The Philosophy of Furniture

a thoughtful chairAccording to Edgar Allen Poe, who wrote an odd little meditation on the display of wealth called “The Philosophy of Furniture” in 1840 for Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, the French are a “race of gadabouts,” the English “are supreme (in internal decoration but NOT in external architecture!),” the Chinese have a “warm but inappropriate fancy,” and the Dutch have “merely a vague idea that a curtain is not a cabbage,” and the Hottentots and Kickapoos “are very well in their way.”

I had to go and look up Kickapoo and learn that they are tribe of native Americans formerly in Wisconsin and now in Kansas, Oklahoma, and north central Mexico.

More aesthetic insights from the author: “Undue precision spoils the appearance of many a room.” And, “the populace confound two entirely separate ideas: of magnificence and beauty.”

I can safely report that we have avoided both these gaffes in the furnishing of our apartment!

More Poe: “Glitter — and in that one word how much of all that is detestable do we express! Flickering, unquiet lights, are sometimes pleasing — to children and idiots always so.” (Well, I’m an idiot and I don’t care for glitter…)* “The huge and unmeaning glass chandeliers, prism-cut, gas-lighted, and without shade, which dangle in our most fashionable drawing-rooms, may be cited as the quintessence of all that is false in taste or preposterous in folly.”

Poe concludes “a carpet is the soul of the apartment” and in this I fear for my beloved parents, who have carpet layered upon carpet upon carpet, Isfahan, Tibetan, Kerman, Tabriz, and, as Poe observed, veritable proof positive that my mother triumphed over her impoverished upbringing, so deep in pile now that her grandchildren cannot visit without being overcome by fits of sneezing and coughing from the entombed decades of dust.

“As we grow rich, our ideas grow rusty.”

Today, you are invited to meditate upon your furniture!

*Actually, I love glitter. I’m an idiot and I love glitter. Except not glittery furniture actually.

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