What goes on four legs is good
What goes on two is bad
Obviously when the visionary author George Orwell wrote these lines he wasn’t talking about furniture. My personal preference lies somewhere between these digits, about three. A lot of early vernacular furniture was made with three legs because three legs will sit comfortably on uneven floors.
George Orwell’s vision would also extend beyond 1984 and he would see in the future that a prominent politician would bring his real name (Eric Blair) into disrepute and so he decided to change it to something with no aggressive connotations. He chose something serene and tranquil and named himself after a river.
It is quite incredible the amount of writers down the ages who have chosen pseudonyms for themselves. In Elizabethan times if one was putting quill to parchment discussing current affairs and one wanted to keep one’s head it was almost essential to have a pseudonym.
Of course the name of the world’s most successful writer William Shake-speare is a pseudonym and on most of his early publications it appeared with the hyphen as Shake-speare. Unsurprisingly for a man with such dexterity and wit in regard to the English language his personal pseudonym turned out to be one of the very cleverest.
The Christian name William and the surname Shake-speare both relate to the Goddess of Greek myth Pallas Athena who among other things was the Goddess of literature and drama. A literal definition of the name William or to take its Germanic root Will-Helm means golden helmet.. The name Shake-speare means literally that – to shake a spear, because when Pallas Athena was born from the head of Zeus that was exactly what she was doing. She was born fully armed wearing a golden helmet and in war like mode shaking a spear.
In Elizabethan times writing wasn’t regarded as it is today as high art, in fact it was frowned upon. It would have been a common occurrence for Elizabethans to go to watch a play at one of the new theatres which had recently sprung up in London, where the name of the writer of that play wasn’t even mentioned. It is not a commonly known fact but as a younger man Shakes-speare above all things wanted to be a military leader. So it was not only with dramatic insight but with ambitious verve that he aligned himself with the Goddess of war, wisdom and literature when he chose the name William Shakes-speare.
Moving on to furniture history it is interesting to try and fathom out where the name cricket table originated. It is known that the sport of cricket was around by the 16th century and although Shakespeare did play real-tennis I am not sure he even mentions cricket. I am pretty certain that cricket tables were around a long time before this, but were they called cricket tables in the middle ages?
The old French word ‘criquet’ does mean stick as does the Middle Dutch word ‘kricke’ thus it follows that the term cricket table is a quite reasonable description of a table that has three stick legs.
From a solely sentimental perspective could small three legged tables have been used as stumps at the conception of the game of cricket? This does sound implausible, but could it be true!
Amongst a scattering of Antique country furniture we have a number of Sycamore cricket tables at home which are all greatly loved and which prove that in old age it is a timber which can develop a lovely patina and character.
Our kitchen has a very stout example, which was made at the end of the Georgian period and has now turned a lovely pale honey colour; this table has a triangular shelf or tier below. In its past it has entertained some woodworm who’s labours within have matured to manifest themselves as a labyrinth of grey coloured worm galleries scattered across it, which have left a very pleasant display upon its surface. It is a table which exudes great character and warmth.
Interestingly Sycamore also has a pseudonym because although it is a member of the Maple family it is in fact not closely related to the plane tree or other trees that may be called Sycamore. Because its leaves have a superficial similarity to other trees in the genus plantus it is known not only as Sycamore but also as pseudoplantus.
Shakespeare by Another Name by Mark Anderson
Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom by Charles Beauclerk
The Marginalia of Edward de Veres Geneva Bible by Dr Roger Stritmatter.
The Monument by Hank Whittimore.