A Tired Housewife’s Plea to the Summer Visitors: 1886

lake view at Chautauqua 1891

THE SUMMER VISITORS.

AN IMPOSITION TO WHICH COUNTRY FOLKS ARE LIABLE FROM “FRIENDS.”

A TIRED HOUSEWIFE’S PLEA

A Moving Tale, Commended to the Attention of Thoughtless People.

Special Correspondence of The Times.

Chautauqua, N. Y., July 28.

“I tell you,” said a resident in the vicinity of Chautauqua Lake, “if you want to make study of human nature you should come to our house and spend the summer. You see, since this lake has come to be such a popular resort everybody is crazy to get here. If they have any relations or acquaintances living within a radius of ten miles from the lake they are pretty sure to pay them a visit. One young lady I know of makes it a point every year to visit her second cousins. By going from place to place she managed to spend the whole season in this way.

“Last summer, wishing to locate herself on the Chautauqua grounds, that she might better enjoy the advantages there offered, she borrowed the tent of one relative, beds and bedding of another and by boarding herself, with the help of frequent baskets of provisions gleaned from outside friends, managed to live very economically. One woman living in a Western city found by chance that she had some cousins–removed to the third and fourth degree–living in this locality. Securing the address of one of them, she wrote as follows:
“’I have just learned that I have relatives residing in the vicinity of the lake. I would like to visit them, in company with my two daughters, who have always had a great desire to see Chautauqua. Be kind enough to send me a list of their names by return mail.’

CROWDS OF THEM.

“Why, actually,” he continued, “we entertained people in our house last summer whom we had never seen or heard of before. One lady from Now York came here in company with an aunt of mine and tarried with us three weeks, during the Chautauqua season–that is, she took her meals and lodging here; the rest of the time she was on the lake or at Chautauqua. Well, they kept coming from July to September–my relatives, near and distant, and my wife’s acquaintances and old school friends, most of whom she had not met in years, till at length she gave up sick, literally worn out waiting upon her throng of guests. We thought perhaps they would leave then; but no, they hung on till the season closed. Of course we had no opportunity of attending the services ourselves, as our company takes our time and strength to our utmost limit. I do not know how many guests we shall have to entertain this season,” concluded the victim, with a deep-drawn, long-suffering sigh; “they have not sent in the annual list of names yet.”

“Do not your friends leave some pleasant reminder of their visit, with you?” inquired his sympathetic listener. “Well, yes,” he replied, with a bitter laugh; “one lady on her departure presented my wife with an old linen duster and another gave my daughter a pair of half-worn gloves, too shabby for her own use, with the remark that they would do for school gloves.”

“Don’t think we are inhospitable,” he added, with a dismal attempt at a smile. “We enjoy entertaining our friends when they come to see us, but we do not like to have our home turned into a boarding house every summer.”

ENJOYING THE COUNTRY.

Another resident of Chautauqua county, who lives near the lake shore, said the other day: “There seems to be a feeling prevalent among some of our city people that we who reside in the country are a very fortunate class of individuals, having nothing to do but enjoy the ‘odors of clover and new-mown hay,’ and swing in hammocks from dawn till dark. Presuming upon this idea they take it upon themselves to favor their country relatives with lengthy visits. and manage by going from place to place to pass the entire summer in this manner and thus save board bills at expensive watering places.

“If you are fortunate to live near a summer resort like Chautauqua Lake, for instance, your pleasant country home is flooded every season by uncles, aunts, cousins and chance acquaintances by the score, many of whom you have not met in years, and most of whom you never think of visiting, who come from their city homes on cheap excursion rates to live on your hospitality, without money and without price, during the hot months of July and August.

“These self-invited guests care little for your society. The main object of their visit is to enjoy the interesting services held on the Chautauqua grounds; and these, together with boating, driving and excursions on the lake, occupy their whole attention, while you are sweltering in the little kitchen, bending over the hot stove, preparing meals for their healthy appetites, thus forfeiting your whole summer’s recreation and pleasure.

PRIVILEGES OF THE HOSTESS.

“They seem to forget that you, too, would enjoy the morning ride or the jubilee concert. A lady visitor once said to us, as she swept into our kitchen one August morning, arrayed in the most, elegant of traveling costumes, all ready for a trip on the lake:

“‘What a fine view of the water you have from your kitchen window. I should think you would enjoy washing your dishes and watching the steamers pass and repass.’

Yes, we did enjoy it, with the temperature at ninety degrees in the shade, the natural heat of the little kitchen increased by the hot fire we were obliged to keep to provide for the hungry visitors who would flock around our dinner tables with appetites sharpened by a “lovely ride ” they had enjoyed on the lake. Truly, it is delightful to look on and listen to the praises of the excellent lecture, reading or concert they had listened to at Chautauqua that morning (probably the very entertainment you had selected from the programme as the one you wished most to attend), to feel that you have no part or lot in all these good things, save to provide for the inner man, to remain at home day after day and bake and brew tor the hungry multitude of friends (?) who will surely appear at meal time, unless, indeed, you have been “kind enough to put up a little lunch.”

If you live some distance from the boat-landing it is no small task to see that your guests are conveyed there dally, as they seem to expect. We have no street cars or such city conveniences to depend on, and if you chance to own one good old family horse, the light single carriage can carry but two or three at a time, thus necessitating several trips, which occupies considerable time.

We have no bakers to rely upon in case of unexpected company and we recollect one occasion when, instead of the family of four, we were surprised by a company, numbering eleven to spend the day with us. Had it not been for the kindness of a neighbor the poor housewife would have been compelled to bake on no small scale.

A poor, hard-working woman said to us not long ago:

“I had bought a season ticket on the boats this summer and intended to enjoy it, but I have just got word that my cousin, his wife and two children, including a peevish teething baby, are coming to spend the summer with me. They want to get away from the city, it is so sickly there.”

IN SELF-DEFENSE.

One family we know of, people In good circumstances, have, in sheer self-defense, taken to keeping boarders (although they would much prefer the privacy of their own family), as they were so overrun with summer visitors as to be obliged to deny themselves all privileges. One of their many guests was a woman, who half a century before had been for a brief time a playmate of the host’s, and therefore came uninvited and unexpected to demand hospitality on the score of old acquaintanceship.

We call to mind one minister’s wife, a frail little woman, whom we “ran in” to see one hot July morning and found her just tired out and sick. She told us she had been entertaining for the past two days a woman, a perfect stranger to her, who had come to visit her on the strength of having heard her husband preach once, some years ago. Instead of going to one of the many boarding houses which are plentifully scattered along the shores of our beautiful lake, our city friends, many of them, who chance in any way to have acquaintances living near the lake, inflict themselves upon them during the very season when leisure is most desirable to enjoy the rare privileges which come but once a year. The farmer’s wife, unlike her city sister, is deprived of the many concerts, lectures and other pleasant literary entertainments which form so pleasant a feature of a winter in the city.

We speak plainly, for we feel deeply on this subject. The above is not a fancy sketch, but is drawn from actual experience and is the voice of score of tired, overworked housewives on the shores of our lake. Do not think us inhospitable; we enjoy entertaining company who come to see us, not those who come merely as a matter of convenience and stop at our house as they would at any ordinary hotel (minus board bills). We all have friends, those near and dear to us, bound by the ties of long association and whom it is a pleasure and a delight to entertain; but we often find it impossible to do this on account of our self-invited guests, who occupy our time, tax our strength and try our patience, and when at length the season is over and the last carriage load of summer visitors disappears around the corner and we see a kindly wave of the hand or hear a cool “Come and see us when you can,” the overtaxed strength and strained nerves give way and a long sickness and a correspondingly heavy doctor’s bill winds up the season, then we are forced to believe that “Charity begins at home.”

We would simply ask that justice be done to farmers and their families, including country people generally.

L. M. C.

The Times [Philadelphia PA] 25 July 1886: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil wonders why, if previous summer visits have rendered his wife sick from over-work, that resident in the vicinity of Chautauqua Lake does not locate his spine and tell those thoughtless visitors that the familial boarding house is no longer open for business. She understands that one does not wish to alienate near relations, but surely a tactful plea to be excused on the grounds of an unsafe well or a typhoid outbreak would have some effect, even on the most insensitive. One might need to resort to actually poisoning the breakfasts of the more obtuse guests to drive home the point, but doing so, as long as no actual fatalities occur, will guarantee the unhappy householder visitor-free summers for many years to come.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

2 thoughts on “A Tired Housewife’s Plea to the Summer Visitors: 1886

  1. Ruth Beaty

    They should have told them they would give them summer board and breakfast rates as they were relatives and then seen how fast they would leave. if they stayed, at least there would be some compensation and they might be able to hire some help to share the load. So much for Yankee forthrightness in speech, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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