“Fire is a capital article. To have no fire, or a bad fire to sit by, is a most dismal thing. In such a state man and wife must be something out of the common way to be in good humor with each other…”

 — William Cobbett, Cottage Economy

In this coldest winter in many years, a good fire is perhaps just what we need. It might even save a marriage…

Please see my article at Aleteia, on Why We Need More Fires in Winter.

Here’s a sneak peek:

“Perhaps Cobbett exaggerates (he often did), but it seems to me he is on to something (he often was) — something general, about human life, and something specific, about fire.

The general point is this: physical contexts matter. Physical environment is a significant factor in the quality of human presence and interaction. It’s hard to have a real conversation on a roller coaster or in a room where a television is on.

And the specific point is this: we need more fires in our homes. The evidence from experience is beyond question: there is something about a fire. We want to be in a room with a fire; it lifts our spirits, making us more congenial, social. We simply feel good and are better disposed toward whomever or whatever else is in the room. One mother reports that on winter days, her young children at home often get restless or downright irascible by late afternoon. Then she lights a fire in the living room, and as if by magic the children stop bickering and find something to do together in front of the fire.

Though it might seem like magic, the effect of a fire is in fact quite a matter of nature — the nature of man and the nature of fire. Much might be said about the various aspects of fire: the heat, quality of light, delightful scent, and gentle sounds, and the corresponding ways that it affects the human body and psyche. I cannot think of anything else in common human experience that has this amazing fourfold effect on our senses. Each of these four — warmth, light, scent, crackling — adds to the power of a fire to transform a cavernous space into a hearth, a room into a refuge from the troubles and frenzy of the world…”

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