**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

"Seven Ages" Of Furniture
by [?]

The progress through life of active-minded Americans is apt to be a series of transformations. At each succeeding phase of mental development, an old skin drops from their growing intelligence, and they assimilate the ideas and tastes of their new condition, with a facility and completeness unknown to other nations.

One series of metamorphoses particularly amusing to watch is, that of an observant, receptive daughter of Uncle Sam who, aided and followed (at a distance) by an adoring husband, gradually develops her excellent brain, and rises through fathoms of self-culture and purblind experiment, to the surface of dilettantism and connoisseurship. One can generally detect the exact stage of evolution such a lady has reached by the bent of her conversation, the books she is reading, and, last but not least, by her material surroundings; no outward and visible signs reflecting inward and spiritual grace so clearly as the objects people collect around them for the adornment of their rooms, or the way in which those rooms are decorated.

A few years ago, when a young man and his bride set up housekeeping on their own account, the “old people” of both families seized the opportunity to unload on the beginners (under the pretence of helping them along) a quantity of furniture and belongings that had (as the shopkeepers say) “ceased to please” their original owners. The narrow quarters of the tyros are encumbered by ungainly sofas and arm-chairs, most probably of carved rosewood. Etageres of the same lugubrious material grace the corners of their tiny drawing-room, the bits of mirror inserted between the shelves distorting the image of the owners into headless or limbless phantoms. Half of their little dining-room is filled with a black-walnut sideboard, ingeniously contrived to take up as much space as possible and hold nothing, its graceless top adorned with a stag’s head carved in wood and imitation antlers.

The novices in their innocence live contented amid their hideous surroundings for a year or two, when the wife enters her second epoch, which, for want of a better word, we will call the Japanese period. The grim furniture gradually disappears under a layer of silk and gauze draperies, the bare walls blossom with paper umbrellas, fans are nailed in groups promiscuously, wherever an empty space offends her eye. Bows of ribbon are attached to every possible protuberance of the furniture. Even the table service is not spared. I remember dining at a house in this stage of its artistic development, where the marrow bones that formed one course of the dinner appeared each with a coquettish little bow-knot of pink ribbon around its neck.

Once launched on this sea of adornment, the housewife soon loses her bearings and decorates indiscriminately. Her old evening dresses serve to drape the mantelpieces, and she passes every spare hour embroidering, braiding, or fringing some material to adorn her rooms. At Christmas her friends contribute specimens of their handiwork to the collection.

The view of other houses and other decorations before long introduces the worm of discontent into the blossom of our friend’s contentment. The fruit of her labors becomes tasteless on her lips. As the finances of the family are satisfactory, the re-arrangement of the parlor floor is (at her suggestion) confided to a firm of upholsterers, who make a clean sweep of the rosewood and the bow-knots, and retire, after some months of labor, leaving the delighted wife in possession of a suite of rooms glittering with every monstrosity that an imaginative tradesman, spurred on by unlimited credit, could devise.

The wood work of the doors and mantels is an intricate puzzle of inlaid woods, the ceilings are panelled and painted in complicated designs. The “parlor” is provided with a complete set of neat, old-gold satin furniture, puffed at its angles with peacock-colored plush.