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The Bed

The "household stuff," mentioned in Mr. Snow's inventory, undoubtedly included rough tables and benches. The "bed standing in the parlour " must have been a respectable article of furniture, since its value is set down at five times that of three kettles, the chest, the chair, and other household stuff. The 500 pounds of tobacco represented at least $500 in present money at the valuation given. Thus we may conclude that the bed was a luxurious piece of furniture.

Our ancestors liked to lie soft, and, therefore, the feather bed is ever in evidence, or, in default of that, the flock bed. The importance of the bed during the period of which we are treating can hardly be overestimated. The "bed" is sometimes mentioned apart from the bed-stead, but frequently the word is used to include the bed-stead and all its furnishings, as it manifestly is in the inventory under consideration. We may pause here to describe the beds that had been used in England for many centuries, and were still in favour there.

It must be remembered that in Europe the bed-chamber was a room of great importance, for kings and queens received their courtiers in their sleeping apartments. The heavy, imposing four-poster was made a thing of beauty, as well as luxury. The framework was often superbly carved, while the bed was of softest down, the sheets of finest linen, the blankets fine, and the outer covering of cloth of gold, samite, damask, or some other costly material, richly embroidered in heraldic devices, or with some appropriate emblem. For example, Shaw tells us:

"Thomas de Mussendun, by will dated 20th July, 1402, bequeaths to his wife a bed, with a coverlet made of velvet and sattin, and paned with ermine in stripes or borders." In 1356, Elizabeth, Countess of Northampton, bequeaths to her daughter a bed of red worsted and embroidered. In 1409, Elizabeth, Lady Despenser, does the same ; as does Lady Elizabeth Andrews in 1474. King Edward the Third, in 1377, leaves to Richard, son of the Black Prince, "an entire bed marked with the arms of France and England, now in our palace of Westminster." Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Here-ford, wills, in 1361, to his niece a bed with the arms of England. Agnes, Countess of Pembroke, in 1367, gives to her daughter a bed, with the furniture of her father's arms " ; and William, Lord Ferrers of Groby, in 1368, leaves to his son " my green bed, with my arms thereon"; and to his daughter "my white bed, and all the furniture with the arms of Ferrers and Ufford thereon." Edward the Black Prince, in 1376, makes bequests "to our son Richard, the bed which the King our father gave us: to Sir Roger de Clarendon, a silk bed: to Sir Robert de Walsham, our confessor, a large bed of red camora, with our arms embroidered at each corner, also embroidered with the arms of Hereford: to Mons. Alayne Cheyne, our bed of camora, powdered with blue eagles." His widow, in 1385, gives to my dear son, the King [Richard the Second], my new bed of red velvet, embroidered with ostrich feathers of silver and heads of leopards of gold, with boughs and leaves issuing out of their mouths: to my dear son, Thomas, Earl of Kent, my bed of red camak, paied with red and rays of gold: to my dear son, John Holland, a bed of red camak." In 1368, Robert, Earl of Suffolk, bequeaths his "bed with the eagles " ; Sir Walter Manney, in 1371, "all my beds and dossers [dossers were put at the backs of chairs and tables] in my wardrobe, excepting my folding bed, paly of blue and red" ; and Edmund, Earl of March, our large bed of black satin, embroidered with white lions and gold roses, with escutcheons of the arms of Mortimer and Ulster," in 1380. Margaret, Countess of Devon, in 1391, leaves to her son Peter, "my bed of red and green paly " ; Richard, Earl of Arundel, in 1392, to his wife, Philippa, "a blue bed marked with my arms and the arms of my late wife, also the hangings of the hall, which were lately made in London, of blue tapestry with red roses, with the arms of my sons, the Earl Marshall, Lord Charlton, and Mons. Willm Beauchamp; to my son Richard, a standing bed, called Clove ; also a bed of silk, embroidered with the arms of Arundel and Warren; also, to my said son, the hangings of the large hall, of the arms of Arundel and Warren quarterly : to my dear son Thomas, my blue bed of silk, embroidered with griffins : to my daughter Charlton, my bed of red silk: to my daughter Margaret, my blue bed." Sir John Cobham, in 1394, "a red bed embroidered with lions, also a bed of Norwich stuff embroidered with butterflies" ; and Alice, Lady West, in 1395, "a bed paled black and white" and "a bed of tapiter's work." John, Duke of Lancaster, in 1397, disposes of "my large bed of black velvet, embroidered with a circle of fetter-locks [the badge of the house of Lancaster] and garters, and the beds made for my body, called in England trussing beds, my white bed of silk with blue eagles displayed"; and Thomas, Earl of Warwick, in 1400, "a bed of silk, embroidered with bears and my arms with all thereto appertaining." In 1411, Joanne, Lady Hunger-ford, leaves "a green bed embroidered with one grey-hound"; and in 1415, Edward, Duke of York, "my bed of feathers and leopards, with the furniture appertaining to the same ; also, my white and red tapestry of garters, fetter-locks, and falcons [badge of the house of York], my green bed, embroidered with a compas." In 1434, Joanne, Lady Bergavenny, devises "a bed of gold swans, with tapettar of green tapestry, with branches and flowers of divers colours, and two pair of sheets of Raynes, a pair of fustians, six pairs of other sheets, six pairs of blankets, six mattresses, six pillows, and with cushions and banncoves that longen to the bed aforesaid ; a bed of cloth of gold with lebardes, with those cushions and tapettes of my best red worsted that belong to the same bed, and bancours and formers that belong to the same bed; also, four pairs of sheets, four pairs of blankets, three pillows, and three mattresses ; a bed of velvet, white and black paled, with cushions, tapettes, and formez that belong to the same bed, three pairs of sheets, three pairs of blankets, three pillows, and three mattresses; a bed of blue baudekyn (the richest kind of stuff, the web being gold and the woof silk, with embroidery), with cushions, tapettes of blue worsted, the formez that belong to the same bed, four pairs of sheets, four pairs of blankets, four pillows, and four mattresses ; my bed of silk, black and red, embroidered with woodbined flowers of silver, and all the costers and apparel that belongeth thereto, twelve pairs of sheets, of the best cloth that I have save Raynes, six pairs of blankets, and a pane of menyver; and my best black bed of silk, with all the apparel of a chamber, of the best black tapetter that I have, six pairs of sheets," etc. The pane of minever or fur was succeeded by the counterpane (see page 17). Raynes sheeting was a linen fabric originating at Rennes. It will be noticed in the above that one bed is called Clove." It was a practice to name beds in the Tudor period; for example, Wolsey had one called Infantilege " and another called " The Sun."

Camak was a fabric, of silk and fine camel's-hair, sometimes called also camoca. Bancours (German, bank werc), a kind of tapestry.

"Green and red paly " is the heraldic term for vertical, equal alternate stripes of those colours.

The heads of the most ornate bedsteads were frequently carved. Sometimes grotesque figures were employed on each side to hold the curtains when they were drawn back. Frequently shelves were placed in the headboard, an old custom, for Chaucer alludes to them when, in speaking of the studious taste of the scholar in The Clerke's Tale, he says :

" For him was leber ban at his beddes hed, A twenty bokes clothed in black or red."

On this narrow shelf were placed medicine bottles, books, and candlesticks, and occasionally a secret cupboard. In some cases these cupboards contained a shrine. Religious sentiment was always bestowed upon the bed in mediaeval days, for not only were angels and cherubs disposed about the canopy or tester and the carvings Biblical or allegorical, but people taught their children this rhyme:

" Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Bless the bed that I lie on ;
Four corners to my bed,
Four angels round my head;
God within, God without,
Blessed Jesu all about."

Another version is as follows :

" Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Bless the bed that I sleep on,
Two angels at my head,
Four angels round my bed ;
Two to watch and two to pray,
And two to carry my soul away."

Sometimes the central panel of the bedstead had a secret spring so that it could be used as a means of escape into the adjoining chamber or into a secret passage. Also cupboards were sometimes concealed artfully in the bases of the footposts, which were often ten or fourteen inches square.

The "sixteen-post " bedstead had five small posts on the two footposts, which count as twelve, and the two headposts as two each.

The famous Great Bed of Ware," still in existence, is one of these. This is seven feet six inches high, ten feet nine inches long, and ten feet nine inches wide.

In olden times the mattresses of the beds rested upon ropes, which were laced from side to side, and these ropes were in time succeeded by a "sacking bottom that could be stretched as tightly as was needed.

These beds, in a more or less elaborate form, still existed during the seventeenth century, and our forefathers in the Southern States regarded them with great affection.

We know that the wealthy English planters of Maryland and Virginia set quite as much store by their beds as they did at home. We have evidence of this in the wills, as well as in the prices at which these articles of furniture were appraised.

As we have seen, the beds were quite luxurious, and, in families who were at all comfortably situated, the curtains and valance always appear. Against the strong draughts the valance, derived from the French avaler, to let down, was always of the same material as the curtains. Bright colours were preferred to white. The favourite materials were : drugget, a cloth of wool, or wool mixed with silk; serge, another woolen cloth, frequently scarlet in hue; green and flowered Kitterminster, or Kidderminster ; coarse linsey-woolsey ; and dimity, a stout linen cloth, originally made at Damietta, interwoven with patterns.

Another material is darnick (see inventory of Nicholas Wyatt, page 60). This was a coarse kind of damask, originally made at Dorneck (the Dutch name for Tournay). It is also applied to certain kinds of table linen, and silke dornex " also occurs. Perpetuana was a woolen fabric that received its name because of its durable qualities. Ben Jonson mentions it in Cynthia's Revels (1601), and Dekker in Satiromastix (16o2). Calico was originally a somewhat coarse cotton fabric. As we know, it took its name from Calicut in India, where it was first manufactured. We find many examples of calico curtains that were printed with variously coloured floral and other designs.

Before finishing with the bed, we may mention that the counterpoint," or counterpane," was so called from its being worked in square or diamond-shaped figures. Shaw says that the pane of minever or fur was succeeded by the counterpane, i. e., one that was contrepointe, or having knotted threads stitched through. He derives the word from the Latin pannum, a cloth, a garment, a rag.

The beds were sometimes the cause of dispute. Thus the Maryland Provincial Court had to settle one in 1642. "Edward hall demandeth of mr. John Langford, Esq. 500 lb. tob. for damage for non-pformance of a bargaine for the delivery of a flockbed and a rug, the said mr. Langford denieth the non performance." The plaintiff got judgment for 100 pounds tobacco, and the Secretary adjudged one of the bedds to be delivered that francis the carpenter or John Greenwell lay upon at Pinie neck within 7 daies or els 100 lb. tob."

The settlers soon found a native substitute when they could get neither feathers nor flock. The latter was wool, or ravelled woollen material. In 1645, John Eaton, of York County, Virginia, died possessed of an old bed stuffed with cattayles and old rugg," and nothing else in the nature of furniture. Cat-tail beds and cat-tail mixed with feathers are frequently found in the inventories after this. In 1685, for example, we find John Clayborn with a canvas bed filled with cat-tails and turkey feathers.

It must be remembered that we are still in the period prior to the Renaissance, which is just about to dawn in France. The prevailing furniture has no graceful curves, and depends almost entirely on carving for its decorative effects and on cushions for its comfort. Many a Virginian planter's house has the atmosphere of an Elizabethan manor house. We feel that English homes have been trans-planted, but have suffered no change. This will appear more clearly from a consideration of the household possessions of Thomas Deacon, of York County, Virginia, in 1647.

We may pause here to consider the general characteristics of the furniture of this period, which, as we have seen, was Elizabethan and Jacobean.

There is not any radical difference in the two styles prevalent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as an English authority thus explains : When the Stuart period succeeded the Tudor, it retained the latter's general characteristics, but the forms of carving grew heavier and the execution coarser. The table legs, baluster newels, and cabinet supports had enormous acorn-shaped masses in the legs in the middle. The great hall tables, instead of being moveable on trestles, became of unwieldy size and weight. The scroll-work had been bold but light, and the general surface of important mouldings or dividing members not cut up by the ornamentation. The panels were generally covered with graceful figure subjects, commonly Biblical. As the years advanced into the seventeenth century, Flemish work became bigger and less refined. Diamond-shaped panels were superimposed on square ones, turned work was split and laid on, drop ornaments were added below tables, and from the centres of the arches of arched panels—all unnecessary additions and encumbrances. The Jacobean style had borrowed its style of carving from the Flemish. The Flemings and the Dutch had long imported wood-work into England, and to this commerce we may trace the greater likeness between the late Flemish Renaissance carving and corresponding English woodwork than between the English and the French. Though allied to the Flemish, Dutch designs in furniture were swelled out into enormous proportions."

One of the patterns characteristic of the period is the " interlaced . strapwork." This is made by sinking the groundwork a quarter of an inch below the surface. Frequently this strapwork is used to encircle the coat-of-arms, which the Elizabethan carvers were fond of introducing on bed, chest, cabinet, chair, and, in short, wherever an opportunity was afforded.

In almost every case, hammered iron was used for the furniture-mounts, i. e., lock-plates, hinges, and handles.

Not only are these hints as to the general appearance of the Elizabethan and Jacobean furniture, but the knobs, and bosses, and panels, cut in the shape of diamonds and lozenges, suggest the art of the lapidary in their facet-like effects, and the constant use of the table-cut facet and the symmetrical arrangement of the ornaments are not unlike the work produced by the tailors and dressmakers of the period in gowns and doublets.

However, in England, during the reign of Charles II and James II (1660-1690), although French furniture was being sent across the Channel, the carved oak furniture still lingered, especially in country houses, where fine specimens may be seen today.

" The material of which the old furniture was constructed," says William Bliss Sanders,* was, almost without exception, good English oak, than which few woods offer greater advantages to the cabinet maker, from the beauty of its colour and markings, its suitability for most domestic purposes, and its strength and durability. Nor was any labour or expense spared by our ancestors in giving to the English wood the full advantage of its natural good qualities. Instead of sawing the timber required for paneling into thin parallel pieces (as is now done with the view of saving the timber), it was the old custom to rive the wood used for this purpose. This made it impossible to use any but the best parts of the tree, viz.: that portion of it which grew between the ground and the commencement of its branches. After the knots began to appear—which, as the feeders of the branches, follow their direction to the heart of the tree—the planks could no longer be riven. Evidence of the custom of riving the wood may be found in the woodwork of most old buildings, where the panels may often be seen inserted in the framing in the wedge-like form in which they were riven. In these cases, a thick shaving was cut off the thicker edge of the panel to make it thin enough to fit into a narrow groove in the framing formed to receive it—one side of the panel being wrought fair, and the other generally left rough, as riven. A certain quantity of foreign oak was also imported for cabinet-work at this time, but this was chiefly for the use of the wealthier classes, and by far the greater part of the oak used in the houses of the country squires and well-to-do yeomen was cut from trees of English growth. Many of the larger pieces of furniture, indeed, were not unfrequently put together in the rooms they were destined to occupy, and constructed of oak grown upon the estate to which the house belonged.

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