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At Home: A Short History of Private Life At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
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At Home Quotes Showing 31-60 of 166
“Nothing, however, bemused the Indians more than the European habit of blowing their noses into a fine handkerchief, folding it carefully, and placing it back in their pockets as if it were a treasured memento.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“In the mystifying world that was Victorian parenthood, obedience took precedence over all considerations of affection and happiness, and that odd, painful conviction remained the case in most well-heeled homes up until at least the time of the First World War.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Originally, the cellar served primarily as a coal store. Today it holds the boiler, idle suitcases, out-of-season sporting equipment, and many sealed cardboard boxes that are almost never opened but are always carefully transferred from house to house with every move in the belief that one day someone might want some baby clothes that have been kept in a box for twenty-five years.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“At one time he [Cornelius Vanderbilt] personally controlled some 10 percent of all the money in circulation in the United States.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“A plumped feather bed may have looked divine, but occupants quickly found themselves sinking into a hard, airless fissure between billowy hills. Support was on a lattice of ropes, which could be tightened with a key when they began to sag (hence the expression "sleep tight").”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“We are so used to having a lot of comfort in our lives—to being clean, warm, and well fed—that we forget how recent most of that is. In fact, achieving these things took forever, and then they mostly came in a rush.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Scheele independently discovered eight elements—chlorine, fluorine, manganese, barium, molybdenum, tungsten, nitrogen, and oxygen—but received credit for none of them in his lifetime. He had an unfortunate habit of tasting every substance he worked with, as a way of familiarizing himself with its properties, and eventually the practice caught up with him.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Whatever happens in the world - whatever is discovered or created or bitterly fought over - eventually ends up, in one way or another, in your house. Wars, famine, the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment - they are all there in your sofas and chests of drawers, tucked into the folds of your curtains, in the downy softness of your pillows, in the paint on your walls and the water in your pipes. So the history of household life isn't just a history of beds and sofas and kitchen stoves ... but of scurvy and guano and the Eiffel Tower and bedbugs and body-snatching and just about everything else that has ever happened. Houses aren't refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Perhaps the most irrational fashion act of all was the male habit for 150 years of wearing wigs. Samuel Pepys, as with so many things, was in the vanguard, noting with some apprehension the purchase of a wig in 1663 when wigs were not yet common. It was such a novelty that he feared people would laugh at him in church; he was greatly relieved, and a little proud, to find that they did not. He also worried, not unreasonably, that the hair of wigs might come from plague victims. Perhaps nothing says more about the power of fashion than that Pepys continued wearing wigs even while wondering if they might kill him.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“What never fails to astonish at Skara Brae is the sophistication. These were the dwellings of Neolithic people, but the houses had locking doors, a system of drainage and even, it seems, elemental plumbing with slots in the walls to sluice away wastes. The interiors were capacious. The walls, still standing, were up to ten feet high, so they afforded plenty of headroom, and the floors were paved. Each house has built-in stone dressers, storage alcoves, boxed enclosures presumed to be beds, water tanks, and damp courses that would have kept the interiors snug and dry. The houses are all of one size and built to the same plan, suggesting a kind of genial commune rather than a conventional tribal hierarchy. Covered passageways ran between the houses and led to a paved open area—dubbed “the marketplace” by early archaeologists—where tasks could be done in a social setting.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“The author reveals a cultural change that took place when clergy were paid based on a tax on the land's value rather than what it produced. This meant that, while parishioners could suffer through a terrible year, clergy would always have a comfortable one.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“a modern-day conservator of Monticello says that Woodmont Jefferson as an amateur architect rather than a professional was that he made things more complicated than they needed to be for any practical purpose.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Felipe Fernández-Armesto, at least thirty-eight theories have been put forward to explain why people took to living in communities: that they were driven to it by climatic change, or by a wish to stay near their dead, or by a powerful desire to brew and drink beer, which could only be indulged by staying in one place.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Moreover, wool wasn’t sheared in the early days, but painfully plucked. It is little wonder that sheep are such skittish animals when humans are around.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Today it takes the average citizen of Tanzania almost a year to produce the same volume of carbon emissions as is effortlessly generated every two and a half days by a European, or every twenty-eight hours by an American. We are, in short, able to live as we do because we use resources at hundreds of times the rate of most of the planet's other citizens. Once day - and don't expect it to be a distant day - many of those six billion or so less well-off people are bound to demand to have what we have, and to get it as effortlessly as we got it, and that will require more resources than this planet can easily, or even conceivably, yield.
The greatest possible irony would be if in our endless quest to fill our lives with comfort and happiness we created a world that had neither.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“For anyone of a rational disposition, fashion is often nearly impossible to fathom. Throughout many periods of history—perhaps most—it can seem as if the whole impulse of fashion has been to look maximally ridiculous. If one could be maximally uncomfortable as well, the triumph was all the greater. Dressing”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Less than a decade after the Great Exhibition, iron as a structural material was finished—which makes it slightly odd that the most iconic structure of the entire century, about to rise over Paris, was made of that doomed material. I refer of course to the soaring wonder of the age known as the Eiffel Tower. Never in history has a structure been more technologically advanced, materially obsolescent, and gloriously pointless all at the same time.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“The Statute of Artificers of 1563 laid down that all artificers (craftsmen) and laborers “must be and continue at their work, at or before five of the clock in the morning, and continue at work, and not depart, until between seven and eight of the clock at night”—giving an eighty-four-hour workweek.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Charles Darwin, driven to desperation by a mysterious lifelong malady that left him chronically lethargic, routinely draped himself with electrified zinc chains, doused his body with vinegar, and glumly underwent hours of pointless tingling in the hope that it would effect some improvement. It never did. The”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Portability also explains why many old chests and trunks had domed lids- to throw off water during travel. The great drawback of trunks, of course, is that everything has to be lifted at to get things at the bottom. It took a remarkably long time- till the 1600s- before it occurred to anyone to put drawers in and thus convert trunks into chests of drawers.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“When they are not eating, rats are likely to be having sex. Rats have a lot of sex—up to twenty times a day. If a male rat can’t find a female, he will happily—or at least willingly—find relief in a male.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Walpole invented a term, gloomth, to convey the ambience of Gothick; Wyatt’s houses were the very quintessence of gloomth.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“It is not as if farming brought a great improvement in living standards either. A typical hunter-gatherer enjoyed a more varied diet and consumed more protein and calories than settled people, and took in five times as much vitamin C as the average person today. Even in the bitterest depths of the ice ages, we now know, nomadic people ate surprisingly well—and surprisingly healthily. Settled people, by contrast, became reliant on a much smaller range of foods, which all but ensured dietary insufficiencies.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Ironing was another massive and dauntingly separate task. Irons cooled quickly, so a hot iron had to be used with speed and then exchanged with a freshly heated one. Generally, there would be one on the go and two being heated. The irons, heavy in themselves, had to be pressed down with great force to get the desired results. But because there were no controls, they had to be wielded with delicacy and care so as not to scorch fabrics. Heating irons over a fire often made them sooty, too, so they had to be constantly wiped down. If starch was involved, it stuck to the bottom of the iron, which then had to be rubbed with sandpaper or an emery board.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Houses are really quite odd things. They have almost no universally defining qualities: they can be of practically any shape, incorporate virtually any material, be of almost any size. Yet wherever we go in the world we recognize domesticity the moment we see it.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“The household was so crowded that the secretary—a man named Pieper—had to share a bed with Marx. (Somehow, even so, Marx managed to put together enough private moments to seduce and impregnate the housekeeper, who bore him a son in the year of the Great Exhibition.)”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Without his books, Thomas Jefferson could not have been Thomas Jefferson. For someone like him living on a frontier, remote from actual experience, books were vital guides to how life might be lived, and none gave him greater inspiration, satisfaction,”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“By the time the first Europeans arrived in the New World, farmers there were harvesting more than a hundred kinds of edible plants—potatoes, tomatoes, sunflowers, eggplants, avocados, sweet potatoes, peanuts, cashews, pineapples, papaya, guava, yams, manioc (or cassava), pumpkins, vanilla, a whole slew of beans and squashes, four types of chili peppers, and chocolate, among rather a lot else—not a bad haul. It has been estimated that 60 percent of all the crops grown in the world today originated in the Americas.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life
“Carlyle had no option but to sit down and recompose the book as best he could—a task made all the more challenging by the fact that he no longer had notes to call on, for it had been his bizarre and patently misguided practice to burn his notes as he finished each chapter, as a kind of celebration of work done.”
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life