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A Hotel Sitting-Room
by [?]

That question of going to see the thing, instead of seeing it drearily among ten thousand other things equally lovely–O weariness unparalleled of South Kensington or Cluny!–that question of the agreeable little sense of deliberate pilgrimage (pilgrimage to a small shrine perhaps in one’s memory), leads me to another explanation of what I must call the “hotel room phenomenon.”

I maintain that there is a zest added to one’s pleasure in beautiful things by the effort and ingenuity (unless too exhausting) expended in eliminating the impressions which might detract from them. One likes the hotel room just because some of the furniture has been sent away into the passage or wheeled into corners; one enjoys pleasant things additionally for having arranged them to advantage in one’s mind. It is just the reverse with the rooms in a certain palace I sometimes have the privilege of entering, where every detail is worked–furniture, tapestries, embroideries, majolica, and flowers–into an overwhelming Wagner symphony of loveliness. There is a genuine Leonardo in one of those rooms, and truly I almost wish it were in a whitewashed lobby. And in coming out of all that perfection I sometimes feel a kind of relief on getting into the empty, uninteresting street. My thoughts, somehow, fetch a long breath….

These are not the sentiments of the superfine. But then I venture to think that the dose of fineness which is, so to speak, super or too much, just turns these folks’ refinement into something its reverse. People who cannot sleep because of the roseleaf in the sheets, or the pea (like the little precious princess) under the mattress, are bad sleepers, and had better do charing or climbing, or get pummelled by a masseur till they grow healthier. And if ever I had the advising of young folk with ambition to be aesthetic, I should conjure them to cultivate their sensitiveness only to good things, and atrophy it towards the inevitable bad; or rather I should teach them to push into corners (or altogether get rid of) the irrelevant and trivial impressions which so often are bound to accompany the most delightful ones; very much as those occupants of the hotel room had done with some of its furniture. What if an electric tram starts from the foot of Giotto’s tower, or if four-and-twenty Cook’s tourists invade the inn and streets of Verona? If you cannot extract some satisfaction from the thought that there may be intelligent people even in a Cook’s party, and that the ugly tram takes hundreds of people up Fiesole hill without martyrizing cab-horses–if you cannot do this (which still is worth doing), overlook the Cook’s tourists and the tram, blot them out of your thoughts and feelings.

This question of superfineness versus refinement (which ought to mean the power of refining things through our feeling) has carried me away from the original theme of my discourse, which, under the symbol of the hotel room, was merely that we should perhaps appreciate more if we were offered less to appreciate. Apropos of this, I have long been struck by the case of a dear Italian friend of mine, whose keenness of perception and grip of judgment and unexpectedness of fancy is almost in inverse proportion to her knowledge of books or opportunity of travel. An invalid, cut off from much reading, and limited to monotonous to-and-fro between a town which is not a great town and a hillside village which is not a–not a great village; she is quite marvellously delightful by her power of assimilating the little she can read and observe, not merely of transmuting it into something personal and racy, but (what is much more surprising) of being modified harmoniously by its assimilation; her rich and unexpected mind putting forth even richer and more unexpected details. Whereas think of Tom, Dick, or Harry, their natural good parts watered down with other folks’ notions, their imagination worn threadbare by the friction of experience; men who ought to be so amusing, and alas!…

And now, having fulfilled my programme, as was my duty, let me return to my pleasure, which, at this moment (and whenever the opportunity presents itself) consists in falling foul of the superfine. The superfine are those who deserve (and frequently attain) the condition of that Renaissance tyrant who lived exclusively on hard-boiled eggs (without salt) for fear of poison. The superfine are those who will not eat walnuts because of the shell, and are pained that Nature should have been so coarse as to propagate oranges through pips. The superfine are…. But no. Let us be true to our principle of not neglecting the delightful things of this world by fixing our too easily hypnotized gaze on the things which are not delightful–disagreeable things which should be examined only with a view to their removal; or if they prove obstinate fixtures in our reality, be all the more resolutely turned out of the sparsely-furnished, delectable chambers of our fancy.