V

THE BED.

"T)LESSED be the man who invented sleep!" cried Sancho Panza;

-D and we can all of us say, Blessed be the man who made sleep so restful and delicious as modern habits find it, with elastic mattresses, cool sheets, and changing clothes. But we have been a long time coming to our present height of luxury, and have reached it only by degrees.

About the earliest data that we have concerning beds are of the Egyptian, and they are very slight. Sir Gardiner Wilkinson thinks that the Egyptians usually slept on their day couches, which were long and straight, sometimes with a back, sometimes with carving of the heads and feet of animals at the ends, made of bronze, of alabaster, of gold and ivory, of inlaid wood, and richly cushioned. Where these were not in use, mats replaced them, or low pallets made of palm boughs, with a wooden pillow hollowed out for the head. What Egypt had, the Assyrian and the rest of the world had, and the Greek, whenever he could, improved upon; and the Greek couch, judging from the bass-reliefs on many vases, was of great elegance.

The Romans, although receiving so many of their customs and so much of their art from Greece, slept very simply until after their Eastern conquests. Indeed, beds which, with their pillows, were merely hollows in a slab of stone, have been found among Roman remains. But from the period when their Asiatic dominion so increased, the Romans borrowed fashions from the conquered, as nations always do, and they developed an immense luxury, especially in the matter of beds. Examples of the Roman form of bed were still preserved in the days of Charlemagne. In the mean time, of course, in the barbaric life of Northern and Western Europe, these forms generally being lost, it was an advance in civilization when the bench became the bed, and people were fastidious enough at last to feel above sleeping on bundles of straw or heaps of skins upon the flags.

By means of their use by the Carlovingian monarchs and their courts, however, the form of certain bronze bedsteads was handed down to succeeding generations—not at all the most inviting forms either. People all but sat up in these beds, so high at the upper end were the long mat tresses lifted at the head under piles of cushions there. Many of them had what we call the sofa back, and frequently, instead of other filling of the metal frame, straps of leather upheld the mattresses and cushions like the "sacking bottoms" of the last generation. In these beds the sleeper lay altogether naked, rolled in the drapery, although there was sometimes worn, as the illustrations of the old manuscripts show, a curious knotted head-dress.

Departing from the twelfth century, the bed became a different affair, made occasionally of bronze and of other metals, but more frequently of wood, carved and incrosted with ornament, sometimes inlaid, sometimes painted, and the mattresses themselves covered with richest stuffs of costly embroidery decked off with gold-lace. Curtains of a corresponding richness were either suspended from the ceiling or carried by columns over them. Lamps were always swung either within the curtained space or just outside, superstitions concerning evil spirits being more rampant in those days than the spirits themselves, and light being supposed to have some sacramental power in keeping them at a distance.

These beds seem at first to have been quite narrow, but they gradually increased till they reached the width of something like four yards. In such huge camps the parents and all the children, and sometimes the dogs, were wont to take their night's rest. It was considered the proper courtesy to invite an honored guest to share them—a custom that still obtained when Francis I. was able to ¿lo Admiral Bonnivet no further honor than by inviting him into his bed.

In the twelfth century, long before the day of this courteous king, curtains were attached to the cross-beams, with or without additional canopy between them, as the case might be, used principally as screens. At this time the bed stood out squarely in the room, with the head to the wall, and with either side free, and nobody seeme<j to picture the possibility of another arrangement. It was only after so many various divisions of the original great hall had taken place, and space became an object, that it occurred to their owners to set them closely into a corner—a much less healthy if more convenient fashion, certainly. To-day there is no rnle in this matter, and we set the bed as we please. Before it was pushed up closely, it was customary to have an alley between the bed and the wall,

Bed of Twelfth Century, "Dream of Pilate's Wife."

an open space called the " nielle." If one were ill, friends were received there, and to be admitted to the ruelle of the monarch's bedside was a crowning favor. It was into this ruelle and beneath the curtains of the big bed that the little cradle used to be taken at night. This cradle, by-the-way, after the child ceased to be rocked in its father's shield, was at first hollowed from the trunk of a tree, and rocked by its natural convexity ; in its next shape it was an osier basket; and later the cradles were beds placed on two pieces of bent wood; in the fifteenth century, boxed and slung on pivots. We read of a counterpane for a cradle furred with minever. Little holes were to be seen piercing the sides, through which to pass the bands that held the child safely, and the child itself was bandaged like a chrysalis, according to a custom still prevalent in certain portions of the East, and as travellers will remember having seen babies bandaged in the South of Italy.

In the thirteenth century, we see the bedstead standing low on four feet, with a surrounding balustrade and a narrow gateway open 011 one side. The beds and the cushions were stuffed with straw husks or feathers, neither wool nor hair being then used. At this period sheets came into use, a single sheet at first rolled about one; afterward two laid flat upon the bed, and hanging to the floor as quilts hang, that is, not tucked in about the bed. The bed at that time still stood in the great hall, where the family assembled, where the serfs came to render account of their produce, where the culprit was brought for trial. Life was yet exceedingly primitive, but it loved color and general sutnptuousness, and, constantly advancing to greater splendor in every article, of course did not neglect so fine an opportunity for display as this great bed afforded. In the next century the structure of the article was hardly apparent, except for the carved and panelled head-board, so utterly was it enveloped in heavy draperies. The pane, as the coverlet was styled, was of, silk velvet, cloth of gold, and all sorts of rich stuffs in gorgeous colors, brocaded with silver and gold, and lined with furs; the counterpane was merely the double of the pane, that is, the original article lined; and in the complete equipment of the bed there were ciels and lambrequins, curtains, dorsels, pendants, counterpoints, mattresses, and pillows. The various pieces of a bed of Henry Y.'s time are enumerated in a schedule as " a selour, a testor, a counterpointe, six tapits of arras with figures of hunting and hawking worked in gold, and two curtains, and one traverse of tartaryn," the whole equal to about fifteen thousand dollars present value. In the romance of "Arthur of Lytle Brytagne" there is an account of a bed that must have satisfied the highest aspirations of its owners. "Also there were dyverse beddis wonderfull ryche; but specyally one, the whiche stode in the myd-

des of tlie chambre, surmounted in beaute all other^ for y• utterbrasses thereof were of grene jasper with grete barres of golde set full of precyous stones; and the crampons were of fyne sylvar enbordered wyth golde, the postes of yvery, with pomelles of corall, and the staves closed in bokeram covered wyth crymesyn satyn, and shetes of sylke with a ryche coverynge of ermyns, and other clothes of cloth of golde, and four square pillowes wrought among the Sarasyns; the curtaynes were of grene sendal, vyroned wyth gold and azure; and round aboute this bedde there laye on the floure carpettes of sylk poynted and embrowdred with ymages of golde."

We do not find a mention of the bolster, although there were plenty of comfortable pillows, ------

before the fifteenth century, at which time the beds assumed their most ^^^ exaggerated proportions, i 4 It would seem not to . have been in such common use as to suffer ^^BttiiljfHIBBB degradation when Milton referred to it as no poet would dream of doing at present:

" Perhaps some cold bank is her bolster now."

The interior of a bedroom in the early part of the fifteenth century is described as high and spacious, with a "large window at the end approached by stone steps which form capacious seats at the side. In _

addition to the lattice- Oak Bedstead, Ix>uls XIII., of Flemish Tapestry, Brussels, 153^40.

work, there are inside shutters for the purpose of keeping out the wind and rain. The walls are covered with richly embroidered tapestry hung on tenter-hooks, and the rich arras hangings are worked with fleur-de-lis. A chair displaying novel taste in its construction, with the back and cushions embroidered, is at the bedside, and a couch well cushioned and covered with arras gives an air of comfort and refinement to the chamber."

Fine as the beds of the Middle Ages were, those of thé Renaissance exceeded them in wealth. If there were celers on the one, there were double celers on the other, double curtains, and we hear of them with draperies of violet satin with raised figures in gold, and curtains of the cloth of gold again, lined with stuffs as costly : cloth of gold, it should be understood, does not always mean literally cloth of nothing else but gold, but the gold filled one way of the web usually, some silken spun thread the other, as there was " cloth of gold of blue" and "cloth of gold of cramoisy." Some old chronicler complained of the luxurious fashions, that people were no longer able to sleep under simple quilts, and in the construction of the frame cedar, ebony, ivory, silver, and more precious matters came to be freely used. The sheets were perfumed. " The gromes," as an ancient direction runs, " schell gadyr for the kinges gowns and shetes and othyr clothes the swete floures, herbis, rotes, and thynges to make them breathe more holesomely and delectable."

In the sixteenth century the beds became columnar, and upheld the canopies and curtains that had previously been suspended in all their cuinbrousness from the ceiling. There were beds of state used on occasions of parade then, vastly magnificent, on which sometimes the favored sat, but where no one pre-

tained off from the rest of the room in which guests were customarily received. The appearance of the bed now must have been something as picturesque as it was resplendent. Only when the many wallowed in squalor could such costly magnificence have been attained by the few. The bedroom of the Duchess of Dolfino had a ceiling of a fretwork of gold upon ultramarine; the walls, we are told, " were superbly carved and decorated. One bedstead had cost five hundred ducats, and the rest of the furniture was in keeping;" while in Prince Doria's palace at Genoa

Great Bed of Ware.

tended to sleep. There was always at this period one in the anteroom of the bedchamber of a royal personage; and into the room where it stood were admitted those who were not exactly to be received in the bedchamber, but were too important not to be treated with more distinction than the outside crowd. At about the same time the beds were frequently placed in alcoves, the alcove being almost always cur-

Great Bed of Ware.

there were whole bedsteads of solid silver seen by the traveller who reports them, set with agates, carnelians, lapis lazuli, pearls, and turquoises.

To-day we have, certainly, for those that can command it—for million-naires, merchant princes, nobles, and kings—many possibilities of grand and rich furniture, yet nothing so barbarously rich and picturesque as in the late Gothic and early Renaissance era. We have lost the secret of the gorgeous stuffs; we should not dare to use them if we had not. But where in those days there was one bed of clean comfort, there are now a thousand. There is no worthy or industrious, however humble,

Castle Chamber in the Fifteenth Ceutury.

citizen of this country, out of all its millions, who has not his comfortable bed and his clean sheets, and who cannot enjoy his rest as luxuriously to his body, if not as delightfully to his eye, as any of the old feudal nobles could, as none of their dependents might. And if we cannot produce very vivid examples of beauty as of frequent occurrence in this line, it is perhaps because the beauty has been parcelled out at last among so many; and a world of us who in that period of the picturesque would have been digging in the fields by day and sleeping in the straw by night have now our bright and pleasant bedrooms, cheerful with painted or enamelled cottage sets, fine with rosewood or black walnut and white marble, or pretty with the old-fashioned slender " high-posters " of our grandmothers, with their snowy valances and testers, and the coverlets whose patterns grew beneath the gay fingers and glancing thimbles of the quilting.

0 0

Post a comment