Victorian London - Houses and Housing - Housing of the Middle Classes - Interior Design, Decoration, Furnishing - The Back Parlour



    IN selecting the back parlour of Mr. Snooks for the second subject of our London Interiors, we are actuated by a desire to bring before the public one of those lovely pictures of domestic comfort which are to be found neither in the halls of the highest nor the garrets of the  lowest, but in the parlours - back and front - of the middling classes of society. Mr. Snooks's back parlour is approached by a neat passage, a few feet long by several inches wide, the floor being covered in the centre with a narrow floor-cloth, while the sides, exhibiting the bare boards, evince the triumph of art, and sho what may be achieved by a simple scrubbing-brush. At either end is a highly finished door-mat, of curiously elaborated rope, and a row of pegs placed horizontally along the wall, finish off the scene, with two hats and a macintosh. A slight curve at the end of the passage we have described brings us at once to the door of Mr. Snooks' back parlour; and proceeding a few inches further we find that we have gone directly into it. The interior, though small, wears an air of compactness; and if the fittings up are in the severe style of classic coldness, there is at least much taste shown its the arrangement of them - everything is in that order which has been emphatically described as "apple-pie" by an anonymous authority. The carpet, which is a showy but not very short Venetian, occupies the centre of the room and abuts closely on a somewhat capacious hearth-rug, which displays in a remarkable degree the desire of its owner to patronise the arts, for there is a spirited medallion in the centre, representing a cat upon a tuft of green worsted.
    But in examining Mr. Snooks's back parlour with a view to the works of art it contains, we are bound to confess that, looking at him simply as a connoisseur, he seems to have thrown the whole of his strength on to his chimney-piece, and to have concentrated all his energies upon the objects of taste and virtu that crown the wooden erection which overhangs his fire-place. On the extreme right of  this museum in miniature (if we may be allowed to call it so) is a transparent vase of green glass, and on the extreme left  is another, which, but for the absence of a small piece near the top, would be exactly similar. In the centre is a small white figure, purchased by Mr. Snooks of an italian artist who passed through Pentonville on his way from Genoa; and it is said by Mr. Snooks himself to represent either Milton or Shakspeare ; but, from the imperfect account given of it by the foreign vendor, the point has never been settled. On the right of the figure, and consequently to the left of one of the green vases, is a match-stand, which, as it is constantly empty, has been allowed to be matchless by all who have had the privilege of looking closely into it. Its exterior is ornamented with an irregular scroll-work, and the inside is of the purest white ; but it is to be regretted that the fellow to it, which was formerly inl the possession of Mr. Snooks, was broken by its having been incautiously used by the proprietor for hot water to shave with.
    The eye, after quitting the chimney-piece, naturally ascends to the wall over it. On both sides of the fire-place is a recess, and each is conveniently fitted with what is to all appearance a roomy cupboard; but one of them is, in fact, devoted to a piece of machinery, the merit of which does not rest with Mr. Snooks, who purchased the valuable secret just as it stood of the prior occupant. On opening the door of the apparent cupboard, the visitor is startled by a pair of wooden legs, which look as if they were suspended in the air ; but on closer inspection they are found to be attached to an ingenious piece of mechanism, which when drawn out to its full extent has all the appearance of being what it really is - a bedstead. Leaving this part of the room and passing along the rug, we find ourselves on the other side of the fire-place ; and turning round a little to the heft, we come close against a door, which, when thrown wide open, displays a sight that is sure to gratify the visitor. At the extreme back, and supported by the wall, is a view of a Chinese bridge, with boys passing over it, which on inspection is found to be painted entirely in blue, on a ground of white earthenware; but on taking the work of art into his own hand, the visitor finds that he has been occupied in examining a dish of the famous willow pattern. Mr. Snooks has a set of six in size and in front of them hangs a sort of drapery, suspended on nails, and composed of blue and white mugs, interspersed with tea-cups. The collection is not large, but it is extremely judicious, and it has taken Mr. Snooks much time and trouble to get together. 
    We had almost forgotten the table, which is one of the principal features of the place, for it stands on a tripod in the centre of the room and is a very ancient piece of workmanship, having been purchased in Broker's Alley so far back as the year 1825 by Mr. Snooks's aunt, who died and left it to him. The chairs, of which there are two, are profusely rushed, and elegantly japanned, the prevailing colour being stone, with stripes of green here and there, to break the monotony of tone that would otherwise attach to them.
    Mr. Snooks rents his back-parlour by the week, and holds it immediately under the first-floor lodger, who took it of the tenant of the whole house -  an enterprising individual who agreed for the premises with the lessee of the original landlord. The ground belongs to the Archbishop of Canterbury so that, in reality, Snooks is connected by one of the closest relations - that of tenant in a remote degree - with the Primate of England.

Punch, Jan.-Jun. 1842