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"This was thy home then, gentle Jane,
This thy green solitude; and here
Thine eye oft watched the dappled deer
Browsing beside the brooklet clear;
The deer yet browseth—where art thou ?'*
"Instead of skill in drawing she cultivated the art of painting with the needle, and at Zurich is still to be seen, together with the original MS. of her Latin letters to the reformer Bullinger, a toilet beautifully ornamented by her own hands, which had been presented by her to her learned correspondent."
In the court of Catherine de Medicis Mary Queen of Scots was habituated to the daily practice of needlework, and thus fostered her natural taste for the art which she had acquired in the convent— supposed to have been St. Germaine-en-Laye, where she was placed during the early part of her residence in France. She left this convent with the utmost regret, revisited it whenever she was permitted, and gladly employed her needle in embroidering an altarpiece for its church.
This predilection for needlework never forsook her, but proved a beguilement and a solace during the weary years of her subsequent imprisonment, especially after she was separated from the female friends who at first accompanied her. During a part of her confinement, while she was still on comparatively friendly terms with Elizabeth, she transmitted several elegant pieces of her own needlework to this princess. She wrought a canopy, which was placed in the presence-chamber at Whitehall, consisting of an empalement of the arms of France and Scotland, embroidered under an imperial crown. It does not appear at what period of her life she worked it. During the early part of her confinement she was asked how, in unfavourable weather, she passed the time within. She said that all that day she wrought with her needle, and that the diversity of the colours made the work seem less tedious; and she continued so long at it till very pain made her to give over.
"Upon this occasion she entered into a pretty disputable comparison between carving, painting, and working with the needle; affirming painting, in her own opinion, for the most commendable quality. No doubt it was during her confinement in England that she worked the bed still preserved at Chatsworth."
The following notices from her own letters, though trifling, are interesting memorials of this melancholy part of her life:—
"July 9, 1574.—I pray you send me some pigeons, red partridges, and Barbary fowls. I mean to try to rear them in this country, or keep them in cages: it is an amusement for a prisoner, and I do so with all the little birds I can obtain.
"July 18, 1574.—Always bear in mind that my will in all things be strictly followed; and send me, if it be possible, some one with my accounts. He must bring me patterns of dresses and samples of cloths, gold and silver, stuffs and silks, the most costly and new now worn at court. Order for me at Poissy a couple of coifs, with gold and silver crowns, such as they have made for me before. Remind Breton of his promise to send me from Italy the newest kind of head-dress, veils, and ribands, wrought with gold and silver, and I will repay him.
"September 22.—Deliver to my uncle the cardinal the two cushions of my work which I send herewith Should he be gone to Lyons, he will doubtless send me a couple of beautiful little dogs; and you likewise may procure a couple for me; for, except in reading and working, I take pleasure solely in all the little animals I can obtain. You must send them hither very comfortably put up in baskets.
"February 12, 1576.—I send the king of France some poodle-dogs (barbets), but can only answer for the beauty of the dogs, as I am not allowed either to hunt or to ride."*
It is said that one of the articles which in its preparation beguiled her, perchance, of some melancholy thoughts, was a waistcoat which, having richly and beautifully embroidered, she sent to her son; and that this selfish prince was heartless enough to reject the offering because his mother (still surely Queen of Scotland in his eyes) addressed it to him as prince.
The poet so often quoted wrote the subjoined sonnet in Queen Elizabeth's praise, whose skill with her needle was remarkable. She was especially an adept in the embroidering with gold and silver, and practised it much in the early part of her life, though perhaps few specimens of her notability now exist:—
* Von Raumer's Contributions.
"When this great queene, whose memory shall not
Of Mary II., the wife of the Prince of Orange, Bishop Fowler writes thus:—" What an enemy she was to idleness! even in ladies, those who had the honour to serve her are living instances. It is well known how great a part of the day they were employed at their needles and several ingenuities; the queen herself, when more important business would give her leave, working with them. And, that their minds might be well employed at the same time, it was her custom to order one to read to them, while they were at work, either divinity or some profitable history."
And Burnet thus:—" When her eyes were endangered by reading too much, she found out the amusement of work; and in all those hours that were not given to better employment she wrought with her own hands, and that sometimes with so constant a diligence as if she had been to earn her
bread by it. It was a new thing, and looked like a sight, to see a queen working so many hours a day."
Her taste and industry in embroidery are testified by chairs yet remaining at Hampton Court.
The beautiful and unfortunate Marie Antoinette, lively as was her disposition, and fond as she was of gaiety, did not find either the duties or gaieties of a court inconsistent with the labours of the needle. She was extremely fond of needlework, and during her happiest and gayest years was daily to be found at her embroidery-frame. Her approach to this was a signal that other ladies might equally amuse themselves with their various occupations of embroidery, of knitting, or of untwisting—the profitable occupation of that day; and which was so fashionable, such a "rage," that the ladies of the court hardly stirred anywhere without two little workbags each—one filled with gold fringes, laces, tassels, or any golden trumpery they could pick up, the other to contain the gold they unravelled, which they sold to Jews.
It is said to be a fact that duchesses—nay, princesses—have been known to go about from Jew to Jew in order to obtain the highest price for their gold. Dolls and all sorts of toys were made and covered with gold brocades; and the gentlemen never failed rendering themselves agreeable to their fair acquaintance by presenting them with these toys!
Every one knows that the court costume of the French noblemen at that period was most expensive; this absurd custom rendered it doubly, trebly