At the end of Charlotte Bronte’s novel, “Jane Eyre”, Jane is talking about the ward, a young French girl under the charge of Mr. Rochester named Adele who has benefitted by “…a sound English education [that] corrected in great measure her French defects;” The chauvinism in that sentence is amusing given the French/English tussle that has gone on since the Norman Conquest. Score one for the Brits by Ms. Bronte.
It is new things, however that interest me. Newness is something not all of us are easy with for a host of reasons. Familiarity allows us to relax, new things, essential as they are, can vex us. When I think of how furniture design was roiled in England by the French (Et tu, Ms. Bronte?) with the introduction of rococo (readily adapted by the English but with less gusto) not to mention a home grown Gothick style as well as a touch of chinoiserie, the British of the 1740’s and 50’s, at least the young turks of that era, must have been looked upon as heretical in their tastes.
The judgment of the furniture design of that era has never really ended, however. As comfortable as it may make some people to have a nice rococo mirror, there are still ugly rococo mirrors from the 1750’s out there. There are also some pretty spectacular ones as well. Shift to 2009 and try to imagine just how much of the contemporary art which was, up until recently, so very hot and try to think where it will be in 250 years.
New things and new ideas are like bread to humanity. But all things are judged from the moment they exist to the moment they cease to exist. Ideas that are overly intellectual without emotional impact (or vice-versa) will sooner or later lose their foothold on our imaginations. And some things that die prematurely will be reborn so there is hope for just about everything. English furniture, I might add, has a very nice track record thusfar and will continue to do so because when it works, it is among the most comfortable and beautiful furniture of all time.