“Comfort” at Home Was Unfamiliar Before 1770

(p. 135) If you had to summarize it in a sentence, you could say that the history of private life is a history of getting comfortable slowly. Until the eighteenth century the idea of having comfort at home was so unfamiliar that there wasn’t even a word for the condition. ‘Comfortable’ meant merely ‘capable of being consoled’. Comfort was something you gave to the wounded or distressed. The first person to use the word in its modern sense was the writer Horace Walpole, who remarked in a letter to a friend in 1770 that a certain Mrs White was looking after him well and making him ‘as comfortable as is possible’. By the early nineteenth century, everyone was talking about having a comfortable home or enjoying a comfortable living, but before Walpole’s day no one did.

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

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