Tuesday, September 8, 2009
FEATHERING HER NEST
This is an upper-class version of the bed and bolster, with canopy, Mrs. Bouncer furnished her tenants (see picture in September 3 post). A bolster is a long cylindrical cushion, used on sofas as well as beds. Box and Cox had only one bolster between them, which Mrs. Bouncer moved from end to end to accommodate their different tastes. This bolster probably had the only feathers in the bed furniture, the mattress made of wool or straw. Feather beds were for the rich. Here is a list of London prices for a pound of feathers in 1847 (for a decent mattress, about 50 pounds were needed):
This explains the flatness Cox complains of: Mrs. Bouncer has been "tapping the mattress"! -- extricating feathers from the stuffing to sell on the street. Landladies and servants often appropriated candles, coal, grease and alcohol for their own use or to sell for extra income. Compare the street price of about ten pence for a pound of feathers with the daily pay for a matchbox maker (about 18 pence for a day's labor, figure from Henry Mayhew, 1849).