convergences Screen 39 | Strange Furniture

John Webber: Nootka house interior


A voyage, or a tale, slim or tall,
grows in the telling, as details accumulate
in each articlation. Remember
Sheharizad, who would not stop talking,
or the old sailor, compelled
to tell his story to the wedding guest
who could not get away until the end.
The source of the metal and the origin of the silver spoons are not the only mysteries. Consider the odd device near the middle of Webber's drawing of the long house interior. You remember the story: he had to buy time by giving away everything in his pockets, then his buttons one by one, then his shoes, and finally his clothes. He sketched as fast as he could, trying to include all the details. When he was completely naked his hosts stopped pestering him, allowing him all the time he needed to finish. In the excitement, however, Webber forgot to ask about the various things he was sketching, and no one was subsequently able to identify the object in front of the carved figure beside the person seated on the bench. Even the Mooachahts, until recently, could not tell you what it was.

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