January 25, 2014

Annie's Victorian Bedchamber

written by Rosa Morgan 
Annie had come from humble beginnings in a home of eight, with four to a bed. And when she went into service at the manor house, she again shared a bed with two other scullery maids. 

Marriage to Cornelius, a publisher of a wildly popular penny dreadful, brought her good fortune and prideful ownership of a West Street terraced house. 

When Cornelius handed over her weekly pin money, she set it aside instead of indulging in yards of pretty ribbon or a new hat.  
Her dream was to
fit out her own bedchamber in similar fashion to her previous employers. She no longer scrubbed the grates and emptied the slops; she was respectable now and wanted everyone to know it. Besides, the bedchamber was sacrosanct to the home where she would give birth to her children and most likely be laid out at her death.

With her Sears Roebuck Catalog in hand, she studied the items necessary to create an atmosphere of luxury and good taste. A bare room was considered to be in poor taste, so every surface was to be filled with an excess of ornament to display her new-found wealth.

Every element was thoughtfully considered, beginning with the ceiling. She was limited in paint colors because there were only so many organic pigments available. White of course was not available and though rich dark colors would disguise soot and grime of gas and charcoal lighting, she instead chose a dove grey. For wallpaper, she chose "Pickfair" and it's accompanying frieze to run above the picture rail.
She happened upon a well-priced Chamber set including an oaken bureau, a counterpane stand, two chairs, which would would create a cozy sitting by the fire, and a washbasin stand. 

As for the wooden bed; she would use it, but having recently heard Florence Nightingale speak of germs causing disease, she would have preferred a more hygienic brass bed. And she would still open windows each day to rid the chamber of noxious air.

Adoring pattern, she found an Oriental rug to cover the drafty floorboards and a crazy quilt for the bed. She had a long list of bibelots for the mantle: a stuffed peacock, Dresden figurines, an ivory fan, a daguerreotype of themselves, and a clock. She had a delightful chamberpot for underneath the bed, which her thoughtful mother-in-law had given them upon their marriage.

She needed a wardrobe to store their clothes, a standing screen in the corner for disrobing, and a vanity for her toiletries.

Most importantly, she wanted to create a reading nook with a damask covered fainting couch for herself, a leather club chair for her husband with a footstool, in case he suffered gout, and a reading lamp.
After adding up all the costs for creating her bedchamber, she realized she had been living a fool's dream and that never would her pin money obtain her lofty goal. So hiding away her dogeared catalog, she let go of her dream and carried on with her chores.

Annie's yearnings had not gone unnoticed, verily, Cornelius had studied each of her marked pages and when he received a bonus at work, he ordered every item and had it delivered posthaste. Tears of joy flowed as did kisses of gratitude when Annie saw her bedchamber completed, for it exceeded her vision and no better husband could she have asked for.