Monday, February 15, 2016

Beds in particular the mattresses

There are some among us who can sleep on anything. I lean more to the princess and the pea type. The type of beds our characters sleep on, or prefer can make some fun moments in our books. Below are excerpts about various beds in 19th Century homes. It comes from "A House and Its Furnishings" ©1869 What I didn't find mentioned in this excerpt were straw mattresses.

"I must say I never could see the comfort of such an appliance to an English bedstead; but in French bedsteads the palliasse is sunk between the sides of the bedstead to within a few inches of the floor, and upon this a comfortable wool mattrass is placed, and again, one of horse-hair upon the top. Then, Lizzie, the arrangement is not barbarous, but exquisitely comfortable. The palliasse is no longer seen in well furnished French houses . it is re-placed by the luxurious spring mattrass. We have taken from the French the idea of both, but omitted to adopt the manner of using them. Just observe how we arrange them. The sides of our bedsteads are high from the ground, and, instead of being made for sinking a mattrass within, the sides have laths, upon which to rest the palliasse or mattrass, both being a quarter of a yard in thickness, which is again surmounted by a feather bed. This formidable affair, when the bedclothes are on, is now midway between the floor and ceiling, and requires steps to mount. Anything more inconvenient and uncomfortable can hardly be conceived; the getting in and out of such a bed requiring more manual dexterity than many delicate women possess. How it came to be the fashion in England I cannot imagine, but I believe it is fast going out.

"The French spring mattress is very comfortable, but expensive; and if the springs get out of order, they make a disagreeable noise, and are not very often effectually repaired. I have slept on a patent mattrass, made of laths running from head to foot of the bedstead, and mounted on springs, and this, being scarcely raised above the sides of the bedstead, is not open to the objection of increasing the height of the sides from the floor. Some such as this you must select, and, with two wool mattrasses on the top, a feather bed will not be needed."

"One feather bed we must have, mamma, for visitors."
"Visitors, Lizzie! and two hundred a year! You must be dreaming, child! No, no; the spare bed is a long way off yet."
"But, mamma, Edward is to have an increase of salary as soon as we return."
"True, my child; but let it be reserved for some future demand, which is sure to come—don't spend it on visitors. Keep true friends by every means in your power, and true friends will never seek to occupy a spare bed in a house where the income is known to be so limited."
"WelL then, mamma, I must confess to a weakness for a feather bed; you know I have always had one, and with a sacking to the bedstead; no excruciating laths for the mattrass to drop between and create ridges, which cannot be compensated for by the softest bed."
"If you prefer a feather bed, there is no reason why you should not have it—only it must be a good one—and such will be expensive."
"I saw some very cheap beds in a window the other day; these will be good enough, mamma."
"We will see if they answer my requirements, which are somewhat exacting. For instance, Lizzie, when the bed is pressed with the hand, the feathers must rise up instantly. If there be no elasticity, the bed is not good—the feathers are old—the down is wom off them—and they will readily lump together; or, perhaps, the bed has been bought at an auction, and the feathers without re-dressing or steaming, have been placed in a new tick, and thus offered for sale. Of all cheap things, a cheap bed is to be avoided. A manufacturer of beds who supplies them in numbers is the best to apply to. Again, the bed must be bordered, and the tick of linen; and finally, according to the weight of feathers, it must readily swell out, whether it be large or small, and be free from every musty smell; and when all this is secured, and you are in possession of your coveted treasure, the bed must be sewed into thin calico, or two old sheets, to keep it clean."

"And now, mamma, while we have leisure, tell me what counterpanes and bed-furniture I should have, and about the servant's bed. You cannot tell me your reasons for choosing this or that when we are buying, and I am just as likely to wish to have the wrong as the right articles."
"As regards the servant's bed, have an iron bedstead, with cross-bands, or laths of iron, a bolster, and two mattrasses, both of wool, and inexpensive; but allow a feather pillow, three white blankets, and a coloured one for counterpane. The sheets should be of unbleached cotton, not thick, but tolerably wide, and two yards and a-half long, and as these should be changed every fortnight, it will be necessary to have six sheets. At the time of changing the sheets, the mattrass should be taken out of doors, placed on a table—never on the ground, and be well beaten and aired in the sun. The bedstead should be brushed and dusted, and the floor be washed with salt and water. Unless a mistress sees that this is done, and that the blankets are well shaken, no directions will avail. The salt and water, as you know, is to prevent or kill insects of all kinds. You should have no bed-hangings in a servant's room, but the bed must be placed out of all draught from window, door, or chimney. Remember to be careful of a servant's health and comfort; but indulgence is not apt to improve her health, temper, or manners. It is a wicked maxim that 'anything will do for servants,' and equally unwise to pamper their foibles, or give them too much liberty, or license of speech."

1 comment:

  1. Out on the western frontier, mattresses were stuffed with prairie grass or corn leaves.