20 August 2013

A Tame Uniformity in Our Domiciles

An anonymous author in "Old Houses," The Cornhill Magazine, Vol. XIII (January-June, 1866), 611-616 (at 611):
To have to live in a row of houses built by contract, all at the same time, and all exactly alike, in which it is impossible to tell your own dwelling, except by looking at the number on the door, has always seemed to me one of the chief objections to life in a town, and one of the most pathetic and aggravating of the minor troubles of humanity. Mr. Podsnap, or any other type of the respectable, may think me a monomaniac — perhaps I am.
I hold that by submitting to, or worse still, by rejoicing in, a tame uniformity in our domiciles, we, of our own accord, deprive ourselves of one of the highest privileges of reason, and degrade ourselves by submission to one of the necessities under which instinct labours. Bees build their cells by exact rule and predetermined angle, a mavis's nest is recognized as one all the world over, and probably has not altered by one iota in its architecture since time began. Rabbit-burrows and mole-galleries have gained nothing in their construction from the experience of hundreds of generations. To man alone is the privilege given of impressing not merely a generic or specific character, but a stamp of individual peculiarity on his home.