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He also imported from Paris a large selection of their best examples in tapestry, and also an assortment of silks of those exquisite tints which, as yet, France only can produce; and by inducing French artists, educated for this peculiar branch of design, to accompany him to England, he succeeded in establishing in England this elegant art.
This fashionable tapestry-work, certainly the most useful kind of ornamental needlework, seems quite to have usurped the place of the various other embroideries which have from time to time engrossed the leisure moments of the fair. It may be called mechanical, and so in a degree it certainly is; but there is infinitely more scope for fancy, taste, and even genius here, than in any other of the large family of" satin sketches" and embroideries.
Yes, there is certainly room in worsted work for genius to exert itself—the genius of a painter-in the selection, arrangement, and combination of colours, of light and shade, &c.; we do not mean in glaring arabesques, but in the landscape and the portrait. There is an instance given by Pennant,* where the skill and taste of the needle-woman imparted a grace to her picture which was wanting in the original.
"In one of the apartments of the palace (Lambeth) is a performance that does great honour to the ingenious wife of a modern dignitary-a copy in needlework of a Madonna and Child, after a most capital performance of the Spanish Murillo. There is most admirable grace in the original, which was
* Some account of London.-1793,
sold last winter at the price of 800 guineas. It made me lament that this excellent master had wasted so much time on beggars and ragged boys. Beautiful as it is, the copy came improved out of the hand of our skilful countrywoman: a judicious change of colour of part of the drapery has had a most happy effect, and given new excellence to the admired original."
Whilst recording the triumphs of modern needlework, we must not omit to mention a school for the education of the daughters of clergy and decayed tradesmen, in which the art of silk-embroidery was particularly cultivated. This school was under the especial patronage of Queen Charlotte; and a bed of lilac satin, which was there embroidered for her, is now exhibited at Hampton Court, and is really magnificent.
Could we now take a more extended view of modern needlework, how wide the range to which we might refer, from the jewelled and goldenwrought slippers of the East to the grass-embroidered mocassins of the West; from the gorgeous and glittering raiment of the courtly Persian, the voluptuous Turk, or the luxurious Indian, to the simple, unattractive, yet exquisitely wrought garment made by the Californian from the entrails of the whale : a range wide as the Antipodes asunder in every point except one! that is the equal though very differently displayed skill, ingenuity, and industry of the needlewoman in almost every corner of the hearth from the burning equator to the freezing Pole. This we must now pass.
Finally, feeling as we do that though ornamental
needlework may be a charming occupation for those ladies whose happy lot relieves them from the necessity of darning hose" and "mending nightcaps," yet that a proficiency in plain sewing is the very life and being of the comfort and respectability of the poor man's wife,-we cannot close this book without one earnest remark on the systems of teaching needlework now in use in the Central, National, and other schools for the instruction of the poor. There, now, the art is reduced to regular rule, taught by regular system; and there are books of instruction in cutting, in shaping, in measuring,one for the (late) Model School in Dublin, and another, somewhat similar, for that in the Sanctuary, Westminster, which would be a most valuable acquisition to the work table of many a needle-loving and industrious lady of the most respectable middle classes of society.
Any of our readers who have been accustomed, as we have, to see the domestic hearths and homes of those who, brought up from infancy in factories, have married young, borne large families, and perhaps descended to the grave without ever having learned how to make a petticoat for themselves, or even a cap for their children,-any who know the reality of this picture, and have seen the misery consequent on it, will join us cordially in expressing the earnest and heartfelt hope that the extension of mental tuition amongst the lower classes may not supersede, in the smallest iota, that instruction and PRACTICE in sewing which next, the very next, to the knowledge of their catechism, is of vital importance
to the future well-doing of girls in the lower stations of life.*
And now my task is finished; and to you, my kind readers, who have had the courtesy to accompany me thus far, I would fain offer a few words of thanks, of farewell, and, if need be, of apology.
This is, I believe, the first history of needlework ever published. I have met with no other; I have heard of no other; and I have experienced no trifling difficulties in obtaining material for this. I have spared no labour, no exertions, no research. I have toiled through many hundreds of volumes for the chance of finding even a line adaptable to my purpose: sometimes I have met with this trifling success, oftener not.
I do not mention these circumstances with any view to exaggerate my own exertions, but merely to convince those ladies, who having read the book, may feel dissatisfied with the amount of information contained therein, that really no superabundance of material exists. The subject has in all ages been deemed too trifling to obtain more than a passing notice from the historical pen. To myself, my exertions have brought their own "exceeding rich reward;" for if perchance they were at times productive of fatigue, they yet have winged the flight
*It cannot be too generally known that within late years schools have been attached to the factories, where, for a fixed and certain proportion of their time, girls are instructed in sewing and reading.
of many lonely hours which might otherwise have induced weariness or even despondency in their lagging transit.
To you, my countrywomen, I offer the book, not as what it might be, but as the best which, under all circumstances, I could now produce. The triumphant general is oftentimes deeply indebted for success to the humble but industrious pioneer; and those who may hereafter pursue this subject with loftier aims, with more abundant leisure and greater facilities of research, may not disdain to tread the path which I have indicated. I offer to you my book in the hope that it will cause amusement to some, gratification perhaps of a higher order to others, and offence-as I trust and believe-to
London: Printed by W. CLOWES and SONS, Stamford Street.