The Parlor

You entered it only rarely, and you weren’t meant to be comfortable there. But every house had to have one, no matter how high the cost

To most Americans the parlor, in its stiff and overstuffed heyday, was a gesture of culture and civilization in a nation that was still more than half wilderness. It was the counterpart of the British colonial’s dinner jacket in the jungle, and America was a very different sort of jungle then than now. When Sir Charles Lyell, the distinguished geologist, visited the United States in the 1840’s he was moved to write, “I had sometimes thought that the national motto should be ‘All work and no play.’” In some respects the parlor sought to deny this.

 
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