Sunday, 21 July 2013
And so to bed
While the poor had tiny beds made of canvas and straw, often slept in by an entire family, the rich had large and elaborate beds with canopies and curtains and lots of pillows. Some of them were so luxurious and worth so much they would be bequeathed in a person's will.
When bedside tables were invented, they too became a symbol of wealth and social status. As did the number of beds in the household, Louis the 14th having more than 400.
A rich person's bed was so impressive that they would often receive guests or preside over meetings while in bed. A big contrast to today, when receiving guests in your bed is seen as totally disreputable and degenerate.
The poor of course would justify their spartan bedding by saying that anything more extravagant was just a sign of self-indulgent pampering. Pillows, they insisted, were only necessary for sick women and invalids.
It was only in the 19th century that beds started to lose their social status to other possessions, and comfort became more important than how fancy your bed was. All people want to know today is whether they will sleep soundly or toss and turn all night. Or whether the bed springs will squeak embarrassingly as they pleasure a new lover. Or whether the bed's so narrow you and your loved one will be rather too intimately entwined.
In a hotel bedroom, I also want to know that the bed is clean and bug-free and not bearing traces of the previous occupant's frolics or nausea or greasy takeaway. And that the bed linen isn't threadbare from a thousand washes. And that the bed won't collapse in the middle of the night.
If I could also have a bed that guaranteed blissful and beautiful dreams, instead of the anxious and scary ones I usually have, that would be an added bonus. But I don't think the neuroscientists have cracked that one yet.