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Dining Room

Before we dismiss the furniture of the " dining room " of this period, it may interest some of our readers to know that until the first edition of "Johnson's Dictionary" was published in 1755, the term was not to be found in the vocabularies of our language designating its present use. In Barrat's " Alvearic," published in 1580, " parloir," or "parler," was described as " a place to sup in." Later, " Minsheu's Guide unto Tongues," in 1617, gave it as "an inner room to dine or to suppe in," but Johnson's definition is " a room in houses on the first floor, elegantly furnished for reception or entertainment."

To the latter part of the eighteenth century - the English furniture of which time has been discussed in this Chapter - belong the quaint little " urn stands " which were made to hold the urn with boiling water, while the tea pot was placed on a little slide which is drawn out from underneath the top. T11 those days tea was an expensive luxury, and urn stands (illustrated below) were inlaid in the fashion of the time. These, together with the old mahogany or marqueterie tea caddies, which were sometimes the object of considerable skill and care, are dainty relics of the past. One of these, designed by Chippendale, as illustrated on page 179, and another by Hepplewhite will be found on page 194. They were fitted with two and sometimes three bottles or tea poys of silver or Battersea enamel, to hold the black and green teas, and when really good examples of these daintily-fitted tea caddies are offered for sale they bring large sums.

The "wine table" of this time deserves a word. These are now somewhat rare, and are only to be found in a few old houses, and in some of the Colleges at Oxford and Cambridge. These were fitted with revolving tops, which had circles turned out to a slight depth for each glass to stand in, and they were sometimes shaped like the half of a flat ring. These latter were for placing in front of the fire, when the outer side of the table formed a convivial circle, round which the sitters gathered after they had left the dinner table.

One of these old tables is still to be seen in the Hall of Gray's Inn, and the writer was told that its fellow was broken and had been " sent away." They are nearly always of good rich mahogany, and have legs more or less ornamental according to circumstances.

A distinguishing feature of English furniture of the last century was the partiality for secret drawers and contrivances for hiding away papers or valued articles; and in old secretaires and writing tables we find a great many ingenious designs which remind us of the days when there were but few banks, and people kept money and deeds in their own custody.

The reader who would make a careful study of English furniture of the period discussed in this chapter, is referred to the exhaustive work edited by Mr. John Aldam Heaton, and published by Mr. Bumpus in parts: - "Furniture and Decoration in England during the 18th Century, being facsimile reproductions of the choicest examples from the works of Chippendale, Adam, G. Richardson, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Piranesi, and others."

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