Thursday, 6 February 2014

Gertrude Jekyll and the Haslemere Peasants - Part 3

The final similarity in Jekyll's Old West Surrey which I believe does reflect some of the sentiment held by the Haslemere Peasant Arts movement, is Jekyll's views on furniture, which she covers in Chapter 2, "The Old Furniture of Cottage and Farmhouse".  This, and Jeykll's accompanying photographs of oak furniture, reminds me of Arthur Romney Green's furniture, although Green's furniture is more stylistic.

“It seems a strange thing that, in these days of general progress and enlightenment, the household furniture of cottage and farm should have become so much debased and deteriorated.

Oak table, seven feet long
“In the older days it was sufficient, strong, well-made, and beautiful of its kind.  It gave a comfortable sense of satisfaction, in that it was absolutely suitable for its purpose. Many of the more solid pieces, oak tables, dressers, linen chests and cupboards, had come down from father to son from Tudor and Jacobean times.  They had gained a richly dark colouring and delightful surface by age and by frequent polishing with bees’-wax, and were the just pride of the good housewife.

“Now, alas!  This fine old furniture is rare in these country dwellings.  It has been replaced by wretched stuff, shoddy and pretnentious.  It is even more noticeable in the farm houses, where, even if a good piece or two remains, it is swamped by a quantity of things that are flimsy and meretricious.

“The tendency of the age, regrettably prevalent in England, and shown in a straining after a kind of display unsuited to station, seems in some measure to account for this.  Another bad influence is the quantity of cheap rubbish, the outcome of trade competition, offered in shops; stuff that has no use or beauty, but that is got up for rapid sale with a showy exterior in imitation of a class of appointment used in houses of an entirely different class.

"The painful result is that the labourer’s cottage and the farmer’s house, that formerly had their right and suitable furnishing, and therefore each its own respective beauty and dignity, have now lost both these qualities, and for the most part only show an absurd and sordid vulgarity.

“Here and there one still meets with people who have the wisdom to honour their own station in life, and whose good sense and good taste has led them to treasure their fine old furniture and to resist the flood of pretentious frivolity that has in so many cases debased the homely dignity and comfort of the farmhouse parlour into an absurd burlesque of a third-rate drawing-room."

Two rush-bottomed oak armchairs

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