Beehive chair

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Wild thyme

New Member
Italian
I read about a butler dozing off in a "beehive chair" in a Wilkie Collins novel and could only imagine that it must be a sort of deck chair. Am I right? What kind of chair is it? Thank you
 
  • london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    There are many kinds of beehive chair. Given that Wilkie Collins died towards the end of the 19th century I imagine he was talking about a wicker chair, see this (books.google.it) definition of a beehive chair. Not what I would call a a deckchair, however. This is what I imagine:

     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    From an 1834 edition of The Mirror of Literature:
    Pliny says that the Roman matrons used to sit in sloping chairs made of a kind of willow; one of which is the ancestor of the beehive-chair of straw, so common in the West of England, of which Donne speaks: "sits down and snorts, caged in his basket chair."

    Also mentioned by Dickens, Virginia Woolf, et al.

     
    Last edited:

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    From an 1834 edition of The Mirror of Literature:
    Pliny says that the Roman matrons used to sit in sloping chairs made of a kind of willow; one of which is the ancestor of the beehive-chair of straw, so common in the West of England, of which Donne speaks: "sits down and snorts, caged in his basket chair."

    Also mentioned by Dickens, Virginia Woolf, et al.

    That is known as an Orkney/Shepherd's/Lambing chair.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    That is known as an Orkney/Shepherd's/Lambing chair.
    That may be the specific name, but a "beehive chair" is more generic. It takes its name from (a)mainly the fact that it was made using oat-straw as were skeps (beehives) (b) its shape - curved at the back, and vaguely resembling a beehive.
    OED
    beehive-chair n. (i.e. with a top like a bee-hive)
    1816 R. Southey in Q. Rev. 15 198 His place in the chimney-corner, or the bee-hive chair.

    A skep:
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    They're also called lipwork chairs. But the point is that a beehive chair is one whose shape is based on a traditional form of beehive (or bee skep):

     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The picture I posted is of a Victorian beehive chair and I can well imagine that ilkie Coillins meant something like that. As I said, there are may different kinds. See for example these modern takes:

    creoflick.met. Beehive chair by Graham Roebeck:



    Beehive chair by Christopher Angell (coroflot.com)

     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    In the context of Wilkie Collins' day, the meaning was far more restricted. I'm not sure that either of the creators of the chairs you show were aware of the earlier meaning.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    In the context of Wilkie Collins' day, the meaning was far more restricted. I'm not sure that either of the creators of the chairs you show were aware of the earlier meaning.
    I daresay, but my point is that in Wilkie Collins' novel the butler was probably dozing in a wicker chair, not an Orkney chair. I really can't imagine a well-to-do Victorian family keeping an Orkney chair in the house....
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    But the modern styles are irrelevant to this question.

    And the picture in #2 is NOT the beehive chair referred to in the link provided in that post. In that book the beehive chair is illustrated as a drawing, between two other chairs, on p. 180 — and in fact it's the very same drawing as in my link in #3..
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    But the modern styles are irrelevant to this question.

    And the picture in #2 is NOT the beehive chair referred to in the link provided in that post. In that book the beehive chair is illustrated as a drawing, between two other chairs, on p. 180.
    See my answer above. My point is that a beehive chair can mean many different things which derive from its original 'definition'. I am still convinced a butler in a Victorian home would be dozing in a wicker beehive chair and not in an Orkney chair.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The chair shown in #5 is the closest image I could find to the illustration in the 19th-century books. It is in the traditional beehive style and the text that goes with it is as follows (cf. the 1834 quote in #5):

    Rare survival of an authentic Welsh lipwork chair (made from rolls of wheat straw bound by peeled bramble). This is an ancient style of a type which was discovered in Britain by the Romans and taken back to the Continent. This example is from Hafod, Cardiganshire, and is featured in "Welsh Furniture".
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The chair shown in #5 is the closest image I could find to the illustration in the 19th-century books. It is in the traditional beehive style and the text that goes with it is as follows (cf. the 1834 quote in #5):

    Rare survival of an authentic Welsh lipwork chair (made from rolls of wheat straw bound by peeled bramble). This is an ancient style of a type which was discovered in Britain by the Romans and taken back to the Continent. This example is from Hafod, Cardiganshire, and is featured in "Welsh Furniture".
    I'm not saying it isn't a form of beehive chair. I'm saying I can't imagine a well-to-do Victorian family with one in the house.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The point is that it's the type of chair they used to carry into the garden in order to sit in the sun. This is evident from mentions of beehive chairs in old novels (and it's sometimes implied that the chair could be quite difficult to get out of!).
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The point is that it's the type of chair they used to carry into the garden in order to sit in the sun. This is evident from mentions of beehive chairs in old novels (and it's sometimes implied that the chair could be quite difficult to get out of!).
    I know that. My point is that Orkney chairs were owned by farmers. This place has a butler.....
     
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