The front parlour is an old-fashioned idea, hence my spelling of it. It was usually a sitting room, right off the main entrance of the house. It showcased the best furniture that the family owned, the children rarely were allowed to enter, and as the age of technology made its mark on our lives, the television was not permitted in the front parlour.
Even families of modest means attempted to keep up with the parlour tradition. You were permitted to listen to music in the parlour, or read a book. Guests were brought into the prized room to sit and chat. Once in a while you would serve coffee, tea, or if they were really lucky, some sweet liquor. (Think Downton Abbey).
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the front parlour was a status symbol. Your works of art might be displayed there, or perhaps, if you were comfortably situated financially, you might have some musicians entertain with chamber music.
When immigrants arrived in the United States they brought with them the tradition of the front parlour. Although when money was tight the front parlour became the only parlour.
I remember my Grandmother calling our only living room, which eventually had a television in it, (another status symbol at one time), the parlour. In that city apartment you could use the center room as the parlour or the dining room. She chose to make it her sitting room. The overstuffed maroon and grey couch and chair was called the parlour set. Naturally she had slip covers made to protect the brushed velvet fabric. No one ever saw how pretty it really was until the springs finally gave way and the furniture sat at the curb, uncovered, fabric almost brand new. Everyone on the block saw what a beautiful set we were throwing out
Sometime during the twenieth century the parlour went the way of the dodo bird. Life became more casual and status symbols moved outside the home to what kind of car you drove, watch you wore, or brand of liquor you drank. There was rarely a room in your home designated for just one kind of activity. Children were heard more than they were seen, as music blared from all rooms. Perhaps not such a bad thing.
Last night, I had a revelation which I wish to share. Jim and I were watching TV in the den. Our den has a sectional, chair, computer, fireplace, and of course a television. At some point I was sick of sitting there having the TV blaring out at me. Granted all the new shows were being aired, and I wanted to see them, but I suddenly felt brain-dead. I picked up a book, trudged down the hall, and went into the living room.
After a short time I looked at my surroundings, as I don’t sit in there often. It probably gets dusted and vacuumed more than used. The room in question is right off the center hall to the right of the front door. It contains books, liquor, music and the best furniture we own. There is art work gracing the walls, and mood lighting. I HAVE A PARLOUR.
So if you come to visit – Come into my parlour, said I to the fly!