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The Rocking Chair

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
I was wandering along google paths looking for articles about rocking chairs when I came across the following. It is a five page document so I have edited it to fit the subject of rockers. It is by Hunter Dukes and the title is: The Art of Virtual Travel: A Sordid History of the Rocking Chair and was first published in Highbrow Magazine.Before he gets to rocking chairs, however, he mentions this by William Cowper in 1785 about the act of reading:"My imagination is so captivated upon these occasions, that I seem to partake with the navigators in all the dangers they encountered. I lose my anchor; my main-sail is rent into shreds; I kill a shark, and by signs converse with a Patagonian, and all this without moving from the fire-side."Now we come onto the rocking chairs:‘While rocking chairs had been around America since the early 18th century, they did not fully enter the European consciousness until the 1830s, when travellers to the United States began commenting on their ubiquity. “In America,” wrote James Frewin for The Architectural Magazine and Journal in 1838, “it is considered a compliment to give the stranger the rocking-chair as a seat; and when there is more than one kind in the house, the stranger is always presented with the best.” Not everyone appreciated the gesture.The Rocking Chair
'That same year, in her Retrospect of Western Travel, the British social theorist Harriet Martineau stops off at a small inn between Stockbridge and Albany, New York. She describes “the disagreeable practice” of rocking in chairs and finds “ladies who are vibrating in different directions, and at various velocities, so as to try the head of a stranger almost as severely as the tobacco chewer his stomach.” A similar description later appeared in the Michigan Farmer and other magazines, echoing both the rocker’s nicotinic effects and asynchronicity; the author calls rocking chairs a woman’s “nervine, a narcotic, a stimulant,” and describes “a woman photographer [who] would sit in a rocker with a camera in her lap and placidly photograph a group of rocking women in rockers of various gaits”.'Once Martineau gets going, she has trouble stopping. “How this lazy and ungraceful indulgence ever became general, I cannot imagine”, she laments, before painting America as the Land of the Rocker:"When American ladies come to live in Europe, they sometimes send home for a rocking-chair. A common wedding present is a rocking-chair. A beloved pastor has every room in his house furnished with a rocking-chair by his grateful and devoted people. It is well that the gentlemen can be satisfied to sit still, or the world might be treated with the spectacle of the sublime American Senate in a new position; its fifty-two senators see-sawing in full deliberation, like the wise birds of a rookery in a breeze."'Charles Dickens made a parallel observation in his American Notes, finding a rocking chair aboard a steamship on the Connecticut river: “But even in this chamber there was a rocking-chair. It would be impossible to get on anywhere, in America, without a rocking-chair.” The novelist seems to appreciate his seesawing surroundings, but it is tough to tell what exactly gets Martineau’s goat. The fact that the parlor women are vibrating?’The Rocking ChairAs I said at the beginning, the above is an edited version so I hope Mr Dukes forgives any of the cuts I have made.For the poem I’d just like to nip back to another quote by Dukes from Diogenes Tubb:"Get a packet of Tidman’s sea salt and put it in a pail of hot water beside you, then recline on a rocking-chair after having devoured hastily a cheese sandwich. Rock yourself violently and inhale the salt steam. It’s every bit as good as a steamboat journey, and a great deal cheaper." He follows it by this poem published in The Youth’s Companion (1909):
When I do not wish to stay
At my home I go away;
And my trusty rocking chair
Knows the road to everywhere.
Up and down the parlour floor.
Travelling twenty times or more...
Then I make believe that we
Are two thousand miles at sea.
Thanks for reading, Terry
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