« PreviousContinue »
invented. There has been no lack of endeavour, even amongst the world's greatest and mightiest, but poor ie work" have they made of it. Hercules lost all the credit of his mighty labours from his insignificance at the spinning wheel, and the sceptre of Sardanapalus passed from his grasp as he was endeavouring to "finger the fine needle and nyse thread."
These love-stricken heroes might have said with Gower—had he then said it—
"What things she bid me do, I do,
Our modern Hercules, the Leviathan of literature, was not more successful.
Dr. Johnson.—" Women have a great advantage that they may take up with little things, without disgracing themselves; a man cannot, except with fiddling. Had I learnt to fiddle I should have done nothing else."
Boswell.—" Pray, Sir, did you ever play on any musical instrument?"
Dr. Johnson.—" No, Sir; I once bought a flageolet, but I never made out a tune."
Boswell.—" A flageolet, Sir! So small an instrument? I should have liked to hear you play on the violoncello. That should have been your instrument."
Dr. Johnson.—" Sir, I might as well have played on the violoncello as another; but I should have done nothing else. No, Sir; a man would never undertake great things could he be amused with small. I once tried knotting; Dempster's sister undertook to teach me, but I could not learn it"
BoswelL—" So, Sir; it will be related in pompous narrative, ( once for his amusement he tried knotting, nor did this Hercules disdain the distaff.1"
Dr. Johnson.—" Knitting of stockings is a good amusement, As a freeman of Aberdeen, I should be a knitter of stockings."
Nor was Dr. Johnson singular in his high appreciation of the value of some sort of stitchery to his own half of the human race, if their intellects unfortunately had not been too obtuse for its acquisition. The great censor of the public morals and manners a century ago, the Spectator, recommends the same thing, though with his usual policy he feigns merely to be the medium of another's advice.
"Mr. Spectator,—You are always ready to receive any useful hint or proposal, and such, I believe, you will think one that may put you in a way to employ the most idle part of the kingdom; I mean that part of mankind who are known by the name of the women's men, beaux, &c. Mr. Spectator, you are sensible these pretty gentlemen are not made for any manly employments, and for want of business are often as much in the vapours as the ladies. Now what I propose is this, that since knot
ting is again in fashion, which has been found a very pretty amusement, that you will recommend it to these gentlemen as something that may make them useful to the ladies they admire. And since it is not inconsistent with any game or other diversion, for it may be done in the playhouse, in their coaches, at the tea-table, and, in short, in all places where they come for the sake of the ladies (except at church, be pleased to forbid it there to prevent mistakes), it will be easily complied with. It is besides an employment that allows, as we see by the fair sex, of many graces, which will make the beaux more readily come into it; and it shows a white hand and a diamond ring to great advantage; it leaves the eyes at full liberty to be employed as before, as also the thoughts and the tongue. In short, it seems in every respect so proper that it is needless to urge it further, by speaking of the satisfaction these male knotters will find when they see their work mixed up in a fringe, and worn by the fair lady for whom, and with whom, it was done. Truly, Mr. Spectator, I cannot but be pleased I have hit upon something that these gentlemen are capable of; for it is sad so considerable a part of the kingdom (I mean for numbers) should be of no manner of use. I shall not trouble you further at this time, but only to say, that I am always your reader and generally your admirer. C. B.
"P.S.—The sooner these fine gentlemen are set to work the better; there being at this time several fringes that stay only for more hands."
But, alas! the sanguine writer was mistaken in
supposing that at last gentlemen had found a something " of which they were capable." The days of knotting passed away before they had made any proficiency in it; nor have we ever heard that they have adopted any other branch or stitch of this extensive art. There is variety enough to satisfy anybody, and there are gradations enough in the stitches to descend to any capacity but a man's. There are tambour stitch—satin—chain— finny — new — bred — feme — and queen-stitches; there is slabbing—veining—and button stitch; seeding—roping—and open stitch: there is sockseam— herring-bone—long stitch—and cross stitch: there is rosemary stitch—Spanish stitch—and Irish stitch: there is back stitch—overcast—and seam stitch: hemming—felling—and basting: darning—grafting —and patching: there is whip stitch—and fisher stitch: there is fine drawing—gathering—marking—trimming—and tucking.
Truly all this does require some vov?, and the lords of the creation are more to be pitied than blamed for that paucity of intellect which deprives them of " woman's pretty excuse for thought."
Raillery apart, sewing is in itself an agreeable occupation, it is essentially a useful one; in many of its branches it is quite ornamental, and it is a gentle, a graceful, an elegant, and a truly feminine occupation. It causes the solitary hours of domestic life to glide more smoothly away, and in those social unpretending reunions which in country life and in secluded districts are yet not abolished, it takes away from the formality of sitting for conversation, abridges the necessity for scandal, or, to say the least of it, as we h ve heard even ungallant lordly man allow, it keeps us out of mischief.
And there are frequent and oft occurring circumstances which invest it with characteristics of a still higher order. How many of " the sweet solicitudes that life beguile" are connected with this interesting occupation! either in preparing habiliments for those dependent on our care, and for love of whom many an unnecessary stitch which may tend to extra adornment is put in; or in those numberless pretty and not unuseful tokens of remembrance, which, passing from friend to friend, soften our hearts by the intimation they convey, that we have been cared for in our absence, and that while the world looked dark and desolate about us, unforgetting hearts far, far away were holding us in remembrance, busy fingers were occupied in our behoof. Oh! a reticule, a purse, a slipper, how valueless soever in itself, is, when fraught with these home memories, worth that which the mines of Golconda could not purchase. And of such a nature would be the feelings which suggested these well-known but exquisite lines:—
"The twentieth year is well nigh past,
My Mary!"Thy spirits have a fainter flow,
My Mary I