Of course, there are anecdotes. Some say, unsurprisingly, that it was named after the Earl of Chesterfield, who was a public speaker and something of a fashion expert in his day. The story goes that on his deathbed, with his servant and his friend, Mr Dayrolls, in attendance, his last words, to his servant, were: “Give Mr Dayrolls a chair.” Then he died. The servant apparently was confused as to whether the Earl meant his friend should sit down or have a chair as a present. The story has lived on, but the Earl would not have meant a sofa, Fleming says. One has to assume that Mr Dayrolls wasn’t seen strolling down the street with a sofa on his back.
In the late 18th century, deep-buttoning on furniture was also fashionable but in velvet, not leather. So there are no clues there either. Fleming says the proper definition of a Chesterfield is a sofa with the arms and back at the same height.