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Curtains.

BY W. W. FENN.

CURTAINS are undoubtedly going out of fashion; and if we consider how arras has ceased to decorate our chambers and banqueting-rooms, we may say that to a certain extent they are gone. From the earliest periods of civilization, after humanity had ceased to dwell in tents, draperies and curtains probably of some kind have formed the innermost and only lining to nearly every apartment. Before the advent of the paperhanger and painter, indeed, what other method could be devised to hide the "lime and rough-cast" that "doth present wall" "? Now-a-days, however, we should be much more likely to think of covering our rooms with postage-stamps than with the produce of the Venetian or Gobelin looms.

Tapestry, or hangings of any kind on the walls, are rare things to meet with, and without going back as far as the middle ages, we shall find many proofs that curtains are gone out of date. Let the mind revert to those times when four-horse coaches and long stage wagons were the chief means of transport. Let it dwell for a moment on the halting places, say between London and York. Think of those old port-winy, ramshackled, comfortable inns, with their courtyards and outside galleries, their stabling for a hundred post-horses, their fusty, stale, tobacco-smelling rooms, with their horse-hair and thin-legged mahogany furniture; think of the mirrors over the sideboard, reflecting the narrow, many-paned windows, with the multitudinous folds of their heavy curtains; but above all, picture to yoursel the four-post bedstead. What an awful machine it was! Think of the amount of superfluous drapery that clustered around this high altar of Morpheus, swaddling up its inmate, and excluding every breath of fresh air with its festoons, rosettes, fringes, cords, tassels, testers, and valances, and with its overwhelming mass of thick curtains, each large enough to wrap half across the other, and still leave ample folds to complete the magnificence of this gorgeous catafalque! Think of the effect produced on all this mass of damask and highly polished carved wood by the fitful rays of the rushlight, flickering through the many round holes of its shade! Remember also the aspect of the room, as you ensconced yourself in the depths of that abominable abomination, a feather-bed!

How weird, dingy, and depressing the whole business was. Dwell well upon the memory of all this, and then think of the bed you slept in last night. Yes, under the despotism of curtains, it seemed to be a rule, that the darker the room, the darker still was it to be made by the addition, in every conceivable and inconceivable way, of hangings! And of what horrible stuff some of them were made! One especially detestable web comes to my recollection, giving me a cold shudder, as I touch in imagination that coarse, rough, dustcollecting fabric called watered moreen. A ridgy, crinkly, harsh sort of texture it had, that curdled your blood, and electrified your whole frame! Ugh. Let us talk of something else!

Yes, let us peep at the other side of the curtains, to restore our sensations to a healthy equilibrium.

Let us think of them when they are drawn close, about four o'clock on a winter's afternoon, when the snow lies thick on the pavement or lawn; when a murky, copper-coloured light in the west, faintly tinges the otherwise leaden sky, portending continuous bad weather; when the eager wind rattles the casement, and creeps through every chink and cranny; when curtains really become essential, and no mean attribute to the snug comfort alike of the humble parlour, or stately drawing-room. The mere words "Draw the curtains," have a pleasant sound, a sound that tells of home, and fireside, and cannot fail to bring back many a vivid picture of long evening cheeriness, of "dinner served" to hearty appetites, of—

"Old friends to laugh,

Old wine to quaff,
Old books to learn,

Old wood to burn;"

or, of tea and muffins, of hunt the slipper and forfeits, of blind man's buff, or the friendly rubber. Music rings pleasantly in the ears of memory, as the most fitting accompaniment to such happy scenes. It matters little of what material, so it be thick, the curtains then are made; let them keep out the cold, and help by their colour the general tone of warmth that pervades; and, fashionable or not, curtains under these conditions will never fade.

Still, they are "going out." Where, forsooth, is the curtain of the lady's bonnet? Where is the fair creature that, in this year of grace, would think of ordering her milliner to construct such a Gothic appendage to her out-door head-gear ?-covering it cannot be called.

Yet, but a little while ago, and such expressions as, "The curtain of my bonnet is trimmed with lace," "I must have my curtain altered,” or, "My curtain is too long," etc., were continually poured forth by rosy lips, when that all-engrossing topic, feminine costume, was brought upon the carpet.

Where are all these curtains gone? Echo, without replying to the question, brings forth for our inspection (perhaps microscopic) the "chignon "!

Another species of curtain seems fast disappearing into the limbo of the past, fading, as may be truly said, before the glare of the colours now supplanting it. This is the green baize curtain of our theatres.

There was a time, and it does not seem so very long ago, when our greatest ambition and hopes were attained, by being taken to see a pantomime, and when the first thing which met our expectant gaze was this verdant frontispiece of the proscenium; this significantly coloured title-page to the enchanted book, which we would then pore over, and strain our eyes to gaze upon with such wrapt attention. What hosts of happy memories cling round us, as we picture to ourselves the look of that flat, smooth, seam-stained piece of drapery! With what interest did we eye it, longing for the moment when the tinkle of the prompter's bell should send it, rushing with a sound "like a summer sea upon the sand," high out of sight, ever thickening in folds at its base, the further up it went.

Alas! it is seldom to be seen now! Here and there, where efforts are made to restore the legitimate drama, of which it is considered a component part, you may occasionally catch a glimpse of it, if you arrive at the commencement and stay till the conclusion of a five-act tragedy. But for all general purposes, the scene-painter's art has superseded it, and we have now in its place the act-drop, or, may be, some admirably-painted representation of a curtain of white satin, velvet, or lace; but, in the main, the act-drop with its classical picture, in its mimic gilt frame, does duty for our old friend and favouritethe green baize curtain.

Some regret must always be felt for the disappearance of time-honoured customs and habits; yet, on the whole, this departure from the profuse use of drapery may perhaps be lamented less than many of the fashions so dearly reverenced by our ancestors. Health is the great thing to be considered, and that most estimable lady, Miss Florence Nightingale, can never be too much praised for the no mean share she has had in divesting our beds and bed-rooms at

least of superfluous hangings. After all, very likely, a nicely-painted scene at the theatre is really a prettier thing to sit looking at than a dingy space of green baize; and though the needlework of our first Norman queen might form a more picturesque background for our beaux and belles, than some of the paper patterns and gaudy works of art, so-called, that we have come across in our time, it is nevertheless very doubtful if we are not, by the absence of tapestry, slightly the gainers on the score of cleanliness and fresh air.

The festooned velvet curtain, which we occasionally lean against at evening parties when the folding doors have been removed, is suggested, probably, by a recollection of the arras of the ancients, but we know it is never let down, it is quite useless, and chiefly serves to hide the marks of the hinges on the door-post. A feeble idea may possess the mind of Materfamilias, when she has " a small and early" in her still smaller drawing-rooms in Banbury Square, that the effect is graceful, and that it gives a palatial, or baronial hall-like look to her essentially modern apartments; but beyond the fact that it sometimes tumbles on to your head, and disarranges the graceful flow of your manly locks, destroying for the time your personal appearance, it does no harm, and the really magnificent curtains which our great upholsterers display, are merely wanted for a proper finish to the windows of lofty and well-ventilated saloons.

With these few exceptions then, we may safely admit that the tangible actual curtain is a thing of the past. Damask or moreen, rep or velvet, chintz, muslin, or dimity, they are very little used now, in comparison to what they were fifty years ago; nevertheless, there are other sorts of curtains which, so long as the world lasts, and human nature remains what it is, cannot, nor ever will, go out of fashion.

The curtains which we draw across our hearts, the curtains by which we endeavour to hide, even from ourselves, the innermost workings of our souls, will always remain in use. Frequently very flimsy, tattered, worn-out rags these, not serving at all the purpose for which they are intended, having great gaps and rents in them, through which we can see quite plainly, or patched and darned so clumsily, as, even by their ill-mending, to pique our curiosity to learn what there can be, upon the hiding of which so much ineffectual labour and pains have been bestowed. Worn threadbare by constant use, they are as transparent as glass itself. Now and then, indeed, we meet with quite new ones, freshly put up at the same windows, but failing equally in their object; the muslin and lace curtain which can scarcely be meant

to conceal, but is supposed to lend a gay and attractive aspect to the

mansion.

The rough, unpleasant curtain of moreen, is in continual use; it does not deceive you, you know it to be a curtain, but it is just thick enough to prevent your catching more than the faintest glimmer of light behind it, and the less you meddle with it the better. The jocose, crackling, or crisp chintz material often falls before us, but its colours, quality, and substance, are generally so agreeable, cool, and bright, that we never even so much as think of wanting to take a peep behind it, any more than we do behind the soft pleasant dimity.

Lastly, there is the thick, dark, impenetrable stuff, the velvet, rep, or damask, in perfect repair, through which it is quite hopeless ever to get the slightest idea of what is taking place on the other side; a stout substance, only to be counteracted by a like opaque screen, and where we may broadly conclude that the more the pure light of heaven is excluded from the room, the less its contents will bear to be revealed.

Thus, from the quality of the curtains always hanging at the windows of men's minds, we may sometimes obtain a clue to the character of the thoughts dwelling behind them, in much the same manner as we may judge by the outer aspect of a house, of the character of its inmates.

Walk down the street, and mark those windows which are much curtained and be-draped, leaving but small gaps by which any glimpse into the room might be gained, and you will usually find that an additional obscurity is given by the dirt on the glass, which seems seldom or never to be cleaned.

The blinds, which after all are nothing but curtains on rollers, are low drawn down, and usually of a dingy hue. Fresh air, twin brother to pure light, is equally excluded, and in the hottest weather the merest chink of ventilation obtained by the raising of the bottom sash, two inches, and this often against the wire gauze screen, which forms a low and more rigid obstruction to the penetration of outer things.

Other points in the domicile noticeably coincide with these-it always wants painting, its door-steps are always dirty, and its areagate always open. The bells are out of order, and when you have knocked three or four times, you are answered at last by a slatternly head thrust out from the kitchen or second-floor window; and it is seldom that the person you want to see is at home, or will allow as much to be stated.

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