Thursday, June 13, 2013

Womanly care

 Heaven knows what taste the lieutenant could boast of, but even he noticed one characteristic peculiarity about the whole place, which no luxury or style could efface--a complete absence of all trace of womanly, careful hands, which, as we all know, give a warmth, poetry, and snugness to the furnishing of a room. There was a chilliness about it such as one finds in waiting-rooms at stations, in clubs, and foyers at the theatres.
 Anton Chekhov – Mire (1886)

Do we say such things today? Or if we do, is it with a hint of embarrassment or defiance? Or like the fabled file in a prisoner’s cake, is it better to slip them in as Chekhov quotes?

I’m sure nobody is unaware of what Chekhov meant by the chilliness of public spaces. As to why they are chilly - moderns are not so likely to borrow his domestic ideal as an evocative contrast.

Yet our homes are not the private and highly personal spaces they were in Chekhov’s day. Corporate and government interests have seen to that.

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1 comment:

Sackerson said...

That's interesting, about commercial domestic style. It feels true - wallpaper, paint, furniture, electronic devices all from large manufacturers and retailers. Yet even a hundred years ago, people got their things from stores and catalogues - and we have, perhaps, far more now to choose from than then.

Maybe what makes it feel true is that people are less handy than they used to be - who makes doilies or embroiders, now? Photographs are stored on cameras, phones and computers, not silver-framed. There's no colonial trophies to hang on walls, now the Empire's gone. Women go out to work, so there's less need/opportunity for the perfumed boudoir, the dilatory toilette. Letters have been replaced by emails, texts, Facebook posts and twitters, so no escritoires with hidden compartments full of secrets.

So what's gone? Real privacy, slow time, personalisation of possessions?

Not that the working class had that much of them in the old days.