happiness is a warm cottage in winter

[written 05/25/04]

“And, therefore, I will here lay down an analysis of happiness; and as the most interesting mode of communicating it, I will give it, not didactically, but wrapt up and involved in a picture of one evening…

Let there be a cottage, standing in a valley, 18 miles from any town — no spacious valley, but about two miles long, by about three-quarters of a mile in average width; the benefit of which provision is, that all the families resident within its circuit, will compose, as it were, one larger household personally familiar to your eyes, and more or less interesting to your affections.
Let the mountains be real mountains, between 3 and 4,000 feet high; and the cottage a real cottage; not (as a witty author has it) ‘a cottage with a double coach-house:’ let it be, in fact (for I must abide by the actual scene), a white cottage, embowered with flowering shrubs, so chosen as to unfold a succession of flowers upon the walls, and clustering round the windows through all the months of spring, summer, and autumn — beginning, in fact, with May roses, and ending with jasmine. Let it, however, not be spring, nor summer, nor autumn — but winter, in his sternest shape. This is an important point in the science of happiness.

Divine pleasures of a winter fire-side
And I am suprised to see people overlook it, and think it matter of congratulation that winter is going; or, if coming, is not likely to be a severe one. On the contrary, I put up a petition annually, for as much snow, hail, frost, or storm, of one kind or other, as the skies can possibly afford us. Surely every body is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a winter fire-side: candles at four o’clock, warm hearth-rugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies on the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.

And at the doors and windows seem to call,
As heav’n and earth they would together mell;
Yet the least entrance find they none at all;
Whence sweeter grows our rest secure in massy hall.
Castle of Indolence

But here, to save myself the trouble of too much verbal description, I will introduce a painter; and give him directions for the rest of the picture.
Paint me, then, a room seventeen feet by twelve, and not more than seven and a half feet high. This, reader, is somewhat ambitiously styled, in my family, the drawing room: but being contrived ‘a double debt to pay,’ it is also, and more justly, termed the library; for it happens that books are the only article of property in which I am richer than my neighbours. Of these, I have about five thousand, collected gradually since my eighteenth year. Therefore, painter, put as many as you can into this room. Make it populous with books: and furthermore, paint me a good fire; and furniture, plain and modest, befitting the unpretending cottage of a scholar. And, near the fire, paint me a tea-table; and if you know how to paint such a thing symbolically, or otherwise, paint me an eternal teapot — eternal � parte ante, and � parte post; for I usually drink tea from eight o’clock at night to four o’clock in the morning.”