Agree with Sooth. In old houses there are usually little things that all add up to the correct old house character Things like the right amount of lighting, period colors and, of course, textures. One of those textures is what's often referred to as a "ropey finish." This is a characteristic texture that a carefully brushed on paint or clear finish gives.
This finish was purposeful, not the result of lack of ability. House painters, who also finished hardwoods, were perfectly able to produce a smooth silken finish, but the characteristics of a ropey finish were desirable, then, much as they are now in old homes.
It is actually quite difficult to fully reproduce this finish today, since oil-lead-based paints, which are outlawed, did it so well.
Depending on your goal, new renovation or handsome restoration, that brushed-on finish may add just the right amount of classic "oldness" to your home.