers" with the remains of a cold joint and "nutty-flavoured" sherry. A homely proverb which says that "we must cut our coat according to our cloth" is worth all the handy-books that could be written on the subject, and an imperfect appreciation of that old saw will at least lead to the perfect understanding of another, that "as we make our bed so we must lie on it." If people who have to bring up their families on such incomes as two hundred a year will only commence by thank- ing their stars that they have a certain income of any kind, and will then set about the expenditure of it by paying ready money everywhere, seeing that they get the best of everything for their money, and avoiding vulgar shams and social dishonesty, and will
then "keep themselves to thPmRPlves," they will find that ex- perience is the best and indeed the only schoolmaster in domestic economy, and worth a bushel of books such as Mrs. Warren's. Some people have a talent for economy—it is their nature. Others are naturally slovenly minded in the matter, and no amount of lecturing will make them otherwise, much less a Pro- crustean bed such as the Book before us, to which its author ex- pects to fit all victims. It is a proof of the readiness of some silly people to write silly books, and of other and sillier people to pur- chase three editions of them in a month.