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are the theme of the historian—private, of the biographer; nay, the every-day circumstances of life— their dinners—their speeches—their toasts — and their post ccenam eloquence, are noted down for immortality ; whilst a woman with as much sense, with more eloquence, with lofty principles, enthusiastic feelings* and pure conduct—with sterling virtue to command respect, and the self-denying conduct of a martyr— steals noiselessly through her appointed path in life; and if she excite a passing comment during her pilgrimage, is quickly lost in oblivion when that pilgrimage hath reached its appointed goal.
And this is but as it should be. Woe to that nation whose women, as a habit, as a custom, as a matter of course, seek to intrude on the attributes of the other sex, and in a vain, a foolish, and surely a most unsuccessful pursuit of publicity, or power, or fame, forget the distinguishing, the high, the noble, the lofty, the pure and unearthly vocation of their sex. Every earthly charity, every unearthly virtue, are the legitimate object of woman's pursuit. It is hers to soothe pain, to alleviate suffering, to soften discord, to solace the time-worn spirit on earth, to train the youthful one for heaven. Such is woman's magnificent vocation; and in the peaceful discharge of such duties as these she may be content to steal noiselessly on to her appointed bourne, < the world forgetting, by the world forgot."
But these splendid results are not the effect of great exertions—of sudden, and uncertain, and enthusiastic efforts. They are the effect of a course, of a system of minor actions and of occupations, individually insignificant in their appearance, and noiseless in their approach. They are like "the gentle dew from heaven" in their silent unnoted progress, and, like that, are known only by their blessed results.
They involve a routine of minor duties which often appear, at first view, little if at all connected with such mighty ends. But such an inference would lead to a false conclusion. It is entirely of insignificant details that the sum of human life is made up; and any one of those details, how insignificant soever apparently in itself, as a link in the chain of human life is of definite relative value. The preparing of a spoonful of gruel may seem a very insignificant matter; yet who that stands by the sick-bed of one near and dear to him, and sees the fevered palate relieved, the exhausted frame refreshed ty it, but will bless the hand that made it? It is not the independent intrinsic worth of each isolated action of woman which stamps its value— it is their bearing and effect on the mass. It is the daily and hourly accumulation of minute particles which form the vast amount.
And if we look for that feminine employment which adds most absolutely to the comforts and the elegancies of life, to what other shall we refer than to Needlework? The hemming of a pocket-handkerchief is a trivial thing in itself, yet it is a branch of an art which furnishes a useful, a graceful, and an agreeable occupation to one-half of the human race, and adds very materially to the comforts of the other half.
How sings our own especial Bard ?—
"So long as garments shall be made or worne *,
'T is true, indeed, that as far as necessity, rigidly speaking, is concerned, a very small portion of needlework would suffice; but it is also true that the very signification of the word necessity is lost, buried amidst the accumulations of ages. We talk habitually of mere necessaries, but the fact is, that we have hardly an idea of what merely necessities are.
St. Paul, the hermit, when abiding in the wilderness, might be reduced to necessities; and in that noble and exalted instance of high principle referred to by Mr. Wesley,* where a person unknown to others, seeking no praise, and looking to no reward but the applaudings of his own conscience, bought a pennyworth of parsnips weekly, and on them, and them alone, with the water in which they were boiled, lived, that he might save money to pay his debts.— Surely a man of such incorruptible integrity as this would spend nothing intentionally in superfluities of dress—and yet, mark how many he would have. His shirt would be "curiously wrought," his neckcloth neatly hemmed; his coat and waistcoat and trousers would have undergone the usual mysteries of shaping and seaming; his hat would be neatly bound round the edge; his stockings woven or knitted; his shoes soled and stitched and tied; neither must we debar him a pocket-handkerchief and a pair of gloves. And see what this man—as great, nay, a greater anchoret in his way than St. Paul, for he had the world and its temptations all around, while the saint had fled from both—yet see what he thought absolutely requisite in lieu of the sheepskin which was St. Paul's wardrobe. See what was required " to cover and keep warm" in the eighteenth century,—nay, not even to "keep warm," for we did not allow either great-coat or comforter. See then what was required merely to "cover," and then say whether the art of needlework is a trivial one.
* Southey's Life; vol. ii.
Could we, as in days of yore, when sylphs and fairies deigned to mingle with mortals, and shed their gracious influence on the scenes and actions of every-day life—could we, by some potent spell or by some fitting oblation, propitiate the Genius of Needlework, induce her to descend from her hidden shrine, and indulge her votaries with a glimpse of her radiant Self—what a host of varied reminiscences would that glimpse conjure up in our minds, as—
guided by historic truth,
We trod the long extent of backward time!"
She was twin born with necessity, the first neces- ^sity the world had ever known, but she quickly left this stern and unattractive companion, and followed many leaders in her wide and varied range. She became the handmaiden of Fancy; she adorned the train of Magnificence; she waited upon Pomp; she
decorated Religion ; she obeyed Charity; she served Utility; she aided Pleasure; she pranked out Fun; and she mingled with all and every circumstance of life.
Many changes and chances has it been her lot to behold. At one time honoured and courted, she was the acknowledged and cherished guest of the royal and noble. Then in gorgeous drapery, begemmed with brilliants, bedropped with gold, she reigned supreme in hall and palace; or in silken tissue girt she adorned the high-born maiden's bower what time the "deeds of knighthood" were "in solemn canto" told. In still more rich array, in kingly purple, in regal tissue, in royal magnificence, she stood within the altar's sacred pale; and her robes, rich in Tyrian dye, and glittering with Ophir's gold, swept the hallowed pavement. When battle aroused the land she inspirited the host. When the banner was unfurled she pointed to the device which sent its message home to every heart; she displayed the cipher on the hero's pennon which nerved him sooner to relinquish life than it; she entwined those initials in the scarf, the sight of which struck fresh ardour into his breast.
But she fell into disrepute, and was rejected from the halls of the noble. Still was she ever busy, ever occupied, and not only were her services freely given to all who required them, but given with such winning grace that she required but to be once known to be ever loved—so exquisitely did she adapt herself to the peculiarities of all.
With flowing ringlets and silken robe, carolling gaily as she worked, you would see her pinking the