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Title: The Bedroom and Boudoir
Author: Barker, Lady (Mary Anne), 1831-1911
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [_The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved._]




Too much attention can scarcely be expended on our sleeping rooms in
order that we may have them wholesome, convenient and cheerful. It is
impossible to over-estimate the value of refreshing sleep to busy
people, particularly to those who are obliged to do much brainwork. In
the following pages will, we hope, be found many hints with regard to
the sanitary as well as the ornamental treatment of the bed-room.



  CHAPTER                                          PAGE

     I.--AN IDEAL BED-ROOM--ITS WALLS                 1

    II.--CARPETS AND DRAPERIES                       15

   III.--BEDS AND BEDDING                            26

    IV.--WARDROBES AND CUPBOARDS                     44

     V.--FIRE AND WATER                              57

    VI.--THE TOILET                                  70

   VII.--ODDS AND ENDS OF DECORATION                 80

  VIII.--THE SICK ROOM                               94

    IX.--THE SPARE ROOM                             110



  A CORNER WARDROBE                      _Frontispiece_
  DUTCH BEDSTEAD                                     27
  BEDSTEAD AND TOILET STAND                          30
  OAK BEDSTEAD                                       32
  CHILDREN'S BEDSTEADS                               37
  AN INDIAN SCREEN                                   41
  WARDROBE                                           45
  ANTIQUE LOCK-UP                                    48
  BUREAU                                             49
  TRAVELLING CHEST OF DRAWERS                        51
  CHINESE CABINET                                    55
  FIRE-PLACE                                         58
  CHAIR AND TABLE                                    59
  BEDSIDE TABLE                                      62
  FIRE-PLACE                                         63
  CANDLESTICK                                        65
  FRENCH WASHING-STAND                               66
  CHINESE WASHING-STAND                              67
  CORNER-STAND                                       68
  SHRINE "À LA DUCHESSE"                             71
  ANTIQUE TOILET TABLE                               72
  CHEST OF DRAWERS                                   73
  A SIMPLE TOILET TABLE                              76
  CANE ARM-CHAIR                                     81
  CANE SOFA                                          82
  OAK SETTLE                                         83
  LARGE ARM-CHAIR                                    84
  CORNER FOR PIANO                                   85
  PRINT-STAND                                        88
  SOUTH AMERICAN PITCHER                             91
  INVALID TABLE                                     107
  DESK                                              112





It is only too easy to shock some people, and at the risk of shocking
many of my readers at the outset, I must declare that very few bed-rooms
are so built and furnished as to remain thoroughly _sweet_, fresh, and
airy all through the night. This is not going so far as others however.
Emerson repeats an assertion he once heard made by Thoreau, the American
so-called "Stoic,"--whose senses by the way seem to have been
preternaturally acute--that "by night every dwelling-house gives out a
bad air, like a slaughter-house." As this need not be a necessary
consequence of sleeping in a room, it remains to be discovered why one's
first impulse on entering a bed-room in the morning should either be to
open the windows, or to wish the windows were open. Every one knows how
often this is the case, not only in small, low, ill-contrived houses in
a town, but even in very spacious dwellings, standing too amid all the
fragrant possibilities of the open country. It is a very easy solution
of the difficulty to say that we ought always to sleep with our windows
wide open. The fact remains that many people cannot do so; it is a
risk--nay, a certainty--of illness to some very young children, to many
old people, and to nearly all invalids. In a large room the risk is
diminished, because there would be a greater distance between the bed
and window, or a space for a sheltering screen. Now, in a small room,
where fresh air is still more essential and precious, the chances are
that the window might open directly on the bed, which would probably
stand in a draught between door and fireplace as well.

I take it for granted that every one understands the enormous importance
of having a fireplace in each sleeping-room in an English house, for the
sake of the ventilation afforded by the chimney. And even then a sharp
watch must be kept on the house-maid, who out of pure "cussedness"
(there is no other word for it) generally makes it the serious business
of her life to keep the iron flap of the register stove shut down, and
so to do away entirely with one of the uses of the chimney. If it be
impossible to have a fireplace in the sleeping-room, then a ventilator
of some sort should be introduced. There is, I believe, a system in use
in some of the wards of St. George's Hospital and in the schools under
the control of the London School Board, known as Tobin's Patent.
Ventilation is here secured by means of a tube or pipe communicating
directly with the outer air, which can thus be brought from that side of
the building on which the atmosphere is freshest. If report can be
trusted, this system certainly appears to come nearer to what is wanted
than any with which we are yet acquainted, for it introduces fresh air
without producing a draught, and the supply of air can be regulated by a
lid at the mouth of the pipe. A sort of double-star is often introduced
in a pane of glass in the window, but this is somewhat costly, and it
would not be difficult to find other simpler and more primitive methods,
from a tin shaft or loosened brick in a wall, down to half a dozen large
holes bored by an auger in the panel of the door, six or eight inches
away from the top, though this is only advisable if the door opens upon
a tolerably airy landing or passage. If it does not, then resort to some
contrivance, as cheap as you please, in the outer wall leading directly
into the fresh air. In most private houses it is generally possible to
arrange for those to whom an open window at night is a forbidden luxury,
that they should sleep with their door open. A curtain, or screen, or
even the open door itself will ensure the privacy in which we all like
to do our sleeping, but there should then be some window open on an
upper landing, day and night, in all weathers. Believe me, there are few
nights, even in our rigorous climate, where this would be an
impossibility. Of course common sense must be the guide in laying down
such rules. No one would willingly admit a fog or storm of driving wind
and rain into their house, but of a night when the atmosphere is so
exceptionally disturbed it is sure to force its way in at every cranny,
and keep the rooms fresh and sweet without the necessity of admitting a
large body of air by an open window.

Supposing then that the laws of ventilation are understood and acted
upon, and that certain other sanitary rules are carried out which need
not be insisted upon here,--such as that no soiled clothes shall ever,
upon any pretence, be kept in a bed-room,--then we come to the next
cause of want of freshness in a sleeping-room:--Old walls. People do not
half enough realise, though it must be admitted they understand a great
deal more than they once did, how the emanations from the human body are
attracted to the sides of the room and stick there. It is not a pretty
or poetical idea, but it is unhappily a fact. So the only thing to be
done is to provide ourselves with walls which will either wash or clean
in some way, or are made originally of some material which neither
attracts nor retains these minute particles.

Nothing can be at once cleaner or more wholesome than the beautiful
wainscotted walls we sometimes see in the fine old country houses built
in Queen Anne's reign. A bed-room of that date, if we except the bed
itself, and the probable absence of all bathing conveniences, presented
a nearly perfect combination of fresh air, spotless cleanliness, and
stately and harmonious beauty to the eyes of an artist or the nose of a
sanitary inspector. The lofty walls of panelled oak, dark and lustrous
from age and the rubbing of many generations of strong-armed
old-fashioned house-maids, were walls which could neither attract nor
retain objectionable atoms, and ventilation was unconsciously secured by
means of high narrow windows, three in a row, looking probably due
south, and an open chimney-place, innocent of "register stoves" or any
other contrivance for blocking up its wide throat. Such a room rises up
clearly before the eyes of my mind, and I feel certain that I shall
never forget the deliciously quaint and hideous Dutch tiles in the
fireplace, nor the expressive tip of Ahasuerus' nose in the tile
representing his final interview with Haman. How specially beautiful was
the narrow carved ledge, far above one's head, which served as a
mantelpiece, over which simpered a faded lady with low, square-cut
boddice, her fat chin held well into the throat, and a rose in her pale,
wan little hand. A dado ran round this room about five feet from the
floor, and I used to be mean enough, constantly, to try if it was a
dust-trap, but I never could find a speck. That was because the
house-maid had been taught how to wipe dust off and carry it bodily
away, not merely, as Miss Nightingale complains, to disturb it from the
place where it had comfortably settled itself, and disperse it about the

But what I remember more vividly in this room than even its old-time
beauty, was the thorough _conscientiousness_ of every detail. The
cornice might fairly claim to rank as a work of art, not only from its
elaboration, but from its finish. The little square carved panels on
each side of the chimney, serving as supports to the mantelpiece, held
but one leaf or arabesque flourish apiece, yet each corner was as
sharply cut, each curve as smoothly rounded, as though it had been
intended for closest scrutiny. The wood of neither walls nor floors had
warped nor shrunk in all these years, and the low solid doors hung as
true, the windows opened as easily, as if it had all been built
yesterday. What do I say? built yesterday? Let any of us begin to
declare his experience of a new, modern house, and he will find many to
join in a doleful chorus of complaints about unseasoned wood,
ill-fitting joists, and hurried contrivances to meet domestic ills, to
say nothing of the uncomfortable effects of "scamped" work generally. In
spite of our improved tools, and our greater facilities for studying and
copying good designs, I am convinced that one reason why we are going
back in decorative taste to the days of our great grandmothers is, that
we are worn out and wearied with the evanescent nature of modern
carpenter's and joiner's work--to say nothing of our aroused perceptions
of its glaring faults of taste and tone. Unhappily we cannot go back to
those dear, clean, old oaken walls. They would be quite out of the reach
of the majority of purses, and would be sure to be imitated by some
wretched sham planking which might afford a shelter and breeding-place
for all kinds of creeping things. No; let those who are fortunate
enough to possess or acquire these fine old walls treasure them and keep
them bright as their grandmothers did; not _whitewash_ them, as actually
has been done more than once by way of "lightening" the room. And who
shall say, after that, that the Goths have ever been successfully driven

I dwell on the walls of the bed-room because I believe them to be the
most important from a sanitary as well as from a decorative point of
view, and because there is really no excuse for not being able to make
them extremely pretty. You may tint them in distemper of some delicate
colour, with harmoniously contrasting lines at the ceiling, and so be
able to afford to have them fresh and clean as often as you choose, or
you may paint them in oils and have them washed constantly. But there is
a general feeling against this cold treatment of a room which, above all
others, should, in our capricious climate, be essentially warm and
comfortable. The tinted walls are pretty when the curtains to go with
them are made of patternless cretonne of precisely the same shade,
manufactured on purpose, with exactly the same lines of colour for
bordering. I am not sure, however, that the walls I individually prefer
for a bed-room are not papered. There are papers made expressly, which
do not attract dirt, and which can be found of lovely design. A
bed-room paper ought never to have a distinct, spotted pattern on it,
lest, if you are ill, it should incite you to count the designs or
should "make faces at you." Rather let it be all of one soft tint, a
pearly gray, a tender sea-shell pink, or a green which has no arsenic in
it; but on this point great care is requisite. You should also make it
your business to see, with your own eyes, that your new paper, whatever
its pattern or price, is not hung _over_ the old one, and that the walls
have been thoroughly stripped, and washed, and dried again before it is
put on.

Bed-room walls, covered with chintz, stretched tightly in panels, are
exceedingly clean and pretty, but they must be arranged so as to allow
of being easily taken down and cleaned. The prettiest walls I ever saw
thus covered, were made of chintz, with a creamy background and tendrils
of ivy of half a dozen shades of green and brown artfully blended,
streaming down in graceful garlands and sprays towards a dado about four
feet from the ground. It was a lofty room, and the curtains, screens,
&c., were made to match, of chintz, with sprays of ivy, and a similar
border. I know other bed-room walls where fluted white muslin is
stretched over pink or blue silk (prettiest of all over an apple-green
_batiste_). I dislike tapestry extremely for bed-room walls; the
designs are generally of a grim and ghostly nature, and even if they
represent simpering shepherds and shepherdesses, they are equally
tiresome. There is a Japanese paper, sometimes used for curtains, which
really looks more suitable and pretty when serving as wall-hangings in
the bed-rooms of a country house. I know a whole wing of "bachelors'
quarters" papered by fluted Japanese curtains, and they are exceedingly
pretty. The curtains of these rooms are of workhouse sheeting lined and
bordered with Turkey red, and leave nothing to be desired for quaint
simplicity and brightness. I must ease my mind by declaring here that I
have a strong prejudice against Japanese paper except when used in this
way for wall-decoration. The curtains made of it are not only a sham,
pretending to be something which they are not--a heinous crime in my
eyes--but they are generally of very ugly patterns, and hang in stiff,
ungraceful folds, crackling and rustling with every breath of air,
besides being exceedingly inflammable.

Of course the first rule in bed-room decoration, as in all other, is
that it should be suitable to the style of the house, and even to the
situation in which the house finds itself. The great point in the
wall-decoration of a town bed-room is that you should be able to replace
it easily when it gets dirty, as it is sure to do very soon if your
windows are kept sufficiently open. I _have_ known people who kept the
windows of both bed and sitting-rooms always shut for fear of soiling
the walls. I prefer walls, under such conditions, which can be cheaply
made clean again perpetually. There are wall-papers by the score,
artistically simple enough to please a correct taste, and sufficiently
cheap not to perceptibly shrink the shallowest purse.

But in the country it is every one's own fault if they have not a lovely
bed-room. If it be low, then let the paper be suitable--something which
will not dwarf the room. I know a rural bed-room with a paper
representing a trellis and Noisette roses climbing over it; the carpet
is shades of green without any pattern, and has only a narrow border of
Noisette roses; the bouquets, powdered on the chintzes, match, and
outside the window a spreading bush of the same dear old-fashioned rose
blooms three parts of the year. That is a bower indeed, as well as a
bed-room. Noisette roses and rosebuds half smothered in leaves have been
painted by the skilful fingers of the owner of this room on the
door-handles and the tiles of the fireplace as well as embroidered on
the white quilt and the green cover of the writing-table. But then I
acknowledge it is an exceptionally pretty room to begin with, for the
dressing-table stands in a deep bay window, to which you ascend by a
couple of steps. Belinda herself could not have desired a fairer shrine
whereat to worship her own beauty.

The memory of other walls rises up before me; even of one with plain
white satiny paper bordered by shaded pink ribbon, not merely the stiff
paper-hanger's design, but cut out and fixed in its place by a pair of
clever hands. This border of course looked different to anything else of
the kind I had ever seen; but according to strict rules of modern taste
it was not "correct." Yet a great deal depends on the way a thing is
done. I see the Misses Garrett frowning as I go on to say that here and
there a deep shadow was painted under it, and its bows and ends drooped
down at the corners of the room, whilst over the fireplace they made the
bright, circling border for a chalk drawing of a rosy child's head. But
it _was_ a pretty room, notwithstanding its original faulty design, and
I describe it more as an illustration of the supremacy of a real genius
for decoration over any hard and fast rule than as an example to be
copied. Rules are made for people who cannot design for themselves, and
original designs may be above rules, though they should never be above

I might go on for ever describing bed-room walls instead of only
insisting on their possessing the cardinal virtues of cleanliness and
appropriateness. Whether of satin or silk, of muslin or chintz, or of
cheapest paper, nothing can be really pretty and tasteful in
wall-decoration which is not scrupulously clean, without being cold and
glaring, and it should be in harmony with even the view from the
windows. Every room should possess an air of individuality--some
distinctive features in decoration which would afford a clue to the
designer's and owner's special tastes and fancies. How easy it is to
people old rooms with the imaged likeness of those who have dwelt in
them, and how difficult it would be to do as much for a modern bower!

If I had my own way, I would accustom boys as well as girls to take a
pride in making and keeping their bed-rooms as pretty and original as
possible. Boys might be encouraged to so arrange their collections of
eggs, butterflies, beetles, and miscellaneous rubbish, as to combine
some sort of decorative principle with this sort of portable property.
And I would always take care that a boy's room was so furnished and
fitted that he might feel free, there at least, from the trammels of
good furniture. He should have bare boards with only a rug to stand on
at the bed-side and fireplace, but he should be encouraged to make with
his own hands picture-frames, bookcases, brackets, anything he liked, to
adorn his room, and this room should be kept sacred to his sole use
wherever and whenever it was possible to do so. Girls might also be
helped to make and collect tasteful little odds and ends of ornamental
work for their own rooms, and shown the difference between what is and
is not artistically and intrinsically valuable, either for form or
colour. It is also an excellent rule to establish that girls should keep
their rooms neat and clean, dust their little treasures themselves, and
tidy up their rooms before leaving them of a morning, so that the
servant need only do the rougher work. Such habits are valuable in any
condition of life. An eye so trained that disorder or dirt is hideous to
it, and a pair of hands capable of making such conditions an
impossibility in their immediate neighbourhood, need be no unworthy
addition to the dowry of a princess.



In the very old-fashioned, stately rooms of Queen Anne's reign the
carpeting was doled out in small proportions, and a somewhat comfortless
air must have prevailed where an expanse of floor was covered here and
there by what we should now characterise as a shabby bit of carpeting.
In fact a suitable floor-covering or appropriate draperies for these old
rooms is rather a difficult point. Modern tastes demand comfort and
brightness, and yet there is always the dread of too glaring contrasts,
and an inharmonious groundwork. Quite lately I saw a fine old-time
wainscotted room, whose walls and floor had taken a rich dark gloss from
age, brightened immensely and harmoniously by four or five of those
large Indian cotton rugs in dark blue and white, to be bought now-a-days
cheaply enough in Regent Street. The china in this room was of Delft
ware, also blue and white, and it had _short_ full curtains of a bright
French stuff, wherein blue lines alternated with a rich red, hanging in
the deep windows, whilst colour was given in a dusky corner by a silken
screen of embroidered peonies. A Turkish carpet is of course
inadmissible in a bed-room, and the modern Persian rugs are too gaudy to
harmonise well with the sober tone of a wainscotted bed-room, but it is
quite possible to find delicious rugs and strips of carpeting in
greenish blue copied from Eastern designs. The difficulty is perhaps
most simply met by a carpet of a very dark red, with the smallest
possible wave or suggestion of black in it, either in strips or in a
square, stopping short within two feet or so of the walls. I know a
suite of old-fashioned bed-rooms where the floor is covered with quite
an ecclesiastical-looking carpet, and it looks very suitable, warm and
bright, and thoroughly in keeping. In a house of moderate size there is
nothing I like so much as the whole of a bed-room floor being carpeted
in the same way--landings, passages, dressing-rooms, and all--and on the
whole, taking our dingy climate into consideration, a well-toned red
carpet or nondescript blue will generally be found the most suitable.


Strange to say, next to red carpets white ones wear the best, but they
make such a false and glaring effect, that they cannot be considered
appropriate even for a pretty bowery bed-room, half dressing-room, half
boudoir. With ordinarily fair wear white carpets only take a creamy tint
as they get older, and then their bouquets and borders, have a chance of
fading into better harmony. But most of the designs of these carpets are
so radically wrong, so utterly objectionable from the beginning, that
the best which can be hoped from time is that it will obliterate them
altogether. It is true we flatter ourselves that we have grown beyond
the days of enormous boughs and branches of exaggerated leaves and
blossoms daubed on a crude ground, but _have_ we escaped from the
dominion of patterns, more minute it is true, but quite as much outside
the pale of good taste? What is to be said in defence of a design which,
when its colours are fresh, is so shaded as to represent some billowy
and uneven surface, fastened at intervals by yellow nails? or spots of
white flowers or stars on a grass-green ground? The only carpet of that
sort of white and green which I ever liked had tiny sprays of white
heather on a soft green ground, in the miniature drawing-room of a
Scotch shooting-box. _There_, it was so appropriate, so thoroughly in
keeping with even the view out of the windows, with the heathery chintz,
the roe-deer's heads on the panels of the wall, that it looked better on
the floor than anything else could possibly have done. Morris has
Kidderminster carpets for bed-rooms, in pale pink, buff, and blue, &c.,
which are simply perfect in harmony of colour and design.

People who consider themselves good managers are very apt to turn the
half worn-out drawing-room carpet into one of the bed-rooms, but this is
not a good plan, for it seldom matches the draperies, and is also apt to
become frowsy and fusty. I am not so extravagant as to recommend that a
good carpet with plenty of possibilities of wear yet in it should be
thrown away because it is not suitable for a bed-room. There are many
ways and means of disposing of such things, and even the threadbare
remains of an originally good and costly carpet can find a market of its
own. What I should like to see, especially in all London bed-rooms, is a
fresh, inexpensive carpet of unobtrusive colours, which can be
constantly taken away and cleaned or renewed, rather than a more costly,
rich-looking floor-covering, which will surely in time become and remain
more or less dirty. But light carpets are seldom soft in tone, and I
should be inclined to suggest felt as a groundwork, if the bare boards
are inadmissible, with large rugs thrown down before the fireplace,
dressing and writing-tables, &c. These should of course contrast
harmoniously with the walls. If you have a room of which the style is a
little too sombre, then lighten it and brighten it by all the means in
your power. If it be inclined to be garish and glaring, then subdue it.

People cannot always create, as it were, the place in which they are
obliged to live. One may find oneself placed in a habitation perfectly
contrary to every principle of correct taste as well as opposed to one's
individual preferences. But that is such an opportunity! out of
unpromising materials and surroundings you have to make a room, whether
bed-room or boudoir, which will take the impression of your own state.
As long as a woman possesses a pair of hands and her work-basket, a
little hammer and a few tin-tacks, it is hard if she need live in a room
which is actually ugly. I don't suppose any human being except a gipsy
has ever dwelt in so many widely-apart lands as I have. Some of these
homes have been in the infancy of civilisation, and yet I have never
found it necessary to endure, for more than the first few days of my
sojourn, anything in the least ugly or uncomfortable. Especially pretty
has my sleeping-room always been, though it has sometimes looked out
over the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, at others, up a lovely New
Zealand valley, or, in still earlier days, over a waving West Indian
"grass-piece." But I may as well get out the map of the world at once,
and try to remember the various places to which my wandering destiny has
led me. All the moral I want to draw from this geographical digression
is that I can assert from my own experience--which after all is the only
true standpoint of assertion--that it is possible to have really pretty,
as well as thoroughly comfortable dwelling-places even though they may
lie thousands of miles away from the heart of civilisation, and
hundreds of leagues distant from a shop or store of any kind. I mean
this as an encouragement--not a boast.

Chintz is what naturally suggests itself to the inquirer's mind as most
suitable for the drapery of a bed-room, and there is a great deal to be
said in its favour. First of all, its comparative cheapness and the
immense variety of its designs. Cretonnes are comely too, if care be
taken to avoid the very gaudy ones. If there is no objection on the
score of difficulty of keeping clean, I am fond, in a modern bed-room,
of curtains all of one colour, some soft, delicate tint of blue or rose,
with a great deal of patternless white muslin either over it or beneath
it as drapery to the window. This leaves you more free for bright,
effective bits of colour for sofa, table-cover, &c., and the feeling of
the window curtains can be carried out again in the screen. A bed-room,
to be really comfortable, should always have one or even two screens, if
it be large enough. They give a great air of comfort to a room, and are
exceedingly convenient as well as pretty. The fashion of draped
toilet-tables is passing away so rapidly that they cannot be depended
upon for colour in a room, though we get the advantage in other ways. So
we must fall back upon the old idea of embroidered quilts once more to
help with colour and tone in our bed-rooms. They are made in a hundred
different and almost equally pretty designs. Essentially modern quilts
for summer can be made of lace or muslin over pink or blue batiste or
silk to match the tints of the room; quilts of linen embroidered with
deliciously artistic bunches of fruit or flowers at the edge and
corners; quilts of eider-down covered with silk, for preference, or if
our means will not permit so costly a material, then of _one_ colour,
such as Turkey red, in twilled cotton. I have never liked those gay
imitation Indian quilts. They generally "swear" at everything else in
the room.

But there are still more beautiful quilts of an older style and date. I
have seen some made of coarse linen, with a pattern running in parallel
strips four or six inches wide, formed by pulling out the threads to
make the groundwork of an insertion. The same idea looks well also when
carried out in squares or a diamond-shaped pattern. Then there are
lovely quilts of muslin embroidered in delicate neutral tints, which
look as if they came straight from Cairo or Bagdad, but which have never
been out of England, and owe their lightness and beauty to the looms of

One of the prettiest and simplest bed-rooms I know had its walls covered
with lining paper of the very tenderest tint of green, on which were
hung some pretty pastel sketches, all in the same style. The chintzes,
or rather cretonnes, were of a creamy white ground with bunches of
lilacs powdered on them, and the carpet, of a soft green, had also a
narrow border with bouquets of lilacs at each corner. The screens were
of muslin over lilac batiste, and the quilt of the simple bedstead had
been worked by the owner's own fingers, of linen drawn out in threads.
The very tiles of the fireplace--for this pretty room had an open hearth
with a sort of basket for a coal fire in the middle--and the china of
the basin-stand as well as the door-handles and plates, were all
decorated with the same flower, and although essentially a modern room
in a modern house, it was exquisitely fresh and uncommon. This was
partly owing to the liberal use of the leaves of the lilac, which are in
form so exceedingly pretty.

In an old-fashioned house if I wanted the draperies and quilt of my
bed-room to be thoroughly harmonious I should certainly go to the Royal
School of Art Needlework in the Exhibition Road for designs, as they
possess extraordinary facilities for getting at specimens of the best
early English and French needlework, and they can imitate even the
materials to perfection. I saw some curtains the other day in a modern
boudoir from this Royal School of Art Needlework. They were of a
delicate greenish blue silk-rep, which hung in delicious round folds and
had a bold and simple design of conventionalised lilies in a material
like Tussore silk _appliqué_-d with a needlework edge. Of course they
were intended for a purely modern room, but there were also some copies
of draperies which went beautifully with Chippendale chairs and lovely
old straight up and down cupboards and settees.

There is rather a tendency in the present day to make both bed-rooms and
boudoirs gloomy; a horrible vision of a room with walls the colour of a
robin's egg (dots and all) and _black_ furniture, rises up before me,
and the owner of this apartment could not be induced to brighten up her
gloom by so much as a gay pincushion. Now our grandmothers understood
much better, though probably no one ever said a word to them about it,
how necessary it was to light up dark recesses by contrasts. You would
generally have found an exquisite old blue and white Delft jar full of
scented rose-leaves, a gay beau-pot full of poppies, or even a
spinning-wheel with its creamy bundle of flax or wool bound by a scarlet
ribbon, in the unregarded corner of a dingy passage, and I think we do
not bear in mind enough how bright and gay the costumes of those days
used to be. To a new house, furnished according to the present rage for
old-fashioned decoration, our modern sombre apparel is no help. We do
not lighten up our rooms a bit now by our dress, except perhaps in
summer, but generally we sit, clad in dingiest tints of woollen
material, or in very inartistic black silk, amid furniture which was
originally designed as a sort of background to much gay and gallant
clothing, to flowered sacques and powdered heads, to bright steel
buttons and buckles and a thousand points of colour and light. Let us
follow their old good example thoroughly, if we do it at all, and do our
best to brighten the dull nooks and corners which will creep into all
dwellings, by our attire, as well as in all other ways.



When we discuss a bed-room, the bed ought certainly to be the first
thing considered. Here at least, is a great improvement within even the
last forty or fifty years. Where are now those awful four-posters, so
often surmounted by huge wooden knobs or plumes of feathers, or which
even offered hideously carved griffin's heads to superintend your
slumbers? Gone, "quite gone," as children say. At first we ran as usual
into the opposite extreme, and bestowed ourselves at night in frightful
and vulgar frames of cast iron, ornamented with tawdry gilt or bronze
scroll-work, but such things are seldom seen now, and even the cheap
common iron or brass bedstead of the present day has at least the merit
of simplicity. Its plain rails at foot and head are a vast improvement
on the fantastic patterns of even twenty years ago, and the bedsteads
of the present day will long continue in general use in modern houses.
Their extreme cheapness and cleanliness are great points in their
favour, and when they are made low, and have a spring frame with one
rather thick mattress at the top, they are perfectly comfortable to
sleep in besides being harmless to look at.

[Illustration: FIG. 1.]

But in many rooms where the style of both decoration and furniture has
been carried back for a century and a half, and all the severe and
artistic lines of the tastes of those days must needs be preserved, then
indeed an ordinary iron or brass bedstead, of ever so unobtrusive a
pattern would be ludicrously out of place. Still, if our minds revolt
from anything like a return to the old nightmare-haunted huge Beds of
Ware, we can find something to sleep on which will be in harmony with
the rest of the surroundings, and yet combine the modern needs of air
and light with the old-fashioned strictness of form and beauty of
detail. Here is a drawing (Fig. 1) made from an old Dutch bedstead by
Mr. Lathrop. The sides are of beautifully and conscientiously inlaid
work, whilst the slight outward slope of both the head and foot-board
insures the perfection of comfort. To avoid a too great austerity of
form, the upper cap of the foot-board has been cut in curves, and the
solidity of the legs modified ever so slightly. The bedding of this
bedstead must by no means project beyond its sides, but must fit into
the box-like cavity intended to receive it. In this bedstead (Fig. 2),
which was made from a design by Mr. Sandier, more latitude is allowed
in this respect, and its perfect simplicity can only be equalled by its

[Illustration: FIG. 2.]

The form of wooden bedstead (Fig. 3), which could easily be copied at
all events in its general idea, by any village carpenter, would be
exceedingly pretty and original for a young girl's bed-room. It is
intended to be of oak with side rails which are to pass through carved
posts, and be held by wooden pins, as are also the end rails. For
durability as well as simplicity this design leaves nothing to be
desired, and it can be made in almost any hard wood, whilst every year
would only add to its intrinsic worth. How many of us mothers have taken
special delight in preparing a room for our daughters when they return
from school "for good"--when they leave off learning lessons out of
books, and try, with varied success, to learn and apply those harder
lessons, which have to be learned without either books or teachers.

What sumptuous room in after years ever affords the deep delight of the
sense of ownership which attends the first awakening of a girl in a room
of her very own? and it is a vivid recollection of this pure delight of
one's own bygone girl-days which prompts us to do our best to furbish up
ever so homely a room for our eldest daughter. If a pretty, fresh
carpet is unattainable, then let us have bare boards, with rugs, or
skins, or whatever is available. Necessity developes ingenuity, and
ingenuity goes a long way. I never learned the meaning of either word
until I found myself very far removed from shops, and forced to invent
or substitute the materials wherewith to carry out my own little
decorative ideas.

[Illustration: FIG. 3.]

Some very lofty rooms seem to require a more furnished style of bed, and
for these stately sleeping-places it may be well to have sweeping
curtains of silk or satin gathered up quite or almost at the ceiling,
and falling in ample straight folds on either side of a wide, low
bedstead. They would naturally be kept out of the way by slender arms or
brackets some six or eight feet from the floor, which would prevent the
curtains from clinging too closely round the bed, and give the right
lines to the draperies. But, speaking individually, it is never to such
solemn sleeping-places as these, that my fancy reverts when, weary and
travel-stained, and in view of some homely wayside room, one thinks by
way of contrast, of other and prettier bed-rooms. No, it is rather to
simple, lovely little nests of chintz and muslin, with roses inside and
outside the wall, with low chairs and writing-table, sofa and toilet all
in the same room--a bed-room and bower in one. Edgar Allan Poe declares
that to

                    "slumber aright
  You must sleep in just such a bed."

But he only says it of the last bed of all. Without going so far as
that, I can declare that I have slumbered "aright" in extraordinary
beds, in extraordinary places, on tables, and under them (that was to be
out of the way of being walked upon), on mats, on trunks, on all sorts
of wonderful contrivances. I slept once very soundly on a piece of
sacking stretched between two bullock trunks, though my last waking
thought was an uneasy misgiving as to the durability of the
frail-looking iron pins at each end of this yard of canvas, which fitted
into corresponding eyelet holes in the trunks. I know the uneasiness of
mattresses stuffed with chopped grass, and the lumpiness of those filled
by amateur hands with wool--_au naturel_. Odours also are familiar unto
me, the most objectionable being, perhaps, that arising from a feather
bed in a Scotch inn, and from a seaweed mattress in an Irish hotel, in
which I should imagine many curious specimens of marine zoology had been
entombed by mistake.

But there is one thing I want to say most emphatically, and that is that
I have met with greater dirt and discomfort, worse furniture, more
comfortless beds (I will say nothing of the vileness of the food!), and
a more general air of primitive barbarism in inns and lodgings in
out-of-the-way places in Great Britain and Ireland, than I have ever
come across in any colony. I know half-a-dozen places visited by heaps
of tourists every year, within half-a-dozen hours' journey of London,
which are _far_ behind, in general comfort and convenience, most of the
roadside inns either in New Zealand or Natal. It is very inexplicable
why it should be so, but it is a fact. It is marvellous that there
should often be such dirt and discomfort and general shabbiness and
dinginess under circumstances which, compared with colonial
difficulties, including want of money, would seem all that could be

However, to return to the subject in hand. We will take it for granted
that a point of equal importance with the form of the bedstead is its
comfort but this must always be left to the decision of its occupant.
Some people prefer beds and pillows of an adamantine hardness, others of
a luxurious softness. Either extreme is bad, in my opinion. As a rule,
however, I should have the mattresses for children's use _rather_
hard--a firm horsehair on the top of a wool mattress, and children's
pillows should _always_ be low. Some people heap bed-clothes over their
sleeping children, but I am sure this is a bad plan. I would always take
care that a child was quite warm enough, especially when it gets into
bed of a winter's night, but after a good temperature has been
established I would remove the extra wraps and accustom the child to
sleep with light covering. A little flannel jacket for a young child who
throws its arms outside the bed-clothes is a good plan, and saves them
from many a cough or cold. In the case of a delicate, chilly child, I
would even recommend a flannel bed-gown or dressing-gown to sleep in in
the depth of winter, for it saves a weight of clothes over them. I never
use a quilt at night for children; it keeps in the heat too much, but
blankets of the best possible quality are a great advantage. The cheap
ones are heavy and not nearly so warm, whereas a good, expensive blanket
not only wears twice as long, but is much more light and wholesome as a
covering. Nor would I permit soft pillows; of course there is a medium
between a fluff of down and a stone, and it is just a medium pillow I
should recommend for young children and growing girls and boys. The
fondest and fussiest parents do not always understand that, on the most
careful attention to some such simple rules depend the straightness of
their children's spines, the strength of their young elastic limbs,
their freedom from colds and coughs, and in fact their general health.
Often the daylight hours are weighted by a heavy mass of rules and
regulations, but few consider that half of a young child's life should
be spent in its bed. So that unless the atmosphere of the room they
sleep in, the quality of the bed they lie on, and the texture of the
clothes which cover them, are taken into consideration, it is only half
their existence which is being cared for.

[Illustration: FIG 4.]

All bedsteads are healthier for being as low as possible; thus insuring
a better circulation of air above the sleeper's face, and doing away
with the untidy possibility of keeping boxes or carpet-bags under the
bedstead. There should be no valance to any bedstead. In the daytime an
ample quilt thrown over the bedding will be quite drapery enough, and at
night it is just as well to have a current of air beneath the frame of
the bed. The new spring mattresses are very nearly perfect as regards
the elasticity which is so necessary in a couch, and they can be suited
to all tastes by having either soft or hard horsehair or finely picked
wool mattresses on the top of them. Whenever it is possible, I would
have children put to sleep in separate bedsteads, even if they like to
have them close together as in Fig. 4.

There are many varieties of elastic mattresses, though I prefer the more
clumsy one of spiral springs inclosed in a sort of frame. For transport
this is, however, very cumbrous, and in such a case it would be well to
seek other and lighter kinds. It must be also remembered that these
spring mattresses are only suitable for modern beds in modern rooms; the
old carven beds of a "Queen Anne" bed-room must needs be made
comfortable by hair and wool mattresses only.

In many cases, however, where economy of space and weight has to be
considered, I would recommend a new sort of elastic mattress which can
easily be affixed to any bedstead. It resembles a coat of mail more
than anything else and possesses the triple merit in these travelling
days of being cool, clean, and portable.

The frowsy old feather bed of one's infancy has so completely gone out
of favour that it is hardly necessary to place one more stone on the
cairn of abuse already raised over it by doctors' and nurses' hands. A
couple of thick mattresses, one of horsehair and one of wool, will make
as soft and comfortable a bed as anyone need wish for.

[Illustration: FIG. 5.]

Instead of curtains, which the modern form of bedstead renders
incongruous and impossible, screens on either side of the bed are a much
prettier and more healthy substitute. I like screens immensely; they
insure privacy, they keep out the light if necessary, and are a great
improvement to the look of any room. It is hardly necessary to say they
should suit the style of its decoration. If you are arranging a lofty
old-fashioned room, then let your screens be of old Dutch leather--of
which beautiful fragments are to be found--with a groundwork which can
only be described by paradoxes, for it is at once solid and light,
sombre and gay. Any one who has seen those old stamped leather screens
of a peculiar sea-green blue, with a raised dull gold arabesque design
on them, will know what I mean. There are also beautiful old Indian or
Japan lacquered screens, light, and with very little pattern on them;
even imitation ones of Indian pattern paper are admissible to narrow
purses, but anything real is always much more satisfactory. If again
your bower is a modern Frenchified concern, then screen off its angles
by _écrans_ of gay tapestry or embroidered folding leaves, or
paper-covered screens of delicate tints with sprays of trailing blossom,
and here and there a bright-winged bird or butterfly. Designs for all
these varieties of screens can be obtained in great perfection at the
Royal School of Art Needlework. But for a simple modern English
bed-room, snug as a bird's nest, and bright and fresh as a summer
morning I should choose screens of slender wooden rails with fluted
curtains of muslin and lace cunningly hung thereon. Only it must be
remembered that these entail constant change, and require to be always
exquisitely fresh and clean.

It often happens that another spare bed is wanted on an emergency, and
it is a great point in designing couches for a nondescript room, a room
which is some one person's peculiar private property, whether called a
den or a study, a smoking-room or a boudoir, that the said couch should
be able "a double debt to pay" on a pinch. I have lately seen two such
resting-places which were both convenient and comfortable. The first was
a long, low settee of cane, with a thin mattress over its seat, and a
thicker one, doubled in two, forming a luxurious back against the wall
by day. At night, this mattress could be laid flat out on the top of the
other, which gave increased width as well as softness to the extempore

The other, of modern carved oak, had been copied from the pattern of an
old settle. It was low and wide, with only one deep well-stuffed
mattress, round which an Algerine striped blue and white cotton cloth
had been wrapped. Of course this could be removed at night, and the bed
made up in the usual way. It struck me, with its low, strong railing
round three sides, as peculiarly suitable for a change of couch for a
sick child, though it could hardly be used by a full-grown person as a

So now all has been said that need be on the point of a sleeping place.
It is too essentially a matter of choice to allow of more than
suggestion; and at least my readers will admit that I am only arbitrary
on the points of fresh air and cleanliness.



Sometimes a room has to play the part of both bed-room and boudoir, and
then it is of importance what form the "_garde-robes_" shall assume.
Fortunately there are few articles of furniture on which more lavish
pains have been bestowed, and in which it is possible to find scope for
a wider range of taste and choice. Recesses may be fitted up, if the
room be a large one, and have deep depressions here and there in the
masonry with doors to match the rest of the woodwork, panelled, grained,
and painted exactly alike, and very commodious hanging cupboards may
thus be formed. But however useful these may be to the lady's maid, they
are scarcely æsthetic enough to be entitled to notice among descriptions
of art furniture. Rather let us turn to this little wardrobe (Fig. 6),
too narrow, perhaps, for aught but a single gown of the present day
to hang in, yet exquisitely artistic and pleasant to look upon. Its
corner columns are mounted with brass, and every detail of its
construction is finished as though by the hand of a jeweller. The lower
drawers are probably intended for lace or fur, or some other necessary
of a fine lady's toilette. It is very evident from the accommodation
provided in the distant days when such wardrobes were designed, that
"little and good" used to be the advice given to our grandmothers with
their pin-money, and that even in their wildest dreams they never beheld
the countless array of skirts and polonaises and mantles and Heaven
knows what beside, that furnish forth a modern belle's equipment. Yet
these moderate-minded dames and damsels must have loved the garments
they did possess very dearly, for the heroine of every poem or romance
of the last century is represented as depending quite as much on her
clothes in the battle of life as any knight on his suit of Milan mail.
Clarissa Harlowe mingles tragic accounts of Lovelace's villanies with
her grievances about mismatched ruffles and tuckers, and even the
excellent Miss Byron has by no means a soul above court suits or French
heels. Still these lovely ladies had not much space assigned to them
wherein to bestow their finery when it was not on their backs, and we
must expect to find all the wardrobe designs of former times of somewhat
skimpy proportions. Here is an antique lock-up (Fig. 7) of French make
(most of the best designs for furniture came from France in those days)
of a very practical and good form to copy in a humbler material. This is
made of a costly wood, probably rosewood, with beautifully engraved
brass fittings all over it. The door of the upper half seems rather
cumbrous, being only a flap which opens out all in one piece, but a
modern and less expensive copy might be improved by dividing this large
lid into a couple of doors to open in the middle in the usual way,
without at all departing from the original lines.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.]

Fig. 8, again, is more of a bureau, and affords but scanty room for the
ample stores of a lady's _lingerie_. It is, however, of a very good
design in its way, its chief value being the workmanship of its fine
brass ornaments. The handles of the drawers are peculiarly beautiful,
and represent the necks and heads of swans issuing from a wreath of
leaves. It would look particularly well in a bed-room in a large
old-fashioned country house, where the rest of the furniture is perhaps
rather cumbrous as well as convenient, and the glitter of the metal
mounting would help to brighten a dingy corner. It cannot, however, be
depended upon to hold much, and is chiefly valuable in a decorative
sense, or as a stand for a toilette glass.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.]

In strong contrast to these two designs is Fig. 9 of modern Japanese
manufacture. It is easy to see that the original idea must have been
taken from a common portable chest of drawers, such as officers use. The
slight alteration in its arrangement is owing to Japanese common sense
and observation, for it would have required more strength of character
than a cockney upholsterer possesses, to divide one of the parts so
unequally as in this illustration. But the male heart will be sure to
delight specially in that one deep drawer for shirts, and the shallow
one at the top for collars, pockethandkerchiefs, neckties, and so forth.
The lower drawers would hold a moderate supply of clothes, and the
little closet contains three small drawers, besides a secret place for
money and valuables. When the two boxes, for they are really little
else, are placed side by side they measure only three feet one inch
long, three feet four high, and one foot five deep. They hardly appear,
from the prominence of the sliding handles, intended to be packed in
outer wooden cases as portable chests of drawers usually are; but it
must be remembered that in Japan they would be carried from place to
place slung on poles carried on men's shoulders. There is a good deal of
iron used in the construction, which must be intended to give strength,
but it does not add to the weight in any excessive degree, for it is
very thin. The wood is soft and light, and rather over-polished, but the
Japanese artist would have delighted in varnishing it still more, and
covering it with grotesque gilt designs in lacquer, if he had been
allowed. On page 55 will be found a roomy Chinese cupboard with drawers
and nicely-carved panels.

[Illustration: FIG. 8.]

Many of our most beautiful old Indian chests of drawers and cabinets
have this black ground with quaintest bronze or brazen clamps and
hinges, locks and handles, to give relief to the sombre groundwork.
Except that the drawers seldom open well, and are nearly always
inconveniently small, they are the most beautiful things in the world
for keeping clothes in, but it would certainly be as well to have, out
of the room in a passage, some more commodious and commonplace
receptacles. I have seen a corridor leading to bed-rooms, lined on each
side with wardrobes, about six or seven feet high, consisting merely of
a plain deal top with divisions at intervals of some five feet from top
to bottom. A series of hanging cupboards was thus formed, which had been
lined with stretched brown holland, furnished with innumerable pegs, and
closed in by doors of a neat framework of varnished deal with panels of
fluted chintz. Besides these doors to each compartment, an ample curtain
hung within, of brown holland, suspended by rings on a slender iron rod;
and this curtain effectually kept out all dust and dirt, and preserved
intact the delicate fabrics within. Such an arrangement must have been,
I fear, far more satisfactory to the soul of the lady's maid than the
most beautiful old Indian or French chest of drawers.

[Illustration: FIG. 9.]

For rooms which are not old-fashioned in style, and in which it is yet
not possible to indulge in French _consoles_ or Indian cabinets as
places to keep clothes in, then I would recommend the essentially modern
simple style of wardrobe and chest of drawers. I would eschew "gothic,"
or "mediæval," or any other style, and I would avoid painted lines as I
would the plague. But there are perfectly simple, inoffensive wardrobes
to be procured of varnished pine or even deal (and the former wears the
best) which, if it can only be kept free from scratches, is at least in
good taste and harmony in a modern, commonplace bed-room. It is quite
possible, however by the exercise of a little ingenuity to dispense with
modern, bought wardrobes, and to invent something which will hold
clothes, and yet be out of the beaten track. I happened only the other
day, to come across so good an example of what I mean,[1] that I feel
it ought to be described. First of all, it must be understood that the
bed-room in question was a small one, in a London house recently
decorated and fitted up in the style which prevailed in Queen Anne's
reign, and to which there is now such a decided return of the public
taste. The other portions of the furniture were in accordance with the
original intention of the room and consisted of a very beautiful, though
simple, carved oaken bedstead, and a plain spindle-legged toilette table
and washstand, also old in design. The chairs were especially fine,
having been bought in a cottage in Suffolk, and yet they matched the
bedstead perfectly. They had substantial rush-bottomed seats, but the
frame was of fine dark oak, and the front feet spread out in a firm,
satisfactory fashion giving an idea of solidity and strength. The
fireplace was tiled after the old style, and the mantelpiece consisted
of a couple of narrow oak shelves, about a dozen inches apart, connected
by small pillars. These ledges afforded a stand for a few curious little
odds and ends, and on the top shelf stood some specimens of old china.
But the difficulty remained about the wardrobe, for the room was too
small to admit old _bureaus_ which would only hold half a dozen articles
of clothing.

[Footnote 1: See Frontispiece.]

[Illustration: FIG. 10.]

So the ingenious owner devised a sort of corner cupboard to fit into an
angle of the room, and to match the rest of the woodwork in colour and
style, having old brass handles and plates like those on the doors. It
is a sort of double cupboard; that is to say, whilst the left-hand side
is a hanging wardrobe which only projects away from the wall
sufficiently to allow the dresses to be hung up properly, the right-hand
division is a chest of drawers. Not a row of commonplace drawers,
however. No; the front surface is broken by the introduction of little
square doors and other arrangements, for bonnets, &c. We must bear in
mind these drawers extend much higher than usual, and the cornice being
nearly on a level with that of the wardrobe, there can be no possibility
of putting boxes and so forth on the top; but then, on the other hand, a
goodly range of drawers of differing depth is provided. It certainly
seemed to me an excellent way of meeting the difficulty; and I also
noticed in other bed-rooms in the same house how odd nooks and uneven
recesses were filled in by a judicious blending of cupboard and wardrobe
which is evidently convenient in practice as well as exceedingly quaint
yet correct in theory.



Perhaps the part of any room which is most often taken out of, or put
beyond the decorative hands of its owner, is the fireplace. And yet,
though it is one of the most salient features in any English dwelling,
it is, nine cases out of ten, the most repulsively ugly. When one thinks
either of the imitation marble mantelpiece, or its cotton velvet and of
false-lace-bedizened shelves, the artistic soul cannot refrain from a
shudder. The best which can be hoped from an ordinary modern builder is
that he will put in harmless grates and mantelpieces, and abstain from
showy designs. The fireplace in either bed-room or boudoir should not be
too large, nor yet small enough to give an air of stinginess, out of
proportion to everything else. Here are two (Figs. 11 and 14). The
design of each is as simple as possible, of plainest lines, but with no
pretence of elaborate sham splendour. Fig. 11 is of course only suitable
for a small unassuming room, but if the tiles were old Dutch ones and
the rest of the bed-room ware quaint blue and white Delft, an effect of
individuality and suitability would be at once attained. Such a
fireplace would look best in a room with wall-paper of warm neutral
tints of rather an old-fashioned design, and I should like a nice
straight brass fender in front of it almost as flat as a kitchen fender
with delightful possibilities of sociable toe-toasting about it. Such a
one I came across lately that had been "picked up" in the far east of
London. It was about eighteen inches high, of a most beautiful simple,
flat, form with a handsome twist or scroll dividing the design into two
parts. Although blackened to disguise by age and neglect at the time of
its purchase, it shone when I saw it, with that peculiar brilliant and
yet softened sheen which you never get except in real old brass; a hue
seldom if ever attained in modern brazen work however beautiful the
design may be. This fender stood firmly--a great and especial merit in
fenders--on two large, somewhat projecting, feet, and its cheerful
reflections gave an air of brightness to the room at once.

[Illustration: FIG. 11.]

There must always be plenty of room for the fire, and the actual grate
should of course be so set as to throw all the warmth into the room.
Then, though it is rather a digression,--only I want to finish off the
picture which rises up before me,--I would have a couple of chairs
something like this (Fig. 12), and just such a table for a book or one's
hair-brushes a little in front of these two chairs. And then what a
gossip must needs ensue! Of course I would have a trivet on the fire, or
before it. No bed-room can look really comfortable without a trivet and
a kettle; a brass kettle for preference, as squat and fat and shining as
it is possible to procure. There are charming kettles to be found,
copied from Dutch designs.

[Illustration: FIG. 12.]

Instead of the ordinary wide low mantelpiece one sees in bed-rooms, I am
very fond of two narrower shelves over such a fireplace as this. They
are perhaps best plain oak, divided and supported by little turned
pillars, and if the top shelf has a ledge half-way a few nice plates
look especially well. But there are such pretty designs for mantelpieces
now to be procured, that it would be a waste of time to describe any
particular style, and most fireplaces are made on scientific principles
of ventilation. Nor is it, I hope, necessary to reiterate the injunction
about every part of the decoration and detail of a room, whether fixture
or moveable, matching or suiting all the rest. In some instances
contrast is the most harmonious arrangement one can arrive at, but this
should not be a matter lightly taken in hand. A strong feeling is
growing up in favour of the old-fashioned open fireplaces lined with
tiles, and adapted to modern habits by a sort of iron basket on low feet
in the centre, for coals. Excellent fires are made in this way, and I
know many instances where the prettiest possible effect has been
attained. In a country where wood is cheap and plentiful, the basket
for coals may be done away with and the fuel kept in its place by sturdy
"dogs," for which many charming hints have been handed down to us by our
grandfathers. Over the modern fireplace, even in a bed-room, a mirror is
generally placed, but I would not advise it unless the room chanced to
be so dingy that every speck of light must be procured by any means.
Still less would I have recourse to the usual stereotyped gilt-framed
bit of looking glass. In such a private den as we are talking about, all
sorts of little eccentricities might be permitted to the decorator. I
have seen a looking-glass with a flat, narrow frame, beyond which
projected a sort of outer frame also flat, wherein were mounted a series
of pretty little water-colour sketches, and another done in the same way
with photographs--only these were much more difficult to manage
artistically, and needed to be mounted with a background of greyish
paper. For a thoroughly modern room, small oval mirrors are pretty,
mounted on a wide margin of velvet with sundry diminutive brackets and
knobs and hooks for the safe bestowal of pet little odds and ends of
china and glass, with here and there a quaint old miniature or brooch
among them. In old, _real_ old rooms anything of this sort would,
however, be an impossibility, for the mantelshelf would probably be
carried up far over the owner's head who might think herself lucky if
she could ever reach, by standing on tip-toe, a candlestick off its
narrow ledge. Our grandmothers seemed to make it their practice to hang
their less choice portraits in the space above the mantelpiece, and to
this spot seem generally to have been relegated the likenesses of
disagreeable or disreputable, or, to say the least, uninteresting
members of the family; the successful belles and heroes occupying a
more prominent place downstairs. Fig. 14 shows a pretty arrangement of
picture, mirror and shelves for china.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.]

Before the subject of fire is laid aside, we must just touch upon
candles and lamps. Fig. 13 is a simple and ordinary form of candlestick,
which would be safe enough from risk of fire if these sheltering shades
were made, as they often are, of tin, painted green, and then there
would be no danger if it stood on a steady table, by the side of even
the sleepiest student. But perhaps this design (Fig. 15) is the most
uncommon, though it would not be safe to put so unprotected a light
except in a perfectly safe draughtless place. However, there is also in
this branch of decorative art a great variety of beautiful models to
choose from. Antique lamps, copied from those exquisite shapes which
seem to have been preserved for us in lava and ashes during all these
centuries, with their scissors and pin and extinguisher, dangling from
slender chains, lamps where modern invention for oil and wick meet and
blend with chaste forms and lines borrowed from the old designers, and
where the good of the eyesight is as much considered as the pleasure to
the eye itself.

[Illustration: FIG. 14.]

Of washing arrangements, it is not possible to speak in any arbitrary
fashion. Here is a modern French washing-stand (Fig. 16) made, however,
to close up, which is always an objectionable thing, in my opinion,
though it may often be a convenient one. Let your basin invariably be as
large as possible and your jug of a convenient form, to hold and pour
from. Every basin-stand should be provided with a smaller basin and jug,
and allow at the same time, plenty of space and accommodation for
sponges and soap. If, from dearth of attendance, it is necessary to have
a receptacle in the room, into which the basin may be emptied
occasionally during the day, I would entreat that it should be also of
china, for the tin ones soon acquire an unpleasant smell even from
soapsuds. But I detest such contrivances, and they are absolutely
inadmissible on any other score except economy of service. All bathing
arrangements would be better in a separate room, but if this should be
impossible, then they should be behind a screen. But indeed I prefer,
wherever it is feasible, to contrive a small closet for all the washing
apparatus, and to keep basin-stand, towel-horse, and bath in it.

[Illustration: FIG. 15.]

It is sometimes difficult to hit exactly upon a plan for a washing-stand
for a very small room or corner, and a copy of this Chinese stand (Fig.
17) for a basin and washing appliances, would look very quaint and
appropriate in such a situation. Only real, coarse, old Indian, or
Japanese china, would go well with it, however, or it might be fitted
with one of those wooden lacquered bowls from Siam, and a water-jar
from South America of fine red clay, and of a most artistic and
delightful form. There are hundreds of such jars to be bought at Madeira
for a shilling or two, and they keep water deliciously cool and fresh.
If a demand arose for them they would probably be imported in large
quantities. All washing-stands are the better for a piece of Indian
matting hung at the back, for much necessary flirting and flipping of
water goes on at such places, which stains and discolours the wall; but
then this matting must constantly be renewed, for nothing can be more
forlorn to the eye or unpleasing to the sense of smell, than damp straw
is capable of becoming in course of time.

[Illustration: FIG. 16.]

For the corner of a boy's bed-room, or for the washing apparatus of that
very convenient little cupboard or closet or corner which I always
struggle to institute _down_-stairs, close to where the gentlemen of the
family hang their hats and coats, this (Fig. 18) is a very good design.
It is simple in form and steady in build, and a long towel over a roller
just behind it will be found useful. The towel need not be so coarse as
the kitchen "round" one, from which it is copied; and above all things
do not have it _hard_. It is a needless addition to the unavoidable
miseries of life to be obliged to dry your hands in a hurry on a new
huckaback towel.

[Illustration: FIG. 17.]

Many charming basin-stands have I seen extemporised out of even a shelf
in a corner; but such contrivances are perhaps too much of make-shifts
to entitle them to mention here, only one hint would I give. Take care
that your washing-stand is sufficiently low to enable you to use it with
comfort. I once knew a very splendid and elaborate basin-stand,
extending over the whole side of a dressing-room, which could only be
approached by mounting three long low steps. I always felt thankful when
my ablutions had ended and left my neck still unbroken.

[Illustration: FIG. 18.]



There is no prettier object in either bed-room or boudoir than the spot
where "the toilet stands displayed." Whether it be a shrine _à la
Duchesse_ (Fig. 19) or the simplest form of support for a mirror, it
will probably be the most interesting spot in the room to its fair
owner. Consequently there is nothing upon which the old love of
decoration has more expended itself even from its earliest days, or
which modern upholstery makes more its special study than this truly
feminine shrine. I will say nothing of mirrors with three sides which
represent you as a female "Cerberus, three ladies in one," or indeed of
mirrors of any sort or kind, as our business lies at this moment more
with the tables on which they should stand. These can be found or
invented of every imaginable form, and contain every conceivable
convenience for receiving and hiding away the weapons which beauty (or
rather would-be-beauty, which is not at all the same thing) requires.

[Illustration: FIG. 19.]

Here (Fig. 20) is a sort of old-fashioned _tiroir_ of an exquisite
simplicity, and with but little space outside for the "paraphernalia" of
odds and ends which the law generously recognises as the sole and
individual property of even a married woman. Such articles would need to
be stowed away in one of its many drawers. Instead of the frivolous
drapery which would naturally cover a deal toilet-table, the only
fitting drapery for this beautiful old piece of furniture (of French
design evidently) would be an embroidered and fringed strip of fine
linen which should hang low down on either side. In a darksome room,
imagine how the subdued brightness of its metal mountings would afford
coigns of vantage to every stray sunbeam or flickering ray from taper or
fire! And in its deep, commodious drawers too, might be neatly stowed
away every detail of toilet necessaries. On it should stand a mirror
which must imperatively be required to harmonise, set in a plain but
agreeable frame without anything to mar the severe simplicity of the
whole. There are several pieces of old furniture, however, which are
better adapted to be used as toilet-tables than the subject of the
illustration. Such a piece of furniture is more suitable when it is
divided, as is often the case, into three compartments, the centre one
being considerably further back than the side-pieces. In this way a
place is secured for the knees, when seated at it, and this central
cupboard, when filled with shelves, makes an excellent receptacle for
brushes and combs, and so forth.

[Illustration: FIG. 20.]

The defect of these old _tiroirs_ is that they are rather small and low,
and consequently look best in a small room, but they offer great variety
of decorative embellishment (Fig. 21), and are very satisfactory, as
stands for a small oval toilet-glass in an old frame to match. The
designs too of the brass mountings for door and drawer are nearly always
exceedingly beautiful, and vary from the simplest shining ring to a
small miracle of artistic brazen work. These shining handles take away a
good deal from the severity of decorative treatment which would
naturally exist in the rest of the room, and it is under such
conditions, where form takes precedence of colour, that we learn the
full value of these little traps to attract and keep a warm glitter of

Here is a simpler design for a toilet-table (Fig. 22) which would look
very well standing between the windows of a lofty room. If it was found
that a good light for the looking-glass had been sacrificed to the
general harmony of the room, then a smaller glass might be placed _in_ a
window, just for occasional use.

[Illustration: FIG. 21.]

Some of the old-fashioned "toilet-equipages" are very beautiful just as
they have come down to us. They are occasionally made in silver, and
comprise many articles which cannot by any possibility be brought within
the faith or practice of a modern belle. Still they offer charming forms
for imitation, especially in the frames of the old hand-mirrors, whose
elaborate simplicity (if one may use such a paradox) puts to shame the
more ornate taste of their modern substitutes. Next to silver or
tortoise-shell, I like ivory, as the material for a really beautiful and
artistic set of toilet appendages, its delicious creamy tint going
especially well with all shades of blue in a room. But I prefer the
surface of the ivory kept plain and not grotesquely carved as you get it
in China or Japan, for dust and dirt always take possession of the
interstices, and lead to the things being consigned to a drawer. Now I
cannot endure to possess any thing of any kind which had better be kept
out of sight wrapped carefully away under lock and key. My idea of
enjoying ownership is for my possession to be of such a nature that I
can see it or use it every day--and all day long if I choose--so I shall
not be found recommending anything which is "too bright and good for
human nature's daily food." I have seen toilet-tables under
difficulties, that is on board of real sea-going yachts, where it has
been necessary to sink a little well into which each brush, box or tray
securely fitted; and I have seen toilet-tables in Kafir-Land covered
with common sixpenny cups and saucers, and shown as presenting a happy
combination of use and ornament, strictly in conformity with "Engleez

[Illustration: FIG. 22.]

But perhaps our business does not lie so much with these as with the
ordinary dressing-table which is now more used in the modern shape of a
convenient table with a scoop out of the middle, beneath which the knees
can fit when you are seated at it, and with a couple of drawers on each
side. This too is covered by a white _serviette_ of some sort, and
supports a large toilet-glass of equally uncompromising utility and
convenience. But however readily these good qualities may be conceded to
the modern toilet-table it is but an uninteresting feature in an ideal
bower. If the room be an essentially modern one, and especially if it be
in the country, nothing affords a prettier spot of colour in it, than
the old-fashioned toilet-table of deal covered with muslin draperies
over soft-hued muslin or batiste. Of course the caricature of such an
arrangement may be seen any day in the fearful and detestable
toilet-table with a skimpy and coarse muslin flounce over a
tight-fitting skirt of glaring pink calico, but this is a parody on the
ample, convenient stand for toilet necessaries, the draperies of which
should be in harmony with the other colours of the room. It would need
however to possess many changes of raiment, in order that it may always
be kept up to the mark of spotless freshness. These draperies are
prettier of plain soft white muslin without spot or figure of any kind,
and may consist of two or three layers, draped with all the artistic
skill the constructor thereof possesses. It is also an improvement, if
instead of only a hideous crackle of calico beneath, there be a full
flounce or petticoat of batiste which would give colour and graceful
folds together. This is a very humble arrangement I know, but it can be
made as effective as if it cost pounds instead of pence. And this is one
of the strong points in all hints on decoration, that they should be of
so elastic a nature as to be capable of expansion under favourable
circumstances, though not beyond the reach of extremely slender

I do not recommend draped mirrors for modern toilet-tables on account of
the danger from fire, and I like the style and frame of the
looking-glass on the table to harmonise thoroughly with the rest of the



It seems a pity that sofas and chairs made of straw or bamboo should not
be more used than they are. I mean, used as they come from the maker's
hands, _not_ painted or gilded, and becushioned and bedizened into
hopeless vulgarity. They are only admissible _au naturel_, and should
stand upon their own merits. Those we have as yet attempted to make in
England are exceedingly weak and ugly compared with the same sort of
thing from other countries. In Madeira, for instance, the chairs,
baskets, and even tables, are very superior in strength and durability,
as well as in correctness of outline, to those made in England; and when
we go further off, to the East, we find a still greater improvement in
furniture made of bamboo. Here is a chair (Fig. 23), of a pattern
familiar to all travellers on the P. and O. boats, and whose
acquaintance I first made in Ceylon. It is essentially a gentleman's
chair, however, and as such is sinking into an honoured and happy old
age in the dingy recesses of a London smoking-room. Without the
side-wings, which serve equally for a table or leg-rest, and with the
seat elongated and slightly depressed, such a chair makes a delicious,
cool lounge for a lady's use in a verandah.

[Illustration: FIG. 23.]

Then here (Fig. 24) is a Chinese sofa made of bamboo which, in its own
country, would probably not be encumbered with cushions, for they can be
removed at pleasure. Where, however, there is no particular inducement
to use cane or bamboo, then it would be better to have made by the
village carpenter a settee--or settle, which is the real word--something
like this. The form is, at all events correct; and in a private
sitting-room, furnished and fitted to match, the effect would be a
thousand times better than the modern couches, which are so often padded
and stuffed into deformity.

[Illustration: FIG. 24.]

Nothing can be simpler than the lines of the design, as is seen in this
drawing (Fig 25B), without the cushions; and it would come within the
scope of the most modest upholstering genius. In one's own little
den--which, by the way, I should _never_ myself dignify by the name of
boudoir, a word signifying a place to idle and sulk in, instead of a
retreat in which to be busy and comfortable--such odds and ends of
furniture, so long as there be one distinct feeling running through
it all, are far more characteristic than commonplace sofas and chairs.
If one _must_ have large armchairs in a boudoir, or in a bed-room, here
is one (Fig. 26) which is big enough in all conscience, and yet would go
more harmoniously with an old-fashioned room than any fat and dumpy
modern chair. If, on the other hand, the house in general, and this
particular room, chances to be essentially in the style of the present
day, then you would naturally choose some of the comfortable modern
easy-chairs, taking care to avoid the shapes which are a mass of padded
and cushioned excrescences. But modern armchairs can be very pretty, and
I know several which are low and long, and straight and unassuming, and
which yet preserve quite a good distinct outline. Such chairs as these
are a sort of half-way house between bed and board, between absolute
rest and uncomplaining unrest; famous places for thinking, for watching,
for chatting, and, above all, for dozing.

[Illustration: FIG. 25A.]

[Illustration: FIG. 25B.]

The bed-rooms I am thinking of and writing about have, we must bear in
mind, a certain element of the bower or boudoir or private sitting-room
in them, and so I must stand excused for a suggestion about a place for
books or music. Here is a delightful corner for a piano (Fig. 27), but
sometimes such a thing is out of the question, and it is only possible
to find space for a few shelves. These can always be made suitable and
pretty either of a simple old form in plainest oak to match the severe
lines of an old-fashioned room, or of deal painted black, varnished,
with a gilt line grooved in front, and a bit of bright leather to go
with a more modern room. To my mind books are always the best ornaments
in any room, and I never feel at home in any place until my beloved and
often shabby old friends are unpacked and ranged in their recess. I once
extemporised a capital book case out of a blocked-up window, and with, a
tiny scrap of looking-glass let in where the arch of the window began
its spring, and filled by some old bowls of coarse but capital old
china, whose gaudy colours could only be looked at safely from a

[Illustration: FIG. 26.]

As time goes on, one is sure, in such a beloved little den, to
accumulate a great deal of rubbish dear, perhaps, only to the owner for
the sake of association. Which of us has not, at some tender time of our
lives, regarded a withered flower, or valueless pebble, as our great
earthly treasure? So, in later days, a plate, a cup, a pipe will be
precious, perhaps, to one as mementoes of the place and companions where
and with whom it was bought. But if such trifles, though too dear to be
laid aside, are yet not intrinsically good enough to form part of a
collection, and to take a prominent share in decoration, then I would
either stand them aside on a little _étagère_ like that to be found on
page 79, or else get the carpenter to put up graduated shelves, which
may be quite pure and simple in taste and yet suit the rest of the
room. This (Fig. 28) is a capital valuable hint to keep photographs or
prints at hand, and yet in safety. Take my advice, and don't have fringe
or mock lace, or gilt nails at the edges by way of decoration. Have a
nice piece of wood, walnut, oak, even varnished pine, if you choose,
neatly finished off at the edge, or, if it suits the rest of the room,
black, with a little narrow gilt line in a depression. I think something
ingenious might be done with Japanese tea-trays, taking care to choose
good designs.

[Illustration: FIG. 27.]

The worst of such a dear delightful den as I am imagining, or rather
describing, is the tendency of the most incongruous possessions to
accumulate themselves in it as time goes on. What do you think of a
pitcher like this (Fig. 29) standing in one corner, just because, though
of common ware, and rather coarsely modelled, the colour of the
earthen-ware is delicious in tone, and the design bold and free? It was
brought from South America, and cost only six shillings, or thereabouts,
but if it had cost as many pounds it could not have been more thoroughly
in harmony with the surroundings of its new home.

[Illustration: FIG. 28.]

One hint may not be out of place here, and that is with respect to
table-covers. Many people are fond of covering up writing-tables, and
every occasional table, with a cloth; and these draped tables are
generally great eyesores in an ill-arranged room. The covers seldom
harmonise, and now-a-days many hideous pieces of work are accomplished
in the name of the School of Art which are far removed from the artistic
and beautiful designs which alone proceed from the School itself. There
indeed you may find patterns which would go beautifully with any
old-time furniture, and which might be worked on deliciously neutral
tints of cloth or serge. But beware of staring, gaudy table-covers, of
shabby material, of which the best that can be hoped is that they may
speedily fade into better harmony. The Queen Anne tables were never
intended by their designer to be covered up by drapery. They are
generally inlaid in delicate designs, which it would be a sin to
conceal; nor could we afford to lose the slender grace of the legs. The
clumsy, ill-finished cheap table of the present day is all the better
for a cover, and wonders may be done in improving a bare, cold,
unhappy-looking room, by a good table-cover here and there, or a nicely
embroidered sofa-pillow of cloth or satin, or, better still, one of
those lovely new low screens, with the tall tufts of grass or lilies
which we owe to Walter Crane's skilful pencil.

[Illustration: FIG. 29.]

I confess I like a room to look as if it were inhabited, and that is the
only drawback that the rooms furnished in the seventeenth century style
have in my eyes. You scarcely ever feel as if any one lived in
them--there are seldom any signs of occupation, especially feminine
occupation, lying about, no "litter," in fact; litter being a powerful
weapon in the hands of a person who knows how to make a room look
comfortable. Then I am told that litter is incongruous in a Queen Anne
room, for that the women of those days had not the same modes of
employment as ourselves. The greatest ladies, if they were blessed with
an energetic temperament, only gave it free scope with their medicine
chest or in their still-room or linen closet; while the lazy ones were
obliged to dawdle away a good deal of their time in bed or at their
elaborate toilettes. But still I am always longing to overlay a little
of the modish primness of the distant days we are now copying, with
something of this busy nineteenth century's tokens of a love of art or
literature. And in a room with any claim to a distinct individuality of
its own, this would always be the case.



However skilfully designed the arrangements of a house may appear to be,
however sumptuously decorated and furnished its rooms, it is impossible
to know whether a great law of common sense and practical usefulness has
guided such arrangements, until there has been an illness in the house.
Then will it be discovered--too late alas!--whether doors and windows
open conveniently, whether fireplaces give out proper warmth, how the
apparatus for ventilation works, and whether the staircases, landings,
cupboards, and a thousand unconsidered items of the architect's labours
have been planned in the best possible way, or in the stupidest. For the
comfort and convenience of the patient at such times, it is by no means
necessary that much money should have been spent on the construction of
the house that chances to shelter him in his hour of suffering, nor
that its furnitures or decorations should be of a costly character.
Fortunately such things need not aim at anything higher than cleanliness
and convenience, and we only require to exert our own recollections in
support of this assertion. As far as my individual experience goes, I
have seen an old woman, who had been bed-ridden for years, more
comfortably housed and tended beneath a cottage roof, and her room kept
more exquisitely clean and sweet than that of many wealthy patients in
splendid houses. Of course everything depends on the capacity for
organisation and arrangement in the person who has charge of the
invalid, but the nurse's task may be made much easier by having to
perform it in a bed-room and under conditions which are in accordance
with the exigencies of such a time.

Many smart and pretty-looking bed-rooms are discovered by their sick
owner to be very different abodes to what they seemed to him in health.
Awkwardly-placed doors and windows produce unsuspected draughts; the too
close proximity of an ill-arranged staircase or housemaid's closet
becomes a serious trouble, and a low pitched ceiling prevents proper
ventilation. It is more difficult than one imagines to find in a badly
proportioned room a single convenient place for the patient's bed. It
must be either close to the door, or touching the fireplace, or under a
window or in some situation where it distinctly ought _not_ to be. I
have known such faults--faults which occasioned discomfort every moment,
and had to be remedied by a thousand make-shift contrivances, occur in
splendid rooms in magnificent houses; and I have known poor little
modern dwellings in a colony to be perfectly free from them. When I am
told, "such or such a room or house is a very comfortable one _to be ill
in_" then I know that the construction and arrangement of that abode,
however simple it may appear, must needs be up to a very high mark
indeed. Of course a great deal can be done to modify existing evils, by
a judicious arrangement of screens and curtains, by taking out useless
furniture, by substituting a comfortable low bed, easy to get at, for a
cumbrous couch where the unhappy patient's nose seems as if it was
intended to rub against the ceiling, and various other improvements. But
what can remedy a smoky chimney, or a grate where all the heat goes up
the chimney, or windows that rattle, and doors that open in every
direction except the right one? How can an outside landing or lobby be
created at a moment's notice, or a staircase moved a yard further off?
Of course if an illness gave notice before it seized its victim, if
people ever realised that a house should be so constructed as to reduce
the chances of illness to a minimum, and raise its possible comforts to
a maximum if it did come, then everything would go on quite smoothly and
we should certainly live, and probably die, happy. But this is exactly
what we do not do, and this chapter would never have been written if I
had not seen with my own eyes innumerable instances where neither want
of money, nor space, nor opportunity for improvement were the causes of
a wretchedly uncomfortable sick-room.

I have known bed-rooms which looked nests of rosy, luxurious comfort
until their owner fell ill, and then turned suddenly, as it seemed, into
miserable comfortless abodes of frippery and useless, tasteless
finery--where a candle could scarcely be placed anywhere without risk of
fire, and where the patient has deeply complained of the way the
decorations of the room "worried" her. As a rule, in a severe illness,
sick people detest anything like a confusion or profusion of ornaments
or furniture. If I am in authority in such a case, I turn all gimcracks
bodily out, substituting the plainest articles of furniture to be found
in the house. Very few ornaments are allowable in a sick-room, and I
only encourage those which are of a simple, correct form. I have known
the greatest relief expressed by a patient, who seemed too ill to
notice any such change, at the substitution of one single, simple
classical vase for a whole shelf-full of tawdry French china ornaments,
and I date the recovery of another from the moment of the removal out of
his sight of an exceedingly smart modern dressing-table, with many bows
of ribbon and flounces of lace and muslin. I do not mean to say that the
furniture of a sick-room need be ugly--only that it should be simple and
not too much of it. Nothing confuses and worries a person who is ill
like seeing his attendants threading their way through mazes of chairs
and sofas and tables; but he will gladly look and find relief and even a
weary kind of pleasure in gazing at a table of a beautiful, simple form,
placed where it is no fatigue for him to look at it, with a glass of
flowers, a terra-cotta vase, a casket, anything which is so
intrinsically beautiful in form as to afford repose to the eye.

I have often observed that when people begin to take pleasure in
_colour_, it is a sure sign of convalescence--for in severe illness,
unless indeed it be of such a nature as to preclude all power of
observation, form is of more importance to the patient than colour. One
learns a great deal from what people tell one _after_ they are well
enough to talk of such things as past, distempered fancies. For
instance, I was once nursing a typhoid fever patient, who lay for some
days in an agony of weakness. He had been deaf as well as speechless,
and all his senses appeared to have faded away to the very brink of
extinction. Yet afterwards when he became able to talk of his sensations
at different stages of his illness, he mentioned that particular time,
and I found he had been keenly conscious of the _forms_ of the objects
around. He spoke of the pleasure which the folds of a curtain had
afforded him, of the "comfort" of the shape of the old-fashioned
arm-chair in which I used to sit, and of how grateful he had felt when
he observed that divers gimcracks had been removed from his sight.
Later, as he grew better, and the weary eyes craved for colour, I found
it necessary to pretend to be busy dressing dolls or making pincushions,
to afford myself an excuse for a little heap of brightest coloured silks
and fragments of ribbon placed where he could see them, and the daily
fresh bunches of flowers were a perpetual delight to his eyes.

An ideal sick-room then should first of all possess walls which will not
weary or worry the sick person, and no _good_ pattern will do this. The
low bed should be so placed that whilst it would be sheltered from
draught (the aid of one or two screens will be useful here) the light
would not fall disagreeably on the patient's eyes. No rule can be given
about light. In some cases the sick person loves to look out of the
window all day, whilst in others a ray of light _on_ the face is agony.
In such circumstances the bed should, if possible, be so arranged as to
allow the light to come from behind, for it is only in rare and
exceptional cases that sunshine as well as outer air may not be admitted
daily into a sick-room. We are fast getting beyond the ignorance of a
north aspect for a bed-room, and most of us know that sunshine is quite
as necessary to a bed-room as to a garden. No children will ever thrive
unless they have plenty of sunshine, as well as air in the rooms in
which they sleep, and a sick-room should also have both in abundance. If
the weather be hot, it is easy, in England, to modify the temperature by
means of outer blinds, _persiennes_, open doors, and other means. Few
people understand what I have learnt in tropical countries, and that is,
how to exclude the outer air during the hot hours of the day. The
windows of the nursery or sick-room (for we all need to be treated like
children when we are ill) should be opened wide during the early cool,
morning-tide, and the room flooded with sun and outer air. Then, by nine
or ten o'clock, shut up rigorously every window, darkening those on
which the sun would beat, _out-side_ the glass--by means of blinds or
outer shutters--until the evening, when they may all be set wide open
again. All woollen draperies, curtains and valences should be done away
with in a sick-room. If the windows are unsightly without curtains, and
the illness is likely to be a long one, then substitute soft,
patternless muslin or chintz, or, prettiest of all, white dimity with a
gay border, but let there be no places of concealment in a sick-room.
Every thing unsightly or inodorous should be kept out of it, and herein
is found the convenience of a well-planned and well-arranged house,
where clothes-baskets, and things of that sort, can be so bestowed as to
be at the same time handy and yet out of the way.

If it were not for the unconceivable untidiness and want of observation
which exists in the human race, such cautions as not to leave about the
room the clothes the sick person has last worn, hanging up or huddled on
a chair in a corner, would seem superfluous. But I have actually seen a
girl stricken down by a sudden fever, lying at death's door, on her
little white bed, whilst the wreath she wore at the ball where she took
the fatal chill, still hung on her toilette glass, and her poor little
satin shoes were scattered about the room.

She had been ill for days; there were two ladies'-maids in the house,
besides anxious sisters, parents, and nurses, and yet no one had thought
of putting these things out of sight. The first rule, therefore, to be
observed in nursing even bad colds, where the sufferer may have to stay
in bed a few days, is to send all the linen he has been wearing to the
wash _at once_, and to put away everything else in its proper place.
Boots should never be allowed in a sick-room, for the leather and
blacking is apt to smell disagreeably and they ought immediately to be
removed to another place.

Then there should be if possible _outside_ the door of the sick-room,
either on a landing or in another room, a convenient table, covered with
a clean, white cloth, on which should be ranged spare spoons, tumblers,
glasses, and so forth, and whatever cooling drinks are wanted, all so
managed that dust shall be an impossibility. Inside the room, on another
small table, or shelf, or top of chest of drawers, according to
circumstances, should be kept also on a snowy cloth, just whatever is
actually needed at a moment's notice--medicines and their proper
glasses, &c., and a spoon or two, but the instant anything is used, it
should be an established rule that the nurse puts the spoon or glass
_outside_, and supplies its place with a clean one. In most cases, a
servant need only renew the supply outside twice a day.

As for keeping trays with nourishment in the room, it is a sign of such
careless nursing that I should hardly dare to mention it, if I had not
more than once gone to relieve guard in a friend's splendid sick-room at
daylight, and seen the nurse's supper-tray of the night before _on the
floor_ whilst the room, in spite of all its beautiful decorations, smelt
sickly and disgusting with the odour of stale beer and pickles. It is
incredible that such things should happen, but in the confusion caused
by a sudden and severe illness, untidy and careless habits are apt to
come to the surface, and loom largely as aggressive faults. Sickness is
not only a great test of the sufferer's own character and disposition,
but of those of the people around him, and as a general rule, I have
discovered more beautiful qualities in sick people, and those about
them, who dwell in cottages or even hovels, than in more splendid homes.
Everyone knows how really kind poor people are to each other, and never
more so than when the angel of disease or death is hovering over the
humble roof-tree.

Food, or nourishment as it is called in sick-room phraseology, would not
so often be refused by the patient if it were properly managed. Who
does not know the wearisomeness of being asked, probably in the morning,
when the very thought of food is an untold aggravation to one's
sufferings what one could "fancy"? And this is probably followed by a
discussion on the merits or possibilities of divers condiments, to each
of which as it is canvassed before him the wretched patient is sure to
declare a deep-rooted repugnance. A sick person, until he reaches that
happy stage of convalescence when it is an amusement to him, should
never be allowed to hear the slightest discussion on the subject of his
nourishment. Whatever the doctor orders should be prepared with as wide
a range of variety as can be managed, and offered to him in the smallest
permissible quantities, exactly cold or hot enough to take, and served
as prettily and daintily as possible, at exactly the right moment. The
chances are a hundred to one that, if it is within the range of
possibilities that he can swallow at all, he will take it. If he does
not, there should be no argument, no attempt at forcing it on him; it
should at once be taken quite away and something different brought as
soon afterwards as is prudent. Few people realise how extraordinarily
keen the sense of smell becomes in illness, and how the faint ghost of a
possible appetite may be turned into absolute loathing by the smell of a
cup of beef-tea, cooling by the bed-side for ten minutes before it is

I am always guided in a great degree about nourishment by the instincts
of my patient, and I never force stimulants, or anything equally
distasteful on a sick person who is at all reasonable upon such matters.
I once had a patient to nurse, whose desperate illness had brought him
very near the shadowy land. It had left him, and the doctors assured me
that his life depended on how much brandy I could get down his throat
during the night. I told him this, for he was quite sensible, when he
refused the first teaspoonful, and he whispered in gasps, "I'll take as
much milk as you like; that stuff kills me." So I gave him teaspoonfuls
of pure milk all through the night every five minutes, and not a drop of
brandy. The doctor's first reproachful glance in the morning was at the
untouched brandy bottle, and he shook his head, but when he had felt the
sick man's pulse his countenance brightened, and he graciously gave me
permission to go on with the milk. Of course there are cases when the
patient never expresses an opinion one way or other, and then the only
safe rule is to obey the doctor's orders, but I never fly in the face of
any strong instinct of a sick person rationally expressed. So now I
hope we have some glimmering idea of what a sick-room should be: cool in
summer, warm in winter, but deliciously sweet and fresh and fragrant
always. Simple in its furniture, but the few needful articles, of as
agreeable shapes and as convenient as possible--a room which can be
looked back upon with a sort of affection as a place of calm, of
discipline, and of organization, as well as of the mere kindness and
willingness to help, which is seldom, if ever, absent from a sick-room,
but which is not the beginning and end of what is necessary within its

There are bed-rests and bed-tables to be hired for a sick person's use
in almost any town in England; or, if it is preferred, any village
carpenter could make a table with legs six or eight inches high, and a
top of a couple of smooth light planks, about two feet six long, scooped
out in the middle. This is very convenient when the patient is well
enough to sit up in bed and employ himself. The bed-rests are equally
simple, the upper half of a chair, padded, and made to lower at
convenience, while a loose jacket or wrapper, easy to slip on, of
flannel, should also be provided to throw over the patient's shoulders
when he uses chair and table. When the patient can sit up and occupy
himself this sort of table will be found a great comfort. It might just
as well be used when lying on a sofa.

[Illustration: FIG. 30.]

One word more, like a postscript, for it has no real business to intrude
itself here. It is only an entreaty to all nurses or those in authority
in a sick-room, to wear the prettiest clothes they possess. Not the
smartest, far from it; the simplest cottons, cambrics, what you will,
but nice and fresh and pleasant to look at. If it is only a
dressing-gown it may be a charming one. No hanging sleeves, or dangling
chains, or streaming ribbons, but sufficient colour for weary eyes to
rest on with pleasure. An ideal toilette for sick-room nursing would be
a plain holland or cambric gown, made with absolute simplicity--long
enough to be graceful without possessing a useless train--rather tight
sleeves, and no frills or furbelows; a knot of colour at the throat and
in the hair, or on the cap--only let your ribbons be exquisitely fresh
and clean--and a nice large apron, or rather bib, with one big pocket in
front. This apron may be tied back--not too tightly, please--with the
same coloured ribbons, and a little change of hue now and then is a
great rest and refreshment in a sick room. There are charming linen
aprons now embroidered in School of Art designs of the shape I allude
to, but they can be made equally well in print, or plain holland, or

No garment that rustles or creaks, or makes its presence audible should
ever cross the threshold, but the toilette of the nurse should always be
exquisitely clean and neat, and yet as bright and pretty as possible. No
sitting up at night, no anxiety or unhappiness should be an excuse for a
dirty, dishevelled attendant in a sick-room. It is _always_ possible to
steal half an hour morning and evening to wash and change, and do one's
hair neatly, and the gain and comfort to the patient as well as to the
nurse, is incalculable. This also would not be touched upon if my own
recollections did not supply me with so many instances, where all this
sort of care was considered to be absolutely worthless, and yet sick
people have remarked afterwards how perfectly conscious they had been of
all such shortcomings, and how such and such a tumbled cap, or shawl
pinned on awry had been like a nightmare to them. Beauty itself is never
more valuable than in a sick-room, and if laws could be passed on the
subject, I should like to oblige all the pretty girls of my acquaintance
to take it in turn to do a little nursing. I venture to say that no
ball-room triumphs would ever compare with the delight their possession
of God's greatest and best gift would afford to His sick and suffering
creatures. But a nurse may always make herself look pleasant and
agreeable, and if she have the true nursing instinct, the ready tact and
sympathy which a sick-bed needs, she may come to be regarded as "better
than pretty" by her grateful patient.



Perhaps the kindliest and wisest advice with regard to a spare room,
would be the same as _Punch's_ famous counsel to young people about to
marry--a short and emphatic "Don't." In a large country house, perhaps
even in a small country house, the case is different, for the spare room
too often represents all the social variety which the owners can hope
for, from year's end to year's end--and the only change from town life
possible to half the bees in the great hive. It is scarcely possible to
imagine an English country house, be it ever so humble, without its
spare room, or the warm cordial welcome which would be sure to greet its
succeeding inhabitants. How fresh and sweet and dainty do its simple
appointments look to jaded eyes! how grateful its deep stillness to
world-deafened ears! How impossible, in a brief summer week, to believe
that life can ever be found dull or monotonous amid such delicious calm!
A walk in the gloaming in a country lane,--always supposing it is not
too muddy--a cup of milk fresh from the cow, a crust off the home-baked
loaf, are all treats of the first order to the tired cockney. I have
often noticed the sort of half-pitying, half-contemptuous amazement with
which my country hostess has beheld my delight at being installed in her
spare room, my rapture at the sight of meadows and trees, or the sound
of cawing rooks and the whirr of mowing machines. And how fresh and
clean ought this country spare room to look! How inexcusable would be
stain or spot, or evil odour amid such fragrant surroundings! Why should
not the sheets _always_ smell of lavender (as a matter of fact, they do
not, I regret to state)? why should not there be _always_ a jar of dried
rose-leaves somewhere "around," as our dear, epigrammatic, Yankee
cousins say?

[Illustration: FIG. 31.]

I do not think I really like silks and satins anywhere; I acknowledge
that they fill me with a respectful admiration and awe for a short
space, but that soon wears off, and my accidental splendour bores me all
the rest of the time I have to dwell with it. No, the sort of
guest-chamber which I love to occupy in the country is as simple as
simple can be, and not so crowded with furniture, but that a little
space is left here and there where a box can be placed without its
intruding itself as a nuisance for which one feels constantly impelled
to apologise. If I am so fortunate as to find in a corner of my room a
little frame, about two feet high made by the village carpenter, or the
big boys of the household, for this box to stand on, then, indeed, I
know what luxury means. You have your box so much more under your
control if it is raised a little from the floor, and it is ever so much
easier to pack and unpack. The taste and characteristics of the owners
of the house, which you may be sure is to be found in all their
surroundings, is never more apparent than in the spare room. Sometimes
your hostess tries to make you happy with looking-glasses, and I have
shudderingly dwelt in a room with five large mirrors and sundry smaller
ones; or else you are abashed to find how many gowns there is space for,
and how few you have brought. But this extreme is better than the other:
I have had to keep my draperies on all the available chairs in the room
because I was afraid to open and shut the diminutive drawers of an
exquisite, aged coffre which was provided for their reception. Beautiful
as was this article of furniture, I would gladly have changed it for the
commonest deal chest of drawers, long before the week was out. In spare
rooms, as in all other rooms, money is not everything. It will not
always buy taste, nor even comfort. Doubtless many of my readers who may
happen to have led as varied a life as mine has been, will agree with me
in the assertion, that as far as actual _comfort_ goes, they have often
possessed it in a greater degree under a very humble roof-tree, than
beneath many a more splendid shelter. Everybody has their "little ways"
(some of them very tiresome and odd, I admit), and there are splendid
spare rooms in which apparently no margin has been left, no indulgence
shown, for any little individualities.

I should not be an Englishwoman writing to other Englishwomen if I did
not take it for granted that we all desire most ardently that our guests
should be thoroughly comfortable in their own rooms as well as happy in
our society, and so I venture to suggest that visitors should not be
fettered by too many rules, that, however homely the plenishing of the
guest-chamber must needs be, it should never lack a few fresh flowers, a
place to write (Fig. 31), pen and ink, a tiny table which can be moved
about at pleasure, a dark blind for the window, and such trifles which
often make the difference between comfort and discomfort, between a
homelike feeling directly one arrives, and the incessant consciousness
of being "on a visit."

But with regard to spare rooms in a town house, what advice can be given
beyond and except that horrid "don't"? Especially true is this in
London. No one has the least idea how many affectionate relations he
possesses until he has an empty bed-room in a London house. It would
almost appear as if such things as hotels and lodgings had ceased to
exist, so incessant, so importunate are the entreaties to be "put up"
for a couple of nights. And let me say here that visitors will prove
much more of a tax in London than they ever are in the country. For
rural visitors scarcely ever seem to realise or comprehend how
methodically mapped out is the life of a professional man living in
London, how precious are to him the quiet early hours which they insist
upon leaving behind them in the solitude of the country. Speaking as a
London hostess, I may conscientiously assert that the guests who have
kept me up latest at night, who have voted breakfast at 9.30
unreasonably early (without considering it was a whole hour later than
our usual time) have been those people who ordinarily led the quietest
and most clock-work existence in their country home. I will say nothing
here of the impossibility of inducing them to regard distance or
cab-hire as presenting any objection worth consideration in their
incessant hunt after the bargains erroneously supposed by them to be
obtainable in every shop. I have been scolded roundly by country
visitors for keeping early hours and leading a quiet life in London, and
I have never succeeded in impressing on them that in order to get
through a great deal of hard work, both my husband and I found it
necessary to do both.

To a professional man, with a small income, the institution of a spare
room may be regarded as an income tax of several shillings in the pound.
It is even worse than that; it means being forced to take in a
succession of lodgers who don't pay, who are generally amazingly
inconsiderate and _exigeante_, and who expect to be amused and advised,
chaperoned and married, and even nursed and buried. It is inconceivable
upon what slender grounds, or for what far-fetched reasons, your distant
acquaintance, or your--compared to yourself--rich relation, will
unhesitatingly demand your hospitality. And oh, my unknown friends, how
often are we tempted to say yes to the well-to-do relation who asks the
question of us, and to find an excuse to shut out the poor one who
really needs it? Ah how often?

It is really a trial to be unable to receive one's nearest kith and kin,
one's sailor brother or sister home from India, because "we have no
spare room," yet that very beginning, natural and delightful as it is,
cheerfully and laughingly borne as the little privations it entails may
be, is often the beginning of a stream of self-invited guests who
literally worry us, if they don't exactly "eat us," out of house and



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