"We buy our wives with our fortunes, or we sell ourselves to them for their dowries. The American chooses her, or rather he offers himself to her for her beauty, her intelligence, and the qualities of her heart; it is the only dowry which he seeks. Thus, while we make of that which is most sacred a matter of business, these traders affect a delicacy, and an elevation of sentiment, which would have done honor to the most perfect models of chivalry".
Almost all the really enthusiastic and energetic lady gardeners that we have the pleasure of knowing, belong to the wealthiest class in this country. We have a neighbor on the Hudson, for instance, whose pleasure grounds cover many acres, whose flower garden is a miracle of beauty, and who keeps six gardeners at work all the season. But there is never a tree transplanted that she does not see its roots carefully handled; not a walk laid out that she does not mark its curves; not a parterre arranged that she does not direct its colors and grouping, and even assist in planting it. No matter what guests enjoy her hospitality, several hours every day are thus spent in out-of-door employment; and from the zeal and enthusiasm with which she always talks of everything relating to her country life, we do not doubt that she is far more rationally happy now, than when she received the homage of a circle of admirers at one of the most brilliant of foreign courts.
On the table before us, lies a letter from a lady of fortune in Philadelphia, whose sincere and hearty enthusiasm in country life always delights us. She is one of those beings who animate everything she touches, and would make a heart beat in a granite rock, if it had not the stubbornness of all "facts before the flood." She is in a dilemma now about the precise uses of lime (which has staggered many an old cultivator, by the way), and tells the story of her doubts with an earnest directness and eloquence that one seeks for in vain in the essays of our male chemico-horti-cultural correspondents. We are quite sure that there will be a meaning in every fruit and flower which this lady plucks from the garden, of which our fair friends, who are the disciples of the Sevigne school, have not the feeblest conception.
There are, also, we fear, those who fancy that there is something rustic, unfeminine and unrefined, about an interest in country out-of-door matters. Would we could present to them a picture which rises in our memory, at this moment, as the finest of all possible denials to such a theory. In the midst of the richest agricultural region of the northern States, lives a lady — a young, unmarried lady; mistress of herself; of some thousands of acres of the finest lands; and a mansion which is almost the ideal of taste and refinement. Very well. Does this lady sit in her drawing room all day, to receive her visitors? By no means. You will find her, in the morning, either on horseback or driving a light carriage with a pair of spirited horses. She explores every corner of the estate; she visits her tenants, examines the crops, projects improvements, directs repairs, and is thoroughly mistress of her whole demesne. Her mansion opens into the most exquisite garden of flowers and fruits, every one of which she knows by heart. And yet this lady, so energetic and spirited in her enjoyment and management in out-of-door matters, is, in the drawing room, the most gentle, the most retiring, the most refined of her sex.
A word or two more, and upon what ought to be the most important argument of all. Exercise, fresh air, health, — are they not almost synonymous? The exquisite bloom on the cheeks of American girls, fades, in the matron, much sooner here than in England, — not alone because of the softness of the English climate, as many suppose. It is because exercise, so necessary to the maintenance of health, is so little a matter of habit and education here, and so largely insisted upon in England; and it is because exercise, when taken here at all, is taken too often as a matter of duty; that it is then only a lifeless duty, and has no soul in it; while the English woman, who takes a living interest in her rural employments, inhales new life in every day's occupation, and plants perpetual roses in her cheeks, by the mere act of planting them in her garden.
"But, Mr. Downing, think of the hot sun in this country, and our complexions!"
Yes, yes, we know it. But get up an hour earlier, fair reader, put on your broadest sun-bonnet, and your stoutest pair of gloves, and try the problem of health, enjoyment and beauty, before the sun gets too ardent. A great deal may be done in this way; and after a while, if your heart is in the right place for ruralitics, you will find the occupation so fascinating that you Will gradually find yourself able to enjoy keenly what was at first only a very irksome sort of duty.