Chippendale chair

Chippendale chair

In Brief

A minor domestic comedy unfolds as Stephen imagines his uncle Richie commanding him to have a seat ("Sit down or by the law Harry I'll knock you down"), prompting his son Walter to observe that there are no chairs in the bedroom ("He has nothing to sit down on, sir"), prompting Richie to repeat the observation as if it is Walter's fault ("He has nowhere to put it, you mug. Bring in our chippendale chair"). Clearly, the Chippendale is the one good chair in the house.

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Chippendale is a late-eighteenth century style of furniture named after the English cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale. Many Chippendale chairs were made in a Rococo style, modified from French models to appeal to slightly less extravagant English tastes. "Irish Chippendale" was an offshoot of mahogany furniture whose carvings were somewhat less exquisite than those of the English originals.

In the Gouldings' solitary Chippendale chair one can perhaps see an instantiation of Irish Catholics' tenuous connection to the middle-class respectability that they last enjoyed in the Georgian era, before the troubles of the 1790s and the Act of Union that cemented their irrelevancy. Just as Simon Dedalus has held onto the family portraits as his family has moved to steadily less prepossessing domiciles, Richie Goulding has held onto one piece of furniture that proclaims bourgeois elegance.

JH 2015
An Irish Chippendale arm chair. Source: