Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Looking back

An old professor, now a friend with whom I have regular boozy gossipy lunches, when she retired, gave me lots, and I mean LOTS of memos (fabric samples) she had used for teaching textiles for the past 40+ years. They got me thinking, and suddenly there I was, in the middle of a task, standing on one leg (don't ask) and in my mind's eye far away in the 19th century - a place and time I hasten to add, I have no personal experience of. 

For example, the chair in the drawing above - another drawing taken from my bound volume of the Quiver, a magazine from 1916 - is the, to me, wondrous Rococo Revival, or as the man in the chair would have known it, Modern French. 

The hero of the tale is a middle-aged man who nostalgically looks back the the Christmases of his youth and sighing that nothing is as good as it was. And why not, he wonders. His answer comes, totally true to life, on hearing a noise in the snowy street outside when he opens the front door and steps from the middle of the 19th century to sometime in the late 18th and undergoes adventures - one of which is nearly being pressed into navy service. Of course, a few pages later, he's back at his fireside a much wiser and more content man. 

Lot of rubbish, you might think. Well, yes, but there was a war on - the war we call The Great War or the First World War. That kind of nostalgia for a safer, simpler time, was probably both an expression of the propaganda of the times and the real longing felt by many women and families not in the fronts of the battles. 

And that's my point, in uncertain times, we look to what we perceive as simpler more humane times. 

Some of the documentary textiles I mention above were reproducing romantic patterns from the mid 19th century in the 1970s - another time of unease, for that was the time of Vietnam, Watergate, Kent State, the Fall of Saigon, and unrest in Iran. 

Funny, what takes you back - after today - back to the future. 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting story. I think many of us think that we would be happier in past eras, but if we actually could spend time in those eras we would quickly realise that they are perhaps not quite as romantic as we had assumed, and that we belong in the era that we are born into.

    Interestingly, many from the past might see the world we live in today as a near utopia, which we certainly wouldn't recognise. The freedom from painstaking and unrelenting drudgery, particularly for women, would perhaps seem incomprehensible to many in the nineteenth century, let alone the eighteenth.

    I wonder if future generations will look back to the beginning of the twenty first century with nostalgia for simpler times.