24 February 2009

Thinking of PINKING

the Baroness in question

John Fowler Thinking of Pinking
Pure Silk Taffeta Triangles on
Behalf of Pauline de Rothschild

In an Albany apartment, or set as it is
rather idiosyncratically known, Fowler
found himself working for a client with
very individual ideas about lifestyle.
-Chester Jones, Colefax & Fowler,
The Best in English Interior Decoration

To the Trade

It stiffens always French, your Anglaisness,
She'd laughed. I just must say "Marie Antoinette!"
The decorator's need is to suggest ... ,
She'd winked. Suggestive or suggestible.
What you don't know of curtains can't be known.
And "Curtains!" is American for doom.
Silk is, you are, all I'll have of death, Monsieur.
Can Englishness stiffen American?
Should she have said Frenchly? Frenchily? Stiffens?
It always stiffens Frenchly, Englishness?
Did I not take her meaning properly?
Hers was improper usage, wasn't it?
And not a compliment. No, not a bit.
French is made difficult by Englishness?
A dog worries a bone to good effect.
My way with worry's all repulsiveness.
It's some repellent quality of mine
That comes out in a Francophiliac
Spasm. I don't care what you meant, Madame.
I'm awed that you said syllables to me
In our two languages; no, in our three.
Whatever things we said were Albanese.
Lord Byron lived here; now our poetries:
For throw rugs, pelts, whelps of a warm, nude floor;
The spaciousness let be; the walls made putty;
A window's oyster baste of taffeta ....
I'd kill to be there now, your Albany,
Our work undone, Madame, our work undone.
I'm not at odds with what I have become.
I don't use tradesman's entrances nowadays,
Not Lady Colefax's, not anyone's;
Don't eat alone in Petworth's nursery.
I'm not the thing "That Nancy" sent abroad.
Victoria: I board a night Pullman:
Voila, Paris for breakfast: pain, et man coeur.
Let's muse you triangles for ... valances,
Sheer hundreds, pinked, so no unraveling.
I dream my man cuts out the draperies;
One pattern pair in cotton, two in silk:
He hesitates once with his pinking shears;
The fall is harmed! Fresh goods, and go again!
One cannot be faint-hearted with a blade.
Knowledge of you, such as I have, translates
Abjection lit a la polonaise, creating
Our spare design as violence we succeed:
Your bed is all alone in your rare space.
It's brutally singular, wit-canopied.
Its placement lets me hail hope perfectly,
My spirit hard upon pure reason, freed.


I came across this poem years ago and being a de Rothschild devotee- fell in love with it. The poet S.X. Rosenstock writes about the infamous curtains in de Rothschild's London apartments.

The de Rothschild "curtains" yards and yards of "Pinking"

"Pinking" detail from a robe a la francaise (1765-75) the Met's Dangerous Liaisons, photographed by Joseph Coscia, Jr.

"Pinking" detail of 2006 Rodarte cashmere coat designed by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy


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