Colonial - The End Of It All
( Originally Published 1907 )
THE smack of age, the relish of the saltness of time; it is this which is so delightfully associated with the old. The love for things of the past has in all ages exerted its appeal; the fascination of the old is perennial and imperishable. The attraction of the "fine last-century face" appealed to Charles Lamb, just as things of his own time appeal to us. Savage old Bajazet loved, in his moments of relaxation, to examine tapestry depicting ancient history. Generals, statesmen, artists, the average man and the average woman, all alike are susceptible to the allurement of bygone days. And in no respect is a love for things of the past more justified than in the desire to possess stately and beautiful and charming furniture of the olden, long-past time.
Stately and beautiful and charming-in this lies the important point. The furniture which one is to gather should have grace or beauty or dignity, or all three. Age alone is always sufficient to arouse interest; but age alone is not enough to justify permanent possession. Naturally, the older a piece is, the less does it positively demand other attractions. Henry James has somewhere remarked that the very old can never look quite vulgar. Yet Methuselah pieces, notable for years alone and with no other justification for being, should be avoided.
Gather things which it will be a restful delight to look upon. Gather, too, for use. Each article of furniture should be both charming and indispensable. And, so far as possible, strive for harmony of effect. Let each piece be in the fit and proper place to add to the general impression.
It is upon the heedful observance of points such as these; points which seem to be of self-evident importance but which are far too often unheeded; that the good appearance of a home depends.
And do not overload. If you can properly use but a single sofa, do not get two, unless the second one is a rarer prize and you are to discard the first. For you are furnishing a home with furniture to live with; you are not filling a museum, to be walked through with perfunctory stares. The attainment of sweetness, charm, propriety, proportion, ease, happiness-that is what old furniture is for!
We speak only as having attempted, as knowing that others can easily do all and more than all that we have done; but we speak out of an experience which tells what happiness goes with old mahogany.
And as we sit here, in front of our great fireplace, with the yellow light glowing gently through the shading trees and into our windows, thoughts come of our many adventures in quest of the quite Colonial. These rooms are very pleasant to walk through, very pleasant to live in; and it is a delight to see and to use the graceful, charming old-furniture triumphs of the past with which we have furnished them.
Old friends, old flowers, old furniture-always the same delight and charm. It is not that we have had any unusual success as gatherers of the old; it is not that our specimens would be considered first prizes in the great collections. But that is precisely the point! We are not telling how to form the great collections. We are but telling how any one may go forth and, with perseverance and enthusiasm, find delightful old bits of mahogany and walnut and china and brass and bear them home in triumph. And into life there comes a new and delightful savor, with this smack of age and this relish of the saltness of time.