As to the ancient furniture of good English oak, of which wood Cobbett (though I should hardly quote him as a sterling authority on such a matter) says the furniture of an Englishman’s house always ought to be, how pleasingly solid and substantial it looks, the heaviest man might plump himself down on the settle or the chairs in security.
Without the needful cushions, I grant the settle would look bare and uncomfortable in use; but with the soft, loose cushions about, that you can adjust to your own liking, it is in reality the perfection of ease. And how much better and more healthy this arrangement of loose cushions is than the usual stuffed sofa, that collects the dust which can never be wholly removed in the once-a-year spring overhaul.
With the old fashioned settle the loose cushions can readily and quickly be taken out of doors every morning and beaten free of the previous day’s dust, and so be kept ever sweet and clean. And how the good old furniture lasts, and how at home it looks in an old house: the “wood carpenter,” as he called himself, who made these chairs and tables so shapely and so strong, had no idea of a fashion in furniture changing continually, he thought in generations, not in years.
“By hammer and hand shall all things stand,” and the ancient craftsman wrought “by hammer and hand”; and so proud was he of his productions that he frequently carved the year of their making upon them, as the builder did upon his houses.
The big factory where goods are turned out wholesale by machinery was not thought of then. Now a machine has no brains, no feelings, so the articles it turns out have a smooth, uninteresting finish, they are not imbued with the personality of the hand maker, and they lack the subtle charm of it.
I almost fancy that the word manufacture has lost its original meaning, for when I hear of manufactured goods, I always think of machinery and steam; yet the word manufacture, I learn from my dictionary, means hand made, being derived from manus, the hand, and factum, a making.
James John Hissey
The Charm of the Road: England and Wales – 1910
– Jeff Burks