Cowper, in his poem, tells us of the origin of the sofa, how from stools supported by three legs was evolved the idea of a massive slab (supported by four legs), wadded and covered with colours variously wrought. The origin of beds seems to be lost in the dim past; but from old engravings we can see that in the times of Edward IV. they were very gorgeous. At Knole, in Kent, the bed on which James I. slept is shown, with its curtains of cloth of gold costing £8000. Most of us can remember in old houses seeing huge four-posters, which are now happily obsolete.
One improvement has been the substitution of metal for wooden bedsteads, metal not affording hiding-places for insect life or disease germs, though even metal bedsteads should be wiped over once a year with a cloth dipped in a solution of carbolic acid. The wooden bedsteads, at present on view, are certainly most artistic, but will probably prove to be a passing fancy, as the objections to them are beyond answer.
Black-japanned iron double bedsteads, with brass rails and knobs, may be bought for £2 10s.; more substantial ones of the same variety for £3 10s. Plain single iron bedsteads cost from 19/- to 21/-, including the wire mattress. Brass bedsteads vary from £9 to £15 and upwards; the very best quality in solid brass and exceptionally handsome design costing as much as £100. Twin bedsteads vary from 10/11 each to £13 13s. the pair for ordinary use.
It is well to avoid those that have very intricate work at the foot, as it requires much time to eject all dust; plain, massive, round or square supports are easily dusted and always look well. The simpler a bed is the healthier; curtains only harbour dust and keep off air; even a valance is not desirable, as it prevents a free circulation of air under a bedstead, and tends to encourage the utilization of that space into a boxroom. A fine linen sheet, prettily trimmed with coarse torchon lace, spread over the mattress and falling below the counterpane, makes a dainty finish. For those who wish a bedstead of handsome appearance the " Italian," with its hinged curtain-rails, is advisable, as at night the draperies can be placed flat against the wall.
1. SPIRAL SPRINGS. These are old-fashioned and com-fortable, but apt to get out of order.
2. DOUBLE-WOVEN STEEL WIRE. These are strong and comfortable.
3. SPRING CHAIN. In these the steel wire chains are placed about 2 inches apart, and are crossed at intervals with supports to prevent them sinking in the middle.
4. CHAIN AND MESH. These are cheap, flexible, and strong.
5. CANADIAN MESH. These are made of steel, copper-coated and lacquered.
Most wire mattresses are provided with screws at the end, which can be tightened if after use there is a tendency to sinking or "sagging."
PALLIASSES are made of wheat straw, and cost about 5/-for a single bed; they are not very general nowadays.
BOX MATTRESSES are also old-fashioned, but are liked by those who care for a high bedstead. The ventilation is not as good as in the case of wire mattresses, and they are not as cleanly, and if by any chance vermin should get into them there is no cure. They are too cumbersome for one person to lift.
FEATHER BEDS are most unhealthy, the body sinks down into them, thus preventing the escape of perspiration, and making ventilation difficult; they are very heating, and in case of illness the nurse's duties become most difficult. They require to be well shaken every day, and occasionally the feathers should be cleaned.