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They use gold thread with inconceivable delicacy; they represent the most minute objects on morocco without varying the form, or fraying the finest gold, by a proceeding quite unknown to us. They frequently ornament their embroidery with pieces of money of different nations, and travellers who are aware of this circumstance often find in their old garments valuable and interesting coins.
The Saxons imitate the designs of the most accomplished work-people; their embroidery with untwisted thread on muslin is the most delicate and correct we are acquainted with of that kind.
The embroidery of Venice and Milan has long been celebrated, but its excessive dearness prevents the use of it. There is also much beautiful embroidery in France, but the palm for precedence is ably disputed by the Germans, especially those of Vienna.
This progress and variations of this luxury amongst various nations would be a subject of curious research, but too intricate and lengthened for our pages. We have intimations of it at the earliest period, and there is no age in which it appears to have been totally laid aside, no nation in which it was in utter disrepute. Some of its most beautiful patterns have been, as in architecture, the adaptation of the moment from natural objects, for one of the first ornaments in Roman embroidery, when they departed from their primitive simplicity in dress, was the imitation of the leaf of the acanthus—the same leaf which imparted grace and ornament to the Corinthian capital.
But it would be endless to enter into the subject
of patterns, which doubtless were everywhere originally simple enough, with
"here and there a tuft of crimson yarn, Or scarlet crewel."
And patient minds must often have planned, and assiduous fingers must long have wrought, ere such an achievement was perfected, as even the covering of the joint stool described by Cowper:—
"At length a generation more refin'd
Improved the simple plan; made three legs four,
But from the days of Elizabeth the practice of ornamental needlework, of embroidery, had gradually declined in England: the literary and scholastic pursuits which in her day had superseded the use of the needle, did not indeed continue the fashion of later times; still the needle was not resumed, nor perhaps has embroidery and tapestry ever from the days of Elizabeth been so much practised as it is now. Many individuals have indeed been celebrated, as one thus:—
"She wrought all needleworks that women exercise,
But still embroidery had ceased to be looked upon as a necessary accomplishment, or taught as an important part of education. In the early part of the last century women had become so mischievous from the lack of this employment, that the " Spectator" seriously recommends it to the attention of the community at large.
"I have a couple of nieces under my direction who so often run gadding abroad, that I do not know where to have them. Their dress, their tea, and their visits, take up all their time, and they go to bed as tired doing nothing, as I am often after quilting a whole under-petticoat. The only time they are not idle is while they read your Spectator, which being dedicated to the interests of virtue, I desire you to recommend the long-neglected art of needlework. Those hours which in this age are thrown away in dress, play, visits, and the like, were employed in my time in writing out receipts, or working beds, chairs, and hangings for the family. For my part I have plied my needle these fifty years, and by my good will would never have it out of my hand. It grieves my heart to see a couple of idle flirts sipping their tea, for a whole afternoon, in a room hung round with the industry of their greatgrandmother. Pray, Sir, take the laudable mystery of embroidery into your serious consideration; and as you have a great deal of the virtue of the last age in you, continue your endeavours to reform the present.
"I am, &c,"
"In obedience to the commands of my venerable correspondent, I have duly weighed this important subject, and promise myself from the arguments here laid down, that all the fine ladies of England will be ready, as soon as the mourning is over (for Queen Anne) to appear covered with the work of their own hands.
"What a delightful entertainment must it be to the fair sex whom their native modesty, and the tenderness of men towards them exempt from public business, to pass their hours in imitating fruits and flowers, and transplanting all the beauties of nature into their own dress, or raising a new creation in their closets and apartments! How pleasing is the amusement of walking among the shades and groves planted by themselves, in surveying heroes slain by the needle, or little Cupids which they have brought into the world without pain!
"This is, methinks, the most proper way wherein a lady can show a fine genius; and I cannot forbear wishing that several writers of that sex had chosen to apply themselves rather to tapestry than rhyme. Your pastoral poetesses may vent their fancy in great landscapes, and place despairing shepherds under silken willows, or drown them in a stream of mohair. The heroic writers may work of battles as successfully, and inflame them with gold, or stain them with crimson. Even those who have only a turn to a song or an epigram, may put many valuable stitches into a purse, and crowd a thousand graces into a pair of garters.
"If I may, without breach of good manners, imagine that any pretty creature is void of genius, and would perform her part herein but very awkwardly, I must nevertheless insist upon her working, if it be only to keep her out of harm's way.
"Another argument for busying good women in works of fancy is, because it takes them off from scandal, the usual attendant of tea-tables and all other inactive scenes of life. While they are forming their birds and beasts, their neighbours will be allowed to be the fathers of their own children, and Whig and Tory will be but seldom mentioned where the great dispute is, whether blue or red is now the proper colour. How much greater glory would Sophronia do the general if she would choose rather to work the battle of Blenheim in tapestry than signalise herself with so much vehemence against those who are Frenchmen in their hearts!
"A third reason I shall mention is, the profit that is brought to the family when these pretty arts are encouraged. It is manifest that this way of life not only keeps fair ladies from running out into expenses, but is at the same time an actual improvement.
"How memorable would that matron be, who shall have it subscribed upon her monument,, * She that wrought out the whole Bible in tapestry, and died in a good old age, after having covered 300 yards of wall in the Mansion House!'
"The premises being considered, I humbly submit the following proposals to all mothers in Great Britain r—
"1. That no young virgin whatsoever be allowed to receive the addresses of her first lover, but in a suit of her own embroidering.
"2. That before every fresh humble servant she