The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 5 Read online
Produced by David Widger
THE WORKS OF EDGAR ALLAN POE
IN FIVE VOLUMES
The Raven Edition
Philosophy of Furniture A Tale of Jerusalem The Sphinx Hop Frog The Man of the Crowd Never Bet the Devill Your Head Thou Art the Man Why the Little Frenchman Wears his Hand in a Sling Bon-Bon Some words with a Mummy The Poetic Principle Old English Poetry
Poems of Later Life
The Raven The Bells Ulalume To Helen Annabel Lee A Valentine An Enigma To my Mother For Annie To F---- To Frances S. Osgood Eldorado Eulalie A Dream within a Dream To Marie Louise (Shew) To the Same The City in the Sea The Sleeper Bridal Ballad Notes
Poems of Manhood
Lenore To One in Paradise The Coliseum The Haunted Palace The Conqueror Worm Silence Dreamland Hymn To Zante Scenes from "Politian" Note
Poems of Youth
Introduction (1831) Sonnet--To Science Al Aaraaf Tamerlane To Helen The Valley of Unrest Israfel To -- ("The Bowers Whereat, in Dreams I See") To -- ("I Heed not That my Earthly Lot") To the River -- Song A Dream Romance Fairyland The Lake To-- "The Happiest Day" Imitation Hymn. Translation from the Greek "In Youth I Have Known One" A Paean Notes
Alone To Isadore The Village Street The Forest Reverie Notes
PHILOSOPHY OF FURNITURE.
In the internal decoration, if not in the external architecture oftheir residences, the English are supreme. The Italians have but littlesentiment beyond marbles and colours. In France, _meliora probant,deteriora _sequuntur--the people are too much a race of gadabouts tomaintain those household proprieties of which, indeed, they have adelicate appreciation, or at least the elements of a proper sense. TheChinese and most of the eastern races have a warm but inappropriatefancy. The Scotch are _poor _decorists. The Dutch have, perhaps, anindeterminate idea that a curtain is not a cabbage. In Spain they are_all _curtains--a nation of hangmen. The Russians do not furnish. TheHottentots and Kickapoos are very well in their way. The Yankees aloneare preposterous.
How this happens, it is not difficult to see. We have no aristocracy ofblood, and having therefore as a natural, and indeed as an inevitablething, fashioned for ourselves an aristocracy of dollars, the _displayof wealth _has here to take the place and perform the office of theheraldic display in monarchical countries. By a transition readilyunderstood, and which might have been as readily foreseen, we have beenbrought to merge in simple _show_ our notions of taste itself.
To speak less abstractly. In England, for example, no mere paradeof costly appurtenances would be so likely as with us, to createan impression of the beautiful in respect to the appurtenancesthemselves--or of taste as regards the proprietor:--this for the reason,first, that wealth is not, in England, the loftiest object of ambitionas constituting a nobility; and secondly, that there, the true nobilityof blood, confining itself within the strict limits of legitimate taste,rather avoids than affects that mere costliness in which a _parvenu_rivalry may at any time be successfully attempted.
The people _will _imitate the nobles, and the result is a thoroughdiffusion of the proper feeling. But in America, the coins current beingthe sole arms of the aristocracy, their display may be said, in general,to be the sole means of the aristocratic distinction; and the populace,looking always upward for models, are insensibly led to confound the twoentirely separate ideas of magnificence and beauty. In short, the costof an article of furniture has at length come to be, with us, nearlythe sole test of its merit in a decorative point of view--and this test,once established, has led the way to many analogous errors, readilytraceable to the one primitive folly.
There could be nothing more directly offensive to the eye of an artistthan the interior of what is termed in the United States--that is tosay, in Appallachia--a well-furnished apartment. Its most usual defectis a want of keeping. We speak of the keeping of a room as we would ofthe keeping of a picture--for both the picture and the room are amenableto those undeviating principles which regulate all varieties of art; andvery nearly the same laws by which we decide on the higher merits of apainting, suffice for decision on the adjustment of a chamber.
A want of keeping is observable sometimes in the character of theseveral pieces of furniture, but generally in their colours or modes ofadaptation to use _Very _often the eye is offended by their inartisticarrangement. Straight lines are too prevalent--too uninterruptedlycontinued--or clumsily interrupted at right angles. If curved linesoccur, they are repeated into unpleasant uniformity. By undue precision,the appearance of many a fine apartment is utterly spoiled.
Curtains are rarely well disposed, or well chosen in respect to otherdecorations. With formal furniture, curtains are out of place; and anextensive volume of drapery of any kind is, under any circumstance,irreconcilable with good taste--the proper quantum, as well as theproper adjustment, depending upon the character of the general effect.
Carpets are better understood of late than of ancient days, but westill very frequently err in their patterns and colours. The soul of theapartment is the carpet. From it are deduced not only the hues but theforms of all objects incumbent. A judge at common law may be an ordinaryman; a good judge of a carpet _must be _a genius. Yet we have hearddiscoursing of carpets, with the air "_d'un mouton qui reve," _fellowswho should not and who could not be entrusted with the management oftheir own _moustaches. _Every one knows that a large floor _may _have acovering of large figures, and that a small one must have a coveringof small--yet this is not all the knowledge in the world. Asregards texture, the Saxony is alone admissible. Brussels is thepreterpluperfect tense of fashion, and Turkey is taste in its dyingagonies. Touching pattern--a carpet should _not _be bedizzened out likea Riccaree Indian--all red chalk, yellow ochre, and cock's feathers. Inbrief--distinct grounds, and vivid circular or cycloid figures, _ofno meaning, _are here Median laws. The abomination of flowers, orrepresentations of well-known objects of any kind, should not beendured within the limits of Christendom. Indeed, whether on carpets,or curtains, or tapestry, or ottoman coverings, all upholstery of thisnature should be rigidly Arabesque. As for those antique floor-cloth &still occasionally seen in the dwellings of the rabble--cloths of huge,sprawling, and radiating devises, stripe-interspersed, and gloriouswith all hues, among which no ground is intelligible--these are but thewicked invention of a race of time-servers and money-lovers--childrenof Baal and worshippers of Mammon--Benthams, who, to spare thoughtand economize fancy, first cruelly invented the Kaleidoscope, and thenestablished joint-stock companies to twirl it by steam.
_Glare_ is a leading error in the philosophy of American householddecoration--an error easily recognised as deduced from the perversion oftaste just specified., We are violently enamoured of gas and of glass.The former is totally inadmissible within doors. Its harsh and unsteadylight offends. No one having both brains and eyes will use it. A mild,or what artists term a cool light, with its consequent warm shadows,will do wonders for even an ill-furnished apartment. Never was a morelovely thought than that of the astral lamp. We mean, of course,the astral lamp proper--the lamp of Argand, with its original plainground-glass shade, and its tempered and uniform moonlight rays. Thecut-glass shade is a weak invention of the enemy. The eagerness withwhich we have adopted it, partly on account of its _flashiness,_ butprincipally on account of