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Title: The Art of Needle-work, from the Earliest Ages, 3rd ed. - Including Some Notices of the Ancient Historical Tapestries
Author: Menzies, Sutherland, fl. 1840-1883
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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             THE ART


            EDITED BY


         _THIRD EDITION._











                        THE AUTHORESS.


If there be one mechanical art of more universal application than all
others, and therefore of more universal interest, it is that which is
practised with the NEEDLE. From the stateliest denizen of the proudest
palace, to the humblest dweller in the poorest cottage, all more or
less ply the busy needle; from the crying infant of a span long and an
hour's life, to the silent tenant of "the narrow house," all need its
practical services.

Yet have the NEEDLE and its beautiful and useful creations hitherto
remained without their due meed of praise and record, either in sober
prose or sounding rhyme,--while their glittering antithesis, the
scathing and destroying sword, has been the theme of admiring and
exulting record, without limit and without end!

The progress of real civilization is rapidly putting an end to this
false _prestige_ in favour of the "Destructive" weapon, and as rapidly
raising the "Conservative" one in public estimation; and the time
seems at length arrived when that triumph of female ingenuity and
industry, "THE ART OF NEEDLEWORK" may be treated as a fitting subject
of historical and social record--fitting at least for a female hand.

The chief aim of this volume is that of affording a comprehensive
record of the most noticeable facts, and an entertaining and
instructive gathering together of the most curious and pleasing
associations, connected with "THE ART OF NEEDLEWORK," from the
earliest ages to the present day; avoiding entirely the dry
technicalities of the art, yet furnishing an acceptable accessory to
every work-table--a fitting tenant of every boudoir.

The Authoress thinks thus much necessary in explanation of the objects
of a work on what may be called a maiden topic, and she trusts that
that leniency in criticism which is usually accorded to the adventurer
on an unexplored track will not be withheld from her.


      Introductory                                         1


      Early Needlework                                    11


      Needlework of the Tabernacle                        23


      Needlework of the Egyptians                         32


      Needlework of the Greeks and Romans                 41


      The Dark Ages.--"Shee-Schools"                      56


      Needlework of the Dark Ages                         64


      The Bayeux Tapestry.--Part I.                       84


      The Bayeux Tapestry.--Part II.                     103


      Needlework of the Times of Romance and Chivalry    117


      Tapestry                                           148


      Romances worked in Tapestry                        165


      Needlework in Costume.--Part I.                    186


      Needlework in Costume.--Part II.                   209


      "The Field of the Cloth of Gold"                   231


      The Needle                                         252


      Tapestry from the Cartoons                         273


      The Days of "Good Queen Bess"                      282


      The Tapestry of the Spanish Armada; better
        known as the Tapestry of the House of Lords      301


      On Stitchery                                       312


      "Les Anciennes Tapisseries." Tapestry of St.
        Mary Hall, Coventry. Tapestry of Hampton Court   329


      Embroidery                                         342


      Needlework on Books                                355


      Needlework of Royal Ladies                         374


      Modern Needlework                                  395






    "Le donne son venute in eccellenza
    Di ciascun'arte, ove hanno posto cura;
    E qualunque all'istorie abbia avvertenza,
    Ne sente ancor la fama non oscura.

         *   *   *   *   *

    E forse ascosi han lor debiti onori
    L'invidia, o il non saper degli scrittori."


In all ages woman may lament the ungallant silence of the historian.
His pen is the record of sterner actions than are usually the vocation
of the gentler sex, and it is only when fair individuals have been by
extraneous circumstances thrown out, as it were, on the canvas of
human affairs--when they have been forced into a publicity little
consistent with their natural sphere--that they have become his theme.
Consequently those domestic virtues which are woman's greatest pride,
those retiring characteristics which are her most becoming ornament,
those gentle occupations which are her best employment, find no record
on pages whose chief aim and end is the blazoning of manly heroism, of
royal disputations, or of trumpet-stirring records. And if this is the
case even with historians of enlightened times, who have the gallantry
to allow woman to be a component part of creation, we can hardly
wonder that in darker days she should be utterly and entirely

Mohammed asserted that women had no souls; and moreover, that, setting
aside the "diviner part," there had only existed _four_ of whom the
mundane qualifications entitled them to any degree of approbation.
Before him, Aristotle had asserted that Nature only formed women when
and because she found that the imperfection of matter did not permit
her to carry on the world without them.

This complimentary doctrine has not wanted supporters. "Des hommes
très sages ont écrit que la Nature, dont l'intention et le dessein est
toujours de tendre à la perfection, ne produirait s'il était possible,
jamais que des hommes, et que quand il naît une femme c'est un monstre
dans l'ordre de ses productions, né expressément contre sa volonté:
ils ajoutent, que, comme on voit naître un homme aveugle, boiteux, ou
avec quelqu'autre défaut nature; et comme on voit à certains arbres
des fruits qui ne mûrissent jamais; ainsi l'on peut dire que la femme
est un animal produit par accident et par le hasard."[1]

Without touching upon this extreme assertion that woman is but "un
monstre," an animal produced by chance, we may observe briefly, that
women have ever, with some few exceptions,[2] been considered as a
degraded and humiliated race, until the promulgation of the Christian
religion elevated them in society: and that this distinction still
exists is evident from the difference at this moment exhibited between
the countries professing Mohammedanism and those professing

Still, though in our happy country it is now pretty generally allowed
that women are "des créatures humaines," it is no new remark that they
are comparatively lightly thought of by the "nobler" gender. This is
absolutely the case even in those countries where civilization and
refinement have elevated the sex to a higher grade in society than
they ever before reached. Women are courted, flattered, caressed,
extolled; but still the difference is there, and the "lords of the
creation" take care that it shall be understood. Their own
pursuits--public, 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 coenam_
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 by 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

How sings our own especial Bard?--

    "So long as garments shall be made or worne;
    So long as hemp, or flax, or sheep shall bear
    Their linnen wollen fleeces yeare by yeare;
    So long as silkwormes, with exhausted spoile
    Of their own entrailes, for mans gaine shall toyle:
    Yea, till the world be quite dissolv'd and past,
    So long, at least, the NEEDLE'S use shall last."

'Tis 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,[3] 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.

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 necessity 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

With flowing ringlets and silken robe, carolling gaily as she worked,
you would see her pinking the ruffles of the Cavalier, and ever and
anon adding to their piquancy by some new and dainty device: then you
would behold her with smoothly plaited hair, and sad-coloured garment
of serge, and looks like a November day, hemming the bands of a
Roundhead, and withal adding numerous layers of starch. With grave and
sedate aspect she would shape and sew the uncomely raiment of a
Genevan divine; with neat-handed alacrity she would prepare the grave
and becoming garments of the Anglican Church, though perhaps a gentle
sigh would escape, a sigh of regret for the stately and glowing
vestments of old: for they did honour to the house of God, not because
they were stately and glowing, but because they were offerings of _our

In all the sweet charities of domestic life she has ever been a
participant. Often and again has she fled the splendid court, the
glittering ball-room, and taken her station at the quiet hearth of the
gentle and home-loving matron. She has lightened the weariness of many
a solitary vigil, and she has heightened the enjoyment of many a
social gossip.

Nor even while courted and caressed in courts and palaces did
Needlework absent herself from the habitations of the poor. Oh no, she
was their familiar friend, the daily and hourly companion of their
firesides. And when she experienced, as all do experience, the
fickleness of court favour, she was cherished and sheltered there. And
there she remained, happy in her utility, till again summoned by royal
mandate to resume her station near the throne. The illustrious and
excellent lady who lately filled the British throne, and who reigned
still more surely in the hearts of Englishwomen, and who has most
graciously permitted us to place her honoured name on these pages,
allured Needlework from her long seclusion, and reinstated her in her
once familiar place among the great and noble.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fair reader! you see that this gentle dame NEEDLEWORK is of ancient
lineage, of high descent, of courtly habits: will you not permit me to
make you somewhat better acquainted? Pray travel onward with me to her
shrine. The way is not toilsome, nor is the track rugged; but,

    "Where the silver fountains wander,
    Where the golden streams meander,"

amid the sunny meads and flower-bestrewn paths of fancy and
taste--there will she beguile us. Do not then, pray do not, forsake


[1] On aurait de la peine à se persuader qu'une pareille opinion eût
été mise gravement en question dans un concile, et qu'on n'eût décidé
en faveur des femmes qu'après un assez long examen. Cependant le fait
est très véritable, et ce fut dans le Concile de Macon.

    Problème sur les Femmes, où l'on essaye de prouver que
    les femmes ne sont point des créatures
    humaines.--_Amsterdam, 1744._

[2] As, for instance, the ancient Germans, and their offshoots, the
Saxons, &c.

[3] Southey's Life; vol. ii.



    "The use of sewing is exceeding old,
    As in the sacred text it is enrold:
    Our parents first in Paradise began."

                        John Taylor.

    "The rose was in rich bloom on Sharon's plain,
    When a young mother, with her first-born, thence
    Went up to Sion; for the boy was vow'd
    Unto the Temple service. By the hand
    She led him; and her silent soul the while,
    Oft as the dewy laughter of his eye
    Met her sweet serious glance, rejoic'd to think
    That aught so pure, so beautiful, was hers,
    To bring before her God."


In speaking of the origin of needlework it will be necessary to define
accurately what we mean by the term "needlework;" or else, when we
assert that Eve was the first sempstress, we may be taken to task by
some critical antiquarian, because we may not be able precisely to
prove that the frail and beautiful mother of mankind made use of a
little weapon of polished steel, finely pointed at one end and bored
at the other, and "warranted not to cut in the eye." Assuredly we do
not mean to assert that she did use such an instrument; most
probably--we would _almost_ venture to say most _certainly_--she did
not. But then again the cynical critic would attack us:--"You say that
Eve was the first professor of _needle_work, and yet you disclaim the
use of a needle for her."

No, good sir, we do not. Like other profound investigators and
original commentators, we do not annihilate one hypothesis ere we are
prepared with another, "ready cut and dried," to rise, like any fabled
phoenix, on the ashes of its predecessor. It is not long since we were
edified by a conversation which we heard, or rather overheard, between
two sexagenarians--both well versed in antiquarian lore, and neither
of them deficient in antiquarian tenacity of opinion--respecting some
theory which one of them wanted to establish about some aborigines.
The concluding remark of the conversation--and we opined that it might
as well have formed the commencement--was--

"If you want to lay down _facts_, you must follow history; if you want
to establish a system, it is quite easy to place the people where you

So, if I wished to "establish a system," I could easily make Eve work
with a "superfine drill-eyed needle:" but this is not my object.

It seems most probable that Eve's first needle was a thorn:

    "Before man's fall the rose was born,
    St. Ambrose sayes, without the thorn;
    But, for man's fault, then was the thorn,
    Without the fragrant rosebud, born."

Why thorns should spring up at the precise moment of the fall is
difficult to account for in a world where everything has its use,
except we suppose that they were meant for needles: and general
analogy leads us to this conclusion; for in almost all existing
records of people in what we are pleased to call a "savage" state, we
find that women make use of this primitive instrument, or a fish-bone.
"Avant l'invention des aiguilles d'acier, on a dû se servir, à leur
défaut, d'épines, ou d'arêtes de poissons, ou d'os d'animaux." And as
Eve's first specimen of needlework was certainly completed before the
sacrifice of any living thing, we may safely infer that the latter
implements were not familiar to her. The Cimbrian inhabitants of
Britain passed their time in weaving baskets, or in sewing together
for garments the skins of animals taken in the chase, while they used
as needles for uniting these simple habiliments small bones of fish or
animals rudely sharpened at one end; and needles just of the same sort
were used by the inhabitants of the Sandwich Islands, when the
celebrated Captain Cook first visited them.

Proceed we to the material of the first needlework.

"They sewed themselves fig-leaves together, and made themselves

Thus the earliest historical record; and thus the most esteemed
poetical commentator.

                  "Those leaves
    They gather'd, broad as Amazonian targe,
    And, with what skill they had, together sew'd,
    To gird their waist."

It is supposed that the leaves alluded to here were those of the
banian-tree, of which the leaves, says Sir James Forbes, are large,
soft, and of a lively green; the fruit a small bright scarlet fig. The
Hindoos are peculiarly fond of this tree; they consider its long
duration, its outstretching arms, and overshadowing beneficence, as
emblems of the Deity, and almost pay it divine honours. The Brahmins,
who thus "find a fane in every sacred grove," spend much of their time
in religious solitude, under the shade of the banian-tree; they plant
it near the dewals, or Hindoo temples; and in those villages where
there is no structure for public worship, they place an image under
one of these trees, and there perform morning and evening sacrifice.
The size of some of these trees is stupendous. Sir James Forbes
mentions one which has three hundred and fifty _large_ trunks, the
smaller ones exceeding three thousand; and another, whereunder the
chief of the neighbourhood used to encamp in magnificent style; having
a saloon, dining room, drawing-room, bedchambers, bath, kitchen, and
every other accommodation, all in separate tents; yet did this noble
tree cover the whole, together with his carriages, horses, camels,
guards, and attendants; while its spreading branches afforded shady
spots for the tents of his friends, with their servants and cattle.
And in the march of an army it has been known to shelter seven
thousand men.

Such is the banian-tree, the pride of Hindûstan: which Milton refers
to as the one which served "our general mother" for her first essay in
the art of needlework.

                "Both together went
    Into the thickest wood; there soon they chose
    The fig-tree; not that tree for fruit renown'd,
    But such as at this day, to Indians known,
    In Malabar or Deccan spreads her arms,
    Branching so broad and long, that in the ground
    The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow
    About the mother tree, a pillar'd shade
    High overarch'd, and echoing walks between:
    There oft the Indian herdsman, shunning heat,
    Shelters in cool, and tends his pasturing herds
    At loopholes cut through thickest shade: Those leaves
    They gather'd, broad as Amazonian targe;
    And, with what skill they had, together sew'd,
    To gird their waist."

Some of the most interesting incidents in Holy Writ turn on the
occupation of needlework; slight sketches, nay, hardly so much, but
mere touches which engage all the gentler, and purer, and holier
emotions of our nature. For instance: the beloved child of the
beautiful mother of Israel, for whom Jacob toiled fourteen years,
which were but as one day for the love he bare her--this child, so
eagerly coveted by his mother, so devotedly loved by his father, and
who was destined hereafter to wield the destinies of such a mighty
empire--had a token, a peculiar token, bestowed on him of his father's
overwhelming love and affection. And what was it? "A coat of many
colours;" probably including some not in general use, and obtained by
an elaborate process. Entering himself into the minutiæ of a concern,
which, however insignificant in itself, was valuable in his eyes as
giving pleasure to his boy, the fond father selects pieces of
various-coloured cloth, and sets female hands, the most expert of his
household, to join them together in the form of a coat.

But, alas! to whom should he intrust the task? She whose fingers
would have revelled in it, Rachel the mother, was no more; her warm
heart was cold, her busy fingers rested in the tomb. Would his sister,
would Dinah execute the work? No; it was but too probable that she
shared in the jealousy of her brothers. No matter. The father
apportions the task to his handmaidens, and himself superintends the
performance. With pleased eye he watches its progress, and with
benignant smile he invests the happy and gratified child with the
glowing raiment.

This elaborate piece of work, the offering of paternal affection to
please a darling child, was probably the simple and somewhat clumsy
original of those which were afterwards embroidered and subsequently
woven in various colours, and which came to be regarded as garments of
dignity and appropriated to royalty; as it is said of Tamar that "she
had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the
king's daughters that were virgins apparelled." It is even now
customary in India to dress a favourite or beautiful child in a coat
of various colours tastefully _sewed together_; and it may not perhaps
be very absurd to refer even to so ancient an origin as Joseph's coat
of many colours the superstition now prevalent in some countries,
which teaches that a child clothed in a garment of many colours is
safe from the blasting of malicious tongues or the machinations of
evil spirits.

In the Book of Samuel we read, "And Hannah his mother, made him a
little coat." This seems a trivial incident enough, yet how
interesting is the scene which this simple mention conjures up! With
all the earnest fervour of that separated race who hoped each one to
be the honoured instrument of bringing a Saviour into the world,
Hannah, then childless, prayed that this reproach might be taken from
her. Her prayer was heard, her son was born; and in holy gratitude she
reared him, not for wealth, for fame, for worldly honour, or even for
her own domestic comfort,--but, from his birth, and before his birth
she devoted him as the servant of the Most High. She indulged herself
with his presence only till her maternal cares had fitted him for
duty; and then, with a tearful eye it might be, and a faltering
footstep, but an unflinching resolution, she devoted him to the altar
of her God.

But never did his image leave her mind: never amid the fair scions
which sprang up and bloomed around her hearth did her thoughts forsake
her first-born; and yearly, when she went up to the Tabernacle with
Elkanah her husband, did she take him "a little coat" which she had
made. We may fancy her quiet happy thoughts when at this employment;
we may fancy the eager earnest questionings of the little group by
whom she was surrounded; the wondering about their absent brother; the
anxious catechisings respecting his whereabouts; and, above all, the
admiration of the new garment itself, and the earnest criticisms on
it; especially if in form and fashion it should somewhat differ from
their own. And then arrives the moment when the garment is committed
to its envelope; and the mother, weeping to part from her little ones,
yet longing to see her absent boy, receives their adieux and their
thousand reminiscences, and sets forth on her journey.

Again she treads the hallowed courts, again she meekly renews her
vows, and again a mother's longings, a mother's hopes are quenched in
the full enjoyment of a mother's love. Beautiful and good, the
blessing of Heaven attending him, and throwing a beam of light on his
fair brow, the pure and holy child appears like a seraph administering
at that altar to which he had been consecrated a babe, and at which
his ministry was sanctioned even by the voice of the Most High
himself, when in the solemn stillness of midnight he breathed his
wishes into the heart of the child, and made him, infant as he was,
the medium of his communications to one grown hoary in the service of
the altar.

The solemn duties ended, Hannah invests her hopeful boy with the
little coat, whilst her willing fingers lingeringly perform their
office, as if loth to quit a task in which they so much delight. And
then with meek step and grateful heart she wends her homeward way, and
meditates tranquilly on the past interview, till the return of another
year finds her again on her pilgrimage of love--the joyful bearer of
another "little coat."

And a high tribute is paid to needlework in the history of Dorcas, who
was restored to life by the apostle St. Peter, by whom "all the widows
stood weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made
while she was with them."

        "In these were read
    The monuments of Dorcas dead:
    These were thy acts, and thou shalt have
    These hung as honours o'er thy grave:
    And after us, distressed,
      Should fame be dumb,
      Thy very tomb
    Would cry out, Thou art blessed!"

But it is not merely as an object of private and domestic utility that
needlework is referred to in the Bible. It was applied early to the
service of the Tabernacle, and the directions concerning it are very
clear and specific; but before this time, and most probably as early
as the time of Abraham, rich and valuable raiment of needlework was
accounted of as part of the _bonâ fide_ property of a wealthy man.
When the patriarch's steward sought Rebekah for the wife of Isaac, he
"brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and _raiment_."
This "raiment" consisted, in all likelihood, of garments embroidered
with gold, the handiwork, it may be, of the female slaves of the
patriarch; such garments being in very great esteem from the earliest
ages, and being then, as now, a component portion of those presents or
offerings without which one personage hardly thought of approaching

Fashion in those days was not quite the chameleon-hued creature that
she is at present; nor were the fabrics on which her fancy was
displayed quite so light and airy: their gold _was_ gold--not silk
covered with gilded silver; and consequently the raiment of those
days, inwrought with slips of gold beaten thin and cut into spangles
or strips, and sewed on in various patterns, sometimes intermingled
with precious stones, would carry its own intrinsic value with it.

This "raiment" descended from father to son, as a chased goblet and a
massy wrought urn does now; and was naturally and necessarily
inventoried as a portion of the property. The practice of making
presents of garments is still quite usual amongst the eastern nations;
and to such an excess was it carried with regard to those who, from
their calling or any other circumstance, were in public favour, that,
so late as the ninth century, Bokteri, an illustrious poet of Cufah,
had so many presents made him, that at his death he was found
possessed of a hundred complete suits of clothes, two hundred shirts,
and five hundred turbans.

Horace, speaking of Lucullus (who had pillaged Asia, and first
introduced Asiatic[4] refinements among the Romans), says that, some
persons having waited on him to request the loan of a hundred suits
out of his wardrobe for the Roman stage, he exclaimed--"A hundred
suits! how is it possible for me to furnish such a number? However, I
will look over them and send you what I have."--After some time he
writes a note and tells them he had _five thousand_, to the whole or
part of which they were welcome.

In all the eastern world formerly, and to a great extent now, the
arraying a person in a rich dress is considered a very high
compliment, and it was one of the ancient modes of investing with the
highest degree of subordinate power. Thus was Joseph arrayed by
Pharaoh, and Mordecai by Ahasueras.

We all remember what important effects are produced by splendid robes
in "The Tale of the Wonderful Lamp," and in many other of those
fascinating tales (which are allowed to be rigidly correct in the
delineations of eastern life). They were doubtless esteemed the
richest part of the spoil after a battle, as we find the mother of
Sisera apportioning them as his share, and reiterating her delighted
anticipations of the "raiment of needlework" which should be his: "a
prey of divers colours, of divers colours of needlework, of divers
colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that
take the spoil."

Job has many allusions to raiment as an essential part of "treasures"
in the East; and our Saviour refers to the same when he desires his
hearers not to lay up for themselves "treasures" on earth, where
_moth_ and rust corrupt. St. James even more explicitly: "Go to now,
ye rich men; weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
Your gold and silver is cankered, and your GARMENTS are moth-eaten."

The first notice we have of gold-wire or thread being used in
embroidery is in Exodus, in the directions given for the embroidery of
the priests' garments: from this it appears that the metal was still
used alone, being beaten fine and then rounded. This art the Hebrews
probably learnt from the Egyptians, by whom it was carried to such an
astonishing degree of nicety, that they could either weave it in or
work it on their finest linen. And doubtless the productions of the
Hebrews now must have equalled the most costly and intricate of those
of Egypt. This the adornments of the Tabernacle testify.


[4] Persia had great wardrobes, where there were always many hundred
habits, sorted, ready for presents, and the intendant of the wardrobe
sent them to those persons for whom they were designed by the
sovereign; more than forty tailors were always employed in this
service. In Turkey they do not attend so much to the richness as to
the number of the dresses, giving more or fewer according to the
dignity of the persons to whom they are presented, or the marks of
favour the prince would confer on his guests.



    "The cedars wave on Lebanon,
    But Judah's statelier maids are gone."


Gorgeous and magnificent must have been the spectacle presented by
that ancient multitude of Israel, as they tabernacled in the
wilderness of Sinai. These steril solitudes are now seldom trodden by
the foot of man, and the adventurous traveller who toils up their
rugged steeps can scarce picture to himself a host sojourning there,
so wild, so barren is the place, so fearful are the precipices, so
dismal the ravines. On the spot where "Moses talked with God" the grey
and mouldering remnants of a convent attest the religious veneration
and zeal of some of whom these ruins are the only memorial; and near
them is a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin, while religious hands
have crowned even the summit of the steep ascent by "a house of
prayer;" and at the foot of the sister peak, Horeb, is an ancient
Greek convent, founded by the Emperor Justinian 1400 years ago, which
is occupied still by some harmless recluses, the monotony of whose
lives is only broken by the few and far between visits of the
adventurous traveller, or the more frequent and startling
interruptions of the wild Arabs on their predatory expeditions.

But neither church nor temple of any sort, nor inquiring traveller,
nor prowling Arab, varied the tremendous grandeur of the scene, when
the Israelitish host encamped there. Weary and toilsome had been the
pilgrimage from the base of the mountain where the desolation was
unrelieved by a trace of vegetation, to the upper country or
wilderness, called more particularly, "the Desert of Sinai," where
narrow intersecting valleys, not destitute of verdure, cherished
perhaps the lofty and refreshing palm. Here in the ravines, in the
valleys, and amid the clefts of the rocks, clustered the hosts of
Israel, while around them on every side arose lofty summits and
towering precipices, where the eye that sought to scan their fearful
heights was lost in the far-off dimness. Far, far around, spread this
savage wilderness, so frowning, and dreary, and desolate, that any
curious explorer beyond the precincts of the camp would quickly return
to the _home_ which its vicinity afforded even there.

Clustered closely as bees in a hive were the tents of the wandering
race, yet with an order and a uniformity which even the unpropitious
nature of the locality was not permitted to break; for, separated into
tribes, each one, though sufficiently connected for any object of
kindness or brotherhood, for public worship, or social intercourse,
was inalienably distinct.

And in the midst, extending from east to west, a length of fifty-five
feet, was reared the splendid Tabernacle. For God had said, "Let them
make me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them;" and behold, "they
came, both men and women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought
bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold;
and every man that offered, offered an offering of gold unto the Lord.
And every man with whom was found blue, and purple, and scarlet, and
fine linen, and goats' hair, and red skins of rams, and badgers'
skins, brought them. Every one that did offer an offering of silver
and brass brought the Lord's offering: and every man with whom was
found shittim-wood for any work of the service brought it. And all the
women that were wise-hearted did spin with their hands, and brought
that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet,
and of fine linen. And all the women whose hearts stirred them up in
wisdom spun goats' hair. And the rulers brought onyx-stones, and
stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate; and spice,
and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet

And all these materials, which the "willing-hearted" offered in such
abundance that proclamation was obliged to be made through the camp to
stop their influx, had been wrought under the superintendence of
Bezaleel and Aholiab, who were divinely inspired for the task; and the
Tabernacle was now completed, with the exception of some of the finest
needlework, which had not yet received the finishing touches.

But what was already done bore ample testimony to the skill, the
taste, and the industry of the "wise-hearted" daughters of Israel. The
outer covering of the Tabernacle, or that which lay directly over the
framework of boards of which it was constructed, and hung from the
roof down the sides and west end, was formed of tabash skins; over
this was another covering of ram-skins dyed red; a hanging made of
goats' hair, such as is still used in the tents of the Bedouin Arabs,
had been spun and woven by the matrons of the congregation, to hang
over the skins; and these substantial draperies were beautifully
concealed by a first or inner covering of fine linen. On this the more
youthful women had embroidered figures of cherubim in scarlet, purple,
and light blue, entwined with gold. They had made also sacerdotal
vestments, the "coats of fine linen" worn by all the priests, which,
when old, were unravelled, and made into wicks burnt in the feast of
tabernacles. They had made the "girdles of needlework," which were
long, very long pieces of fine twined linen (carried several times
round the body), and were embroidered with flowers in blue, and
purple, and scarlet: the "robe of the ephod" also for the high priest,
of light blue, and elaborately wrought round the bottom in
pomegranates; and the plain ephods for the priests.

But now the sun was declining in the western sky, and the busy
artificers of all sorts were relaxing from the toil of the day.

In a retired spot, apart from the noise of the camp, paced one in
solitary meditation. Stalwart he was in frame, majestic in bearing; he
trod the earth like one of her princes; but the loftiness of his
demeanour was forgotten when you looked on the surpassing benignity of
his countenance. Each accidental passer hushed his footstep and
lowered his voice as he approached; more, as it should seem, from
involuntary awe and reverence than from any understood prohibition.

But with some of these loiterers a child of some four or five summers,
in earnest chase after a brilliant fly, whose golden wings glittered
in the sunlight, heedlessly pursued it even to the very path of the
Solitary, and to the interruption of his walk. Hastily, and somewhat
peremptorily, the father calls him away. The stranger looks up, and
casting a glance around, from an eye to whose brilliance that of the
eagle would look dim, he for the first time sees the little intruder.
Gently placing a hand on the child's head, "Bless thee," he said, in a
voice whose every tone was melody: "Bless thee, little one; the
blessing of the God of Israel be upon thee," and calmly resumed his
walk. The child, as if awed, mutely returned to his friends, who,
after casting a glance of reverence and admiration, returned to the

Here, scattered all around, are groups occupied in those varied kinds
of busy idleness which will naturally engage the moments of an
intelligent multitude at the close of an active day. Here a knot of
men in the pride of manhood, whose flashing eyes have lost none of
their fire, whose raven locks are yet not varied by a single silver
line, are talking politics--such politics as the warlike men of Israel
would talk, when discoursing of the promised land and the hostile
hosts through whose serried ranks they must cut their intrepid way
thither, and whom, impatient of all delay, they burn to engage. Here
were elder ones, "whose natural force" was in some degree "abated,"
and who were lamenting the decree, however justly incurred, which
forbade them to lay their bones in the land of their lifelong hope;
and here was a patriarch, bowed down with the weight of years, whose
silver hairs lay on his shoulders, whose snow-white beard flowed upon
his breast, who as he leaned upon his staff was recounting to his rapt
auditors the dealing of Jehovah with his people in ancient days; how
the Most High visited his father Abraham, and had sworn unto Jacob
that his seed should be brought out of captivity, and revisit the
promised land. "And behold," said the old man, "it will now come to

But what is passing in that detached portion of the camp? who sojourn
in yonder tents which attract more general attention than all the
others, and in which all ages and degrees seem interested? Now a group
of females are there, eagerly conversing; anon a Hebrew mother leads
her youthful and beautiful daughter, and seems to incite her to remain
there; now a hoary priest enters, and in a few moments returns
pondering; and anon a trio of more youthful Levites with pleased and
animated countenances return from the same spot.

On a sudden is every eye turned thitherward; for he who just now paced
the solitary glade--none other than the chosen leader of God's host,
the majestic lawgiver, the meekest and the mightiest of all created
beings--he likewise wends his way to these attractive tents. With him
enters Aaron, a venerable man, with hoary beard and flowing white
robes; and follow him a majestic-looking female who was wont to lead
the solemn dance--Miriam the sister of Aaron; and a youth of heroic
bearing, in the springtime of that life whose maturity was spent in
leading the chosen race to conquest in the promised land.

With proud and pleased humility did the fair inmates of those tents,
the most accomplished of Israel's daughters, display to their
illustrious visitors the "fine needlework" to which their time and
talents had been for a long season devoted, and which was now on the
eve of completion. The "holy garments" which God had commanded to be
made "for glory and for beauty;" the pomegranates on the hem of the
high priest's robe, wrought in blue and purple and scarlet; the
flowers on his "girdle of needlework," glowing as in life; the border
on the ephod, in which every varied colour was shaded off into a rich
and delicate tracery of gold; and above all, that exquisite work, the
most beautiful of all their productions--the veil which separated the
"Holy of Holies," the place where the Most High vouchsafed his
especial presence, where none but the high priest might presume to
enter, and he but once a year, from the remaining portions of the
Tabernacle. This beautiful hanging was of fine white linen, but the
original fabric was hardly discernible amid the gorgeous tracery with
which it was inwrought. The whole surface was covered with a profusion
of flowers, intermixed with fanciful devices of every sort, except
such as might represent the forms of animals--these were rigidly
excluded. Cherubims seemed to be hovering around and grasping its
gorgeous folds; and if tradition and history be to be credited, this
drapery merited, if ever the production of the needle did merit, the
epithet which English talent has since rendered classical,
"_Needlework Sublime_."

Long, despite the advancing shades of evening, would the visitors have
lingered untired to comment upon this beautiful production, but one
said, "Behold!" and immediately all, following the direction of his
outstretched arm, looked towards the Tabernacle. There a thin spiral
flame is seen to gleam palely through the pillar of smoke; but
perceptibly it increases, and even while the eye is fixed it waxes
stronger and brighter, and quickly though gradually the smoke has
melted away, and a tall vivid flame of fire is in its place. Higher
and taller it aspires: its spiral flame waxes broader and broader,
ascends higher and higher, gleams brighter and brighter, till it
mingles in the very vault of heaven, with the beams of the setting sun
which bathe in crimson fire the summits of Sinai.

In the eastern sky the stars gleam brightly in the pure transparent
atmosphere; and ere long the moon casts pale radiant beams adown the
dark ravines, and utters her wondrous lore to the silent hills and the
gloomy waste. The sounds of toil are hushed; the weary labourer seeks
repose; the toil-worn wanderer is at rest: the murmuring sounds of
domestic life sink lower and lower; the breath of prayer becomes
fainter and fainter; the voice of praise, the evensong of Israel,
comes stealing through the calm of evening, and now dies softly away.
Nought is heard but the password of the sentinels; the far-off shriek
of the bat as it flaps its wings beneath the shadow of some fearful
precipice; or the scream of the eagle, which, wheeling round the lofty
summits of the mountain, closes in less and lesser circles, till, as
the last faint gleam of evening is lost in the dark horizon, it drops
into its eyrie.

The moon and the stars keep their eternal watch; the beacon-light of
God's immediate presence flames unchanged by time or chance. It may be
that the appointed earthly shepherd of that chosen flock passes the
still hours of night and solitude in communion with his God; but
silence is over the wilderness, and the children of Israel are at



    "How is thy glory, Egypt, pass'd away!
      Weep, child of ruin, o'er thy humbled name!
    The wreck alone that marks thy deep decay
      Now tells the story of thy former fame!"

There can be little doubt that the Jewish maidens were beholden to
their residence in Egypt for that perfectness of finish in embroidery
which was displayed so worthily in the service of the Tabernacle.
Egypt was at this time the seat of science, of art, and learning; for
it was thought the highest summary which could be given of Moses'
acquirements to say that he was skilled in all the learning of the
Egyptians. By the researches of the curious, new proofs are still
being brought to light of the perfection of their skill in various
arts, and we are not without testimony that the practice of the
lighter and more ornamental bore progress with that of the stupendous
and magnificent. Of these lighter pursuits we at present refer only to
the art of needlework.

The Egyptian women were treated with courtesy, with honour, and even
with deference: indeed, some historians have gone so far as to say
that the women transacted public business, to the exclusion of the
men, who were engaged in domestic occupations. This misapprehension
may have arisen from the fact of men being at times engaged at the
loom, which in all other countries was then considered as exclusively
a feminine occupation; spinning, however, was principally, if not
entirely, confined to women, who had attained to such perfection in
the pretty and valuable art, that, though the Egyptian yarn was all
spun by the hand, some of the linen made from it was so exquisitely
fine as to be called "woven air." And there are some instances
recorded by historians which seem fully to bear out the appellation.
For example: so delicate were the threads used for nets, that some of
these nets would pass through a man's ring, and one person could carry
a sufficient number of them to surround a whole wood. Amasis king of
Egypt presented a linen corslet to the Rhodians of which the threads
were each composed of 365 fibres; and he presented another to the
Lacedemonians, richly wrought with gold; and each thread of this
corslet, though itself very fine, was composed of 360 other threads
all distinct.

Nor did these beautiful manufactures lack the addition of equally
beautiful needlework. Though the gold thread used at this time was, as
we have intimated, solid metal, still the Egyptians had attained to
such perfection in the art of moulding it, that it was fine enough not
merely to embroider, but even to interweave with the linen. The linen
corslet of Amasis, presented, as we have remarked, to the
Lacedemonians, surpassingly fine as was the material, was worked with
a needle in figures of animals in gold thread, and from the
description given of the texture of the linen we may form some idea of
the exquisite tenuity of the gold wire which was used to ornament it.

Corslets of linen of a somewhat stronger texture than this one, which
was doubtless meant for merely ornamental wear, were not uncommon
amongst the ancients. The Greeks made thoraces of hide, hemp, linen,
or twisted cord. Of the latter there are some curious specimens in the
interesting museum of the United Service Club. Alexander had a double
thorax of linen; and Iphicrates ordered his soldiers to lay aside
their heavy metal cuirass, and go to battle in hempen armour. And
among the arms painted in the tomb of Rameses III. at Thebes is a
piece of defensive armour, a sort of coat or covering for the body,
made of rich stuff, and richly embroidered with the figures of lions
and other animals.

The dress of the Egyptian ladies of rank was rich and somewhat gay: in
its general appearance not very dissimilar from the gay chintzes of
the present day, but of more value as the material was usually linen;
and though sometimes stamped in patterns, and sometimes interwoven
with gold threads, was much more usually worked with the needle. The
richest and most elegant of these were of course selected to adorn the
person of the queen; and when in the holy book the royal Psalmist is
describing the dress of a bride, supposed to have been Pharaoh's
daughter, and that she shall be brought to the king "in raiment of
needlework," he says, as proof of the gorgeousness of her attire, "her
clothing is of wrought gold." This is supposed to mean a garment
richly embroidered with the needle in figures in gold thread, after
the manner of Egyptian stitchery.

Perhaps no royal lady was ever more magnificently dowered than the
queen of Egypt; her apparel might well be gorgeous. Diodorus says that
when Moeris, from whom the lake derived its name, and who was
supposed to have made the canal, had arranged the sluices for the
introduction of the water, and established everything connected with
it, he assigned the sum annually derived from this source as a dowry
to the queen for the purchase of jewels, ointments, and other objects
connected with the toilette. The provision was certainly very liberal,
being a talent every day, or upwards of £70,700 a year; and when this
formed only a portion of the pin-money of the Egyptian queens, to whom
the revenues of the city of Anthylla, famous for its wines, were given
for their dress, it is certain they had no reason to complain of the
allowance they enjoyed.

The Egyptian needlewomen were not solely occupied in the decoration of
their persons. The deities were robed in rich vestments, in the
preparation of which the proudest in the land felt that they were
worthily occupied. This was a source of great gain to the priests,
both in this and other countries, as, after decorating the idol gods
for a time, these rich offerings were their perquisites, who of course
encouraged this notable sort of devotion. We are told that it was
carried so far that some idols had both winter and summer garments.

Tokens of friendship consisting of richly embroidered veils,
handkerchiefs, &c., were then, as now, passing from one fair hand to
another, as pledges of affection; and as the last holy office of love,
the bereaved mother, the desolate widow, or the maiden whose budding
hopes were blighted by her lover's untimely death, might find a
fanciful relief to her sorrows by decorating the garment which was to
enshroud the spiritless but undecaying form. The chief proportion of
the mummy-cloths which have been so ruthlessly torn from these
outraged relics of humanity are coarse; but some few have been found
delicately and beautifully embroidered; and it is not unnatural to
suppose that this difference was the result of feminine solicitude and
undying affection.

The embroidering of the sails of vessels too was pursued as an article
of commerce, as well as for the decoration of native pleasure-boats.
The ordinary sails were white; but the king and his grandees on all
gala occasions made use of sails richly embroidered with the
phoenix, with flowers, and various other emblems and fanciful
devices. Many also were painted, and some interwoven in checks and
stripes. The boats used in sacred festivals upon the Nile were
decorated with appropriate symbols, according to the nature of the
ceremony or the deity in whose service they were engaged; and the
edges of the sails were finished with a coloured hem or border, which
would occasionally be variegated with slight embroidery.

Shakspeare's description of the barge of Cleopatra when she embarked
on the river Cydnus to meet Antony, poetical as it is, seems to be
rigidly correct in detail.

      Enobarbus.--I will tell you.
    The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
    Burn'd on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
    Purple the sails, and so perfumed, that
    The winds were love-sick with them: the oars were silver;
    Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
    The water, which they beat, to follow faster,
    As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
    It beggar'd all description: she did lie
    In her pavilion (cloth of gold, of tissue),
    O'erpicturing that Venus, where we see
    The fancy outwork nature; on each side her
    Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
    With diverse-colour'd fans, whose wind did seem
    To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
    And what they undid, did.

      Agrippa.--             O, rare for Antony!

      Enobarbus.--Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,
    So many mermaids, tended her i' the eyes,
    And made their bends adornings; at the helm
    A seeming mermaid steers; the silken tackle
    Swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands,
    That yarely frame the office. From the barge
    A strange invisible perfume hits the sense
    Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast
    Her people out upon her; and Antony,
    Bethroned in the market-place, did sit alone,
    Whistling to the air; which, but for vacancy,
    Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too,
    And made a gap in nature.

It is said that the silver oars, "which to the tune of flutes kept
stroke," were pierced with holes of different sizes, so mechanically
contrived, that the water, as it flowed through them at every stroke,
produced a harmony in concord with that of the flutes and lyres on

Such a description as the foregoing gives a more vivid idea than any
grave declaration, of the elegant luxury of the Egyptians.

It were easy to collect instances from the Bible in which mention is
made of Egyptian embroidery, but one verse (Ezek. xxvii. 7), when the
prophet is addressing the Tyrians, specifically points to the subject
on which we are speaking: "Fine linen, with broidered work from Egypt,
was that which thou spreadest forth to be thy sail," &c.

A common but beautiful style of embroidery was to draw out entirely
the threads of linen which formed the weft, and to re-form the body of
the material, and vary its appearance, by working in various stitches
and with different colours on the warp alone.

Chairs and fauteuils of the most elegant form, made of ebony and other
rare woods, inlaid with ivory, were in common use amongst the ancient
Egyptians. These were covered, as is the fashion in the present day,
with every variety of rich stuff, stamped leather, &c.: but many were
likewise embroidered with different coloured wools, with silk and gold
thread. The couches too, which in the daytime had a rich covering
substituted for the night bedding, gave ample scope for the display of
the inventive genius and persevering industry of the busy-fingered
Egyptian ladies.

We have given sufficient proof that the Egyptian females were
accomplished in the art of needlework, and we may naturally infer that
they were fond of it. It is a gentle and a social occupation, and
usefully employs the time, whilst it does not interfere with the
current of the thoughts or the flow of conversation. The Egyptians
were an intelligent and an animated race; and the sprightly jest or
the lively sally would be interspersed with the graver details of
thoughtful and reflective conversation, or would give some point to
the dull routine of mere womanish chatter. It seems almost impossible
to have lived amidst the stupendous magnificence of Egypt in days of
yore, without the mind assimilating itself in some degree to the
greatness with which it was surrounded. The vast deserts, the
stupendous mountains, the river Nile--the single and solitary river
which in itself sufficed the needs of a mighty empire--these majestic
monuments of nature seemed as emblems to which the people should
fashion, as they did fashion, their pyramids, their tombs, their
sphynxes, their mighty reservoirs, and their colossal statues. And we
can hardly suppose that such ever-visible objects should not, during
the time of their creation, have some elevating influence on the
weakest mind; and that therefore frivolity of conversation amongst the
Egyptian ladies was rather the exception than the rule. But a modern
author has amused himself, and exercised some ingenuity in attempting
to prove the contrary:--

"Many similar instances of a talent for caricature are observable in
the compositions of Egyptian artists who executed the paintings on the
tombs; and the ladies are not spared. We are led to infer that they
were not deficient in the talent of conversation; and the numerous
subjects they proposed are shown to have been examined with great
animation. Among these the question of dress was not forgotten, and
the patterns or the value of trinkets were discussed with
proportionate interest. The maker of an earring, or the shop where it
was purchased, were anxiously inquired; each compared the workmanship,
the style, and the materials of those she wore, coveted her
neighbour's, or preferred her own; and women of every class vied with
each other in the display of 'jewels of silver and jewels of gold,' in
the texture of their 'raiment,' the neatness of their sandals, and the
arrangement or beauty of their plaited hair."

We are too much indebted to this author's interesting volumes to
quarrel with him for his ungallant exposition of a very simple
painting; but we beg to place in juxta-position with the above (though
otherwise somewhat out of its place) an extract from a work by no
means characterised by unnecessary complacency to the fair sex.

"'Cet homme passe sa vie à forger des nouvelles,' me dit alors un gros
Athénien qui était assis auprès de moi. 'Il ne s'occupe que de choses
qui ne le touchent point. Pour moi, mon intérieur me suffit. J'ai une
femme que j'aime beaucoup;' et il me fit l'éloge de sa femme. 'Hier je
ne pus pas souper avec elle, j'étais prié chez un de mes amis;' et il
me fit la description du repas. 'Je me retirai chez moi assez content.
Mais j'ai fait cette nuit un rêve qui m'inquiète;' et il me raconta
son rêve. Ensuite il me dit pesamment que la ville fourmillait
d'étrangers; que les hommes d'aujourd'hui ne valaient pas ceux
d'autrefois; que les denrées étaient à bas prix; qu'on pourrait
espérer une bonne récolte, s'il venait à pleuvoir. Après m'avoir
demandé le quantième du mois, il se leva pour aller souper avec sa



                Sits the virtuous housewife,
                  The tender mother--
                O'er the circle presiding,
                And prudently guiding;
                The girls gravely schooling,
                The boys wisely ruling;
                Her hands never ceasing
                From labours increasing;
                And doubling his gains
                With her orderly pains.
    With piles of rich treasure the storehouse she spreads,
    And winds round the loud-whirring spindle her threads:
    She winds--till the bright-polish'd presses are full
    Of the snow-white linen and glittering wool:
    Blends the brilliant and solid in constant endeavour,
               And resteth never."

                        J. H. Merivale.

It was an admitted opinion amongst the classical nations of antiquity,
that no less a personage than Minerva herself, "a maiden affecting old
fashions and formality," visited earth to teach her favourite nation
the mysteries of those implements which are called "the arms of every
virtuous woman;" viz. the distaff and spindle. In the use of these the
Grecian dames were particularly skilled; in fact, spinning, weaving,
needlework, and embroidery, formed the chief occupation of those whose
rank exonerated them, even in more primitive days, from the menial
drudgery of a household.

The Greek females led exceedingly retired lives, being far more
charily admitted to a share of the recreations of the nobler sex than
we of these privileged days. The ancient Greeks were very
magnificent--very: magnificent senators, magnificent warriors,
magnificent men; but they were a people trained from the cradle for
exhibition and publicity; domestic life was quite cast into the shade.
Consequently and necessarily their women were thrown to greater
distance, till it happened, naturally enough, that they seemed to form
a distinct community; and apartments the most distant and secluded
that the mansion afforded were usually assigned to them. Of these, in
large establishments, certain ones were always appropriated to the
labours of the needle.

"Je ne dirai" (says the sarcastic author of Anacharsis) "qu'un mot sur
l'éducation des filles. Suivant la différence des états, elles
apprennent à lire, écrire, coudre, filer, préparer la laine dont on
fait les vêtemens, et veiller aux soins du ménage. En général, les
mères exhortent leurs filles à se conduire avec sagesse; mais elles
insistent beaucoup plus sur la nécessité de se tenir droites,
d'effacer leurs épaules, de serrer leur sein avec un large ruban,
d'être extrêmement sobres, et de prévenir, par toutes sortes de
moyens, un embonpoint qui nuirait à l'élégance de la taille et à la
grâce des mouvemens."

Homer, the great fountain of ancient lore, scarcely throughout his
whole work names a female, Greek or Trojan, but as connected naturally
and indissolubly with this feminine occupation--needlework. Thus, when
Chryses implores permission to ransome his daughter, Agamemnon
wrathfully replies--

    "I will not loose thy daughter, till old age
    Find her far distant from her native soil,
    Beneath my roof in Argos, at her task
    Of tissue-work."

And Iris, the "ambassadress of Heaven," finds Helen in her own

    "----weaving there a gorgeous web,
    Inwrought with fiery conflicts, for her sake
    Wag'd by contending nations."

Hector foreseeing the miseries consequent upon the destruction of
Troy, says to Andromache--

              "But no grief
    So moves me as my grief for thee alone,
    Doom'd then to follow some imperious Greek,
    A weeping captive, to the distant shores
    Of Argos; there to labour at the loom
    For a taskmistress."

And again he says to her--

    "Hence, then, to our abode; there weave or spin,
    And task thy maidens."

And afterwards--

            "Andromache, the while,
    Knew nought, nor even by report had learn'd
    Her Hector's absence in the field alone.
    She in her chamber at the palace-top
    A splendid texture wrought, on either side
    All dazzling bright with flow'rs of various hues."

Though "Penelope's web" is become a proverb, it would be unpardonable
here to omit specific mention of it. Antinoüs thus complains of her:--

    "Elusive of the bridal day, she gives
    Fond hope to all, and all with hope deceives.
    Did not the Sun, through heaven's wide azure roll'd,
    For three long years the royal fraud behold?
    While she, laborious in delusion, spread
    The spacious loom, and mix'd the various thread;
    Where, as to life the wondrous figures rise,
    Thus spoke th' inventive queen with artful sighs:--
    'Though cold in death Ulysses breathes no more,
    Cease yet a while to urge the bridal hour;
    Cease, till to great Laertes I bequeath
    A task of grief, his ornaments of death.
    Lest, when the Fates his royal ashes claim,
    The Grecian matrons taint my spotless fame:
    When he, whom living mighty realms obey'd,
    Shall want in death a shroud to grace his shade.'
    Thus she: At once the generous train complies,
    Nor fraud mistrusts in virtue's fair disguise.
    The work she plied; but, studious of delay,
    By night revers'd the labours of the day.
    While thrice the Sun his annual journey made,
    The conscious lamp the midnight fraud survey'd;
    Unheard, unseen, three years her arts prevail;
    The fourth, her maid unfolds th' amazing tale.
    We saw, as unperceiv'd we took our stand,
    The backward labours of her faithless hand.
    Then urg'd, she perfects her illustrious toils;
    A wondrous monument of female wiles."

The Greek costume was rich and elegant; and though, from our
familiarity with colourless statues, we are apt to suppose it gravely
uniform in its hue, such was not the fact; for the tunic was often
adorned with ornamental embroidery of all sorts. The toga was the
characteristic of Roman costume: this gradually assumed variations
from its primitive simplicity of hue, until at length the triumphant
general considered even the royal purple too unpretending, unless set
off by a rich embroidery of gold. The first embroideries of the Romans
were but bands of stuff, cut or twisted, which they put on the
dresses: the more modest used only one band; others two, three, four,
up to seven; and from the number of these the dresses took their
names, always drawn from the Greek: molores, dilores, trilores,
tetralores, &c.

Pliny seems to be the authority whence most writers derive their
accounts of ancient garments and needlework.

"The coarse rough wool with the round great haire hath been of ancient
time highly commended and accounted of in tapestrie worke: for even
Homer himself witnesseth that they of the old world used the same
much, and tooke great delight therein. But this tapestrie is set out
with colours in France after one sort, and among the Parthians after
another. M. Varro writeth that within the temple of Sangus there
continued unto the time that he wrote his booke the wooll that lady
Tanaquil, otherwise named Caia Cecilia, spun; together with her
distaff and spindle: as also within the chapel of Fortune, the very
roiall robe or mantle of estate, made in her own hands after the
manner of water chamlot in wave worke, which Servius Tullius used to
weare. And from hence came the fashion and custome at Rome, that when
maidens were to be wedded, there attended upon them a distaffe,
dressed and trimmed with kombed wooll, as also a spindle and yearne
upon it. The said Tanaquil was the first that made the coat or
cassocke woven right out all through; such as new beginners (namely
young souldiers, barristers, and fresh brides) put on under their
white plaine gowns, without any guard of purple. The waved water
chamelot was from the beginning esteemed the richest and bravest
wearing. And from thence came the branched damaske in broad workes.
Fenestella writeth that in the latter time of Augustus Cæsar they
began at Rome to use their gownes of cloth shorne, as also with a
curled nap.--As for those robes which are called crebræ and
papaveratæ, wrought thicke with floure worke, resembling poppies, or
pressed even and smooth, they be of greater antiquitie: for even in
the time of Lucilius the poet Torquatus was noted and reproved for
wearing them. The long robes embrodered before, called prætextæ, were
devised first by the Tuscanes. The Trabeæ were roiall robes, and I
find that kings and princes only ware them. In Homer's time also they
used garments embrodered with imagerie and floure, work, and from
thence came the triumphant robes. As for embroderie itselfe and
needle-worke, it was the Phrygians invention: and hereupon embroderers
in Latine bee called phrygiones. And in the same Asia king Attalus was
the first that devised cloth of gold: and thence come such colours to
be called Attalica. In Babylon they used much to weave their cloth of
divers colours, and this was a great wearing amongst them, and cloths
so wrought were called Babylonica. To weave cloth of tissue with
twisted threeds both in woofe and warpe, and the same of sundrie
colours, was the invention of Alexandria; and such clothes and
garments were called Polymita, But Fraunce devised the scutchion,
square, or lozenge damaske worke. Metellus Scipio, among other
challenges and imputations laid against Capito, reproached and accused
him for this:--'That his hangings and furniture of his dining chamber,
being Babylonian work or cloth of Arras, were sold for 800,000
sesterces; and such like of late days stood Prince Nero in 400,000
sesterces, _i.e._ forty millions.' The embrodered long robes of
Servius Tullius, wherewith he covered and arraied all over the image
of Fortune, by him dedicated, remained whole and sound until the end
of Sejanus. And a wonder it was that they neither fell from the image
nor were motheaten in 560 yeares."[5]

It was long before silk was in general use, even for patrician
garments. It has been supposed that the famous Median vest, invented
by Semiramis, was silken, which might account for its great fame in
the west. Be this as it may, it was so very graceful, that the Medes
adopted it after they had conquered Asia; and the Persians followed
their example. In the time of the Romans the price of silk was weight
for weight with gold, and the first persons who brought silk into
Europe were the Greeks of Alexander's army. Under Tiberius it was
forbidden to be worn by men; and it is said that the Emperor Aurelian
even refused the earnest request of his empress for a silken dress, on
the plea of its extravagant cost. Heliogabalus was the first man that
ever wore a robe entirely of silk. He had also a tunic woven of gold
threads; such gold thread as we referred to in a prior chapter, as
consisting of the metal alone beaten out and rounded, without any
intermixture of silk or woollen. Tarquinius Priscus had also a vest of
this gorgeous description, as had likewise Agrippina. Gold thread and
wire continued to be made entirely of metal probably until the time of
Aurelian, nor have there been any instances found in Herculaneum and
Pompeii of the silken thread with a gold coating.

These examples will suffice to show that it was not usually the
_material_ of the ancient garments which gave them so high a value,
but the ornamental embellishments with which they were afterwards
invested by the needle.

The Medes and Babylonians seem to have been most highly celebrated for
their stuffs and tapestries of various sorts which were figured by the
needle; the Egyptians certainly rivalled, though they did not surpass
them; and the Greeks seem also to have attained a high degree of
excellence in this pretty art. The epoch of embroidery amongst the
Romans went as far back as Tarquin, to whom the Etruscans presented a
tunic of purple enriched with gold, and a mantle of purple and other
colours, "tels qu'en portoient les rois de Perse et de Lydie." But
soon luxury banished the wonted austerity of Rome; and when Cæsar
first showed himself in a habit embroidered and fringed, this
innovation appeared scandalous to those who had not been alarmed at
any of his real and important innovations.

We have referred in a former chapter to the practice of sending
garments as presents, as marks of respect and friendship, or as
propitiatory or deprecatory offerings. And the illustrious ladies of
the classical times had such a prophetical talent of preparation, that
they were ever found possessed, when occasion required, of store of
garments richly embroidered by their own fair fingers, or under their
auspices. Of this there are numerous examples in Homer.

When Priam wishes to redeem the body of Hector, after preparing other
propitiatory gifts,

    "----he open'd wide the sculptur'd lids
    Of various chests, whence mantles twelve he took
    Of texture beautiful; twelve single cloaks;
    As many carpets, with as many robes;
    To which he added vests an equal store."

When Telemachus is about to leave Menelaus--

    "The beauteous queen revolv'd with careful eyes
    Her various textures of unnumber'd dyes,
    And chose the largest; with no vulgar art
    Her own fair hands embroider'd every part;
    Beneath the rest it lay divinely bright,
    Like radiant Hesper o'er the gems of night."

That much of this work was highly beautiful may be inferred from the
description of the robe of Ulysses:--

    "In the rich woof a hound, Mosaic drawn,
    Bore on full stretch, and seiz'd a dappled fawn;
    Deep in the neck his fangs indent their hold;
    They pant and struggle in the moving gold."

And this robe, Penelope says,

    "In happier hours her artful hand employ'd."

To invest a visitor with an embroidered robe was considered the very
highest mark of honour and regard.

When Telemachus is at the magnificent court of Menelaus--

    "----a bright damsel train attend the guests
    With liquid odours and _embroider'd vests_."

         *   *   *   *   *

    "Give to the stranger guest a stranger's dues:
    Bring gold, a pledge of love; a talent bring,
    A _vest_, a _robe_."

         *   *   *   *   *

    "--------in order roll'd
    The robes, the vests are rang'd, and heaps of gold:
    And adding _a rich dress inwrought with art_,
    A gift expressive of her bounteous heart,
    Thus spoke (the queen) to Ithacus."

When Cambyses wished to attain some point from an Ethiopian prince, he
forwarded, amongst other presents, a rich vest. The Ethiopian, taking
the garment, inquired what it was, and how it was made; but its
glittering tracery did not decoy the unsophisticated prince. When
Xerxes arrived at Acanthos, he interchanged the rites of hospitality
with the people, and presented several with Median vests. Probably our
readers will remember the circumstance of Alexander making the mother
of Darius a present of some rich vestures, probably of woollen
fabrics, and telling her that she might make her grandchildren learn
the art of weaving them; at which the royal lady felt insulted and
deeply hurt, as it was considered ignominious by the Persian women to
work in wool. Hearing of her misapprehension, Alexander himself waited
on her, and in the gentlest and most respectful terms told the
illustrious captive that, far from meaning any offence, the custom of
his own country had misled him; and that the vestments he had offered
were not only a present from his royal sisters, but wrought by their
own hands.

Outré as appear some of the flaring patterns of the present day, the
boldest of them must be _quiet_ and unattractive compared with those
we read of formerly, when not only human figures, but birds and
animals, were wrought not merely on hangings and carpets but on
wearing apparel. Ciampini gives various instances.[6]

What changes, says he, do not a long course of years produce! Who now,
except in the theatre, or at a carnival or masquerade (spectaculis ac
rebus ludiciis), would endure garments inscribed with verses and
titles, and painted with various figures? Nevertheless, it is plain
that such garments were constantly used in ancient times. To say
nothing of Homer, who assigns to Ulysses a tunic variegated with
figures of animals; to say nothing of the Massagetæ, whom Herodotus
relates painted animals on their garments with the juice of herbs; we
also read of these garments (though then considered very antiquated)
being used under the Cæsars of Rome.

They say that Alcisthenes the Sybarite had a garment of such
magnificence that when he exhibited it in the Temple of Juno at
Lacinium, where all Italy was congregated, it attracted universal
attention. It was purchased from the Carthaginians, by Dionysius the
elder, for 120 talents. It was twenty-two feet in breadth, of a purple
ground, with animals wrought all over, except in the middle, where
were Jupiter, Juno, Themis, Minerva, Apollo, Venus: on one sleeve it
had a figure of Alcisthenes, on the other of his city Sybaris.

That this description is not exaggerated may be inferred from the
following passage from a homily on Dives and Lazarus by a Bishop of
Amuasan in Pontus, given by Ciampini.

"They have here no bounds to this foolish art, for no sooner was
invented the useless art of weaving in figures in a kind of picture,
such as animals of all sorts, than (rich persons) procure flowered
garments, and also those variegated with an infinite number of images,
both for themselves, their wives, and children. . . . . . . Whensoever
thus clothed they go abroad, they go, as it were, painted all over,
and pointing out to one another with the finger the pictures on their

"For there are lions and panthers, and bears and bulls, and dogs and
woods, and rocks and huntsmen; and, in a word, everything that can be
thought of, all drawn to the life: for it was necessary, forsooth,
that not only the walls of their houses should be painted, but their
coats (tunica) also, and likewise the cloak (pallium) which covers it.

"The more pious of these gentry take their subjects from the Gospel
history: _e.g._ Christ himself with his disciples, or one of the
miracles, is depicted. In this manner you shall see the marriage of
Cana and the waterpots; the paralytic carrying his bed on his
shoulders; the blind man cured by clay; the woman with the issue of
blood taking hold of the border (of Christ's garment); the harlot
falling at the feet of Jesus; Lazarus coming from the tomb: and they
fancy there is great piety in all this, and that putting on such
garments must be pleasing to God."

The palmated garment was figured with palm-leaves, and was a triumphal
or festive garment. It is referred to in an epistle of Gratian to
Augustus: "I have sent thee a palmated garment, in which the name of
our divine parent Constantine is interwoven."

In allusion to these lettered garments Ausonius celebrates Sabina
(textrice simul ac poetria), whose name thus lives when those of more
important personages are forgotten:--

    They who both webs and verses weave,
    The first to thee, O chaste Minerva, leave;
        The latter to the Muses they devote:
    To me, Sabina, it appears a sin
    To separate two things so near akin,
        So I have wrote thy verses on my coat.[7]

And again:

    Whether the Tyrian robe your praise demand,
      Or the neat verse upon the edge descried,
    Know both proceed from the same skilful hand:
      In both these arts Sabina takes a pride.[8]

It is imagined that the embroidered vestments worn in Homer's time
bore a strong resemblance to those now worn by the Moguls; and the
custom of making presents, so discernible through his work, still
prevails throughout Asia. It is not (says Sir James Forbes) so much
the custom in India to present dresses ready made to the visitors as
to offer the materials, especially to Europeans. In Turkey, Persia,
and Arabia, it is generally the reverse. We find in Chardin that the
kings of Persia had great wardrobes, where there were always many
hundred habits, sorted, ready for presents, and that more than forty
tailors were always employed in this service.

It is not improbable that this ancient custom of presenting a visitor
with a new dress as a token of welcome, a symbol of rejoicing at his
presence, may have led to many of the general customs which have
prevailed, and do still, of having new clothes at any season of joy or
festivity. New clothes are thought by the people of the East
_requisite_ for the due solemnization of a time of rejoicing. The
Turks, even the poorest of them, would submit to any privation rather
than be without new clothes at the Bairam or Great Festival. There is
an anecdote recorded of the Caliph Montanser Billah, that going one
day to the upper roof of his palace he saw a number of clothes spread
out on the flat roofs of the houses of Bagdat. He asked the reason,
and was told that the inhabitants of Bagdat were drying their clothes,
which they had newly washed, on account of the approach of the Bairam.
The caliph was so concerned that any should be so poor as to be
obliged to wash their old clothes for want of new ones with which to
celebrate this festival, that he ordered a great quantity of gold to
be instantly made into bullets, proper to be shot out of crossbows,
which he and his courtiers threw, by this means, upon every terrace of
the city where he saw garments spread to dry.


[5] Book viii. chap. 48.

[6] Ciampini, Vetera Monimenta, cap. xiii.

[7] "Licia qui texunt, et Carmina; Carmina Musis,
      Licia contribuunt, casta Minerva, tibi.
    Ast ego rem sociam non dissociabo, Sabina,
      Versibus inscripsi, quæ mea texta meis."

[8] "Sive probas Tyrio textam sub tegmine vestem,
      Seu placet inscripti commoditas tituli.
    Ipsius hæc Dominæ concennat utrumque venustas:
      Has geminas artes una Sabina colet."



    "There was an auncient house not far away,
      Renown'd throughout the world for sacred lore
    And pure unspotted life: so well they say
      It govern'd was, and guided evermore
      Through wisedome of a matrone grave and hore,
    Whose onely joy was to relieve the needes
      Of wretched soules, and helpe the helplesse pore:
    All night she spent in bidding of her bedes,
    And all the day in doing good and godly dedes."

                        Faerie Queene.

    "Meantime, whilst monks' _pens_ were thus employed, nuns
    with their _needles_ wrote histories also: that of
    _Christ his passion_ for their altar-clothes; and other
    Scripture- (and more legend-) stories in hangings to
    adorn their houses."--Fuller, Ch. Hist., B. 6.

Needlework is an art so indissolubly connected with the convenience
and comfort of mankind at large, that it is impossible to suppose any
state of society in which it has not existed. Its modes varied, of
course, according to the lesser or greater degrees of refinement in
other matters with which it was connected; and when we find from
Muratori that "nulla s'è detto fin qui dell'Arte del Tessere dopo la
declinazione del Romano Imperio; e solo in fuggire s'è parlato di
alcune vesti degli antichi," we may fairly infer that the _ornamental_
needlework of the time was not extensively encouraged, although never
entirely laid aside.

The desolation that overran the world was found alike in its greatest
or most insignificant concerns; and the same torrent that swept
monarchs from their thrones and peers from their halls did away with
the necessity for professors of the decorative arts. There needed not
the embroiderer of gold and purple to blazon the triumph of a
conqueror who disdained other habiliment than the skin of some
slaughtered beast.[9]

The matron who yet retained the principle of Roman virtue, or the fair
and refined maiden of the eastern capital, far from seeking personal
adornment, rather shunned any decoration which might attract the eyes
and inflame the passions of untamed and ruthless conquerors. All usual
habits were subverted, and for long years the history of the European
world is but a bloody record of war and tumult, of bloodshed and
strife. Few are the cases of peace and tranquillity in this desert of
tumult and blood-guiltiness; but those few "isles of the blessed" in
this ocean of discord, those few sunny spots in the gloomy landscape,
are intimately connected with our theme. The use of the needle for the
daily necessities of life could never, as we have remarked, be
superseded; but the practice of ornamental needlework, in common with
every ennobling science and improving art, was kept alive during this
period of desolation by the church, and by the individual labours and
collective zeal of the despised and contemned monks.

Sharing that hallowed influence which hovered over and protected the
church at this fearful season--for, from the carelessness or
superstition of the barbarians, the ministers of religion were
spared--nunneries, with some few exceptions, were now like refuges
pointed out by Heaven itself. They were originally founded by the
sister of St. Anthony, the hermit of the Egyptian desert, and in their
primitive institution were meant solely for those who, abjuring the
world for religious motives, were desirous to spend their whole time
in devotional exercises. But their sphere of utility became afterwards
widely extended. They became safe and peaceable asylums for all those
to whom life's pilgrimage had been too thorny. The frail but repentant
maiden was here sheltered from the scorn of an uncharitable world; the
virtuous but suffering female, whose earthly hopes had, from whatever
cause, been crushed, could here weep and pray in peace: while she to
whom the more tangible trouble of poverty had descended might here,
without the galling yoke of charity and dependence, look to a refuge
for those evil days when the breaking of the golden bowl, the loosing
of the silver cord, should disable her from the exertions necessary
for her maintenance.

Have we any--ay, with all their faults and imperfections on their
heads--have we, in these days of enlightenment, any sort of substitute
for the blessings they held out to dependent and suffering woman of
whatever rank?

Convents became also schools for the education of young women of rank,
who here imbibed in early youth principles of religion which might
enable them to endure with patience and fortitude those after-trials
of life from which no station or wealth could exempt them; and they
acquired here those accomplishments, and were taught here those
lighter occupations, amongst which fine needlework and embroidery
occupied a conspicuous position, which would qualify them to beguile
in a becoming manner the many hours of leisure which their elevated
rank would confer on them.

"Nunneries," says Fuller, "also were good shee-schools, wherein the
girles and maids of the neighbourhood were taught to read and work;
and sometimes a little Latine was taught them therein. Yea, give me
leave to say, if such feminine foundations had still continued,
provided no _vow_ were obtruded upon them (virginity is least kept
where it is most constrained), haply the weaker sex (besides the
avoiding modern inconveniences) might be heightened to an higher
perfection than hitherto hath been attained. That sharpnesse of their
wits and suddenness of their conceits (which their enemies must allow
unto them) might by education be improved into a judicious solidity,
and that adorned with arts which now they want, not because they
cannot learn, but are not taught them. I say, if such feminine
foundations were extant now of dayes, haply some virgins of highest
birth would be glad of such places, and I am sure their fathers and
elder brothers would not be sorry for the same."

Miss Lawrance gives a more detailed account of the duties taught in
them. "In consequence of convents being considered as establishments
exclusively belonging to the Latin church, Protestant writers, as by
common consent, have joined in censuring them, forgetful of the many
benefits which, without any reference to their peculiar creed, they
were calculated to confer. Although providing instruction for the
young, the convent was a large establishment for various orders of
women. There were the nuns, the lay sisters, always a numerous class,
and a large body of domestics; while in those higher convents, where
the abbess exercised manorial jurisdiction, there were seneschal,
esquires, gentlemen, yeomen, grooms, indeed the whole establishment of
a baronial castle, except the men-at-arms and the archer-band. Thus
within the convent walls the pupil saw nearly the same domestic
arrangement to which she had been accustomed in her father's castle;
while, instead of being constantly surrounded with children, well born
and intelligent women might be her occasional companions. And then the
most important functions were exercised by women. The abbess presided
in her manorial court, the cellaress performed the extensive offices
of steward, the præcentrix led the singing and superintended the
library, and the infirmaress watched over the sick, affording them
alike spiritual and medical aid. Thus, from her first admission, the
pupil was taught to respect and to emulate the talents of women. But
a yet more important peculiarity did the convent school present. It
was a noble, a well-endowed, and an independent institution; and it
proffered education as a boon. Here was no eager canvassing for
scholars, no promises of unattainable advantages; for the convent
school was not a mercantile establishment, nor was education a trade.
The female teachers of the middle ages were looked up to alike by
parent and child, and the instruction so willingly offered was
willingly and gratefully received; the character of the teacher was
elevated, and as a necessary consequence so was the character of the

But in addition to those inmates who had dedicated their lives to
religion, and those who were placed there specifically for education,
convents afforded shelter to numbers who sought only temporary
retirement from the world under the influence of sorrow, or temporary
protection under the apprehension of danger. And this was the case not
merely through the very dark era with which our chapter commences, but
for centuries afterwards, and when the world was comparatively
civilized. Our own "good Queen Maude" assumed the veil in the convent
of Romsey, without however taking the vows, as the only means of
escaping from a forced marriage; and in the subsequent reign, that of
Stephen, so little regard was paid to law or decorum, that a convent
was the only place where a maiden, even of gentle birth, if she had
riches, could have a chance of shelter and safety from the
machinations of those who resorted to any sort of brutality or
violence to compel her to a marriage which would secure her
possessions to her ravisher.

It was then in the convents, and in them alone, that, during the
barbarism and confusion consequent upon the overthrow of the ancient
empire, and the irruption of the untamed hordes who overran southern
Europe from the north and west,--it was in the convents that some
remnants of the ancient art of embroidery were still preserved. The
nuns considered it an acceptable service to employ their time and
talents in the construction of vestments which, being intended for the
service of the church, were rich and sumptuous even at the time when
richness and elegance of apparel were unknown elsewhere.[10] It was no
proof of either the ignorance or the bad taste or the irreligion of
the "_dark_" ages, that the religious edifices were fitted up with a
rich and gorgeous solemnity which are unheard of in these days of
light and knowledge and economy. And besides the construction of rich
and elaborately ornamented vestments for the priests, and hangings for
the altars, shrines, &c., besides these being peculiarly the
occupation of the professed sisters of religious houses, it was
likewise the pride and the delight of ladies of rank to devote both
their money to the purchase and their time to the embroidering of
sacerdotal garments as offerings to the church. And whether
temporarily sheltering within the walls of a convent, or happily
presiding in her own lofty halls, it was oftentime the pride and
pleasure of the high-born dame to embroider a splendid cope, a rich
vest, or a gorgeous hanging, as a votive and grateful offering to that
holy altar where perhaps she had prayed in sorrow, and found
consolation and peace.


[9] "In the most inclement winter the hardy German was satisfied with
a scanty garment made of the skin of some animal."--Gibbon.

[10] Muratori (Diss. 25), speaking of the mean habiliments usual in
Italy even so late as the 13th century, adds, "Ma non per questo
s'hanno a credere così rozzi e nemici del Lusso que' Secoli. A buon
conto anche in Italia qui non era cieco, sovente potea mirare i più
delicati lavori di Seta, che _servivano di ornamenti alle Chiese e
alle sacre funzioni_."



    "Last night I dreamt a dream; behold!
    I saw a church was fret with gold,
                With arras richly dight:
    There saw I altar, pall, and pix,
    Chalice, and font, and crucifix,
                And tapers burning bright."

                        W. S. Rose.

Over those memorials of the past which chance and mischance have left
us, time hath drawn a thick curtain, obliterating all soft and gentle
touches, which connected harmoniously the bolder features of the
landscape, and leaving these but as landmarks to intimate what had
been there. We would fain linger on those times, and call up the
gentle spirits of the long departed to describe scenes of quiet but
useful retirement at which we now only dimly guess. We would witness
the hour of recreation in the convent, when the severer duties of the
cloister gave place to the cheerful one of companionship; and the
"pale votary" quitted the lonely cell and the solitary vigil, to
instruct the blooming novice in the art of embroidery, or to ply her
own accustomed and accomplished fingers in its fairy creations. The
younger ones would be ecstatic in their commendations, and eager in
their exertions to rival the fair sempstress; whilst a gratified
though sad smile would brighten her own pale cheek as the lady abbess
laid aside the richly illuminated volume by which her own attention
had been engrossed, and from which she had from time to time read
short and instructive passages aloud, commenting on and enforcing the
principles they inculcated; and holding the work towards the casement,
so that the bright slanting rays of the setting sun which fell through
the richly carved lattice might illumine the varied tints of the
stitchery, she would utter some kind and encouraging words of
admiration and praise.

Perhaps the work was a broidered scarf for some spiritual father, a
testimony of gratitude and esteem from the convent at large; perhaps
it was a tunic or a girdle which some high and wealthy lady had
bespoken for an offering, and which the meek and pious sisterhood were
happy to do for hire, bestowing the proceeds on the necessities of the
convent; or, if those were provided, on charity. Perhaps it was a pair
of sandals, so magnificently wrought as to be destined as a present by
some lofty abbot to the pope himself, like those which Robert, Abbot
of St. Alban's, sent to the Pope Adrian the Fourth; and which alone,
out of a multitude of the richest offerings, the pope retained;[11]
or if it were in England (for our domestic scene will apply to all the
Christian world) it might be a magnificent covering for the high
altar, with a scripture history embroidered in the centre, and the
border, of regal purple, inwrought with gold and precious stones. We
say, _if in England_, because so celebrated was the English work, the
Opus Anglicum,[12] that other nations eagerly desired to possess it.
The embroidered vestments of some English clergymen were so much
admired at the Papal Court, that the Pope, asking where they had been
made, and being told "in England," despatched bulls to several English
abbots, commanding them to procure similar ones for him. Some of the
vestments of these days were almost covered with gold and precious

Or it might be a magnificent pall, in the days in which this garment
had lost its primitive character, that taxed the skill and the
patience of the fair needlewoman. It was about the year A.D. 601 that
Pope Gregory sent two archbishop's palls into England; the one for
London, which see was afterwards removed to Canterbury, and the other
to York. Fuller gives the following account of this garment

"The pall is a pontificall vestment, considerable for the matter,
making, and mysteries thereof. For the matter, it is made of
lamb's-wooll and superstition. I say, _of lamb's-wooll, as it comes
from the sheep's back, without any other artificiall colour_, spun
(say some) by a peculiar order of nunnes, _first cast into the tombe
of St. Peter_, taken from his body (say others); surely most sacred if
from both; and (superstitiously) adorned with little black crosses.
For the form thereof, the _breadth exceeded not three fingers_ (one of
our bachelor's lamb-skin hoods in Cambridge would make three of them),
_having two labells hanging down before and behind_, which the
archbishops onely, when going to the altar, put about their necks,
above their other pontificall ornaments. Three mysteries were couched
therein. First, humility, which beautifies the clergy above all their
costly copes; secondly, innocency, to imitate lamb-like simplicitie;
and thirdly, industry, to follow him who fetched his wandering sheep
home on his shoulders. But to speak plainly, the mystery of mysteries
in this pall was, that the archbishops receiving it showed therein
their dependence on Rome; and a mote in this manner ceremoniously
taken was a sufficient acknowledgment of their subjection. And, as it
owned Rome's power, so in after ages it increased their profit. For,
though now such palls were freely given to archbishops, whose places
in Britain for the present were rather cumbersome than commodious,
having little more than their paines for their labour; yet in after
ages the archbishop of Canterburie's pall was sold for five thousand
florenes:[13] so that the Pope might well have the Golden Fleece, if
he could sell all his lamb's-wooll at that rate."[14]

The accounts of the rich embroidered ecclesiastical vestments--robes,
sandals, girdles, tunics, vests, palls, cloaks, altar-cloths, and
veils or hangings of various descriptions, common in churches in the
dark ages--would almost surpass belief, if the minuteness with which
they are enumerated in some few ancient authors did not attest the
fact. Still these in the most diffuse writers are a mere catalogue of
church properties, and, as such, would, in the dry detail, be but
little interesting to our readers. There is enough said of them,
however, to attest their variety, their beauty, their magnificence;
and to impress one with a very favourable idea of the female ingenuity
and perseverance of those days. The cost of many of these garments was
enormous, for pearls and precious jewels were literally interwrought,
and the time and labour bestowed on them was almost incredible. It was
no uncommon circumstance for three years to be spent even by these
assiduous and indefatigable votaries of the needle on one garment. But
it is only casually, in the pages of the antiquarian, that there is
any record of them:--

                      "With their names
    No bard embalms and sanctifies his song:
    And history, so warm on meaner themes,
    Is cold on this."

"Noi" (says Muratori) "che ammiriamo, e con ragione, la beltà e
varietà di tante drapperie dei nostri tempi, abbiam nondimeno da
confessare un obbligo non lieve agli antichi, che ci hanno prima
spianata la via, e senza i lumi loro non potremmo oggidì vantare un sì
gran progresso nell'Arti."

And that this was the case a few instances may suffice to show; and it
may not be quite out of place here to refer to one out of a thousand
articles of value and beauty which were lost in the great
conflagration ("which so cruelly laid waste the habitations of the
servants of God") of the doomed and often suffering, but always
magnificent, Croyland Abbey. It was "that beautiful and costly sphere,
most curiously constructed of different metals, according to the
different planets. Saturn was of copper, Jupiter of gold, Mars of
iron, the Sun of brass, Mercury of amber, Venus of tin, and the Moon
of silver: the colours of all the signs of the Zodiac had their
several figures and colours variously finished, and adorned with such
a mixture of precious stones and metals as amused the eye, while it
informed the mind of every beholder. Such another sphere was not known
or heard of in England; and it was a present from the King of France."

No insignificant proof this of the mechanical skill of the eleventh

We are told that Pope Eutychianus, who lived in the reign of the
Emperor Aurelian, buried in different places 342 martyrs with his own
hands; and he ordained that a faithful martyr should on no account be
interred without a dalmatic robe or a purple colobio. This is perhaps
one of the earliest notices of ecclesiastical pomp or pride in
vestments. But some forty years afterwards Pope Silvester was
invested by the hands of his attendants with a Phrygian robe of snowy
white, on which was traced in sparkling threads by busy female hands
the resurrection of our Lord; and so magnificent was this garment
considered that it was ordained to be worn by his successors on state
occasions: and to pass at once to the seventh century, there are
records of various church hangings which had become injured by old age
being carefully repaired at considerable expense; which expense and
trouble would not, we may fairly infer, have been incurred if the
articles in question, even at this more advanced period, had not been
considered of value and of beauty.

Leo the Third, in the eighth century, was a magnificent benefactor to
the church. With the vessels of rich plate and jewels of various
descriptions which were in all ages offering to the church we have
nothing to do: amongst various other vestments, Leo gave to the high
altar of the blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, a covering
spangled with gold (_chrysoclabam_) and adorned with precious stones;
having the histories both of our Saviour giving to the blessed Apostle
Peter the power of binding and loosing, and also representing the
suffering of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and Paul. It was of
great size, and exhibited on St. Peter and St. Paul's days.[15]

Pope Paschal, early in the ninth century, had some magnificent
garments wrought, which he presented to different churches. One of
these was an altar-cloth of Tyrian purple, having in the middle a
picture of golden emblems, with the countenance of our Lord, and of
the blessed martyrs Cosman and Damian, with three other brothers. The
cross was wrought in gold, and had round it a border of olive-leaves
most beautifully worked. Another had golden emblems, with our Saviour,
surrounded with archangels and apostles, of wonderful beauty and
richness, being ornamented with pearls.

In these ages robes and hangings with crimson or purple borders,
called _blatta_, from the name of the insect from which the dye was
obtained, were much in use. An insect, supposed to be the one so often
referred to by this name in the writings of the ancients, is found now
on the coasts of Guayaquil and Guatima. The dye is very beautiful, and
is easily transferred. The royal purple so much esteemed of old was of
very different shades, for the terms purple, red, crimson, scarlet,
are often used indiscriminately; and a pretty correct conception may
be acquired of the value of this imperial tint formerly from the
circumstance that, when Alexander took possession of the city of Susa
and of its enormous treasures, among other things there were found
five thousand quintals of Hermione purple, the finest in the world,
which had been treasured up there during the space of 190 years;
notwithstanding which, its beauty and lustre were no way diminished.
Some idea may be formed of the prodigious value of this store from the
fact that this purple was sold at the rate of 100 crowns a pound, and
the quintal is a hundredweight of Paris.

Pope Paschal had a robe worked with gold and gems, having the history
of the Virgins with lighted torches beautifully related: he had
another of Byzantine scarlet with a worked border of olive-leaves.
This was a very usual decoration of ecclesiastical robes, and a very
suitable one; for, from the time when in the beak of Noah's dove it
was first an emblem of comfort, it has ever, in all ages, in all
nations, at all times, been symbolical of plenty and peace. This pope
had also a robe of woven gold, worn over a cassock of scarlet silk; a
dress certainly worth the naming, though not so much as others
indebted to our useful little implement which Cowper calls the
"threaded steel." But he had another rich and peculiar garment, which
was entirely indebted to the needlewoman for its varied and radiant
hues. This was a robe of an amber colour,[16] _having peacocks_.

Pope Leo the Fourth had a hanging worked with the needle, having the
portrait of a man seated upon a peacock. Pope Stefano the Fifth had
four magnificent hangings for the great altar, one of which was
wrought in peacocks. We find in romance that there was a high
emblematical value attached to peacocks; not so high, however, as to
prevent our ancestors from eating them; but it is difficult to account
for their being so frequently introduced in designs professedly
religious. In romance and chivalry they were supereminent. "To mention
the peacock (says M. Le Grand) is to write its panegyrick." Many noble
families bore the peacock as their crest; and in the Provençal Courts
of Love the successful poet was crowned with a wreath formed of them.
The coronation present given to the Queen of our Henry the Third, by
her sister, the Queen of France, was a large silver peacock, whose
train was set with sapphires and pearls, and other precious jewels,
wrought with silver. This elegant piece of jewellery was used as a
reservoir for sweet waters, which were forced out of its beak into a
basin of white silver chased.

As the knights associated these birds with all their ideas of fame,
and made their most solemn vows over them, the highest honours were
conferred on them. Their flesh is celebrated as the "nutriment of
lovers," and the "viand of worthies;" and a peacock was always the
most distinguished dish at the solemn banquets of princes or nobles.
On these occasions it was served up on a golden dish, and carried to
table by a lady of rank, attended by a train of high-born dames and
damsels, and accompanied by music. If it was on the occasion of a
tournament, the successful knight always carved it, so regulating his
portions that each individual, be the company ever so numerous, might
taste. For the oath, the knight rising from his seat and extending his
hand over the bird, vowed some daring enterprise of arms or love:--"I
vow to God, to the blessed Virgin, to the dames, and to the _peacock_,
&c. &c."

In later and less imaginative times, the peacock, though still a
favourite dish at a banquet, seems to have been regarded more from its
affording "good eating" than from any more refined attribute.
Massinger speaks of

                            "the carcases
    Of three fat wethers bruised for gravy, to
    Make sauce for a single peacock."

In Shakspeare's time the bird was usually put into a pie, the head,
richly gilt, being placed at one end of the dish, and the tail, spread
out in its full circumference, at the other. And alas! for the
degeneracy of those days. The solemn and knightly adjuration of former
times had even then dwindled into the absurd oath which Shakspeare
puts into the mouth of Justice Shallow:--

    "By _cock_ and _pye_, Sir, you shall not away to night."

In some of the French tapestries birds of all shapes, natural and
unnatural, of all sizes and in all positions, form very important
parts of the subjects themselves; though this remark is hardly in
place here, as the tapestries are of later date, and not solely
needlework. To return, however: mention is made in an old chronicle of
_antiquitas Congregatio Ancilarum, quæ opere plumario ornamenta
ecclesiam laborabant_. It has been a subject of much discussion
whether this Opus Plumarium signified some arrangement of real
feathers, or merely fanciful embroidery in imitation of them.
Lytlyngton, Abbot of Croyland, in Edward the Fourth's time, gave to
his church nine copes of cloth of gold, exquisitely feathered.[17]
This was perhaps embroidered imitation. A vestment which Cnute the
Great presented to this abbey was made of silk embroidered with eagles
of gold. Richard Upton, elected abbot in 1417, gave silk embroidered
with falcons for copes; and about the same time John Freston gave a
rich robe of Venetian blue embroidered with golden eagles. These were
positively imitations merely; yet they evince the prevailing taste for
feathered work, and, as we have shown, feathers themselves were much
used. It is recorded that Pope Paul the Third sent King Pepin a
present of a mantle interwoven with peacocks' feathers.

And from whatever circumstance the reverence for peacocks' feathers
originated,[18] it is not, even yet, quite exploded. There are some
lingering remnants of a superstitious regard for them which may have
had their origin in these very times and circumstances. For how
surely, where they are rigidly traced, are our country customs, our
vulgar ceremonies, our apparently absurd and senseless usages, found
to emanate from some principle or superstition of general and
prevailing adoption. In some counties we cannot enter a farm-house
where the mantel-piece in the parlour is not decorated with a diadem
of peacock feathers, which are carefully dusted and preserved. And in
houses of more assuming pretensions the same custom frequently
prevails; and we knew a lady who carefully preserved some peacock
feathers in a drawer long after her association with people in a
higher station than that to which she originally belonged had made her
ashamed to display them in her parlour. _This_ could not be for _mere_
ornament: there is some idea of _luck_ attached to them, which seems
not improbably to have arisen from circumstances connected originally
with the "Vow of the Peacock." At any rate, the religious care with
which peacocks' feathers are preserved by many who care not for them
as ornaments, is not a whit more ridiculous than to see people gravely
turn over the money in their pockets when they first hear the cuckoo,
or joyfully fasten a dropped horse-shoe on their threshold, or
shudderingly turn aside if two straws lie across in their path, or
thankfully seize an old shoe accidentally met with, heedless of the
probable state of the beggared foot that may unconsciously have left
it there, or any other of the million unaccountable customs which
diversify and enliven country life, and which still prevail and
flourish, notwithstanding the extensive travels and sweeping
devastations of the modern "schoolmaster."

Do not our readers recollect Cowper's thanksgiving "on finding the
heel of a shoe?"--

    "Fortune! I thank thee, gentle goddess! thanks!
    Not that my muse, though bashful, shall deny
    She would have thanked thee rather, hadst thou cast
    A treasure in her way; for neither meed
    Of early breakfast, to dispel the fumes
    And bowel-raking pains of emptiness,
    Nor noontide feast, nor ev'ning's cool repast,
    Hopes she from this--presumptuous, though perhaps
    The cobbler, leather-carving artist, might.
    Nathless she thanks thee, and accepts thy boon,
    Whatever; not as erst the fabled cock,
    Vain-glorious fool! unknowing what he found,
    Spurned the rich gem thou gavest him. Wherefore, ah!
    Why not on me that favour, (worthier sure!)
    Conferr'dst, goddess! thou art blind, thou sayest:
    Enough! thy blindness shall excuse the deed."

Return we to our needlework.

We have clear proof that, before the end of the seventh century, our
fair countrywomen were skilled not merely in the use of the needle as
applied to necessary purposes, but also in its application to the
varied and elegant embroidered garments to which we have so frequently
alluded, as forming properties of value and consideration. They were
chiefly executed by ladies of the highest rank and greatest
piety--very frequently, indeed, by those of royal blood--and were
usually (as we have before observed) devoted to the embellishment of
the church, or the decoration of its ministers. It was not unusual to
bequeath such properties. "I give," said the wife of the Conqueror, in
her will, "to the Abbey of the Holy Trinity, my tunic worked at
Winchester by Alderet's wife, and the mantle embroidered with gold,
which is in my chamber, to make a cope. Of my two golden girdles, I
give that which is ornamented with emblems for the purpose of
suspending the lamp before the great altar."[19] Amongst some costly
presents sent by Isabella, Queen of Edward the Second, to the Pope,
was a magnificent cope, embroidered and studded with large white
pearls, and purchased of the executors of Catherine Lincoln, for a sum
equivalent to between two and three thousand pounds of present money.
Another cope, thought worthy to accompany it, was also the work of an
Englishwoman, Rose de Bureford, wife of John de Bureford, citizen and
merchant of London.

Anciently, banners, either from being made of some relic, or from the
representation on them of holy things, were held sacred, and much
superstitious faith placed in them; consequently the pious and
industrious finger was much occupied in working them. King Arthur,
when he fought the eighth battle against the Saxons, carried the
"image of Christ and of the blessed Mary (always a virgin) upon his
shoulders." Over the tomb of Oswald, the great Christian hero, was
laid a banner of purple wrought with gold. When St. Augustine first
came to preach to the Saxons, he had a cross borne before him, with a
banner, on which was the image of our Saviour Christ. The celebrated
standard of the Danes had the sacred raven worked on it; and the
ill-fated Harold bore to the field of Hastings a banner with the
figure of an armed man worked in gold thread: to the same field
William bore a standard, a gift from the Pope, and blessed by his

It is recorded of St. Dunstan, who, as our readers well know, excelled
in many pursuits, and especially in painting, for which he frequently
forsook his peculiar occupation of goldsmith, that on one occasion, at
the earnest request of a lady, he _tinted_ a sacerdotal vestment for
her, which she afterwards embroidered in gold thread in an exquisitely
beautiful style. Most of these embroidered works were first tinted,
very probably in the way in which they now are, or until the freer
influx of the more beautiful German patterns, they lately were; and it
is from this previous tinting that they are so frequently described in
the old books as _painted_ garments, _pictured_ vestments, &c., this
term by no means seeming usually to imply that the use of the needle
had been neglected or superseded in them. The garments of Edward the
Confessor, which he wore upon occasions of great solemnity, were
sumptuously embroidered with gold by the hands of Edgitha, his Queen.
The four princesses, daughters of King Edward the Elder, were most
carefully educated: their early years were chiefly devoted to literary
pursuits, but they were nevertheless most assiduously instructed in
the use of the needle, and are highly celebrated by historians for
their assiduity and skill in spinning, weaving, and needlework. This
was so far, says the historian, from spoiling the fortunes of those
royal spinsters, that it procured them the addresses of the greatest
princes then in Europe, and one, "in whom the whole essence of beauty
had centered, was demanded from her brother by Hugh, King of the

Our fair readers may take some interest in knowing what were the
propitiatory offerings of a noble suitor of those days.

"Perfumes, such as never had been seen in England before; jewels, but
more especially emeralds, the greenness of which, reflected by the
sun, illumined the countenances of the bystanders with agreeable
light; many fleet horses, with their trappings, and, as Virgil says,
'champing their golden bits;' an alabaster vase, so exquisitely
chased, that the corn-fields really seemed to wave, the vines to bud,
the figures of men actually to move, and so clear and polished, that
it reflected the features like a mirror; the sword of Constantine the
Great, on which the name of its original possessor was read in golden
letters; on the pommel, upon thick plates of gold, might be seen fixed
an iron spike, one of the four which the Jewish faction prepared for
the crucifixion of our Lord; the spear of Charles the Great, which,
whenever that invincible Emperor hurled in his expeditions against the
Saracens, he always came off conqueror; it was reported to be the same
which, driven into the side of our Saviour by the hand of the
centurion, opened, by that precious wound, the joys of paradise to
wretched mortals; the banner of the most blessed martyr Maurice, chief
of the Theban legion, with which the same King, in the Spanish war,
used to break through the battalions of the enemy, however fierce and
wedged together, and put them to flight; a diadem, precious from its
quantity of gold, but more so for its jewels, the splendour of which
threw the sparks of light so strongly on the beholders, that the more
steadfastly any person endeavoured to gaze, so much the more dazzled
he was--compelled to avert his eyes; part of the holy and adorable
cross enclosed in crystal, where the eye, piercing through the
substance of the stone, might discern the colour and size of the wood;
a small portion of the crown of thorns enclosed in a similar manner,
which, in derision of his government, the madness of the soldiers
placed on Christ's sacred head.

"The King (Athelstan), delighted with such great and exquisite
presents, made an equal return of good offices, and gratified the soul
of the longing suitor by a union with his sister. With some of these
presents he enriched succeeding kings; but to Malmesbury he gave part
of the cross and crown; by the support of which, I believe, that place
even now flourishes, though it has suffered so many shipwrecks of its
liberty, so many attacks of its enemies."[20]

It is not to be supposed that at a time when the "whole island" was
said to "blaze" with devotion, and when, moreover, her own fair
daughters surpassed the whole world in needlework, that the English
churches were deficient in its beautiful adornments. Far otherwise,
indeed. We forbear to enumerate many, because our chapter has already
exceeded its prescribed limits; but we may particularize a golden veil
or hanging (vellum), embroidered with the destruction of Troy, which
Witlaf, King of Mercia, gave to the abbey of Croyland; and the
coronation mantle of Harold Harefoot, son of Cnute, which he gave to
the same abbey, made of silk, and embroidered with "Hesperian apples."
Richard, who was abbot of St. Alban's from 1088 to 1119, made a
present to his monastery of a suit of hangings which contained the
whole history of the primitive martyr of England, Alban.

Croyland Abbey possessed many hangings for the altars, embroidered
with golden birds; and a garment, which seems to have been a peculiar,
and considered a valuable one, being a black gown wrought with gold
letters, to officiate in at funerals. The enigmatical letters which
were worked on ecclesiastical vestments in those days, were various
and peculiar, and have given abundant scope for antiquarian research.
We have heard it surmised that they took their rise in times of
persecution, being indications (then, doubtless, slight and
unostentatious ones) by which the Christians might know each other.
But they came into more general use, not merely as symbolical
characters, but individual names were wrought, and that not on
personal garments alone, for Pope Leo the Fourth placed a cloth on the
altar woven with gold, and spangled all over with pearls. It had on
each side (right and left) a circle bounded with gold, within which
the name of his Holiness was written in precious stones. In many old
paintings a letter or letters have been noticed on the garment of the
principal figure, and they have been taken for private marks of the
painter, but it is more probable, says Ciampini,[21] that they are
either copied from old garments, or are intended to denote the dignity
of the character to which they are attached.

We will conclude the present chapter by remarking that one of the most
magnificent specimens of ancient needlework in existence, and which is
in excellent preservation, is the State Pall belonging to the
Fishmongers Company. The end pieces are similar, and consist of a
picture, wrought in gold and silk, of the patron, St. Peter, in
pontificial robes, seated on a superb throne, and crowned with the
papal tiara. Holding in one hand the keys, the other is in the posture
of giving the benediction, and on each side is an angel, bearing a
golden vase, from which he scatters incense over the Saint. The
angel's wings, according to old custom, are composed of peacocks'
feathers in all their natural vivid colours; their outer robes are
gold raised with crimson; their under vests white, shaded with sky
blue; the faces are finely worked in satin, after nature, and they
have long yellow hair.

There are various designs on the side pieces; the most important and
conspicuous is Christ delivering the keys to Peter. Among other
decorations are, of course, the arms of the company, richly
emblazoned, the supporters of which, the merman and mermaid, are
beautifully worked, the merman in gold armour, the mermaid in white
silk, with long tresses in golden thread.

This magnificent piece of needlework has probably no parallel in this


[11] When Robert, Abbot of St. Alban's, visited his countryman Pope
Adrian the Fourth, he made him several valuable presents, and amongst
other things three mitres and a pair of sandals of most admirable
workmanship. His holiness refused his other presents, but thankfully
accepted of the mitres and sandals, being charmed with their exquisite
beauty. These admired pieces of embroidery were the work of Christina,
Abbess of Markgate.

[12] "Anglicæ nationis feminæ multum acu et auri textura, egregie viri
in omni valeant artificio. Però fu renomato Opus Anglicum."--From

[13] A florene is 4_s._ 6_d._

[14] "The pall was a bishop's vestment, going over the shoulders, made
of sheep-skin, in memory of him who sought the lost sheep, and when he
had found it laid it on his shoulders; and it was embroidered with
crosses, and taken off the body or coffin of St. Peter."--Camden.

[15] Anastasius Bibliothecarius. De Vitis Romanorum Pontificum.

As this work is the fountain whence subsequent writers have chiefly
obtained their information with regard to church vestments, that is to
say, decorative ones, it may not be amiss to transcribe a passage,
taken literally at random from scores of similar ones. It will give
the reader some idea of the profusion with which the expensive
garnitures were supplied:--

"Sed et super altare majus fecit tetra vela holoserica alithina
quatuor, cum astillis, et rosis chrysoclabis. Et in eodem altare fecit
cum historiis crucifixi Domini vestem tyriam. Et in Ecclesia Doctoris
Mundi beati Pauli Apostoli tetra vela holoserica alithyna quatuor, et
vestem super altare albam chrysoclabam, habentem historiam Sanctæ
Resurrectionis, et aliam vestem chrysoclabam, habentem historiam
nativitatis Domini, et Sanctorum Innocentium. Immo et aliam vestem
tyriam, habentem historiam cæci illuminati, et Resurrectionem. Idem
autem sanctissimus Præsul fecit in basilica beatæ Mariæ ad Præsepe
vestem albam chrysoclabam, habentem historiam sanctæ Resurrectionis.
Sed et aliam vestem in orbiculis chrysoclabis, habentem historias
Annunciationis, et sanctorum Joachim, et Annæ. Fecit in Ecclesia beati
Laurentii foris muros eidem Præsul vestem albam rosatam cum
chrysoclabo. Sed et aliam vestem super sanctum corpus ejus albam de
stauraci chrysoclabam, cum margaritis. Et in titulo Calixti vestem
chrysoclabam ex blattin Byzanteo, habentem historiam nativitatis
Domini, et sancti Simeonis. Item in Ecclesia sancti Pancratii vestem
tyriam, habentem historiam Ascencionis Domini, seu et in sancta Maria
ad Martyres fecit vestem tyriam ut supra. Et in basilica sanctorum
Cosmæ et Damiani fecit vestem de blatti Byzanteo, cum periclysin de
chrysoclabo, et margaritis."--i. 285.

[16] "De staurace."

[17] "Opere plumario exquitissime præparatas."

[18] In the classical ages, they were in high repute. Juno's chariot
is drawn by peacocks; and Olympian Jove himself invests his royal
limbs with a mantle formed of their feathers.

[19] The name of Dame Leviet has descended to posterity as an
embroiderer to the Conqueror and his Queen.

[20] Will. of Malmesbury, 156.

[21] Vet. Mon. cap. 13.



    "Needlework sublime."


Great discussion has taken place amongst the learned with regard to
the exact time at which the Bayeux tapestry was wrought. The question,
except as a matter of curiosity, is, perhaps, of little account--fifty
years earlier or later, nearly eight hundred years ago. It had always
been considered as the work of Matilda, the wife of the conquering
Duke of Normandy until a few years ago, when the Abbé de la Rue
started and endeavoured to maintain the hypothesis that it was worked
by or under the direction of the Empress Matilda, the daughter of
Henry the First.[22] But his positions, as Dibdin observes,[23] are
all of a _negative_ character, and, "according to the strict rules of
logic, it must not be admitted, that because such and such writers
have _not_ noticed a circumstance, therefore that circumstance or
event cannot have taken place." Hudson Gurney, Charles A. Stothard,
and Thos. Amyot, Esqrs. have all published essays on the subject,[24]
which establish almost to certainty the fact of the production of this
tapestry at the earlier of the two periods contended for, viz. from
1066 to 1068.

In this we rejoice, because this Herculean labour has a halo of deep
interest thrown round it, from the circumstance of its being the proud
tribute of a fond and affectionate wife, glorying in her husband's
glory, and proud of emblazoning his deeds. As the work of the Empress
Matilda it would still be a magnificent production of industry and of
skill; as the work of "Duke William's" wife these qualities merge in
others of a more interesting character.[25]

This excellent and amiable princess was a most highly accomplished
woman, and remarkable for her learning; she was the affectionate
mother of a large family, the faithful wife of an enterprising
monarch, with whom she lived for thirty-three years so harmoniously
that her death had such an effect on her husband as to cause him to
relinquish, never again to resume, his usual amusements.[26]

Little did the affectionate wife think, whilst employed over this
task, that her domestic tribute of regard should become an historical
memento of her country, and blazon forth her illustrious husband's
deeds, and her own unwearying affection, to ages upon ages hereafter
to be born. For independently of the interest which may be attached to
this tapestry as a pledge of feminine affection, a token of
housewifely industry, and a specimen of ancient stitchery, it derives
more historic value as the work of the Conqueror's wife, than if it
were the production of a later time. For it holds good with these
historical tapestries as with the written histories and romances of
the middle ages;--authors wrote and ladies wrought (we mean no pun)
their characters, _not_ in the costume of the times in which the
action or event celebrated took place, but in that in which they were
at the time engaged; and thus, had Matilda the Empress worked this
tapestry, it is more than probable that she would have introduced the
armorial bearings which were in her time becoming common, and
especially the Norman leopards, of which in the tapestry there is not
the slightest trace. In her time too the hair was worn so long as to
excite the censures of the church, whilst at the time of the Conquest
the Normans almost shaved their heads; and this circumstance, more
than the want of beards, is supposed by Mr. Stothard[27] to have led
to the surmise of the Anglo-Saxon spies that the Normans were all
priests. This circumstance is faithfully depicted in the tapestry,
where also the chief weapon seen is a lance, which was little used
after the Conquest. These peculiarities, with several others which
have been commented on by antiquarian writers, seem to establish the
date of this production as coeval with the action which it represents,
and therefore invaluable as an historical document.

"It is, perhaps," says one of the learned writers on the Bayeux
tapestry, "a characteristic of the literature of the present age to
deduce history from sources of second-rate authority; from ballads and
pictures rather than from graver and severer records. Unquestionably
this is the preferable course, if amusement, not truth, be the object
sought for. Nothing can be more delightful than to read the reigns of
the Plantagenets in the dramas of Shakspeare, or the tales of later
times in the ingenious fictions of the author of Waverley. But those
who would draw historical facts from their hiding-places must be
content to plod through many a ponderous worm-eaten folio, and many a
half-legible and still less intelligible manuscript.

"Yet," continues he, "if the Bayeux tapestry be not history of the
first class, it is, perhaps, something better. It exhibits genuine
traits, elsewhere sought in vain, of the costume and manners of that
age which, of all others, if we except the period of the Reformation,
ought to be the most interesting to us; that age which gave us a new
race of monarchs, bringing with them new landholders, new laws, and
almost a new language.

"As in the magic pages of Froissart, we here behold our ancestors of
each race in most of the occupations of life, in courts and camps, in
pastime and in battle, at feasts and on the bed of sickness. These
are characteristics which of themselves would call forth a lively
interest; but their value is greatly enhanced by their connection with
one of the most important events in history, the main subject of the
whole design."

This magnificent piece of work is 227 feet in length by 20 inches in
width, is now usually kept at the Town-hall in Rouen, and is treasured
as the most precious relic. It was formerly the theme of some long and
learned dissertations of antiquarian historians, amongst whom
Montfaucon, perhaps, ranks most conspicuous.

Still so little _local_ interest does it excite, that Mr. Gurney, in
1814, was nearly leaving Bayeux without seeing it because he did not
happen to ask for it by the title of "Toile de St. Jean," and so his
request was not understood; and Ducarel, in his "Tour," says, "The
priests of this cathedral to whom we addressed ourselves for a sight
of this remarkable piece of antiquity, knew nothing of it; the
circumstance only of its being annually hung up in their church led
them to understand what we wanted; no person there knowing that the
object of our inquiry any ways related to William the Conqueror, whom
to this day they call Duke William."

During the French Revolution its surrender was demanded for the
purpose of covering the guns; fortunately, however, a priest succeeded
in concealing it until that storm was overpast.

Bonaparte better knew its value. It was displayed for some time in
Paris, and afterwards at some seaport towns. M. Denon had the charge
of it committed to him by Bonaparte, but it was afterwards restored
to Bayeux. It was at the time of the usurper's threatened invasion of
our country that so much value was attached to, and so much pains
taken to exhibit this roll. "Whether," says Dibdin, "at such a sight
the soldiers shouted, and, drawing their glittering swords,

    "Clashed on their sounding shields the din of war,--"

confident of a second representation of the same subject by a second
subjugation of our country--is a point which has not been exactly
detailed to me! But the supposition may not be considered very violent
when I inform you that I was told by a casual French visitor of the
tapestry, that '_pour cela, si Bonaparte avait eu le courage, le
résultat auroit été comme autrefois_.' Matters, however, have taken
_rather_ a different turn."

The tapestry is coiled round a machine like that which lets down the
buckets to a well, and a female unrols and explains it. It is worked
in different coloured worsteds on white cloth, to which time has given
the tinge of brown holland; the parts intended to represent flesh are
left untouched by the needle. The colours are somewhat faded, and not
very multitudinous. Perhaps it is the little variety of colours which
Matilda and her ladies had at their disposal which has caused them to
depict the horses of any colour--"blue, green, red, or yellow." The
outline, too, is of course stiff and rude.[28] At the top and bottom
of the main work is a narrow allegorical border; and each division or
different action or event is marked by a branch or tree extending the
whole depth of the tapestry; and most frequently each tableau is so
arranged that the figures at the end of one and the beginning of the
next are turned from each other, whilst above each the subject of the
scene and the names of the principal actors are wrought in large
letters. The subjects of the border vary; some of Æsop's fables are
depicted on it, sometimes instruments of agriculture, sometimes
fanciful and grotesque figures and borders; and during the heat of the
battle of Hastings, when, as Montfaucon says, "le carnage est grand,"
the appropriate device of the border is a _layer of dead men_.

"From the fury of the Normans, good Lord deliver us," was, we are
told, in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries a petition in the
Litanies of all nations.[29] For long did England sorrow under their
"fury," though _in time_ the Conquest produced advantageous results to
the kingdom at large. Whether this Norman subjugation was in
accordance with the will of the monarch Edward, or whether it was
entirely the result of Duke William's ambition, must now ever remain
in doubt. Harold asserted that Edward the Confessor appointed him his
successor (of which, however, he could not produce proof); to this
must be opposed the improbability of Edward thus ennobling a family of
whom he felt, and with such abundant cause, so jealous.

Probably the old chronicler (Fabyan) has hit the mark when he says,
"This Edgarre (the rightful heir) was yonge, and specyally for
Harolde was stronge of knyghtes and rychesse, he wanne the reygne." Be
this as it may, however, Harold on the very day of Edward's interment,
and that was only the day subsequent to his death, was crowned king in
St. Paul's; apparently with the concurrence of all concerned, for he
was powerful and popular. And his government during the chief part of
his short kingly career was such as to increase his popularity: he was
wise, and just, and gracious. "Anone as he was crowned, he began to
fordoo euyll lawes and customes before vsed, and stablysshed the good
lawes, and specyally whiche (suche) as were for the defence of holy
churche, and punysshed the euyll doers, to the fere and example of

But uncontrolled authority early began to produce its wonted results.
He "waxyd so prowd, and for couetouse wold not deuyde the prayes that
he took to hys knyghtys, that had well deseruyd it, but kepte it to
hymself, that he therby lost the fauour of many of his knyghtys and
people."[31] This defection from his party doubtless made itself felt
in the mortal struggle with the Norman duke which issued in Harold's
discomfiture and death.

Proceed we to the tapestry.

The first scene which the needlewoman has depicted is a conference
between a person who, from his white flowing beard and regal costume,
is easily recognized as the "sainted Edward," and another, who, from
his subsequent embarkation, is supposed to be Harold. The subject of
the conference is, of course, only conjectured. Harold's visit to
Normandy is well known; but whether, as some suppose, he was driven
thither by a tempest when on a cruise of pleasure; whether he went as
ambassador from Edward to communicate the intentions of the Confessor
in William's behoof; or whether, as the tapestry is supposed more
strongly to indicate, he obtained Edward's reluctant consent to his
visit to reclaim his brother who, a hostage for his own good conduct,
had been sent to William by Edward; these are points which now defy
investigation, even if they were of sufficient importance to claim it.
Harold is then seen on his journey attended by cavaliers on horseback,
surrounded by dogs, and, an emblem of his own high dignity, a hawk on
his fist.

One great value of this tapestry is the scrupulous regard paid to
points and circumstances which at first view might appear
insignificant, but which, as correlative confirmations of usages and
facts, are of considerable importance. Thus, it is known to
antiquarians that great personages formerly had two only modes of
equipment when proceeding on a journey, that of war or the chase.
Harold is here fully equipped for the chase, and consequently the
first glimpse obtained of his person would show that his errand was
one of peace. The hawk on the fist was a mark of high nobility: no
inferior person is represented with one: Harold and Guy Earl of
Ponthieu alone bear them.

In former times this bird was esteemed so sacred that it was
prohibited in the ancient laws for any one to give his hawk even as a
part of his ransom. In the reign of Edward the Third it was made
felony to steal a hawk; and to take its eggs, even in a person's own
ground, was punishable with imprisonment for a year and a day, besides
a fine at the king's pleasure. Nay, more than this, by the laws of one
part of the island, and probably of the whole,[32] the price of a
hawk, or of a greyhound, was once the very same with the price of a
man; and there was a time when the robbing of a hawk's nest was as
great a crime in the eye of the law, and as severely punished, as the
murder of a Christian. And of this high value they were long
considered. "It is difficult," says Mr. Mills,[33] "to fancy the
extravagant degree of estimation in which hawks were held during the
chivalric ages. As symbols of high estate they were constantly carried
about by the nobility of both sexes. There was even a usage of
bringing them into places appropriated to public worship; a practice
which, in the case of some individuals, appears to have been
recognised as a right. The treasurer of the church of Auxerre enjoyed
the distinction of assisting at divine service on solemn days with a
falcon on his fist; and the Lord of Sassai held the privilege of
perching his upon the altar. Nothing was thought more dishonourable to
a man of rank than to give up his hawks; and if he were taken prisoner
he would not resign them even for liberty."

The different positions in which the hawk is placed in our needlework
are worthy of remark. Here its head is raised, its wings fluttering,
as if eager and ready for flight; afterwards, when Harold follows the
Earl of Ponthieu as his captive, he is not, of course, deprived of his
bird, but by a beautiful fiction the bird is represented depressed,
and with its head turned towards its master's breast as if trying to
nestle and shelter itself there. Could sympathy be more poetically
expressed? Afterwards, on Harold's release, the bird is again depicted
as fluttering to "soar elate."

The practice very prevalent in these "barbarous times," as we somewhat
too sweepingly term them, of entering on no expedition of war or
pastime without imploring the protection of heaven, is intimated by a
church which Harold is entering previously to his embarkation. That
this observance might degenerate in many instances into mere form may
be very true; and the "hunting masses" celebrated in song might, some
of them, be more honoured in the breach than the observance:
nevertheless in clearing away the dross of old times, we have, it is
to be feared, removed some of the gold also; and the abolition of the
custom of having the churches open at _all times_, so that at any
moment the heart-prompted prayer might be offered up under the holy
shelter of a consecrated roof, has tended very much, it is to be
feared, to abolish the habit of frequent prayer. A habit in itself,
and regarded even merely as a habit, fraught with inestimable good.

We next see Harold and his companions refreshing themselves prior to
their departure, pledging each other, and doubtless drinking to the
success of their enterprise whatever it might be. The horns from which
they are drinking have been the subject of critical remark. We find
that horns were used for various purposes, and were of four sorts,
drinking horns, hunting horns, horns for summoning the people, and of
a mixed kind.

They were used as modes of investiture, and this manner of endowing
was usual amongst the Danes in England. King Cnute himself gave lands
at Pusey in Berkshire to the family of that name, with a horn solemnly
at that time delivered, as a confirmation of the grant. Edward the
Confessor made a like donation to the family of Nigel. The celebrated
horn of Alphus, kept in the sacristy in York Minster, was probably a
drinking cup belonging to this prince, and was by him given together
with all his lands and revenues to that church. "When he gave the horn
that was to convey it (his estate) he filled it with wine, and on his
knees before the altar, 'Deo et S. Petro omnes terras et redditus
propinavit.' So that he drank it off, in testimony that thereby he
gave them his lands."[34] Many instances might be adduced to show that
this mode of investiture was common in England in the time of the
Danes, the Anglo-Saxons, and at the close of the reign of the Norman

The drinking horns had frequently a screw at the end, which being
taken off at once converted them into hunting horns, which
circumstance will account for persons of distinction frequently
carrying their own. Such doubtless were those used of old by the
Breton hunters about Brecheliant, which is poetically described as a
forest long and broad, much famed throughout Brittany. The fountain of
Berenton rises from beneath a stone there. Thither the hunters are
used to repair in sultry weather, and drawing up water with their
horns (those horns which had just been used to sound the animated
warnings of the chase), they sprinkle the stone for the purpose of
having rain, which is then wont to fall throughout the whole forest
around. There too fairies are to be seen, and many wonders happen. The
ground is broken and precipitous, and deer in plenty roam there, but
the husbandmen have forsaken it. Our author[35] goes on to say that he
personally visited this enchanted region, but that, though he saw the
forest and the land, no marvels presented themselves. The reason is
obvious. He had, before the time, contracted some of the scepticism of
these matter-of-fact "schoolmaster abroad" days. He wanted faith, and
therefore he did not _deserve_ to see them.

The use of drinking horns is very ancient. They were usually
embellished or garnished with silver; they were in very common use
among our Saxon ancestors, who frequently had them gilded and
magnificently ornamented. One of those in use amongst Harold's party
seems to be very richly decorated.

The revellers are, however, obliged to dispatch, as their leader,
Harold, is already wading through the water to his vessel. The
character of Harold as displayed throughout this tapestry is a
magnificent one, and does infinite credit to the generous and noble
disposition of Matilda the queen, who disdained to depreciate the
character of a fallen foe. He commences his expedition by an act of
piety; here, on his embarkation at Bosham, he is kindly carrying his
dog through the water. In crossing the sands of the river Cosno, which
are dangerous, so very dangerous as most frequently to cause the
destruction of those who attempt their transit, his whole concern
seems to be to assist the passage of others, whose inferior natural
powers do not enable them to compete with danger so successfully as
himself; his character for undaunted bravery is such, that William
condescends to supplicate his assistance in a feud then at issue
between himself and another nobleman, and so nobly does he bear
himself that the proud Norman with his own hands invests him with the
emblems of honour (as seen in the tapestry); and, last scene of all,
he disdained all submission, he repelled all the entreaties with which
his brothers assailed him not personally to lead his troops to the
encounter, and the corpses of 15,000 Normans on this field, and of
even a greater number on the English monarch's side, told in bloody
characters that Harold had not quailed in the last great encounter.

Unpropitious winds drive him and his attendants from their intended
course. Many historians accuse the people of Ponthieu of making
prisoners all whose ill fortune threw them upon their coast, and of
treating them with great barbarity, in order to extort the larger
ransom. Be this as it may, Harold has scarcely set his foot on shore
ere he is forcibly captured by the vassals of Guy of Ponthieu, who is
there on horseback to witness the proceeding. The tapestry goes on to
picture the progress of the captured troop and their captors to Belrem
or Beurain, and a conference when there between the earl and his
prisoner, where the fair embroideresses have given a delicate and
expressive feature by depicting the conquering noble with his sword
elevated, and the princely captive, wearing indeed his sword, but with
the point depressed.

It is said that a fisherman of Ponthieu, who had been often in England
and knew Harold's person, was the cause of his capture. "He went
privily to Guy, the Count of Pontif, and would speak to no other; and
he told the Count how he could put a great prize in his way, if he
would go with him; and that if he would give him only twenty livres he
should gain a hundred by it, for he would deliver him such a prisoner
as would pay a hundred livres or more for his ransome." The Count
agreed to his terms, and then the fisherman showed him Harold.

Hearing of Harold's captivity, William the Norman is anxious on all
and every account to obtain possession of his person. He consequently
sends ambassadors to Guy, who is represented on the tapestry as giving
them audience. The person holding the horses is somewhat remarkable;
he is a bearded dwarf. Dwarfs were formerly much sought after in the
houses of great folks, and they were frequently sent as presents from
one potentate to another. They were petted and indulged somewhat in
the way of the more modern fool or jester. The custom is very old. The
Romans were so fond of them, that they often used artificial methods
to prevent the growth of children designed for dwarfs, by enclosing
them in boxes, or by the use of tight bandages. The sister of one of
the Roman emperors had a dwarf who was only two feet and a hand
breadth in height. Many relations concerning dwarfs we may look upon
as not less fabulous than those of giants. They are, like the latter,
indispensable in romances, where their feats, far from being dwarfish,
are absolutely gigantic, though these diminutive heroes seldom occupy
any more ostensible post than that of humble attendant.

    "Fill'd with these views th' _attendant dwarf_ she sends:
    Before the knight the dwarf respectful bends;
    Kind greetings bears as to his lady's guest,
    And prays his presence to adorn her feast.
    The knight delays not."

    "A hugye giaunt stiffe and starke,
        All foule of limbe and lere;
    Two goggling eyen like fire farden,
        A mouthe from eare to eare.
    Before him came a dwarffe full lowe,
        That _waited on his knee_."

                        Sir Cauline.

    "Behind her farre away a dwarfe did lag
    That lasie seem'd, in being ever last,
    Or wearied with _bearing of her bag_
    Of needments at his backe."

                        Faerie Queene.

The dwarf worked in the tapestry has the name TVROLD placed above him,
and seems to have been a dependant of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, William
the Conqueror's brother.[36]

The first negotiations are unsuccessful; more urgent messages are
forwarded, and in the end Duke William himself proceeds at the head of
some troops to _compel_ the surrender of the prisoner. Count Guy is
intimidated, and the object is attained; every stage of these
proceedings is depicted on the canvas, as well as William's courteous
reception of Harold at his palace.

The portraiture of a female in a sort of porch, with a clergyman in
the act of pronouncing a benediction on her, is supposed to have
reference to the engagement between William and his guest, that the
latter should marry the daughter of the former. Many other
circumstances and conditions were tacked to this agreement, one of
which was that Harold should guard the English throne for William;
agreements which one and all--under the reasonable plea that they were
enforced ones--the Anglo-Saxon nobleman broke through. It is said that
his desertion so affected the mind of the pious young princess,[37]
that her heart broke on her passage to Spain, whither they were
conveying her to a forced union with a Spanish prince. As this young
lady was a mere child at the time of Harold's visit to Normandy, the
story, though exceedingly pretty, is probably very apocryphal. Ducarel
gives an entirely different explanation of the scene, and says that it
is probably meant to represent a secretary or officer coming to
William's duchess, to acquaint her with the agreement just made
relative to her daughter.

The Earl of Bretagne is at this moment at war with Duke William, and
the latter attaching Harold to his party, from whom indeed he receives
effectual service, arrives at Mount St. Michel, passes the river Cosno
(to which we have before alluded), and arrives at Dol in Brittany.
Parties are seen flying towards Rennes. William and his followers
attack Dinant, of which the keys are delivered up, and the Normans
come peaceably to Bayeux; William having previously, with his own
hands, invested Harold with a suit of armour.

Harold shortly returns to England, but not before a very important
circumstance had taken place. William and Harold had mutually entered
into an agreement by which the latter had pledged himself to be true
to William, to acknowledge him as Edward's successor on the English
throne, and to do all in his power to obtain for him the peaceable
possession of that throne; and as Harold was, the reigning monarch
excepted, the first man in England, this promised support was of no
trifling moment. William resolved therefore to have the oath repeated
with all possible solemnity. His brother Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux,
assisted him in this matter. Accordingly we see Harold standing
between two altars covered with cloth of gold, a hand on each,
uttering the solemn adjuration, of which William, seated on his
throne, is a delighted auditor; for he well knew that the oath was
more fearful than Harold was at all aware of. For "William sent for
all the holy bodies thither, and put so many of them together as to
fill a whole chest, and then covered them with a pall; but Harold
neither saw them, nor knew of their being there, for nought was shown
or told to him about it; and over all was a phylactery, the best that
he could select. When Harold placed his hand upon it, the hand
trembled and the flesh quivered; but he swore, and promised upon his
oath, to take Ele to wife, and to deliver up England to the duke; and
thereunto to do all in his power, according to his might and wit,
after the death of Edward, if he should live, so help him God and the
holy relics there! (meaning the Gospels, for he had none idea of any
other). Many cried 'God grant it!' and when Harold had kissed the
saints, and had risen upon his feet, the duke led him up to the chest,
and made him stand near it; and took off the chest the pall that had
covered it, and showed Harold upon what holy relics he had sworn, and
he was sorely alarmed at the sight."


[22] Archæologia, vol. xvii.

[23] Biblio. Tour, vol. i., 138.

[24] Archæol. vols. xviii., xix.

[25] One writer, Bolton Corney, Esq., maintains that this work was
provided at the expense of the Chapter of Bayeux, under their
superintendence, and from their designs. "If it had not (says he) been
devised within the precincts of a church it could not have escaped
female influence: it could not have contained such indications of
_celibatic_ superintendence. It is not without its domestic and
festive scenes; and comprises, exclusive of the borders, about 530
figures; but in this number there are only three females."

[26] Henry III., 25.

[27] Archæol. vol. xix.

[28] The attempts to imitate the human figure were, at this period,
stiff and rude: but arabesque patterns were now _chiefly_ worked; and
they were rich and varied.

[29] Henry III., 554.

[30] Fabyan's Chron.

[31] Rastell's Chron.

[32] Henry II., 515.

[33] Hist. Chiv.

[34] Archæol. 1 and 3.

[35] Master Wace. Roman de Rou, &c., by Taylor.

[36] Archæologia, vol. xix.

[37] "Her knees were like horn with constant kneeling."



    "But bloody, bloody was the field,
        Ere that lang day was done."


    "King William bithought him alsoe of that
      Folke that was forlorne,
    And slayn also thoruz him
      In the bataile biforne.
    And ther as the bataile was,
      An abbey he lite rere
    Of Seint Martin, for the soules
      That there slayn were.
    And the monkes well ynoug
      Feffed without fayle,
    That is called in Englonde
      Abbey of Bataile."

Immediately after the solemn ceremony described in the foregoing
chapter, Harold is depicted as returning to England and presenting
himself before the king, Edward the Confessor. "But the day came that
no man can escape, and King Edward drew near to die." His deathbed and
his funeral procession are both wrought in the tapestry, but by some
accident have been transposed. His remains are borne in splendid
procession to the magnificent house which he had builded (_i.e._
rebuilded), Westminster Abbey; over which, in the sky, a hand is seen
to point as if in benediction. It is well known that the Abbey was
barely finished at the time of the pious monarch's death, and this
circumstance is intimated in an intelligible though homely manner in
the tapestry by a person occupied in placing a weathercock on the
summit of the building.

The first pageant seen within its walls was the funeral array of the
monarch who so beautifully rebuilt and so amply endowed it. Before the
high altar, in a splendid shrine, where gems and jewelry flashed back
the gleams of innumerable torches, and amid the solemn chant of the
monks, whose "Miserere" echoed through the vaulted aisles, interrupted
but by the subdued wail of the mourners, or the emphatic benediction
of the poor whose friend he had been, were laid the remains of him who
was called the Sainted Edward; whose tomb was considered so hallowed a
spot that the very stones around it were worn down by the knees of the
pilgrims who resorted thither for prayer; and the very dust of whose
shrine was carefully swept and collected, exported to the continent,
and bought by devotees at a high price.

We next see in the tapestry the crown _offered_ to Harold (a
circumstance to be peculiarly remarked, since thus depicted by his
opponent's wife), and then Harold shows right royally receiving the
homage and gratulations of those around.

But the next scene forbodes a change of fortune: "ISTI MIRANT STELLA,"
is the explanation wrought over it. For there appeared "a blasing
starre, which was seene not onelie here in England, but also in other
parts of the world, and continued the space of seven daies. This
blasing starre might be a prediction of mischeefe imminent and hanging
over Harold's head; for they never appeare but as prognosticats of

Popular belief has generally invested these ill-omened bodies with
peculiar terrors. "These blasing starres--dreadful to be seene, with
bloudie haires, and all over rough and shagged at the top." They vary,
however, in their appearance. Sometimes they are pale, and glitter
like a sword, without any rays or beams. Such was the one which is
said to have hung over Jerusalem for near a year before its
destruction, filling the minds of all who beheld it with awe and
superstitious dread. A comet resembling a horn appeared when the
"whole manhood of Greece fought the battaile of Salamis." Comets
foretold the war between Cæsar and Pompey, the murder of Claudius, and
the tyranny of Nero. Though _usually_, they were not _invariably_,
considered as portents of evil omen: for the birth and accession of
Alexander, of Mithridates, the birth of Charles Martel, and the
accession of Charlemagne, and the commencement of the Tátár empire,
were all notified by blazing stars. A very brilliant one which
appeared for seven consecutive nights soon after the death of Julius
Cæsar was supposed to be conveying the soul of the murdered dictator
to Olympus. An author who wrote on one which appeared in the reign of
Elizabeth was most anxious, as in duty bound, to apply the phenomenon
to the queen. But here was the puzzle. "To have foretold calamities
might have been misprision of treason; and the only precedent for
saying anything good of a comet was to be drawn from that which
occurred after the death of Julius Cæsar;" but it so happened that at
this time Elizabeth was by no means either ripe or willing for her

Comets, one author writes, "were made to the end the etherial regions
might not be more void of monsters than the ocean is of whales and
other great thieving fishes, and that a gross fatness being gathered
together as excrements into an imposthume, the celestial air might
thereby be purged, lest the sun should be obscured." Another says,
they "signifie corruption of the ayre. They are signes of earthquake,
of warres, chaunging of kyngdomes, great dearth of corne, yea, a
common death of man and beast." So a poet of the same age:--

    "There with long bloody hair a blazing star
    Threatens the world with famine, plague, and war;
    To princes death, to kingdoms many crosses,
    To all estates inevitable losses;
    To herdsmen rot, to plowmen hapless seasons,
    To sailors storms, to cities civil treasons."

But a writer on comets in 1665 crowned all previous conjecture. "As if
God and Nature intended by comets to ring the knells of princes;
esteeming the bells of churches upon earth not sacred enough for such
illustrious and eminent performances."

No wonder that the comet in Harold's days was regarded with fearful

It did not, however, dismay him. Duke William, as may be supposed, did
not tamely submit to a usurpation of what he considered, or affected
to consider, his own dominions--a circumstance which we see an envoy,
probably from his party in England, makes him acquainted with. He
holds a council, seemingly an earnest and animated one, which
evidently results in the immediate preparation of a fleet; of which
the tapestry delineates the various stages and circumstances, from the
felling of the timber in its native woods to the launching of the
vessels, stored and fully equipped in arms, provisions, and heroes for
invasion and conquest.

William in this expedition received unusual assistance from his own
tributary chiefs, and from various other allies, who joined his
standard, and without whom, indeed, he could not, with any chance of
success, have made his daring attempt. A summer and autumn were spent
in fitting-up the fleet and collecting the forces, "and there was no
knight in the land, no good serjeant, archer, nor peasant of stout
heart, and of age for battle, that the duke did not summon to go with
him to England; promising rents to the vavassors, and honours to the
barons." Thus was an armament prepared of seven hundred ships, but the
one which bore William, the hero of the expedition, shone proudly
pre-eminent over the rest. It was the gift of his affectionate queen.
It is represented in the canvas of larger size than the others: the
mast, surmounted by a cross, bears the banner which was sent to
William by the Pope as a testimony of his blessing and approbation. On
this mast also a beacon-light nightly blazed as a _point d'approche_
of the remainder of the fleet. On the poop was the figure of a boy
(supposed to be meant for the conqueror's youngest son), gilded, and
looking earnestly towards England, holding in one hand a banner, in
the other an ivory horn, on which he is sounding a joyful reveillee.

But long the fleet waited at St. Valeri for a fair wind, until the
barons became weary and dispirited. Then they prayed the convent to
bring out the shrine of St. Valeri and set it on a carpet in the
plain; and all came praying the holy relics that they might be allowed
to pass over sea. They offered so much money, that the relics were
buried beneath it; and from that day forth they had good weather and a
fair wind. "Than Willyam thanked God and Saynt Valary, and toke
shortly after shyppynge, and helde his course towarde Englande."

On the arrival of the fleet in England a banquet is prepared. The
shape of the table at which William sits has been the theme of some
curious remarks by Father Montfaucon, which have been copied by
Ducarel and others. It is in form of a half-moon, and was called by
the Romans _sigma_, from the Greek +s+. It was calculated only for
seven persons; and a facetious emperor once invited eight, on purpose
to raise a laugh against the person for whom there would be no place.

"A knight in that country (Britain) heard the noise and cry made by
the peasants and villains when they saw the great fleet arrive. He
well knew that the Normans were come, and that their object was to
seize the land. He posted himself behind a hill, so that they should
not see him, and tarried there watching the arrival of the great
fleet. He saw the archers come forward from the ships, and the knights
follow. He saw the carpenters with their axes, and the host of people
and troops. He saw the men throw the materials for the fort out of the
ships. He saw them build up and enclose the fort, and dig the fosse
around it. He saw them land the shields and armour. And as he beheld
all this his spirit was troubled; and he girt his sword and took his
lance, saying he would go straightway to King Harold and tell the
news. Forthwith he set out on his way, resting late and rising early;
and thus he journeyed on by night and by day to seek Harold his lord."
And we see him in the tapestry speeding to his beloved master.

Meanwhile Harold is not idle. But the fleet which, in expectation of
his adversary's earlier arrival, he had stationed on the southern
coast, had lately dispersed from want of provisions, and the King,
occupied by the Norwegian invasion, had not been able to reinstate it;
and "William came against him (says the Saxon chronicle) unawares ere
his army was collected." Thus the enemy found nor opposition nor
hinderance in obtaining a footing in the island.

Taken at such disadvantage, Harold did all that a brave man could do
to repel his formidable adversary. The tapestry depicts, as well as
may be expected, the battle.

"The priests had watched all night, and besought and called upon God,
and prayed to him in their chapels, which were fitted up throughout
the host. They offered and vowed fasts, penances, and orisons; they
said psalms and misereres, litanies and kyriels; they cried on God,
and for his mercy, and said paternosters and masses; some the SPIRITUS
suited to the season, as belonging to that day, which was Saturday.


"Then Taillefer, who sang right well, rode, mounted on a swift horse,
before the duke.

"Loud and far resounded the bray of the horns, and the shocks of the
lances, the mighty strokes of clubs, and the quick clashing of swords.
One while the Englishmen rushed on, another while they fell back; one
while the men from over sea charged onwards, and again at other times
retreated. When the English fall, the Normans shout. Each side taunts
and defies the other, yet neither knoweth what the other saith; and
the Normans say the English bark, because they understand not their

"Some wax strong, others weak; the brave exult, but the cowards
tremble, as men who are sore dismayed. The Normans press on the
assault, and the English defend their post well; they pierce the
hauberks and cleave the shields; receive and return mighty blows.
Again some press forwards, others yield, and thus in various ways the
struggle proceeds."

The death of Harold's two brothers is depicted, and, finally, his own.
It is said that his mother offered the weight of the body in gold to
have the melancholy satisfaction of interring it, and that the
Conqueror refused the boon. But other writers affirm, and apparently
with truth, that William immediately transmitted the body, unransomed,
to the bereaved parent, who had it interred in the monastery of

With the death of Harold the tapestry now ends, though some writers
think it probable that it once extended as far as the coronation of
William. There can be little doubt of its having been intended to
extend so far, though it is impossible now to ascertain whether the
Queen was ever enabled quite to complete her Herculean task. Enough
there is, however, to stamp it as one of the "most noble and
interesting relics of antiquity;" and, as Dibdin calls it, "an
exceedingly curious document of the conjugal attachment, and even
enthusiastic veneration of Matilda, and a political record of more
weight than may at first sight appear to belong to it." Taking it
altogether, he adds, "none but itself could be its parallel."

Almost all historians describe the Normans as advancing to the onset
"singing the song of Roland," that is, a detail of the achievements
of the slaughtered hero of Roncesvalles, which is well known to have
been, for ages after the event to which it refers, a note of magical
inspiration to deeds of "derring do". On this occasion it is recorded
that the spirit note was sung by the minstrel Taillefer, who was,
however, little contented to lead his countrymen by voice alone. It is
not possible that our readers can be otherwise than pleased with the
following animated account of his deeds:[39]--


    "Foremost in the bands of France,
    Arm'd with hauberk and with lance,
    And helmet glittering in the air,
    As if a warrior-knight he were,
    Rushed forth the minstrel Taillefer--
    Borne on his courser swift and strong,
      He gaily bounded o'er the plain,
    And raised the heart-inspiring song
    (Loud echoed by the warlike throng)
      Of Roland and of Charlemagne,
    Of Oliver, brave peer of old,
      Untaught to fly, unknown to yield,
    And many a knight and vassal bold,
    Whose hallowed blood, in crimson flood,
      Dyed Roncesvalles' field.

    "Harold's host he soon descried,
    Clustering on the hill's steep side:
    Then turned him back brave Taillefer,
    And thus to William urged his prayer:
    'Great Sire, it fits me not to tell
    How long I've served you, or how well;
    Yet if reward my lays may claim,
    Grant now the boon I dare to name;
    Minstrel no more, be mine the blow
    That first shall strike yon perjured foe.'
    'Thy suit is gained,' the Duke replied,
    'Our gallant minstrel be our guide.'
    'Enough,' he cried, 'with joy I speed,
    Foremost to vanquish or to bleed.'

    "And still of Roland's deeds he sung,
    While Norman shouts responsive rung,
    As high in air his lance he flung,
              With well directed might;
    Back came the lance into his hand,
    Like urchin's ball, or juggler's wand,
    And twice again, at his command,
              Whirled its unerring flight.--
    While doubting whether skill or charm
    Had thus inspired the minstrel's arm,
    The Saxons saw the wondrous dart
    Fixed in their standard bearer's heart.

    "Now thrice aloft his sword he threw,
      'Midst sparkling sunbeams dancing,
    And downward thrice the weapon flew,
    Like meteor o'er the evening dew,
      From summer sky swift glancing:
    And while amazement gasped for breath,
    Another Saxon groaned in death.

    "More wonders yet!--on signal made,
      With mane erect, and eye-balls flashing,
    The well taught courser rears his head,
      His teeth in ravenous fury gnashing;
    He snorts--he foams--and upward springs--
      Plunging he fastens on the foe,
    And down his writhing victim flings,
      Crushed by the wily minstrel's blow.
    Thus seems it to the hostile band
    Enchantment all, and fairy land.

    "Fain would I leave the rest unsung:--
    The Saxon ranks, to madness stung,
    Headlong rushed with frenzied start,
    Hurling javelin, mace, and dart;
    No shelter from the iron shower
    Sought Taillefer in that sad hour;
    Yet still he beckoned to the field,
    'Frenchman, come on--the Saxons yield--
    Strike quick--strike home--in Roland's name--
    For William's glory--Harold's shame.'
    Then pierced with wounds, stretched side by side,
    The minstrel and his courser died."

We have dwelt on the details of the tapestry with a prolixity which
some may deem tedious. Yet surely the subject is worthy of it; for, in
the first place, it is the oldest piece of needlework in the
world--the only piece of that era now existing; and this circumstance
in itself suggests many interesting ideas, on which, did our space
permit, we could readily dilate. Ages have rolled away; and the fair
hands that wrought this work have mouldered away into dust; and the
gentle and affectionate spirit that suggested this elaborate memorial
has long since passed from the scene which it adorned and dignified.
In no long period after the battle thus commemorated, an abbey,
consecrated to praise and prayer, raised its stately walls on the very
field that was ploughed with the strife and watered with the blood of
fierce and evil men. The air that erst rang with the sounds of wrath,
of strife, of warfare, the clangour of armour, the din of war, was now
made musical with the chorus of praise, or was gently stirred by the
breath of prayer or the sigh of penitence; and where contending hosts
were marshalled in proud array, or the phalanx rushed impetuous to the
battle, were seen the stoled monks in solemn procession, or the holy
brother peacefully wending on his errand of charity.

But the grey and time-honoured walls waxed aged as they beheld
generation after generation consigned to dust beneath their shelter.
Time and change have done their worst. A few scattered ruins, seen
dimly through the mist of years, are all that remain to point to the
inquiring wanderer the site of the stupendous struggle of which the
results are felt even after the expiration of eight hundred years.

These may be deemed trite reflections: still it is worthy of remark,
that many of the turbulent spirits who then made earth echo with their
fame would have been literally and altogether as though they never had
been--for historians make little or no mention of them--were it not
for the lasting monument raised to them in this tapestry by woman's
industry and skill.

Matilda the Queen's character is pictured in high terms by both
English and Norman historians. "So very stern was her husband, and
hot, that no man durst do anything against his will. He had earls in
his custody who acted against his will. Bishops he hurled from their
bishoprics, and abbots from their abbacies, and thanes into prison;"
yet it is recorded that even his iron temper was not proof against the
good sense, the gentleness, the piety, and the affection of a wife who
never offended him but once; and on this occasion there was so much to
palliate and excuse her fault, proceeding as it did from a mother's
yearnings towards her eldest son when he was in disgrace and sorrow,
that the usually unyielding King forgave her immediately. She lived
beloved, and she died lamented; and, from the time of her death, the
King, says William of Malmsbury, "refrained from every gratification."

Independently of the value of this tapestry as an historical
authority, and its interest as being projected, and in part executed,
by a lady as excellent in character as she was noble in rank, and its
high estimation as the oldest piece of needlework extant--independently
of all these circumstances, it is impossible to study this memorial
closely, "rude and skilless" as it at first appears, without becoming
deeply interested in the task. The outline engravings of it in the
"Tapisseries Anciennes Historiées" are beautifully executed, but are
inferior in interest to Mr. Stothart's (published by the Society of
Antiquarians), because these have the advantage of being coloured
accurately from the original. In the study of these plates alone, days
and weeks glided away, nor left us weary of our task.


[38] The Comet of 1618 carried dismay and horror in its course. Not
only mighty monarchs, but the humblest private individuals seem to
have considered the sign as sent to them, and to have set a double
guard on all their actions. Thus Sir Symonds D'Ewes, the learned
antiquary, having been in danger of an untimely end by entangling
himself among some bell-ropes, makes a memorandum in his private diary
never more to exercise himself in bell-ringing when there is a comet
in the sky.--Aikin.

[39] By Thomas Amyot, Esq., F.S.A.--Archæol., vol. xix



    "As ladies wont
    To finger the fine needle and nyse thread."

                        Faerie Queene.

Though, during bygone ages, the fingers of the fair and noble were
often sedulously employed in the decoration and embellishment of the
church, and of its ministers, they were by no means universally so.
Marvellous indeed in quantity, as well as quality, must have been the
stitchery done in those industrious days, for the "fine needle and
nyse thread" were not merely visible but conspicuous in every
department of life. If, happily, there were not proof to the contrary,
we might be apt to imagine that the women of those days came into the
world _only_ "to ply the distaff, broider, card, and sew." That this
was not the case we, however, well know; but before we turn to those
embroideries which are more especially the subject of this chapter, we
will transcribe, from a recent work,[40] an interesting detail of the
household responsibilities of the mistress of a family in the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

"While to play on the harp and citole (a species of lute), to execute
various kinds of the most costly and delicate needle-work, and in some
instances to 'pourtraye,' were, in addition to more literary pursuits,
the accomplishments of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the
functions which the mistress of an extensive household was expected to
fulfil were never lost sight of.

"Few readers are aware of the various qualifications requisite to form
the 'good housewife' during the middle ages. In the present day, when
household articles of every kind are obtainable in any country town,
and, with few exceptions, throughout the year, we can know little of
the judgment, the forethought, and the nice calculation which were
required in the mistress of a household consisting probably of
three-score, or even more persons, and who, in the autumn, had to
provide almost a twelvemonth's stores. There was the fire-wood, the
rushes to strew the rooms, the malt, the oatmeal, the honey (at this
period the substitute for sugar), the salt (only sold in large
quantities), and, if in the country, the wheat and the barley for the
bread--all to be provided and stored away. The greater part of the
meat used for the winter's provision was killed and salted down at
Martinmas; and the mistress had to provide the necessary stock for the
winter and spring consumption, together with the stockfish and
'baconed herrings' for Lent. Then at the annual fair, the only
opportunity was afforded for purchasing those more especial articles
of housewifery which the careful housewife never omitted buying--the
ginger, nutmegs, and cinnamon, for the Christmas posset, and
Sheer-Monday furmety; the currants and almonds for the Twelfth-Night
cake (an observance which dates almost as far back as the Conquest);
the figs, with which our forefathers always celebrated Palm-Sunday;
and the pepper, the saffron, and the cummin, so highly prized in
ancient cookery. All these articles bore high prices, and therefore it
was with great consideration and care that they were bought.

"But the task of providing raiment for the family also devolved upon
the mistress, and there were no dealers save for the richer articles
of wearing apparel to be found. The wool that formed the chief
clothing was the produce of the flock, or purchased in a raw state;
and was carded, spun, and in some instances woven at home. Flax, also,
was often spun for the coarser kinds of linen, and occasionally woven.
Thus, the mistress of a household had most important duties to fulfil,
for on her wise and prudent management depended not merely the
comfort, but the actual well-being of her extensive household. If the
winter's stores were insufficient, there were no markets from whence
an additional supply could be obtained; and the lord of wide estates
and numerous manors might be reduced to the most annoying privations
through the mismanagement of the mistress of the family."

The "costly and delicate needle-work" is here, as elsewhere, passed
over with merely a mention. It is, naturally, too insignificant a
subject to task the attention of those whose energies are devoted to
describing the warfare and welfare of kingdoms and thrones. Thus did
we look only to professed historians, though enough exists in their
pages to evidence the existence of such productions as those which
form the subject of our chapter, our evidence would be meagre indeed
as to the minuter details: but as the "novel" now describes those
minutiæ of every day life which we should think it ridiculous to look
for in the writings of the politician or historian, so the romances of
the days of chivalry present us with descriptions which, if they be
somewhat redundant in ornament, are still correct in groundwork; and
the details gathered from romances have in, it may be, unimportant
circumstances, that accidental corroboration from history which fairly
stamps their faithfulness in more important particulars: and it has
been shown, says the author of 'Godefridus,' by learned men, in the
memoirs of the French Academy of Inscriptions, that they may be used
in common with history, and as of equal authority whenever an inquiry
takes place respecting the _spirit and manners of the ages_ in which
they were composed. But we are writing a dissertation on romance
instead of describing the "clodes ryche," to which we must now

So highly was a facility in the use of the needle prized in these
"ould ancient times," that a wandering damsel is not merely
_tolerated_ but _cherished_ in a family in which she is a perfect
stranger, solely from her skill in this much-loved art.

After being exposed in an open boat, Emare was rescued by Syr Kadore,
remained in his castle, and there--

    "She tawghte hem to _sewe_ and _marke_
    All _maner of sylkyn werke_,
        Of her they wer ful fayne."[41]

Syr Kadore says of her--

    "She ys the konnyngest wommon,
    I trowe, that be yn Crystendom,
        Of _werk_ that y have sene."

And again describing her--

    "She _sewed sylke_ werk yn bour."

This same accomplished and luckless lady had, princess though she was,
every advantage of early tuition in this notable art, having been sent
in her childhood to a lady called Abro, who not only taught her
"curtesye and thewe" (virtue and good manners), but also

    "Golde and sylke for to sewe,
    Amonge maydenes moo:"

evidently an old dame's school; where, however, we may infer from the
arrangement of the accomplishments taught, and the special mention of
needlework, that the extra expense would be for the _sewing_; whereas,
in our time and country (or county), the routine has been, "REDING AND

This expensive and troublesome acquirement--the art of sewing in
"golde and silke"--was of general adoption: gorgeous must have been
the appearance of the damsels and knights of those days, when their

    "----Clothys wyth bestes & byrdes wer _bete_,[42]
            All abowte for pryde."

"By that light Amadis saw his lady, and she appeared more beautiful
than man could fancy woman could be. She had on a robe of _Indian
silk, thickly wrought with flowers of gold_; her hair was so beautiful
that it was a wonder, and she had covered it only with a garland."[43]

"Now when the fair Grasinda heard of the coming of the fleet, and of
all that had befallen, she made ready to receive Oriana, whom of all
persons in the world she most desired to see, because of her great
renown that was everywhere spread abroad. She therefore wished to
appear before her like a lady of such rank and such wealth as indeed
she was: the robe which she put on was adorned with _roses of gold,
wrought with marvellous skill, and bordered with pearls and precious
stones_ of exceeding value."[44]

    "His fine, soft garments, wove with cunning skill,
    All over, ease and wantonness declare;
    These with her hand, such subtle toil well taught,
    For him, in silk and gold, Alcina wrought."[45]

    "Mayde Elene, al so tyte.
    In a robe of samyte,[46]
        Anoon sche gan her tyre,
    To do Lybeau's profyte
    In kevechers whyt,
        Arayde wyth golde wyre.
    A velvwet mantyll gay,
    Pelored[47] wyth grys and gray
        Sche caste abowte her swyre;
    A sercle upon her molde,
    Of stones and of golde,
        The best yn that empyre."[48]

We read perpetually of "kercheves well schyre,[49]

    "Arayde wyth ryche gold wyre."

But the labours of those days were not confined to merely
good-appearing garments: the skill of the needlewoman--for doubtless
it was solely attributable to that--could imbue them with a value far
beyond that of mere outward garnish.

    "She seyde, Syr Knight, gentyl and hende,[50]
    I wot thy stat, ord, and ende,
        Be naught aschamed of me;
    If thou wylt truly to me take,
    And alle wemen for me forsake
        Ryche i wyll make the.
    I wyll the geve an alner,[51]
    Imad of sylk and of gold cler,
        Wyth fayr ymages thre;
    As oft thou puttest the hond therinne
    A mark of gold thou schalt wynne,
        In wat place that thou be."[52]

But infinitely more marvellous is the following:--"King Lisuarte was
so content with the tidings of Amadis and Galaor, which the dwarf had
brought him, that he determined to hold the most honourable court that
ever had been held in Great Britain. Presently three knights came
through the gate, two of them armed at all points, the third unarmed,
of good stature and well proportioned, his hair grey, but of a green
and comely old age. He held in his hand a coffer; and, having inquired
which was the king, dismounted from his palfrey and kneeled before
him, saying, 'God preserve you, Sir! for you have made the noblest
promise that ever king did, if you hold it.' 'What promise was that?'
quoth Lisuarte. 'To maintain chivalry in its highest honour and
degree: few princes now-a-days labour to that end; therefore are you
to be commended above all other.' 'Certes, knight, that promise shall
hold while I live.' 'God grant you life to complete it!' quoth the old
man: 'and because you have summoned a great court to London, I have
brought something here which becomes such a person, for such an
occasion.' Then he opened the coffer and took out a Crown of Gold, so
curiously wrought and set with pearls and gems, that all were amazed
at its beauty; and it well appeared that it was only fit for the brow
of some mighty lord. 'Is it not a work which the most cunning artists
would wonder at?' said the old knight. Lisuarte answered, 'In truth it
is.' 'Yet,' said the knight, 'it hath a virtue more to be esteemed
than its rare work and richness: whatever king hath it on his head
shall always increase his honour; this it did for him for whom it was
made till the day of his death: since then no king hath worn it. I
will give it you, sir, for one boon.'----'You also, Lady,' said the
knight, 'should purchase a rich mantle that I bring:' and he took from
the coffer the richest and most beautiful mantle that ever was seen;
for besides the pearls and precious stones with which it was
beautified, there were figured on it all the birds and beasts in
nature; so that it looked like a miracle. 'On my faith,' exclaimed the
Queen, 'this cloth can only have been made by that Lord who can do
everything.' 'It is the work of man,' said the old knight; 'but rarely
will one be found to make its fellow: it should belong to wife rather
than maiden, for she that weareth it _shall never have dispute with
her husband_.' Britna answered, 'If that be true, it is above all
price; I will give you for it whatsoever you ask.' And Lisuarte bade
him demand what he would for the mantle and crown."[53]

But the robe which occupied the busy fingers of the Saracen king's
daughter for seven long years, and of which the jewelled ornaments
inwrought in it--as was then very usual--were sought far and wide, has
often been referred to (albeit wanting in fairy gifts) as a crowning
proof of female industry and talent. We give the full description from
the Romance of 'EMARE,' in Ritson's collection:--

    "Sone aftur yu a whyle,
    The ryche Kynge of Cesyle
        To the Emperour gaun wende,
    A ryche present wyth hym he browght,
    A cloth that was wordylye wroght,
        He wellcomed hym at the hende.[54]

    "Syr Tergaunte, that nobyll knyghte hyghte,
    He presented the Emperour ryght,
        And sette hym on hys kne,
    Wyth that cloth rychyly dyght.
    Full of stones ther hit was pyght,
        At thykke as hit myght be,
    Off topaze and rubyes,
    And other stones of myche prys,
        That semely wer to se,
    Of crapowtes and nakette,
    As thykke ar they sette
        For sothe as y say the.

    "The cloth was displayed sone,
    The Emperoer lokede therupone,
        And myght hyt not se,
    For glysteryng of the ryche ston
    Redy syght had he non,
        And sayde, How may thys be?
    The Emperour sayde on hygh,
    Sertes thys ys a fayry,
        Or ellys a vanyte.
    The Kyng of Cysyle answered than,
    So ryche a jewell ys ther non
        In all Crystyante.

    "The amerayle[55] dowghter of hethennes
    Made this cloth withouten lees,
        And wrowghte hit all with pride,
    And purtreyed hyt with gret honour,
    Wyth ryche golde and asowr,[56]
        And stones on ylke a side;
    And, as the story telles in honde,
    The stones that yn this cloth stonde
        Sowghte they wer full wyde.
    Seven wynter hit was yn makynge,
    Or hit was browght to endynge,
        In herte ys not to hyde.

    "In that on korner made was
    Idoyne and Amadas,
        With love that was so trewe,
    For they loveden hem wit honour,
    Portrayed they wer with trewe-love flour,
        Of stones bryght of hewe,
    Wyth carbankull and safere,
    Kasydonys and onyx so clere,
        Sette in golde newe,
    Deamondes and rubyes,
    And other stones of mychyll pryse,
        And menstrellys with her gle.

    "In that other korner was dyght,
    Trystram and Isowde so bryght,
        That semely wer to se,
    And for they loved hem ryght,
    As full of stones ar they dyght,
        As thykke as they may be,
    Of topase and of rubyes,
    And other stones of myche pryse,
        That semely wer to se,
    With crapawtes and nakette,
    Thykke of stones ar they sette,
        For sothe as y say the.

    "In the thyrdde korner, with gret honour,
    Was Florys and dame Blawncheflour,
        As love was hem betwene,
    For they loved wyth honour,
    Purtrayed they wer with trewe-love-flower,
        With stones bryght and shene.
    Ther wer knyghtes and senatowres,
    Emerawdes of gret vertues,
        To wyte withouten wene,
    Deamondes and koralle,
    Perydotes and crystall,
        And gode garnettes bytwene.

    "In the fowrthe korner was oon
    Of Babylone the sowdan sonne,
        The amerayle's dowghter hym by,
    For hys sake the cloth was wrowght,
    She loved hym in hert and thowght,
        As testy-moyeth thys storye.
    The fayr mayden her byforn
    Was purtrayed an unykorn,
        With hys horn so hye,
    Flowres and bryddes on ylke a syde,
    Wyth stones that wer sowght wyde,
        Stuffed wyth ymagerye.

    "When the cloth to ende was wrought,
    To the sowdan sone hit was browght,
        That semely was of syghte:
    'My fadyr was a nobyll man,
    Of the sowdan he hit wan,
        Wyth maystrye and myghth;
    For gret love he yaf hyt me,
    I brynge hit the in specyalte,
        Thys cloth ys rychely dyght.'
    He yaf hit the Emperour,
    He receyved hit wyth gret honour,
        And thonkede hym fayr and ryght."

We must not dismiss this subject without recording a species of mantle
much celebrated in romance, and which must have tried the skill and
patience of the fair votaries of the needle to the uttermost. We all
have seen, perhaps we have some of us been foolish enough to
manufacture, initials with hair, as tokens or souvenirs, or some other
such fooleries. In our mothers' and grandmothers' days, when "fine
marking" was the _sine quâ non_ of a good education, whole sets of
linen were thus elaborately marked; and often have we marvelled when
these tokens of grandmotherly skill and industry were displayed to our
wondering and aching eyes. What then should we have thought of King
Ryence's mantle, of rich scarlet, bordered round with the beards of
kings, sewed thereon full craftily by accomplished female hands. Thus
runs the anecdote in the 'Morte Arthur:'--

"Came a messenger hastely from King Ryence, of North Wales, saying,
that King Ryence had discomfited and overcomen eleaven kings, and
everiche of them did him homage, and that was thus: they gave him
their beards cleane flayne off,--wherefore the messenger came for King
Arthur's beard, for King Ryence had purfeled a mantell with king's
beards, and there lacked for one a place of the mantell, wherefore he
sent for his beard, or else he would enter into his lands, and brenn
and slay, and never leave till he have thy head and thy beard. 'Well,'
said King Arther, 'thou hast said thy message, which is the most
villainous and lewdest message that ever man heard sent to a king.
Also thou mayest see my beard is full young yet for to make a purfell
of; but tell thou the king that--or it be long--he shall do to _me_
homage on both his knees, or else he shall leese his head.'"

In Queen Elizabeth's day, when they were beginning to skim the cream
of the ponderous tomes of former times into those elaborate ditties
from which the more modern ballad takes its rise, this incident was
put into rhyme, and was sung before her majesty at the grand
entertainment at Kenilworth Castle, 1575, thus:--

    "As it fell out on a Pentecost day,
      King Arthur at Camelot kept his Court royall,
    With his faire queene dame Guenever the gay,
      And many bold barons sitting in hall;
      With ladies attired in purple and pall;
    And heraults in hewkes,[57] hooting on high,
    Cryed, _Largesse, largesse, Chevaliers tres hardie_.

    "A doughty dwarfe to the uppermost deas
      Right pertlye gan pricke, kneeling on knee;
    With steven[58] fulle stoute amids all the preas,
      Sayd, Nowe sir King Arthur, God save thee, and see!
      Sir Ryence of Northgales greeteth well thee,
    And bids thee thy beard anon to him send,
    Or else from thy jaws he will it off rend.

    "For his robe of state is a rich scarlet mantle,
      With eleven kings beards bordered about,
    And there is room lefte yet in a kantle,[59]
      For thine to stande, to make the twelfth out:
      This must be done, be thou never so stout;
    This must be done, I tell thee no fable,
    Maugre the teethe of all thy rounde table.

    "When this mortal message from his mouthe past,
      Great was the noyse bothe in hall and in bower,
    The king fum'd; the queen screecht; ladies were aghast;
      Princes puff'd; barons blustered; lords began lower;
      Knights stormed; squires startled, like steeds in a stower;
    Pages and yeomen yell'd out in the hall;
    Then in came Sir Kay, the king's seneschal.

    "Silence, my soveraignes, quoth this courteous knight,
      And in that stound the stowre began still:
    Then the dwarfe's dinner full deerely was dight;
      Of wine and wassel he had his wille:
      And when he had eaten and drunken his fill,
    An hundred pieces of fine coyned gold
    Were given this dwarfe for his message bold.

    "But say to Sir Ryence, thou dwarfe, quoth the king,
      That for his bold message I do him defye;
    And shortly with basins and pans will him ring
      Out of North Gales; where he and I
      With swords, and not razors, quickly shall trye
    Whether he or King Arthur will prove the best barbor:
    And therewith he shook his good sword Excalábor."

Drayton thus alludes to the same circumstance:--

    "Then told they, how himselfe great Arthur did advance,
    To meet (with his Allies) that puissant force in France,
    By Lucius thither led; those Armies that while ere
    Affrighted all the world, by him strooke dead with feare:
    Th' report of his great Acts that over Europe ran,
    In that most famous field he with the Emperor wan:
    As how great Rython's selfe hee slew in his repaire,
    Who ravisht Howell's Neece, young Helena the faire;
    And for a trophy brought the Giant's coat away,
    Made of the beards of kings."[60]----

And Spenser is too uncourteous in his adoption of the incident; for he
not only levels tolls on the gentlemen's beards, but even on the
flowing and golden locks of the gentle sex:--

    "Not farre from hence, upon yond rocky hill,
      Hard by a streight there stands a castle strong,
    Which doth observe a custom lewd and ill,
      And it hath long mayntaind with mighty wrong:
      For may no knight nor lady passe along
    That way, (and yet they needs must passe that way,
      By reason of the streight, and rocks among,)
    But they that Ladies locks doe shave away,
    And that knight's berd for toll, which they for passage pay.

    "A shamefull use, as ever I did heare,
      Said Calidore, and to be overthrowne.
    But by what means did they at first it reare,
      And for what cause, tell, if thou have it knowne.
      Sayd then that Squire: The Lady which doth owne
    This Castle is by name Briana hight;
      Then which a prouder Lady liveth none;
    She long time hath deare lov'd a doughty knight,
    And sought to win his love by all the meanes she might.

    "His name is Crudor, who through high disdaine
      And proud despight of his selfe-pleasing mynd,
    Refused hath to yeeld her love againe,
      Untill a Mantle she for him doe fynd,
      With beards of knights and locks of Ladies lynd,
    Which to provide, she hath this Castle dight,
      And therein hath a Seneschall assynd,
    Cald Maleffort, a man of mickle might,
    Who executes her wicked will, with worse despight."[61]

"To pluck the beard" of another has ever been held the highest
possible sign of scorn and contumely; but it was certainly a
refinement on the matter, for which we are indebted to the Morte
Arthur, or rather probably, according to Bishop Percy, to Geoffrey of
Monmouth's history originally, for the unique and ornamental purpose
to which these despoiled locks were applied. So particularly anxious
was Charlemagne to shew this despite to an enemy that, as we read in
Huon de Bordeaux, he despatched no less than fifteen successive
messengers from France to Babylon to pull the beard of Admiral
Gaudisse. And this, by no means pleasant operation, was to be
accompanied by one even still less inviting.

"Alors le duc Naymes, & tres tous les Barons, s'en retournèrent au
palais avec le Roy, lequel s'assist sur un banc doré de fin or, & les
Barons tous autour de luy. Si commanda qu'on luy amenast Huon, lequel
il vint, et se mist à genoux devant le roy, ou luy priant moult
humblement que pitié & mercy voulsist avoir de luy. Alors le roy le
voyant en sa presence luy dist: Huon puisque vers moy veux estre
accordé, si convient que faciez ce que je vous or donneray. Sire, ce
dist Huon, pour obeir à vous, il n'est aujourd'huy chose en ce monde
mortel, que corps humain puisse porter, que hardiment n'osasse
entreprendre, ne ia pour peur de mort ne le laisseray à faire, & fust
à aller jusques à l'arbre sec, voire jusques aux portaux d'enfer
combattre aux infernaux, comme fist le fort Hercule: avant qu'à vous
ne fusse accordé. Huon, ce dist Charles, je cuide qu'en pire lieu vous
envoyeray, car, de quinze messages qui de par moy y ont este envoyez,
n'en est par revenu un seul homme. Si te diray ou tu iras, puis que tu
veux qui de toy aye mercy, m'a volonté est, qu'il te convient aller en
la cité de Babylonne, par devers diray, & gardes que sur ta vie ne
face faute, quand là seras venu tu monteras en son palais, là ou tu
attendras l'heure de son disner & que tu le verras assis à table. Si
convient que tu sois armé de toutes armes, l'espee nuë au poing, par
tel si que le premier & le plus grand baron que tu verras manger à sa
table tu luy trencheras le chef quel qu'il soit, soit Roy, ou Admiral.
Et apres ce te convient tant faire que la belle Esclarmonde fille à
l'Amiral Gaudisse tu fiances, & la baises trois fois en la presence de
son pere, & de tous sous qui la seront presens, car je veux que tu
sçaches que c'est la plus belle pucelle qu'aujourd'huy soit en vie,
puis apres diras de par moy à l'Admiral qu'il m'envoye mille
espreuiers, mille ours, mille viautres, tous enchainez, & mille jeune
valets, & mille des plus belles pucelles de son royaume, & avecques
ce, convient _que tu me rapportes une poignee de sa barbe, et quatre
de ses dents machoires_. Ha! Sire, dirent les Barons, bien desirez sa
mort, quant de tel message faire luy enchargez, vous dites la verité
ce dit le Roy, car si tant ne fait que j'aye la barbe & les dents
machoires sans aucune tromperie ne mensonge, jamais ne retourne en
France, ne devant moi ne se monstre. Car je le ferois pendre &
trainer. Sire, ce dit Huon, m'avez vous dit & racompté tout ce que
voulez que je face. Oui dist le Roy Charles ma volonté est telle, si
vers moy veux avoir paix. Sire ce dit Huon, au plaisir de nostre
Seigneur, je feray & fourniray vostre message."

In what precise way the beards were sewed on the mantles we are not
exactly informed. Whether this royal exuberance was left to shine in
its own unborrowed lustre, its own naked magnificence, as too valuable
to be intermixed with the grosser things of earth: whether it was
thinly scattered over the surface of the "rich scarlet;" or whether it
was gathered into locks, perhaps gemmed round with orient pearl, or
clustered together with brilliant emeralds, sparkling diamonds, or
rich rubies--"Sweets to the sweet:" whether it was exposed to the
vulgar gaze on the mantle, or whether it was so arranged that only at
the pleasure of the mighty wearer its radiant beauties were
visible:--on all these deeply interesting particulars we should
rejoice in having any information; but, alas! excepting what we have
recorded, not one circumstance respecting them has "floated down the
tide of years." But we may perhaps form a correct idea of them from
viewing a shield of human hair in the museum of the United Service
Club, which may be supposed to have been _compiled_ (so to speak)
with the same benevolent feelings as that of the heroes to whom we
have been alluding. It is from Borneo Island, and is formed of locks
of hair placed at regular intervals on a ground of thin tough wood: a
refined and elegant mode of displaying the scalps of slaughtered foes.
These coincidences are curious, and may serve at any rate to show that
King Ryence's mantle was not the _invention_ of the penman; but, in
all probability, actually existed.

The ladies of these days did not confine their handiwork merely to the
adornment of the person. We have seen that among the Egyptians the
couches that at night were beds were in the daytime adorned with
richly wrought coverlets. So amongst the classical nations

    "------the menial fair that round her wait,
    At Helen's beck prepare the room of state;
    Beneath an ample portico they spread
    The downy fleece to form the slumberous bed;
    And o'er soft palls of purple grain, unfold
    _Rich tapestry, stiff with inwoven gold_."

And during the middle ages the beds, not excluded from the day
apartments, often gave gorgeous testimony of the skill of the
needlewoman, and were among the richest ornaments of the sitting room,
so much fancy and expense were lavished on them. The curtains were
often made of very rich material, and usually adorned with embroidery.
They were often also trimmed with expensive furs: Philippa of Hainault
had a bed on which sea-syrens were embroidered. The coverlid was
often very rich:

    "The ladi lay in hire bed,
    With riche clothes bespred,
      Of gold and purpre palle."[62]

    "Here beds are seen adorned with silk and gold."[63]

          "------on a bed design'd
    With gay magnificence the fair reclin'd;
    High o'er her head, on silver columns rais'd,
    With broidering gems her proud pavilion blaz'd."

    "Thence pass'd into a bow'r, where stood a bed,
    With milkwhite furs of Alexandria spread:
    Beneath, a richly broider'd vallance hung;
    The pillows were of silk; o'er all was flung
    A rare wrought coverlet of phoenix plumes,
    Which breathed, as warm with life, its rich perfumes."[64]

The array of the knights of these days was gorgeous and beautiful; and
though the materials might be in themselves, and frequently were
costly, still were they entirely indebted to the female hand for the
rich elegance of the _tout ensemble_. And the custom of disarming and
robing knights anew after the conflict, whether of real or mimic war,
to which we have alluded as a practice of classical antiquity, was as
much or even more practised now, and afforded to the ladies an
admirable opportunity of exhibiting alike their preference, their
taste, and their liberality.

"Amadis and Agrayes proceeded till they came to the castle of Torin,
the dwelling of that fair young damsel, where they were disarmed and
mantles given them, and they were conducted into the hall."[65]

"Thus they arrived at the palace, and there was he (the Green Sword
Knight) lodged in a rich chamber, and was disarmed, and his hands and
face washed from the dust, and they gave him a rose-coloured

The romance of "Ywaine and Gawin" abounds in instances:

    "A damisel come unto me,
    The semeliest that ever I se,
    Lufsumer lifed never in land,
    Hendly scho toke me by the hand,
    And sone that gentyl creature
    Al unlaced myne armure;
    Into a chamber scho me led,
    And with a mantil scho me cled;
    It was of purpur, fair and fine;
    And the pane of ermyne."


    "The maiden redies hyr fal rath,[67]
    Bilive sho gert syr Ywaine bath,
    And cled him sethin[68] in gude scarlet,
    Forord wele with gold fret,
    A girdel ful riche for the nanes,
    Of perry[69] and of precious stanes."


    "The mayden was bowsom and bayne[70]
    Forto unarme syr Ywayne,
    Serk and breke both sho hym broght,
    That ful craftily war wroght,
    Of riche cloth soft als the sylk,
    And tharto white als any mylk.
    Sho broght hym ful riche wedes to wer."

On the widely acknowledged principle of "Love me, love my dog," the
steed of a favoured knight was often adorned by the willing fingers of
the fair.

    "Each damsel and each dame who her obeyed,
    She task'd, together with herself, to sew,
    With subtle toil; and with fine gold o'erlaid
    A piece of silk of white and sable hue:
    With this she trapt the horse."[71]

The tabards or surcoats which knights wore over their armour was the
article of dress in which they most delighted to display their
magnificence. They varied in form, but were mostly made of rich silk,
or of cloth of gold or silver, lined or trimmed with choice and
expensive furs, and usually, also, having the armorial bearings of the
family richly embroidered. Thus were women even the heralds of those
times. Besides the acknowledged armorial bearings, devices were often
wrought symbolical of some circumstance in the life of the wearer.
Thus we are told in Amadis that the Emperor of Rome, on his black
surcoat, had a golden chain-work woven, which device he swore never to
lay aside till he had Amadis in chains. The same romance gives the
following incident regarding a surcoat.

"Then Amadis cried to Florestan and Agrayes, weeping as he spake, good
kinsman, I fear we have lost Don Galaor, let us seek for him. They
went to the spot where Amadis had smitten down King Cildadan, and seen
his brother last on foot; but so many were the dead who lay there that
they saw him not, till as they moved away the bodies, Florestan knew
him by the sleeve of his _surcoat_, which was of azure, worked with
silver flowers, and then they made great moan over him."

The shape of them, as we have remarked, varied considerably; besides
minor alterations they were at one time worn very short, at another so
long as to trail on the ground. But this luxurious style was
occasionally attended with direful effects. Froissart names a surcoat
in which Sir John Chandos was attired, which was embroidered with his
arms in white sarsnet, argent a field gules, one on his back and
another on his breast. It was a long robe which swept the ground, and
this circumstance, most probably, caused the untimely death of one of
the most esteemed knights of chivalry.

Sir John Chandos was one of the brightest of that chivalrous circle
which sparkled in the reign of Edward the Third. He was gentle as well
as valiant; he was in the van with the Black Prince at the battle of
Cressy; and at the battle of Poictiers he never left his side. His
death was unlooked for and sudden. Some disappointments had depressed
his spirits, and his attendants in vain endeavoured to cheer them.

"And so he stode in a kechyn, warmyng him by the fyre, and his
servantes jangled with hym, to {thentent} to bring him out of his
melancholy; his servantes had prepared for hym a place to rest hym:
than he demanded if it were nere day, and {therewith} there {came} a
man into the house, and came before hym, and sayd,

'Sir, I have brought you tidynges.'

'What be they, tell me?'

'Sir, surely the {frenchmen} be rydinge abrode.'

'How knowest thou that?'

'Sir,' sayd he, 'I departed fro saynt Saluyn with them.'

'What way be they ryden?'

'Sir, I can nat tell you the certentie, but surely they take the
highway to Poiters.'

'What {Frenchmen} be they; canst thou tell me?'

'Sir, it is Sir Loys of Saynt Julyan, and Carlovet the Breton.'

'Well, quoth Sir Johan Chandos, I care nat, I have no lyst this night
to ryde forthe: they may happe to be {encountred} though I be nat

"And so he taryed there styll a certayne space in a gret study, and at
last, when he had well aduysed hymselfe, he sayde, 'Whatsoever I have
sayd here before, I trowe it be good that I ryde forthe; I must
retourne to Poictiers, and anone it will be day.'

'That is true sir,' quoth the knightes about hym.

'Then,' he sayd, 'make redy, for I wyll ryde forthe.'

"And so they dyd."

The skirmish commenced; there had fallen a great dew in the morning,
in consequence of which the ground was very slippery; the knight's
foot slipped, and in trying to recover himself, it became entangled in
the folds of his magnificent _surcoat_; thus the fall was rendered
irretrievable, and whilst he was down he received his death blow.

The barons and knights were sorely grieved. They "lamentably
complayned, and sayd, 'A, Sir Johan Chandos, the floure of all
chivalry, vnhappely was that glayue forged that thus hath {wounded}
you, and brought you in parell of dethe:' they wept piteously that
were about hym, and he herde and vnderstode them well, but he could
speke no worde."--"For his dethe, his frendes, and also some of his
enemyes, were right soroufull; the Englysshmen loued hym, bycause all
noblenesse was founde in hym; the frenchmen hated him, because they
doubted hym; yet I herde his dethe greatly complayned among right
noble and valyant knightes of France[72]."

Across this surcoat was worn the scarf, the indispensable appendage of
a knight when fully equipped: it was usually the gift of his
"ladye-love," and embroidered by her own fair hand.

And a knight would encounter fifty deaths sooner than part with this
cherished emblem. It is recorded of Garcia Perez de Vargas, a
noble-minded Spanish knight of the thirteenth century, that he and a
companion were once suddenly met by a party of seven Moors. His friend
fled: but not so Perez; he at once prepared himself for the combat,
and while keeping the Moors at bay, who hardly seemed inclined to
fight, he found that his scarf had fallen from his shoulder.

    "He look'd around, and saw the Scarf, for still the Moors were near,
    And they had pick'd it from the sward, and loop'd it on a spear.
    'These Moors,' quoth Garci Perez, 'uncourteous Moors they be--
    Now, by my soul, the scarf they stole, yet durst not question me!

    "'Now, reach once more my helmet.' The Esquire said him, nay,
    'For a silken string why should you fling, perchance, your life away?'
    'I had it from my lady,' quoth Garci, 'long ago,
    And never Moor that scarf, be sure, in proud Seville shall show.'

    "But when the Moslems saw him, they stood in firm array:
    He rode among their armed throng, he rode right furiously.
    'Stand, stand, ye thieves and robbers, lay down my lady's pledge,'
    He cried, and ever as he cried, they felt his faulchion's edge.

    "That day when the lord of Vargas came to the camp alone,
    The scarf, his lady's largess, around his breast was thrown:
    Bare was his head, his sword was red, and from his pommel strung
    Seven turbans green, sore hack'd I ween, before Garci Perez hung."

It casts a redeeming trait on this butchering sort or bravery to find
that when the hero returned to the camp he steadily refused to reveal
the name of the person who had so cravenly deserted him.

But the favours which ladies presented to a knight were various;
consisting of "jewels, ensigns of noblesse, scarfs, hoods, sleeves,
mantles, bracelets, knots of ribbon; in a word, some detached part of
their dress." These he always placed conspicuously on his person, and
defended, as he would have done his life. Sometimes a lock of his fair
one's hair inspired the hero:

    "Than did he her heere unfolde,
      And on his helme it set on hye,
    With rede thredes of ryche golde,
      Whiche he had of his lady.
    Full richely his shelde was wrought,
      With asure stones and beten golde,
    But on his lady was his thought,
      The yelowe heere what he dyd beholde."[73]

It is recorded in "Perceforest," that at the end of one tournament
"the ladies were so stripped of their head attire, that the greatest
part of them were quite bareheaded, and appeared with their hair
spread over their shoulders yellower than the finest gold; their robes
also were without sleeves; for all had been given to adorn the
knights; hoods, cloaks, kerchiefs, stomachers, and mantuas. But when
they beheld themselves in this woful plight, they were greatly
abashed, till, perceiving every one was in the same condition, they
joined in laughing at this adventure, and that they should have
engaged with such vehemence in stripping themselves of their clothes
from off their backs, as never to have perceived the loss of them."

A sleeve (more easily detached than we should fancy those of the
present day) was a very usual token.

Elayne, the faire mayden of Astolat gave Syr Launcelot "a reed sleeve
of scarlet wel embroudred with grete perlys," which he wore for a
token on his helmet; and in real life it is recorded that in a
serious, but not desperate battle, at the court of Burgundy, in 1445,
one of the knights received from his lady a sleeve of delicate dove
colour, elegantly embroidered; and he fastened this favour on his left

Chevalier Bayard being declared victor at the tournament of Carignan,
in Piedmont, he refused, from extreme delicacy, to receive the reward
assigned him, saying, "The honour he had gained was solely owing to
the sleeve, which a lady had given him, adorned with a ruby worth a
hundred ducats." The sleeve was brought back to the lady in the
presence of her husband; who knowing the admirable character of the
chevalier, conceived no jealousy on the occasion: "The ruby," said the
lady, "shall be given to the knight who was the next in feats of arms
to the chevalier; but since he does me so much honour as to ascribe
his victory to my sleeve, for the love of him I will keep it all my

Another important adjunct to the equipment of a knight was the pennon;
an ensign or streamer formed of silk, linen, or stuff, and fixed to
the top of the lance. If the expedition of the soldier had for its
object the Holy Land, the sacred emblem of the cross was embroidered
on the pennon, otherwise it usually bore the owner's crest, or, like
the surcoat, an emblematic allusion to some circumstance in the
owner's life. Thus, Chaucer, in the "Knighte's Tale," describes that
of Duke Theseus:

    "And by his banner borne is his _penon_
    Of gold ful riche, in which ther was ybete
    The Minotaure which that he slew in Crete."

The account of the taking of Hotspur's pennon, and his attempt at its
recapture, is abridged by Mr. Mills[74] from Froissart. It is
interesting, as displaying the temper of the times about these
comparatively trifling matters, and being the record of history, may
tend to justify our quotations of a similar nature from romance.

"In the reign of Richard the Second, the Scots commanded by James,
Earl of Douglas, taking advantage of the troubles between the King and
his Parliament, poured upon the south. When they were sated with
plunder and destruction they rested at Newcastle, near the English
force which the Earl of Northumberland and other border chieftains had
hastily levied.

"The Earl's two sons were young and lusty knights, and ever foremost
at the barriers to skirmish. Many proper feats of arms were done and
achieved. The fighting was hand to hand. The noblest encounter was
that which occurred between the Earl Douglas and Sir Henry Percy,
surnamed Hotspur. The Scot won the pennon of his foeman; and in the
triumph of his victory he proclaimed that he would carry it to
Scotland, and set it on high on his castle of Dalkeith, that it might
be seen afar off.

"Percy indignantly replied, that Douglas should not pass the border
without being met in a manner which would give him no cause for

"With equal spirit the Earl Douglas invited him that night to his
lodging to seek for his pennon.

"The Scots then retired and kept careful watch, lest the taunts of
their leader should urge the Englishmen to make an attack. Percy's
spirit burnt to efface his reproach, but he was counselled into

"The Scots then dislodged, seemingly resolved to return with all haste
to their own country. But Otterbourn arrested their steps. The castle
resisted the assault; and the capture of it would have been of such
little value to them that most of the Scotch knights wished that the
enterprise should be abandoned.

"Douglas commanded, however, that the assault should be persevered
in, and he was entirely influenced by his chivalric feelings. He
contended that the very difficulty of the enterprise was the reason of
undertaking it; and he wished not to be too far from Sir Henry Percy,
lest that gallant knight should not be able to do his devoir in
redeeming his pledge of winning the pennon of his arms again.

"Hotspur longed to follow Douglas and redeem his badge of honour; but
the sage knights of the country, and such as were well expert in arms,
spoke against his opinion, and said to him, 'Sir, there fortuneth in
war oftentimes many losses. If the Earl Douglas has won your pennon,
he bought it dear, for he came to the gate to seek it, and was well
beaten: another day you shall win as much of him and more. Sir, we say
this because we know well that all the power of Scotland is abroad in
the fields; and if we issue forth and are not strong enough to fight
with them (and perchance they have made this skirmish with us to draw
us out of the town), they may soon enclose us, and do with us what
they will. It is better to loose a pennon than two or three hundred
knights and squires, and put all the country to adventure.'"

By such words as these, Hotspur and his brother were refrained, but
the coveted moment came.

"The hostile banners waved in the night breeze, and the bright moon,
which had been more wont to look upon the loves than the wars of
chivalry, lighted up the Scottish camp. A battle ensued of as valiant
a character as any recorded in the pages of history; for there was
neither knight nor squire but what did his devoir and fought hand to

The Scots remained masters of the field: but the Douglas was slain,
and this loss could not be recompensed even by the capture of the

Little did the "gentle Kate" anticipate this catastrophe when her
fairy fingers with proud and loving alacrity embroidered on the
flowing pennon the inspiring watchword of her chivalric husband and
his noble family--ESPERANCE.


[40] Historical Memoirs of Queens of England.--H. Lawrance.

[41] Emare.

[42] _Bete_--inlayed, embroidered.

[43] Amadis of Gaul, bk. i. ch. xv.

[44] Ibid. bk. iv. ch. iii.

[45] Orl. Fur.: transl. by Rose.

[46] _Samyte_--rich silk.

[47] _Pelored_--furred.

[48] Lybeaus Disconus.

[49] _Schyre_--clear.

[50] _Hende_--kind, obliging.

[51] _Alner_--pouch, bag or purse.

[52] Launfal.

[53] Amadis of Gaul, bk. i. ch. xxx.

[54] _Hende_--kind, civil, obliging.

[55] Saracen king.

[56] _Asowr_--azure.

[57] _Hewke_--herald's coat.

[58] _Steven_--voice, sound

[59] _Kantle_--a corner.

[60] Drayton's Polyolbion, Song 4.

[61] Faerie Queene. Book vi.

[62] The Kyng of Tars.

[63] Orl. Fur.

[64] Partenopex of Blois.

[65] Amadis of Gaul.

[66] Ibid.

[67] _Rath_--speedily.

[68] _Sethin_--afterward.

[69] _Perry_--jewels.

[70] _Bayne_--ready.

[71] Orl. Fur., canto 23.

[72] Froissart, by Lord Berners, vol. i. p. 270.

[73] The Fair Lady of Faguell.

[74] Hist. Chivalry.



The term _tapestry_ or _tapistry_ (from _tapisser_, to line, from the
Latin word _tapes_, a cover of a wall or bed), is now appropriated
solely to woven hangings of wool and silk; but it has been applied to
all sorts of hangings, whether wrought entirely with the needle (as
originally indeed all were) or in the loom, whether composed of
canvass and wool, or of painted cloth, leather, or even paper. This
wide application of the term seems to be justified by the derivation
quoted above, but its present use is much more limited.

In the thirteenth century the decorative arts had attained a high
perfection in England. The palace of Westminster received, under the
fostering patronage of Henry III., a series of decorations, the
remains of which, though long hidden, have recently excited the wonder
and admiration of the curious.[75] "Near this monastery (says an
ancient Itinerary) stands the most famous royal palace of England; in
which is that celebrated chamber, on whose walls all the warlike
histories of the whole Bible are painted with inexpressible skill, and
explained by a regular and complete series of texts, beautifully
written in French over each battle, to the no small admiration of the
beholder, and the increase of royal magnificence."

Round the walls of St. Stephen's chapel effigies of the Apostles were
painted in oil; (which was thus used with perfectness and skill two
centuries before its presumed discovery by John ab Eyck in 1410,) on
the western side was a grand composition of the day of Judgment: St.
Edward's or the "Painted Chamber," derived the latter name from the
quality and profuseness of its embellishments, and the walls of the
whole palace were decorated with portraits or ideal representations,
and historical subjects. Nor was this the earliest period in which
connected passages of history were painted on the wainscot of
apartments, for the following order, still extant, refers to the
_renovation_ of what must previously--and at some considerable
interval of time probably, have been done.

"Anno, 1233, 17 Hen. 3. Mandatum est Vicecomiti South'ton quod Cameram
regis lambruscatam de castro Winton depingi faciat eisdem historiis
quibus fuerat pri'us depicta."

About 1312, Langton, Bishop of Litchfield, commanded the coronation,
marriages, wars, and funeral of his patron King Edward I., to be
painted in the great hall of his episcopal palace, which he had newly

Chaucer frequently refers to this custom of painting the walls with
historical or fanciful designs.

    "And soth to faine my chambre was
    Ful wel depainted----
    And all the wals with colours fine
    Were painted bothe texte and glose,
    And all the Romaunt of the Rose."

And again:--

    "But when I woke all was ypast,
    For ther nas lady ne creture,
    Save on the wals old portraiture
    Of horsemen, hawkis, and houndis,
    And hurt dere all ful of woundis."

Often emblematical devices were painted, which gave the artist
opportunity to display his fancy and exercise his wit. Dr. Cullum, in
his History of Hawsted, gives an account of an old mansion, having a
closet, the panels of which were painted with various sentences,
emblems, and mottos. One of these, intended doubtless as a hint to
female vanity, is a painter, who having begun to sketch out a female
portrait, writes "Dic mihi qualis eris."

But comfort, or at least a degree of comfort, had progressed hand in
hand with decoration. Tapestry, that is to say needlework tapestry,
which, like the Bayeux tapestry of Matilda, had been used solely for
the decoration of altars, or the embellishment of other parts of
sacred edifices on occasions of festival, or the performance of solemn
rites, had been of much more general application amongst the luxurious
inhabitants of the South, and was introduced into England as furniture
hanging by Eleanor of Castile. In Chaucer's time it was common. Among
his pilgrims to Canterbury is a tapestry worker who is mentioned in
the Prologue, in common with other "professors."

    "An haberdasher and a carpenter,
    A webbe, a dyer, and a tapiser."

And, again:--

    "I wol give him all that falles
    To his chambre and to his halles,
    I will do painte him with pure golde,
    And _tapite_ hem ful many a folde."

These modes of decorating the walls and chambers with paintings, and
with tapestry, were indeed contemporaneous; though the greater
difficulty of obtaining the latter--for as it was not made at Arras
until the fourteenth century, all that we here refer to is the painful
product of the needle alone--many have made it less usual and common
than the former. Pithy sentences, and metrical stanzas were often
wrought in tapestry: in Wresil Castle and other mansions, some of the
apartments were adorned in the Oriental manner with metrical
descriptions called Proverbs. And Warton mentions an ancient suit of
tapestry, containing Ariosto's Orlando, and Angelica, where, at every
group, the story was all along illustrated with short lines in
Provençal or old French.

It could only be from its superior comfort that an article so tedious
in manufacture as needlework tapestry could be preferred to the more
quickly-produced decorations of the pencil; it was also rude in
design; and the following description of some tapestry in an old Manor
House in King John's time, though taken from a work of fiction,
probably presents a correct picture of the style of most of the pieces
exhibited in the mansions of the middle ranks at that period.

"In a corner of the apartment stood a bed, the tapestry of which was
enwrought with gaudy colours representing Adam and Eve in the garden
of Eden. Adam was presenting our first mother with a large yellow
apple, gathered from a tree that scarcely reached his knee. Beneath
the tree was an angel milking, and although the winged milkman sat on
a stool, yet his head overtopped both cow and tree, and nearly
covered a horse, which seemed standing on the highest branches. To the
left of Eve appeared a church; and a dark robed gentleman holding
something in his hand which looked like a pincushion, but doubtless
was intended for a book: he seemed pointing to the holy edifice, as if
reminding them that they were not yet married. On the ground lay the
rib, out of which Eve (who stood the head higher than Adam) had been
formed; both of them were very respectably clothed in the ancient
Saxon costume; even the angel wore breeches, which, being blue,
contrasted well with his flaming red wings."

No one who has read the real blunders of artists and existing
anachronisms in pictures detailed in "Percy Anecdotes," will think the
above sketch at all too highly coloured; though doubtless the tapestry
hangings introduced by Queen Eleanor which would be imitated and
caricatured in ten thousand different forms, were in much superior
style. The Moors had attained to the highest perfection in the
decorative arts, and from them did the Spaniards borrow this fashion
of hangings,[76] and "the coldness of our climate (says her
accomplished biographer, Miss Agnes Strickland, speaking of Eleanor,)
must have made it indispensable to the fair daughter of the South,
chilled with the damp stone walls of English Gothic halls and
chambers." Of the chillness of these walls we may form some idea,
from a feeling description of a residence which was thought sufficient
for a queen some centuries later. In the year 1586, Mary, the unhappy
Queen of Scots, writes thus:--

"In regard to my lodging, my residence is a place inclosed with walls,
situated on an eminence, and consequently exposed to all the winds and
storms of heaven. Within this inclosure there is, like as at
Vincennes, a very old hunting seat, built of wood and plaister, with
chinks on all sides, with the uprights; the intervals between which
are not properly filled up, and the plaister dilapidated in the
various places. The house is about six yards distant from the walls,
and so low that the terrace on the other side is as high as the house
itself, so that neither the sun nor the fresh air can penetrate it at
that side. The damp, however, is so great there, that every article of
furniture is covered with mouldiness in the space of four days.--In a
word, the rooms for the most part are fit rather for a dungeon for the
lowest and most abject criminals, than for a residence of a person of
my rank, or even of a much inferior condition. I have for my own
accommodation only wretched little rooms, and so cold, that were it
not for the protection of the curtains and tapestries which I have had
put up, I could not endure it by day, and still less by night."[77]

The tapestries, whether wrought or woven, did not remain on the walls
as do the hangings of modern days: it was the primitive office of the
grooms of the chamber to hang up the tapestry which in a royal
progress was sent forward with the purveyor and grooms of the
chamber. And if these functionaries had not, to use a proverbial
expression, "heads on their shoulders," ridiculous or perplexing
blunders were not unlikely to arise. Of the latter we have an instance
recorded by the Duc de Sully.

"The King (Henry IV.) had not yet quitted Monceaux, when the Cardinal
of Florence, who had so great a hand in the treaty of the Vervins,
passed through Paris, as he came back from Picardy, and to return from
thence to Rome, after he had taken leave of his Majesty. The king sent
me to Paris to receive him, commanding me to pay him all imaginable
honours. He had need of a person near the Pope, so powerful as this
Cardinal, who afterwards obtained the Pontificate himself: I therefore
omitted nothing that could answer His Majesty's intentions; and the
legate, having an inclination to see St. Germain-en-Laye, I sent
orders to Momier, the keeper of the castle, to hang the halls and
chambers with the finest tapestry of the Crown. Momier executed my
orders with great punctuality, but with so little judgment, that for
the legate's chamber he chose a suit of hangings made by the Queen of
Navarre; very rich, indeed, but which represented nothing but emblems
and mottos against the Pope and the Roman Court, as satirical as they
were ingenious. The prelate endeavoured to prevail upon me to accept a
place in the coach that was to carry him to St. Germain, which I
refused, being desirous of getting there before him, that I might see
whether everything was in order; with which I was very well pleased. I
saw the blunder of the keeper, and reformed it immediately. The
legate would not have failed to look upon such a mistake as a formed
design to insult him, and to have represented it as such to the Pope.
Reflecting afterwards, that no difference in religion could authorise
such sarcasms, I caused all those mottos to be effaced."[78]

In the sixteenth century[79] a sort of hanging was introduced, which,
partaking of the nature both of tapestry and painting on the walls,
was a formidable rival to the former. Shakspeare frequently alludes to
these "painted cloths." For instance, when Falstaff persuades Hostess
Quickly, not only to withdraw her arrest, but also to make him a
further loan: she says--

"By this heavenly ground I tread on, I must be fain to pawn both my
plate and the _tapestry_ of my dining chambers!"

Falstaff answers--

"Glasses, glasses is the only drinking, and for thy walls a pretty
slight drollery, or the story of the Prodigal, or a German Hunting in
water-work, is worth a thousand of these fly-bitten tapestries. Let it
be ten pounds if thou canst. If it were not for thy humours, there is
not a better wench in England! Go wash thy face and draw thy action."

In another passage of the play he says that his troops are "as ragged
as Lazarus in the _painted cloth_."

There are now at Hampton Court eight large pieces or hangings of this
description; being "The Triumphs of Julius Cæsar," in water-colours,
on cloth, and in good preservation. They are by Andrea Mantegna, and
were valued at 1000_l._ at the time, when, by some strange
circumstance, the Cartoons of Raphael were estimated only at 300_l._

Tapestry was common in the East at a very remote era, when the most
grotesque compositions and fantastic combinations were usually
displayed on it. Some authors suppose that the Greeks took their ideas
of griffins, centaurs, &c., from these Tapestries, which, together
with the art of making them, they derived from the East, and at first
they closely imitated both the beauties and deformities of their
patterns. At length their refined taste improved upon these originals;
and the old grotesque combinations were confined to the borders of the
hanging, the centre of which displayed a more regular and systematic

It has been supposed by some writers that the invention of Tapestry,
passed from the East into Europe; but Guicciardini ascribes it to the
Netherlanders; and assuredly the Bayeux Tapestry, the work of the
Conqueror's Queen, shows that this art must have acquired much
perfection in Europe before the time of the Crusades, which is the
time assigned by many for its introduction there. Probably
Guicciardini refers to woven Tapestry, which was not practised until
the article itself had become, from custom, a thing of necessity.
Unintermitting and arduous had been the stitchery practised in the
creation of these coveted luxuries long, very long before the loom was
taught to give relief to the busy finger.

The first manufactories of Tapestry of any note were those of
Flanders, established there long before they were attempted in France
or England. The chief of these were at Brussels, Antwerp, Oudenarde,
Lisle, Tournay, Bruges, and Valenciennes. At Brussels and Antwerp they
succeeded well both in the design and the execution of human figures
and animals, and also in landscapes. At Oudenarde the landscape was
more imitated, and they did not succeed so well in the figure. The
other manufactories, always excepting those of Arras, were inferior to

The grand era of general manufactories in France must be fixed in the
reign of Henry the IV. Amongst others he especially devoted his
attention to the manufacture of Tapestry, and that of the Gobelins,
since so celebrated, was begun, though futilely, in his reign. His
celebrated minister, Sully, was entangled in these matters somewhat
more than he himself approved.

1605. "I laid, by his order, the foundations of the new edifices for
his Tapestry weavers, in the horse-market. His Majesty sent for Comans
and La Planche, from other countries, and gave them the care and
superintendence of these manufactures: the new directors were not long
before they made complaints, and disliked their situation, either
because they did not find profits equal to their hopes and
expectations, or, that having advanced considerable sums themselves,
they saw no great probability of getting them in again. The king got
rid of their importunity by referring them to me."[80]

1607. "It was a difficult matter to agree upon a price with these
celebrated Flemish tapestry workers, which we had brought into France
at so great an expense. At length it was resolved in the presence of
Sillery and me, that a 100,000_l._ should be given them for their
establishment. Henry was very solicitous about the payment of this
sum; 'Having,' said he, 'a great desire to keep them, and not to lose
the advances we have made.' He would have been better pleased if these
people could have been paid out of some other funds than those which
he had reserved for himself: however, there was a necessity for
satisfying them at any price whatever. His Majesty made use of his
authority to oblige De Vienne to sign an acquittal to the undertakers
for linen cloth in imitation of Dutch Holland. This prince ordered a
complete set of furniture to be made for him, which he sent for me to
examine separately, to know if they had not imposed upon him. _These
things were not at all in my taste_, and I was but a very indifferent
judge of them: the price seemed to me to be excessive, as well as the
quantity. Henry was of another opinion: after examining the work, and
reading my paper, he wrote to me that there was not too much, and that
they had not exceeded his orders; and that he had never seen so
beautiful a piece of work before, and that the workman must be paid
his demands immediately."[81]

The manufactory languished however, even if it did not become entirely
extinct. But it was revived in the reign of Louis XIV., and has since
dispersed productions of unequalled delicacy over the civilised world.

It was called "Gobelins," because the house in the suburbs of Paris,
where the manufacture is carried on, was built by brothers whose names
were Giles and John Gobelins, both excellent dyers, and who brought to
Paris in the reign of Francis I. the secret of dying a beautiful
scarlet colour, still known by their name.

In the year 1667 this place, till then called "Gobelines' Folly,"
changed its name into that of "Hotel Royal des Gobelins," in
consequence of an edict of Louis XIV. M. Colbert having
re-established, and with new magnificence enriched and completed the
king's palaces, particularly the Louvre and the Tuilleries, began to
think of making furniture suitable to the grandeur of those buildings;
with this view he called together all the ablest workmen in the divers
arts and manufactures throughout the kingdom; particularly painters,
tapestry makers from Flanders, sculptors, goldsmiths, ebonists, &c.,
and by liberal encouragement and splendid pensions called others from
foreign nations.

The king purchased the Gobelins for them to work in, and laws and
articles were drawn up, amongst which is one that no other tapestry
work shall be imported from any other country.

Nor did there need; for the Gobelins has ever since remained the first
manufactory of this kind in the world. The quantity of the finest and
noblest works that have been produced by it, and the number of the
best workmen bred up therein are incredible; and the present
flourishing condition of the arts and manufactures of France is, in
great measure, owing thereto.

Tapestry work in particular is their glory. During the
superintendence of M. Colbert, and his successor M. de Louvois, the
making of tapestry is said to have been practised to the highest
degree of perfection.

The celebrated painter, Le Brun, was appointed chief director, and
from his designs were woven magnificent hangings of Alexander's
Battles--The Four Seasons--the Four Elements--and a series of the
principal actions of the life of Louis XIV. M. de Louvois, during his
administration, caused tapestries to be made after the most beautiful
originals in the king's cabinet, after Raphael and Julio Romano, and
other celebrated Italian painters. Not the least interesting part of
the process was that performed by the _rentrayeurs_, or fine-drawers,
who so unite the breadths of the tapestry into one picture that no
seam is discernible, but the whole appears like one design. The French
have had other considerable manufactories at Auvergne, Felletin and
Beauvais, but all sank beneath the superiority of the Gobelins, which
indeed at one time outvied the renown of that far-famed town, whose
productions gave a title to the whole species, viz., that of Arras.

Walpole gives an intimation of the introduction of tapestry weaving
into England, so early as the reign of Edward III., "De inquirendo de
mysterâ Tapiciorum, London;" but usually William Sheldon, Esq., is
considered the introducer of it, and he allowed an artist, named
Robert Hicks, the use of his manor-house at Burcheston, in
Warwickshire; and in his will, dated 1570, he calls Hicks "the only
auter and beginner of tapistry and arras within this realm." At his
house were four maps of Oxford, Worcester, Warwick, and
Gloucestershires, executed in tapestry on a large scale, fragments of
which are or were among the curiosities of Strawberry-hill. We meet
with little further notice of this establishment.

This beautiful art was, however, revived in the reign of James I., and
carried to great perfection under the patronage of himself and his
martyr son. It received its death blow in common with other equally
beautiful and more important pursuits during the triumph of the
Commonwealth. James gave £2000 to assist Sir Francis Crane in the
establishment of the manufactory at Mortlake, in Surry, which was
commenced in the year 1619. Towards the end of this reign, Francis
Cleyn, or Klein, a native of Rostock, in the duchy of Mecklenburg, was
employed in forming designs for this institution, which had already
attained great perfection. Charles allowed him £100 a year, as appears
from Rymer's Foedera: "Know ye that we do give and grant unto
Francis Cleyne a certain annuitie of one hundred pounds, by the year,
during his natural life." He enjoyed this salary till the civil war,
and was in such favour with the king, and in such reputation, that on
a small painting of him he is described as "Il famosissimo pittore
Francesco Cleyn, miracolo del secolo, e molto stimato del re Carlo
della gran Britania, 1646."

The Tapestry Manufacture at Mortlake was indeed a hobby, both of King
James and Prince Charles, and of consequence was patronised by the
Court. During Charles the First's romantic expedition to Spain, when
Prince of Wales, with the Duke of Buckingham, James writes--"I have
settled with Sir Francis Crane for my Steenie's business, and I am
this day to speak with Fotherby, and by my next, Steenie shall have an
account both of his business, and of Kit's preferment and supply in
means; but Sir Francis Crane desires to know if my Baby will have him
to hasten the making of that suit of Tapestry that he commanded

The most superb hangings were wrought here after the designs of
distinguished painters; and Windsor Castle, Hampton Court, Whitehall,
St. James's, Nonsuch, Greenwich, and other royal seats, and many noble
mansions were enriched and adorned by its productions. In the first
year of his reign, Charles was indebted £6000 to the establishment for
three suits of gold tapestry; Five of the Cartoons were wrought here,
and sent to Hampton Court, where they still remain. A suit of
hangings, representing the Five Senses, executed here, was in the
palace at Oatlands, and was sold in 1649 for £270. Rubens sketched
eight pieces in Charles the First's reign for tapestry, to be woven
here, of the history of Achilles, intended for one of the royal
palaces. At Lord Ilchester's, at Redlinch, in Somersetshire, was a
suit of hangings representing the twelve months in compartments; and
there are several other sets of the same design. Williams, Archbishop
of York, and Lord Keeper, paid Sir Francis Crane £2500 for the Four
Seasons. At Knowl, in Kent, was a piece of the same tapestry wrought
in silk, containing the portraits of Vandyck, and St. Francis himself.
At Lord Shrewsbury's (Hoythorp, Oxfordshire) are, or were, four
pieces of tapestry from designs by Vanderborght, representing the four
quarters of the world, expressed by assemblages of the nations in
various habits and employments, excepting Europe, which is in
masquerade, wrought in chiaroscuro. And at Houghton (Lord Oxford's
seat) were beautiful hangings containing whole lengths of King James,
King Charles, their Queens, and the King of Denmark, with heads of the
Royal Children in the borders. These are all mentioned incidentally as
the production of the Mortlake establishment.

After the death of Sir Francis Crane, his brother Sir Richard sold the
premises to Charles I. During the civil wars, this work was seized as
the property of the Crown; and though, after the Restoration, Charles
II. endeavoured to revive the manufacture, and sent Verrio to sketch
the designs, his intention was not carried into effect. The work,
though languishing, was not altogether extinct; for in Mr. Evelyn's
very scarce tract intituled "Mundus Muliebris," printed in 1690, some
of this manufacture is amongst the articles to be furnished by a
gallant to his mistress.

One of the first acts of the Protectorate after the death of the king,
was to dispose of the pictures, statues, tapestry hangings, and other
splendid ornaments of the royal palaces. Cardinal Mazarine enriched
himself with much of this royal plunder; and some of the splendid
tapestry was purchased by the Archduke Leopold. This however found its
way again to England, being repurchased at Brussels for £3000 by
Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of George III.

In 1663 "two well-intended statutes" were made: one for the
encouragement of the linen and _tapestry manufactures_ of England, and
discouragement of the importation of foreign tapestry:--and the
other--start not, fair reader--the other "for regulating the packing
of herrings."[83]


[75] See Smith's History of the Ancient Palace of Westminster.

[76] But not from them would be derived the art of painting with the
needle the representation of the human figure. Hence, perhaps, the
awkward and ungainly aspect of these, in comparison with the arabesque
patterns. From a fear of its exciting a tendency to idolatry Mohammed
prohibited his followers from delineating the form of men or animals
in their pictorial embellishments of whatever sort.

[77] Von Raumer's Contributions, 297.

[78] Sully's Memoirs. We have, in a subsequent chapter, a more full
account of this Tapestry.

[79] Gent's Mag., 1830.

[80] Sully's Memoirs, vol. ii.

[81] Sully's Memoirs, vol. iii.

[82] Miscellaneous State Papers, vol. i. No. 26.

[83] "The rich tapestry and arras hangings which belonged to St.
James's Palace, Hampton Court, Whitehall, and other Royal Seats, were
purchased for Cromwell: these were inventoried at a sum not exceeding
£30,000. One piece of eight parts at Hampton Court was appraised at
£8,260: this related to the History of Abraham. Another of ten parts,
representing the History of Julius Cæsar, was appraised at £5019."



    "And storied loves of knights and courtly dames,
    Pageants and triumphs, tournaments and games."

                        Rose's Partenopex.

It has been a favourite practice of all antiquity to work with the
needle representations of those subjects in which the imagination and
the feelings were most interested. The labours of Penelope, of Helen,
and Andromache, are proverbial, and this mode of giving permanency to
the actions of illustrious individuals was not confined to the
classical nations. The ancient islanders used to work--until the
progress of art enabled them to weave the histories of their giants
and champions in Tapestry; and the same thing is recorded of the old
Persians; and this furniture is still in high request among many
Oriental nations, especially in Japan and China. The royal palace of
Jeddo has profusion of the finest Tapestry; this indeed is gorgeous,
being wrought with silk, and adorned with pearls, gold, and silver.

It was considered a right regal offering from one prince to another.
Henry III., King of Castile, sent a present to Timour at Samarcand, of
Tapestry which was considered to surpass even the works of Asiatic
artists in beauty: and when the religious and military orders of some
of the princes of France and Burgundy had plunged them into a kind of
crusade against the Turkish Sultan Bajazet, and they became his
prisoners in the battle of Nicopolis, the King of France sent presents
to the Sultan, to induce him to ransom them; amongst which Tapestry
representing the battles of Alexander the Great was the most

Tapestry was not used in the halls of princes alone, but cut a very
conspicuous figure on all occasions of festivity and rejoicing. It was
customary at these times to hang ornamental needlework of all sorts
from the windows or balconies of the houses of those streets through
which a pageant or festal procession was to pass; and as the houses
were then built with the upper stories far overhanging the lower ones,
these draperies frequently hung in rich folds to the ground, and must
have had, when a street was thus in its whole length appareled and
partly roofed by the floating streamers and banners above--somewhat
the appearance of a suite of magnificent saloons.

    "Then the high street gay signs of triumph wore,
      Covered with shewy cloths of different dye,
    Which deck the walls, while Sylvan leaves in store,
      And scented herbs upon the pavement lie.
    Adorned in every window, every door,
      With carpeting and finest drapery;
    But more with ladies fair, and richly drest
    In costly jewels and in gorgeous vest."

When the Black Prince entered London with King John of France, as his
prisoner, the outsides of the houses were covered with hangings,
consisting of battles in tapestry-work.

And in tournaments the lists were always decorated "with the splendid
richness of feudal power. Besides the gorgeous array of heraldic
insignia near the Champions' tents, the galleries, which were made to
contain the proud and joyous spectators, were covered with tapestry,
representing chivalry both in its warlike and its amorous guise: on
one side the knight with his bright faulchion smiting away hosts of
foes, and on the other side kneeling at the feet of beauty."

But the subjects of the tapestry in which our ancestors so much
delighted were not confined to _bonâ fide_ battles, and the
matter-of-fact occurrences of every-day life. Oh no! The Lives of the
Saints were frequently pourtrayed with all the legendary
accompaniments which credulity and blind faith could invest them with.
The "holy and solitary" St. Cuthbert would be seen taming the
sea-monsters by his word of power: St. Dunstan would be in the very
act of seizing the "handle" of his Infernal Majesty's face with the
red-hot pincers; and St. Anthony in the "howling wilderness," would be
reigning omnipotent over a whole legion of sprites. Here was food for
the imagination and taste of our notable great-grandmother! Yet let us
do them justice. If some of their religious pieces were imbued even to
a ridiculous result, with the superstitions of the time, there were
others, numberless others, scripture pieces, as chaste and beautiful
in design, as elaborate in execution. The loom and needle united
indeed brought these pieces to the highest perfection, but many a
meek and saintly Madonna, many a lofty and energetic St. Paul, many a
subdued and touching Magdalene were produced by the unaided industry
of the pious needlewoman. Nay, the whole Bible was copied in
needlework; and in a poem of the fifteenth century, by Henry Bradshaw,
containing the Life of St. Werburgh, a daughter of the King of the
Mercians, there is an account "rather historical than legendary,"[84]
of many circumstances of the domestic life of the time. Amongst other
descriptions is that of the tapestry displayed in the Abbey of Ely, on
the occasion of St. Werburgh taking the veil there. This Tapestry
belonged to king Wulfer, and was brought to Ely Monastery for the
occasion. We subjoin some of the stanzas:--

    "It were full tedyous, to make descrypcyon
    Of the great tryumphes, and solempne royalte,
    Belongynge to the feest, the honour and provysyon,
    By playne declaracyon, upon every partye;
    But the sothe to say, withouten ambyguyte,
    All herbes and flowres, fragraunt, fayre, and swete,
    Were strawed in halles, and layd under theyr fete.

    "Clothes of golde and arras[85] were hanged in the hall
    Depaynted with pyctures, and hystoryes manyfolde,
    Well wroughte and craftely, with precious stones all
    Glysteryng as Phebus, and the beten golde,
    Lyke an erthly paradyse, pleasaunt to beholde:
    As for the said moynes,[86] was not them amonge,
    But prayenge in her cell, as done all novice yonge.

    "The story of Adam, there was goodly wrought,
    And of his wyfe Eve, bytwene them the serpent,
    How they were deceyved, and to theyr peynes brought;
    There was Cayn and Abell, offerynge theyr present,
    The sacryfyce of Abell, accepte full evydent:
    Tuball and Tubalcain were purtrayed in that place,
    The inventours of musyke and crafte by great grace.

    "Noe and his shyppe was made there curyously
    Sendynge forthe a raven, whiche never came again;
    And how the dove returned, with a braunche hastely,
    A token of comforte and peace, to man certayne:
    Abraham there was, standing upon the mount playne
    To offer in sacrifice Isaac his dere sone,
    And how the shepe for hym was offered in oblacyon.

    "The twelve sones of Jacob there were in purtrayture,
    And how into Egypt yonge Josephe was solde,
    There was imprisoned, by a false conjectour,
    After in all Egypte, was ruler (as is tolde).
    There was in pycture Moyses wyse and bolde,
    Our Lorde apperynge in bushe flammynge as fyre,
    And nothing thereof brent, lefe, tree, nor spyre.[87]

    "The ten plages of Egypt were well embost,
    The chyldren of Israel passyng the reed see,
    Kynge Pharoo drowned, with all his proude hoost,
    And how the two table, at the Mounte Synaye
    Were gyven to Moyses, and how soon to idolatry
    The people were prone, and punysshed were therefore,
    How Datan and Abyron, for pryde were full youre."[88]

Then _Duke_ Joshua leading the Israelites: the division of the
promised land; Kyng Saull and David, and "prudent Solomon;" Roboas

    "The good Kynge Esechyas and his generacyon,
    And so to the Machabus, and dyvers other nacyon."

All these

    "Theyr noble actes, and tryumphes marcyall,
    Freshly were browdred in these clothes royall."

         *   *   *   *   *

    "But over the hye desse, in the pryncypall place,
    Where the sayd thre kynges sate crowned all,
    The best hallynge[89] hanged, as reason was,
    Whereon were wrought the nine orders angelicall
    Dyvyded in thre ierarchyses, not cessynge to call
    _Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus_, blessed be the Trynite,
    Dominius Deus Sabaoth, three persons in one deyte."

Then followed in order our Blessed Lady, the twelve Apostles, "eche
one in his figure," the four Evangelists "wrought most curyously," all
the disciples

    "Prechynge and techynge, unto every nacyon,
    The faythtes[90] of holy chyrche, for their salvacyon."

"Martyrs then followed, right manifolde;" Confessors "fressely
embrodred in ryche tyshewe and fyne." Saintly virgins "were
brothered[91] the clothes of gold within," and the long array was
closed on the other side of the hall by

    "Noble auncyent storyes, and how the stronge Sampson
    Subdued his enemyes by his myghty power;
    Of Hector of Troye, slayne by fals treason;
    Of noble Arthur, kynge of this regyon;
    With many other mo, which it is to longe
    Playnly to expresse this tyme you amonge."

But the powers of the chief proportion of needlewomen, and of many of
the subsequent tapestry looms were devoted to giving permanence to
those fables which, as exhibited in the Romances of Chivalry, formed
the very life and delight of our ancestors in

    "------that happy season
    Ere bright Fancy bent to reason;
    When the spirit of our stories,
    Filled the mind with unseen glories;
    Told of creatures of the air,
    Spirits, fairies, goblins rare,
    Guarding man with tenderest care."

These fables, says Warton, were not only perpetually repeated at the
festivals of our ancestors, but were the constant objects of their
eyes. The very walls of their apartments were clothed with romantic

We have mentioned the history of Alexander in Tapestry as forming an
important part of the peace offering of the king of France to Bajazet,
and probably there were few princes who did not possess a suit of
tapestry on this subject; a most important one in romance, and
consequently a desired one for the loom.

There seems an innate propensity in the writers of the Romance of
Chivalry to exaggerate, almost to distortion, the achievements of
those whose heroic bearing needed no pomp of diction, or wild flow of
imagination to illustrate it. Thus Charlemagne, one of the best and
greatest of men, appears in romance like one whose thirst for
slaughter it requires myriads of "Paynims" to quench.

Arthur, on the contrary, a very (if history tell truth) a very "so-so"
sort of a man, having not one tithe of the intellect or the
magnanimity of him to whom we have just referred--Arthur is invested
in romance with a halo of interest and of beauty which is perfectly
fascinating; and it seems almost impossible to divest oneself of these
impressions and to look upon him only in the unattractive light in
which history represents him.

A person not initiated in romance would suppose that the real actions
of Alexander--the subjugator of Greece, the conqueror of Persia, the
captor of the great Darius, but the generous protector of his
family--might sufficiently immortalize him. By no means. He cuts a
considerable figure in many romances; but in one, appropriated more
exclusively to his exploits, he "surpasses himself." The world was
conquered:--from north to south, and from east to west his sovereignty
was acknowledged; so he forthwith flew up into the air to bring the
aerial potentates to his feet. But this experiment not answering, he
descended to the depths of the waters with much better success; for
immediately all their inhabitants, from the whale to the herring, the
cannibal shark, the voracious pike, the majestic sturgeon, the lordly
salmon, the rich turbot, and the delicate trout, with all their kith,
kin, relations, and allies, the lobster, the crab, and the muscle,

    "The sounds and seas with all their finny drove"

crowd round him to do him homage: the oyster lays her pearl at his
feet, and the coral boughs meekly wave in token of subjection.
Doubtless in addition to the legitimate "battles" these exploits, if
not fully displayed, were intimated by symbols in the Tapestry.

The Tale of Troy was a very favourite subject for Tapestry, and was
found in many noble mansions, especially in France. It has indeed been
conjectured, and on sufficient grounds, that the whole Iliad had been
wrought in a consecutive series of hangings. Though during the early
part of the middle ages Homer himself was lost, still the "Tale of
Troy divine" was kept alive in two Latin works, which in 1260 formed
the basis of a prose romance by a Sicilian.

The great original himself however, had become the companion not only
of the studious and learned, but also of the fair and fashionable,
while yet the Flemish looms were in the zenith of their popularity.
This subject formed part of the decoration of Holyrood House, on the
occasion of the marriage of Henry the Seventh's daughter to James,
King of Scotland in 1503. We are told in an ancient record, that the
"hanginge of the queene's gret chammer represented the ystory of Troye
toune, that the king's grett chammer had one table, wer was satt, hys
chamerlayne, the grett sqyer, and many others, well served; the which
chammer was haunged about with the story of Hercules, together with
other ystorys." And at the same solemnity, "in the hall wher the
qwene's company wer satt in lyke as in the other, an wich was haunged
of the history of Hercules."

The tragic and fearful story of Coucy's heart gave rise to an old
metrical English Romance, called the 'Knight of Courtesy and the Lady
of Faguel.' It was entirely represented in tapestry. The incident, a
true one, on which it was founded, occurred about 1180; and was

"Some hundred and odd years since, there was in France one Captain
Coucy, a gallant gentleman of an ancient extraction, and keeper of
Coucy Castle, which is yet standing, and in good repair. He fell in
love with a young gentlewoman, and courted her for his wife. There was
a reciprocal love between them; but her parents understanding of it,
by way of prevention, they shuffled up a forced match 'twixt her and
one Monsieur Faiell who was a great heir: Captain Coucy hereupon
quitted France in discontent, and went to the wars in Hungary against
the Turk; where he received a mortal wound, not far from Bada. Being
carried to his lodging, he languished for some days; but a little
before his death he spoke to an ancient servant of his, that he had
many proofs of his fidelity and truth; but now he had a great business
to intrust him with, which he conjured him by all means to do, which
was, That after his death, he should get his body to be opened and
then to take his heart out of his breast, and put in an earthen pot,
to be baked to powder; and then to put the powder in a handsome box,
with that bracelet of hair he had worn long about on his left wrist,
which was a lock of Mademoiselle Faiell's hair, and put it among the
powder, together with a little note he had written with his own blood
to her; and after he had given him the rites of burial, to make all
the speed he could to France, and deliver the box to Mademoiselle
Faiell. The old servant did as his master had commanded him, and so
went to France; and coming one day to Monsieur Faiell's house, he
suddenly met with him, who examined him because he knew he was Captain
Coucy's servant, and finding him timorous and faltering in his
speech, he searched him, and found the said box in his pocket with the
note, which expressed what was therein. He dismissed the bearer with
menaces, that he should come no more near his house: Monsieur Faiell
going in, sent for his cook, and delivered him the powder, charging
him to make a little well-relished dish of it, without losing a jot of
it, for it was a very costly thing; and commanded him to bring it in
himself, after the last course at supper. The cook bringing in the
dish accordingly, Monsieur Faiell commanded all to void the room, and
began a serious discourse with his wife: However since he had married
her, he observed she was always melancholy, and he feared she was
inclining to a consumption; therefore he had provided for her a very
precious cordial, which he was well assured would cure her. Thereupon
he made her eat up the whole dish; and afterwards much importuning him
to know what it was, he told her at last, she had eaten Coucy's heart,
and so drew the box out of his pocket, and showed her the note and
bracelet. In a sudden exultation of joy, she with a far-fetched sigh
said, '_This is precious indeed_,' and so licked the dish, saying,
'_It is so precious, that 'tis pity to put ever any meat upon 't_.' So
she went to bed, and in the morning she was found stone dead."[92]

But a more national, a more inspiriting, and a more agreeable theme
for the alert finger or the busy loom is found in the life and
adventures of that prince of combatants, that hero of all heroes, Guy
Earl of Warwick. Help me, shades of renowned slaughterers, whilst I
record his achievements! Bear witness to his deed, ye grisly phantoms,
ye bloody ghosts of infidel Paynims, whom his Christian sword mowed
down, even as corn falls beneath the the reaper's sickle, till the
redoubtable champion strode breast deep in bodies over fifteen acres
covered with slaughtered foes![93] And all this from Christian zeal!

    "In faith of Christ a Christian true
      The wicked laws of infidels,
    He sought by power to subdue.

    "So passed he the seas of Greece,
      To help the Emperour to his right,
    Against the mighty Soldan's host
      Of puissant Persians for to fight:
    Where he did slay of Sarazens
      And heathen Pagans many a man,
    And slew the Soldan's cousin dear,
      Who had to name, Doughty Colbron.

    "Ezkeldered that famous knight,
      To death likewise he did pursue,
    And Almain, king of Tyre also,
      Most terrible too in fight to view:
    He went into the Soldan's host,
      Being thither on ambassage sent,
    And brought away his head with him,
      He having slain him in his tent."

Or passing by his

    "Feats of arms
    In strange and sundry heathen lands,"

note his beneficent progress at home--

    "In Windsor forest he did slay
      A boar of passing might and strength;
    The like in England never was,
      For hugeness both in breadth and length.
    Some of his bones in Warwick yet,
      Within the castle there do lye;
    One of his shield bones to this day
      Hangs in the city of Coventry.

    "On Dunsmore heath he also slew
      A monstrous wild and cruel beast,
    Call'd the dun cow of Dunsmore heath,
      Which many people had opprest;
    Some of her bones in Warwick yet
      Still for a monument doth lie,
    Which unto every looker's view,
      As wondrous strange they may espy.

    "And the dragon in the land,
      He also did in flight destroy,
    Which did both men and beasts oppress,
      And all the country sore annoy:"

Or look we at him all doughty as he was, as the pilgrim of love, as
subdued by the influence of the tender passion, a suppliant to the
gentle Phillis, and ready to compass the earth to fulfil her wishes,
and to prove his devotion:

    "Was ever knight for lady's sake
      So tost in love, as I, Sir Guy;
    For Phillis fair, that Lady bright,
      As ever man beheld with eye;
    She gave me leave myself to try
      The valiant knight with shield and spear,
    Ere that her love she would grant me,
      Who made me venture far and near."

Or, afterwards view him as--

    "All clad in grey in Pilgrim sort,
      His voyage from her he did take,
    Unto that blessed, holy land,
      For Jesus Christ, his Saviour's sake."

Lastly, recal we the time when the fierce and ruthless Danes were
ravaging our land, and there was scarce a town or castle as far as
Winchester, which they had not plundered or burnt, and a proposal was
made, and per force acceded to by the English king to decide the
struggle by single combat. But the odds were great: Colbrand the
Danish champion, was a giant, and ere he came to a combat he provided
himself with a cart-load of Danish axes, great clubs with knobs of
iron, squared barrs of steel lances and iron hooks wherewith to pull
his adversary to him.

On the other hand the English--and sleepless and unhappy, the king
Athelstan pondered the circumstance as he lay on his couch, on St.
John Baptist's night--had no champion forthcoming, even though the
county of Hants had been promised as a reward to the victor. Roland,
the most valiant knight of a thousand, was dead; Heraud, the pride of
the nation, was abroad; and the great and valiant Guy, Earl of
Warwick, was gone on a pilgrimage. The monarch was perplexed and
sorrowful; but an angel appeared to him and comforted him.

In conformity with the injunctions of this gracious messenger, the
king, attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of
Chichester, placed himself at the north gate of the city (Winchester)
at the hour of prime. Divers poor people and pilgrims entered thereat,
and among the rest appeared a man of noble visage and stalwart frame,
but wan withal, pale with abstinence, and macerated by reason of
journeying barefoot. His beard was venerably long and he rested on a
staff; he wore a pilgrim's garb, and on his bare and venerable head
was strung a chaplet of white roses. Bending low, he passed the gate,
but the king warned by the vision, hastened to him, and entreated him
"by his love for Jesus Christ, by the devotion of his pilgrimage, and
for the preservation of all England, to do battle with the giant." The
Palmer thus conjured, underwent the combat, and was victorious.

After a solemn procession to the Cathedral, and thanksgiving therein,
when he offered his weapon to God and the patron of the Church, before
the High Altar, the pilgrim withdrew, having revealed himself to none
but the king, and that under a solemn pledge of secrecy. He bent his
course towards Warwick, and unknown in his disguise, took alms at the
hands of his own lady--for, reader, this meek and holy pilgrim, was
none other than the wholesale slayer, whose deeds we have been
contemplating--and then retired to a solitary place hard by--

    "Where with his hand he hew'd a house,
      Out of a craggy rock of stone;
    And lived like a palmer poor,
      Within that cave himself alone."

Nor was this at all an unusual conclusion to a life of butchery; all
the heroes of romance turned hermits; and as they all, at least all of
Arthur's Round Table, were gifted with a very striking development of
the organ of combativeness, their profound piety at the end of their
career might not improbably give rise to a very common adage of these
days regarding sinners and saints.

But here was a theme for Tapestry-workers! a real original, genuine
English romance; for though the only pieces now extant be, or may be,
translated from the French, still there are many concurring
circumstances to prove that the original, often quoted by Chaucer, was
an ancient metrical English one. That it is difficult to find who Sir
Guy was, or in fact, to prove that there ever was a Sir Guy at all, is
nothing to the purpose; leave we that to antiquarians, and their musty
folios. Guy of Warwick was well known from west to east, even as far
as Jerusalem, where, in Henry the Fourth's time, Lord Beauchamp was
kindly received by those in high stations, because he was descended

    "A shadowy ancestor, so renowned as Guy."

One tapestry on this attractive subject which was in Warwick Castle,
before the year 1398, was so distinguished and valued a piece of
furniture, that a special grant was made of it by King Richard II.
conveying "that suit of arras hangings in Warwick Castle, which
contained the story of Guy Earl of Warwick," together with the Castle
of Warwick and other possessions, to Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent. And
in the restoration of forfeited property to this lord after his
imprisonment, these hangings are particularly specified in the patent
of King Henry IV., dated 1399.

And the Castle wherein the tapestry was hung was worthy of the heroes
it had sheltered. The first building on the site was supposed to be
coeval with our Saviour, and was called Caer-leon; almost overthrown
by the Picts and Scots, it lay in ruins till Caractacus built himself
a manor-house, and founded a church to the honour of St. John the
Baptist. Here was afterwards a Roman fort, and here again was a
Pictish devastation. A cousin of King Arthur rebuilt it, and then
lived in it--Arthgal, first Earl of Warwick, a Knight of the Round
Table; this British title was equivalent to _Ursus_ in Latin, whence
Arthgal took the Bear for his ensign: and a successor of his, a worthy
progenitor of our valiant Sir Guy, slew a mighty giant in a duel; and
because this giant's delicate weapon was a tree pulled up by the
roots, the boughs being snagged from it, the Earls of Warwick,
successors of the victor, bore a ragged staff of silver in a sable
shield for their cognisance.

We are told that,--

    "When Arthur first in court began,
      And was approved king,
    By force of arms great victoryes wanne,
      And conquest home did bring.
    Then into England straight he came
      With fifty good and able
    Knights, that resorted unto him,
      And were of his round table."

Of these the most renowned were Syr Perceval, Syr Tristan, Syr
Launcelot du Lac, Syr Ywain, Syr Gawain, Syr Galaas, Syr Meliadus of
Leonnoys, Sir Ysaie, Syr Gyron, &c. &c., and their various and
wondrous achievements were woven into a series of tales which are
known as the "Romances of the Round Table." Of course the main subject
of each tale is interrupted by ten thousand varied episodes, in which
very often the original object seems entirely lost sight of. Then the
construction of many of these Romances, or rather their want of
construction, is marvellous; their genealogies are interminable, and
their geography miraculous.

One of the most marvellous and scarce of these Romances, and one, the
principal passages of which were frequently wrought into Tapestry, was
the "Roman du Saint Greal," which is founded upon an incident, to say
the least very peculiar, but which was perhaps once considered true as
Holy Writ. St. Joseph of Arimathoea, a very important personage in
many romances, having obtained the hanap, or cup from which our
Saviour administered the wine to his disciples, caught in the same cup
the blood which flowed from his wounds when on the Cross. After he had
first achieved various adventures, and undergone an imprisonment of
forty-two years, St. Joseph arrives in England with the sacred cup, by
means of which numerous miracles are performed; he prepares the Round
Table, and Arthur and his Knights all go in quest of the hanap, which
by some, to us unaccountable, circumstance, had fallen into the hands
of a sinner. All make the most solemn vow to devote their lives to its
recovery; and this they must indeed have done, and not short lives
either, if all recorded of them be true. None, however, but two, ever
_see_ the sacred symbol; though oftentimes a soft ray of light would
stream across the lonesome wild, or the dark pathless forest, or
unearthly strains would float on the air, or odours as of Paradise
would entrance the senses, while the wandering and woeworn knight
would feel all fatigue, all sense of personal inconvenience, of pain,
of sickness, or of sorrow, vanish on the instant; and then would he
renew his vows, and betake himself to prayer; for though all unworthy
to see the Holy Grayle, he would feel that it had been borne on
viewless pinions through the air for his individual consolation and
hope. And Syr Galahad and Syr Perceval, the two chaste and favoured
knights who, "after the dedely flesshe had beheld the spiritual
things," the holy St. Grael--never returned to converse with the
world. The first departed to God, and "flights of angels sang him to
his rest;" the other took religious clothing and retired to a
hermitage, where, after living "a full holy life for a yere and two
moneths, he passed out of this world."

But wide as is the range of the Romances of the "Round Table," they
form but a portion of those which solaced our ancestors. Charlemagne
and his Paladins were, so to speak, the solar system round which
another circle revolved; Alexander furnished the radiating star for
another, derived chiefly perhaps from the East, where numbers of
fictitious tales were prevalent about him; and many Romances were
likewise woven around the mangled remains of classic heroes.

    "The mightiest chiefs of British song
    Scorn'd not such legends to prolong;
    They gleam through Spenser's elfic dream,
    And mix in Milton's heavenly theme;
    And Dryden in immortal strain,
    Had raised the 'Table Round' again."

The Stories of the Tapestry in the Royal Palaces of Henry VIII. are
preserved in the British Museum.[94]

These are some of them re-copied from Warton:--

In the tapestry of the Tower of London, the original and most ancient
seat of our monarchs, there are recited, Godfrey of Bulloign; the
Three Kings of Cologne; the Emperor Constantine; St. George; King of
Erkenwald; the History of Hercules; Fame and Honour; the Triumph of
Divinity; Esther and Ahasueras; Jupiter and Juno; St. George; the
Eight Kings; the Ten Kings of France; the Birth of our Lord; Duke
Joshua; the Riche History of King David; the Seven Deadly Sins; the
Riche History of the Passion; the Stem of Jesse; Our Lady and Son;
King Solomon; the Woman of Canony; Meleager; and the Dance of

At Durham Place were the Citie of Ladies (a French allegorical
Romance); the Tapestrie of Thebes and of Troy; the City of Peace; the
Prodigal Son; Esther, and other pieces of Scripture.

At Windsor Castle the Siege of Jerusalem; Ahasueras; Charlemagne; the
Siege of Troy; and Hawking and Hunting.

At Nottingham Castle, Amys and Amelion.

At Woodstock Manor, the tapestrie of Charlemagne.

At the More, a palace in Hertfordshire, King Arthur, Hercules,
Astyages, and Cyrus.

At Richmond, the arras of Sir Bevis, and Virtue and Vice fighting.

Among the rest we have also Hannibal, Holofernes, Romulus and Remus,
Æneas, and Susannah.

Many of these subjects were repeated at Westminster, Greenwich,
Oatlands, Bedington in Surrey, and other royal seats, some of which
are now unknown as such.


[84] Warton.

[85] Arras, a very common anachronism. After the production of the
arras tapestries, arras became the common name for all tapestries:
even for those which were wrought before the looms of Arras were in

[86] Moynes--nun. Lady Werburg

[87] _Spyre_--twig, branch.

[88] _Youre_--burnt.

[89] _Hallynge_--Tapestry.

[90] _Faythtes_--feats, facts.

[91] _Brothered_--embroidered.

[92] Epistolæ Ho-Elianæ.

[93] "Fifteen acres were covered with the bodies of slaughtered
Saracens; and so furious were the strokes of Sir Guy, that the pile of
dead men, wherever his sword had reached, rose as high as his
breast."--Ellis, vol. ii.

[94] Harl. MSS. 1419.



    "What neede these velvets, silkes, or lawne,
    Embrodery, feathers, fringe and lace."

                        Bp. Hall.

    "Time was, when clothing sumptuous or for use,
    Save their own painted skins, our Sires had none.
    As yet black breeches were not."


Manifold indeed were the varieties in mode and material before that
_beau ideal_ of all that is graceful and becoming--the "black
breeches"--were invented. For though in many parts of the globe
costume is uniform, and the vest and the turban of a thousand years
ago are of much the same make as now, this is not the case in the more
polished parts of Europe, where that "turncoat whirligig maniac,
yclept Fashion," is the pole-star and beacon of the multitude of men,
from him who has the "last new cut from Stultz," to him who is
magnificent and happy in the "reg'lar bang-up-go" from the eastern
parts of the metropolis.

It would seem that England is peculiarly celebrated for her devotion
at Fashion's shrine; for we are told that "an Englishman, endevoring
sometime to write of our attire, made sundrie platformes for his
purpose, supposing by some of them to find out one stedfast ground
whereon to build the summe of his discourse. But in the end (like an
orator long without exercise) when he saw what a difficult peece of
worke he had taken in hand, he gave over his travell, and onely drue
the picture of a naked man, unto whome he gave a paire of sheares in
the one hand, and a piece of cloth in the other, to the end he should
shape his apparell after such fashion as himselfe liked, sith he could
find no kind of garment that could please him anie while together, and
this he called an Englishman. Certes this writer shewed himself herein
not to be altogether void of iudgement, sith the phantasticall follie
of our nation, even from the courtier to the carter, is such, that no
forme of apparell liketh vs longer than the first garment is in the
wearing, if it continue so long and be not laid aside, to receive some
other trinket newlie devised.

"And as these fashions are diverse, so likewise it is a world to see
the costlinesse and the curiositie; the excesse and the vanitie; the
pompe and the brauerie; the change and the varietie; and, finallie,
the ficklenesse and the follie that is in all degrees; insomuch that
nothing is more constant in England than inconstancie of attire.

"In women, also, it in most to be lamented, that they doo now far
exceed the lightnesse of our men (who nevertheless are transformed
from the cap even to the verie shoo) and such staring attire as in
time past was supposed meet for none but light housewives onlie, is
now become a habit for chast and sober matrons.

"Thus _it is now come to passe, that women are become men, and men
transformed into monsters_."

This ever-revolving wheel is still turning; and so all-important now
is THE MODE that one half of the world is fully occupied in providing
for the personal embellishment of the other half and themselves; and
could we contemplate the possibility of a return to the primitive
simplicity of our ancient "sires," we must look in the same picture on
one half of the world as useless--as a drug on the face of creation.
Why, what a desert would it be were all dyers, fullers, cleaners,
spinners, weavers, printers, mercers and milliners, haberdashers and
modistes, silk-men and manufacturers, cotton-lords and fustian-men,
tailors and habit makers, mantuamakers and corset professors,
exploded? We pass over pin and needle makers, comb and brush
manufacturers, jewellers, &c. The ladies would have nothing to live
for; (for on grave authority it has been said, that "woman is an
animal that delights in the toilette;") the gentlemen nothing to
solace them. "The toilette" is the very zest of life with both; and if
ladies are more successful in the results of their devoirs to it, it
is because "nous sommes faites pour embellir le monde," and not
because gentlemen practice its duties with less zeal, devotion, or
assiduity--as many a valet can testify when contemplating his modish
patron's daily heap of "failures." Indeed to put out of view the more
obvious, weighty, and important cares attached to the due selection
and arrangement of coats, waistcoats, and indispensables, the science
of "Cravatiana" alone is one which makes heavy claims on the time,
talents, and energies of the thorough-going gentleman of fashion. He
should be thoroughly versed in all its varieties--The Royal George:
The Plain Bow: The Military: The Ball Room: The Corsican: The
Hibernian Tie: The Eastern Tie: The Hunting Tie: The Yankee Tie: (the
"alone original" one)--The Osbaldiston Tie: The Mail Coach Tie: The
Indian Tie, &c. &c. &c.

Though of these and their numberless offshoots, the Yankee Tie lays
most claim to originality, the Ball Room one is considered the most
exquisite, and requires the greatest practice. It is thus described by
a "talented" professor:--

"The cloth, of virgin white, well starched and folded to the proper
depth, should be made to sit easy and graceful on the neck, neither
too tight nor loose; but with a gentle pressure, curving inwards from
the further extension of the chin, down the throat to the centre dent
in the middle of the neck. This should be the point for a slight dent,
extending from under each ear, between which, more immediately under
the chin, there should be another slight horizontal dent just above
the former one. It has no tie; the ends, crossing each other in broad
folds in front, are secured to the braces, or behind the back, by
means of a piece of white tape. A brilliant broach or pin is generally
made use of to secure more effectually the crossing, as well as to
give an additional effect to the neckcloth."

What a world of wit and invention--what a fund of fancy and
taste--what a mine of zeal and ability would be lost to the world, "if
those troublesome disguises which we wear" were reduced to their old
simplicity of form and material! Industry and talent would be at
discount, for want of materials whereon to display themselves; and
money would be such a drug, that politicians would declaim on the
miseries of being _without_ a national debt. Commerce, in many of its
most important branches, would be exploded; the "manufacturing
districts" would be annihilated; the "agricultural interest" would,
consequently and necessarily, be at a "very low ebb;" and the "New
World," the magnificent and imperial empress (that is to be) of the
whole earth, might sink again to the embraces of those minute and
wonderful artificers from whom, I suppose, she at first proceeded--the
coral insects; for who would want cotton! No, no. Selfish preferences,
individual wishes, must merge in the general good of the human race;
and however "their own painted skins" might suffice our "sires,"
clothing, "sumptuous," as well as "for use," must decorate ourselves.

To whom, then, are the fullers, the dyers, the cleaners--to whom are
the spinners and weavers, and printers and mercers, and milliners and
haberdashers, and modistes, and silk-men and manufacturers, cotton
lords and fustian men, mantuamakers and corset professors, indebted
for that nameless grace, that exquisite finish and appropriateness,
which gives to all their productions their charm and their
utility?--To the NEEDLEWOMAN, assuredly. For though the raw materials
have been grown at Sea Island and shipped at New York,--have been
consigned to the Liverpool broker and sold to the Manchester merchant,
and turned over to the manufacturer, and spun and woven, and bleached
and printed, and placed in the custody of the warehouseman, or on the
shelf of the shopkeeper--of what good would it be that we had a
fifty-yard length of calico to shade our oppressed limbs on a
"dog-day," if we had not the means also to render that material
agreeably available? Yet not content with merely rendering it
available, this beneficent fairy, the needlewoman, casts, "as if by
the spell of enchantment, that ineffable grace over beauty which the
choice and arrangement of dress is calculated to bestow." For the love
of becoming ornament--we quote no less an authority than the historian
of the 'State of Europe in the Middle Ages,'--"is not, perhaps, to be
regarded in the light of vanity; it is rather an instinct which woman
has received from Nature to give effect to those charms which are her
defence." And if it be necessary to woman with her charms, is it not
tenfold necessary to those who--Heaven help them!--have few charms
whereof to boast? For, as Harrison says, "it is now come to passe that
men are transformed into monsters."

"Better be out of the world than out of the fashion," is a proverb
which, from the universal assent which has in all ages been given to
it, has now the force of an axiom. It was this self evident
proposition which emboldened the beau of the fourteenth century, in
spite of the prohibitions of popes and senators,--in spite of the more
touching personal inconvenience, and even risk and danger, attendant
thereupon--to persist in wearing shoes of so preposterous a length,
that the toes were obliged to be fastened with chains to the girdle
ere the happy votary of fashion could walk across his own parlour!
Happy was the favourite of Croesus, who could display chain upon
chain of massy gold wreathed and intertwined from the waistband to
the shoe, until he seemed almost weighed down by the burthen of his
own wealth. Wrought silver did excellently well for those who could
not produce gold; and for those who possessed not either precious
metal, and who yet felt they "might as well be out of the world as out
of the fashion," latteen chains, silken cords, aye, and cords of even
less costly description, were pressed into service to tie up the
_crackowes_, or piked shoes. For in that day, as in this, "the squire
endeavours to outshine the knight, the knight the baron, the baron the
earl, the earl the king, in dress." To complete the outrageous
absurdity of these shoes, the upper parts of them were cut in
imitation of a church-window, to which fashion Chaucer refers when
describing the dress of Absalom, the Parish Clerk. He--

    "Had Paul 'is windowes corven on his shose."

Despite the decrees of councils, the bulls of the Pope, and the
declamations of the Clergy, this ridiculous fashion was in vogue near
three centuries.

And the party-coloured hose, which were worn about the same time, were
a fitting accompaniment for the crackowes. We feel some difficulty in
realising the idea that gentlemen, only some half century ago, really
dressed in the gay and showy habiliments which are now indicative only
of a footman; but it is more difficult to believe, what was
nevertheless the fact, that the most absurd costume in which the
"fool" by profession can now be decked on the stage, can hardly
compete in absurdity with the _outré_ costume of a beau or a belle of
the fourteenth century. The shoes we have referred to: the garments,
male or female, were divided in the middle down the whole length of
the person, and one half of the body was clothed in one colour, the
other half in the most opposite one that could be selected. The men's
garments fitted close to the shape; and while one leg and thigh
rejoiced in flaming yellow or sky-blue, the other blushed in deep
crimson. John of Gaunt is portrayed in a habit, one half white, the
other a dark blue; and Mr. Strutt has an engraving of a group
assembled on a memorable occasion, where one of the figures has a boot
on one leg and a shoe on the other. The Dauphiness of Auvergne, wife
to Louis the Good, Duke of Bourbon, born 1360, is painted in a garb of
which one half all the way down is blue, powdered with gold
fleurs-de-lys, and the other half to the waist is gold, with a blue
fish or dolphin (a cognizance, doubtless) on it, and from the waist to
the feet is crimson, with white "fishy" ornaments; one sleeve is blue
and gold, the other crimson and gold.

In addition to these absurd garments, the women dressed their heads so
high that they were obliged to wear a sort of curved horn on each
side, in order to support the enormous superstructure of feathers and
furbelows. And these are what are meant by the "horned head-dresses"
so often referred to in old authors. It is said that, when Isabel of
Bavaria kept her court at Vincennes, A.D. 1416, it was necessary to
make all the doors of the palace both higher and wider, to admit the
head-dresses of the queen and her ladies, which were all of this
horned kind.

This high bonnet had been worn, under various modifications, ever
since the fashion was brought from the East in the time of the
Crusades. Some were of a sugar-loaf form, three feet in height; and
some cylindrical, but still very high. The French modistes of that day
called this formidable head-gear _bonnet à la Syrienne_. But our
author says, if female vanity be violently restrained in one point, it
is sure to break out in another; and Romish anathemas having abolished
curls from shading fair brows, so much the more attention was paid to
head-gear, that the bonnets and caps increased every year most awfully
in height and size, and were made in the form of crescents, pyramids,
and horns of such tremendous dimensions, that the old chronicler
Juvenal des Ursins makes this pathetic lamentation in his History of
Charles VI.:--

"Et avoient les dames et damoyselles de chacun costé, deux grandes
oreilles si larges, que quand elles vouloient passer par l'huis d'une
chambre il fallait qu'elles se tournassent de costé et baisassent, ou
elles n'eussent pu passer:" that is, "on every side old ladies and
young ladies were seen with such high and monstrous ears (or horns),
that when they wanted to enter a room they were obliged perforce to
stoop and crouch sideways, or they could not pass." At last a regular
attack was made on the high head-gear of the fifteenth century by a
popular monk, in his sermons at Nôtre Dame, in which he so
pathetically lamented the sinfulness and enormities of such a fashion,
that the ladies, to show their contrition, made _auto da fés_ of their
Syrian bonnets in the public squares and market-places; and as the
Church fulminated against them all over Europe, the example of Paris
was universally followed.

Many attempts had previously been made by zealous preachers to effect
this alteration. In the previous century a Carmelite in the province
of Bretagne preached against this fashion, without the power to
annihilate it: all that the ladies did was to change the particular
shape of the huge coiffures after every sermon. "No sooner," says the
chronicler, "had he departed from one district, than the dames and
damoyselles, who, like frightened snails, had drawn in their horns,
shot them out again longer than ever; for nowhere were the _hennins_
(so called, abbreviated from _gehinnin_, incommodious,) larger, more
pompous or proud, than in the cities through which the Carmelite had

"All the world was totally reversed and disordered by these fashions,
and above all things by the strange accoutrements on the heads of the
ladies. It was a portentous time, for some carried huge towers on
their foreheads an ell high; others still higher caps, with sharp
points, like staples, from the top of which streamed long crapes,
fringed with gold, like banners. Alas, alas! ladies, dames, and
demoiselles were of importance in those days! When do we hear, in the
present times, of Church and State interfering to regulate the
patterns of their bonnets?"[95]

It is no wonder that fashions so very extreme and absurd should call
forth animadversion from various quarters. Thus wrote Petrarch in

"Who can see with patience the monstrous, fantastical inventions which
the people of our times have invented to deform, rather than adorn,
their persons? Who can behold without indignation their long pointed
shoes; their caps with feathers; their hair twisted and hanging down
like tails; the foreheads of young men, as well as women, formed into
a kind of furrows with ivory-headed pins; their bellies so cruelly
squeezed with cords, that they suffer as much pain from vanity as the
martyrs suffered for religion? Our ancestors would not have believed,
and I know not if posterity will believe, that it was possible for the
wit of this vain generation of ours to invent so many base, barbarous,
horrid, ridiculous fashions (besides those already mentioned) to
disfigure and disgrace itself, as we have the mortification to see
every day."

And thus Chaucer, a few years later:--

"Alass! may not a man see as in our daies the sinnefull costlew array
of clothing, and namely in too much superfluite, or else in too
disordinate scantinese: as to the first, not only the cost of
embraudering, the disguysed indenting, or barring, ounding, playting,
wynding, or bending, and semblable waste of clothe in vanitie." The
common people also "were besotted in excesse of apparell, in wide
surcoats reaching to their loines, some in a garment reaching to their
heels, close before and strowting out on the sides, so that on the
back they make men seem women, and this they called by a ridiculous
name, _gowne_," &c. &c.

Before this time the legislature had interfered, though with little
success: they passed laws at Westminster, which were said to be made
"to prevent that destruction and poverty with which the whole kingdom
was threatened, by the outrageous, excessive expenses of many persons
in their apparel, above their ranks and fortunes."

Sumptuary edicts, however, are of little avail, if not supported in
"influential quarters." King Richard II. affected the utmost splendour
of attire, and he had one coat alone which was valued at 30,000 marks:
it was richly embroidered and inwrought with gold and precious stones.
It is not in human nature, at least in human nature of the "more
honourable" gender, to be outdone, even by a king. Gorgeous and
glittering was the raiment adopted by the satellites of the court,
and, heedless of "that destruction and poverty with which the whole
kingdom was threatened," they revelled in magnificence. Of one alone,
Sir John Arundel, it is recorded, that he had at one time fifty-two
suits of cloth of gold tissue. At this time, says the old Chronicle,

    "Cut werke was great bothe in court and tounes,
    Bothe in mens hoddes, and also in their gounes,
    Brouder and furres, and gold smith werke ay newe,
    In many a wyse, eche day they did renewe."

Unaccountable as it may seem, this rage of expense and show in apparel
reached even the (then) poverty-stricken sister country Scotland; and
in 1457 laws were enacted to suppress it.

It is told of William Rufus, that one morning while putting on his new
boots he asked his chamberlain what they cost; and when he replied
"three shillings," indignantly and in a rage he cried out, "you--how
long has the king worn boots of so paltry a price? Go, and bring me a
pair worth a mark of silver." He went, and bringing him a much
cheaper pair, told him falsely that they cost as much as he had
ordered: "Ay," said the king, "these are suitable to royal majesty."

This is merely a specimen of the monarch's shallow-headed
extravagance; but the costume of his time and that immediately
preceding it was infinitely superior in grace and dignity to that of
the fantastical period we have been describing. The English at this
period were admired by all other nations, and especially _by the
French_, from whom in subsequent periods _we_ have copied so
servilely, for the richness and elegance of their attire. With a tunic
simply confined at the waist, over this, when occasion required, a
full and flowing mantle, with a veil confined to the back of the head
with a golden circlet, her dark hair simply braided over her beautiful
and intelligent brow and waving on her fair throat, the wife of the
Conqueror looked every inch a queen, and what was more, she looked a
modest, a dignified, and a beautiful woman.

The male attire was of the same flowing and majestic description: and
the "brutal" Anglo-Saxons and the "barbarous" Normans had more
delicacy than to display every division of limb or muscle which nature
formed, and more taste than to invent divisions where, Heaven knows,
nature never meant them to be. The simple _coiffure_ required little
care and attendance, but if a fastening did happen to give way, the
Anglo-Norman lady could raise her hand to fasten it if she chose. The
arm was not pinioned by the fiat of a _modiste_.

And the material of a dress of those days was as rich as the mode was
elegant. Silk indeed was not common; the first that was seen in the
country was in 780, when Charlemagne sent Offa, King of Mercia, a belt
and two vests of that beautiful material; but from the particular
record made of silk mantles worn by two ladies at a ball at Kenilworth
in 1286, we may fairly infer that till this period silk was not often
used but as

    "------a robe pontifical,
    Ne'er seen but wonder'd at."

Occasionally indeed it was used, but only by persons of the highest
rank and wealth. But the woollens were of beautiful texture, and
Britain was early famous in the art of producing the richest dyes. The
Welsh are still remarkable for extracting beautiful tints from the
commonest plants, such most probably as were used by the Britons
anciently; and it is worthy of note that the South Sea cloths,
manufactured from the inner bark of trees, have the same stripes and
chequers, and indeed the identical patterns of the Welsh, and, as
supposed, of the ancient Britons. Linen was fine and beautiful; and if
it had not been so, the rich and varied embroidery with which it was
decorated would have set off a coarser material.

Furs of all sorts were in great request, and a mantle of regal hue,
lined throughout with vair or sable, and decorated with bands of gold
lace and flowers of the richest embroidery, interspersed with pearls,
clasped on the shoulder with the most precious gems, and looped, if
requisite, with golden tassels, was a garment at which a nobleman,
even of these days, need not look askance.

Robert Bloet, second bishop of Lincoln, made a present to Henry I. of
a cloak of exquisitely fine cloth, lined with black sables with white
spots, which cost a sum equivalent to £1500 of our money. The robes of
females of rank were always bordered with a belt of rich needlework;
their embroidered girdles were inlaid, or rather inwrought, with gold,
pearls, and precious stones, and from them was usually suspended a
large purse or pouch, on which the skill of the most accomplished
needlewomen was usually expended.

This rich and becoming mode of dress was gradually innovated upon
until caprice reigned paramount over the national wardrobe. For
"fashion is essentially caprice; and fashion in dress the caprice of
milliners and tailors, with whom _recherche_ and exaggeration supply
the place of education and principle." That this modern definition
applied as accurately to former times as these, an instance may
suffice to show. Richard I. had a cloak made, at enormous cost, with
precious and shining metals inlaid _in imitation of the heavenly
bodies_; and Henry V. wore, on a very memorable occasion, when Prince
of Wales, a mantle or gown of rich blue satin, full of small
eyelet-holes, as thickly as they could be put, and a needle hanging by
a silk thread _from every hole_.

The following incident, quoted from Miss Strickland's Life of
Berengaria, will show the esteem in which a rich, and especially a
furred garment was held. Richard I. quarrelled with the virtuous St.
Hugh, bishop of Lincoln, on the old ground of exacting a simoniacal
tribute on the installation of the prelate into his see. Willing to
evade the direct charge of selling the see, King Richard intimated
that a present of a fur mantle worth a thousand marks might be a
composition. St. Hugh said he was no judge of such gauds, and
therefore sent the king a thousand marks, declaring, if he would
devour the revenue devoted to the poor, he must have his wilful way.
But as soon as Richard had pocketed the money he sent for the fur
mantle. St. Hugh set out for Normandy to remonstrate with the king on
this double extortion. His friends anticipated that he would be
killed; but St. Hugh said, "I fear him not," and boldly entered the
chapel where Richard was at mass, when the following scene took

"Give me the embrace of peace, my son," said St. Hugh.

"That you have not deserved," replied the king.

"Indeed I have," said St. Hugh, "for I have made a long journey on
purpose to see my son."

So saying, he took hold of the king's sleeve and drew him on one side.
Richard smiled and embraced the old man. They withdrew to the recess
behind the altar and sate down.

"In what state is your conscience?" asked the bishop.

"Very easy," said the king.

"How can that be, my son," said the bishop, "when you live apart from
your virtuous queen, and are faithless to her; when you devour the
provision of the poor, and load your people with heavy exactions? Are
those light transgressions, my son?"

The king owned his faults, and promised amendment; and when he related
this conversation to his courtiers he added, "Were all our prelates
like Hugh of Lincoln, both king and barons must submit to their
righteous rebukes."

Furs were much used now as coverings for beds; and they were
considered a _necessary_ part of dress for a very considerable period.

In Sir John Cullum's Hawsted, mention is made that in 1281 Cecilia,
widow of William Talmache, died, and, amongst other bequests, left "to
Thomas Battesford, for black coats for poor people, xxx_s._ in part."
"To John Camp, of Bury St. Edmunds, furrier, for furs for the black
coats, viij_s._ xj_d._" On which the reverend and learned author
remarks, "We should now indeed think that a black coat bestowed on a
poor person wanted not the addition of fur: such, however, was the
fashion of the time; and a sumptuary law of Edward III. allows
handicraft and yeomen to wear no manner of furre, nor of bugg,[96] but
only lambe, coney, catte, and foxe."

The distinction in rank was expressly shown by the kind of fur
displayed on the dress, and these distinctions were regulated by law
and rigidly enforced. By a statute passed in 1455, for regulating the
dress of the Scottish lords of parliament, the gowns of the earls are
appointed to be furred with ermine, while those of the other lords are
to be lined with "criestay, gray, griece, or purray."

The more precious furs, as ermine and sable, were reserved exclusively
for the principal nobility of both sexes. Persons of an inferior rank
wore the _vair_ or _gris_ (probably the Hungarian squirrel); the
citizens and burgesses, the common squirrel and lamb skins; and the
peasants, cat and badger skins. The mantles of our kings and peers,
and the furred robes of the several classes of our municipal officers,
are the remains of this once universal fashion.

Furs often formed an important part of the ransom of a prisoner of

    "Sir," quoth Count Bongars, "war's disastrous hour
    Hath cast my lot within my foeman's power.
    Name ransome as you list; gold, silver bright,
    Palfreys, or dogs, or falcons train'd to flight;
    Or choose you _sumptuous furs, of vair or gray_;
    I plight my faith the destin'd price to pay."[97]

Certain German nobles who had slain a bishop were enjoined, amongst
other acts of penance, "ut varium, griseum, ermelinum, et pannos
coloratos, non portent."

The skin of the wild cat was much used by the clergy. Bishop Wolfstan
preferred lambskin; saying in excuse, "Crede mihi, nunquam audivi, in
ecclesia, cantari _catus_ Dei, sed _agnus_ Dei; ideo calefieri agno

The monk of Chaucer had

    "------his sleeves purfiled, at the hond,
    With gris, and that the finest of the lond."

It is not till about the year 1204 that there is any specific
enumeration of the royal apparel for festival occasions. The proper
officers are appointed to bring for the king on this occasion "a
golden crown, a red satin mantle adorned with sapphires and pearls, a
robe of the same, a tunic of white damask; and slippers of red satin
edged with goldsmith's work; a balbrick set with gems; two girdles
enamelled and set with garnets and sapphires; white gloves, one with a
sapphire and one with an amethist; various clasps adorned with
emeralds, turquois, pearls, and topaz; and sceptres set with
twenty-eight diamonds."[98]

So much for the king:--And for the queen--oh! ye enlightened
legislators of the earth, ye omnipotent and magisterial lords of
creation, look on that picture--and on this.

"For our lady the queen's use, sixty ells of fine linen cloth, forty
ells of dark green cloth, a skin of minever, a _small brass pan_, and
_eight towels_."

But John, who in addition to his other amiable propensities was the
greatest and most extravagant fop in Europe, was as parsimonious
towards others as selfish and extravagant people usually are. Whilst
even at the ceremony of her coronation he only afforded his Queen
"three cloaks of fine linen, one of scarlet cloth, and one grey
pelisse, costing together 12_l._ 5_s._ 4_d._;" he himself launched
into all sorts of expenditure. He ordered the minutest articles for
himself and the queen; but the wardrobe accounts of the sovereigns of
the middle ages prove that they kept a royal warehouse of mercery,
haberdashery, and linen, from whence their officers measured out
velvets, brocades, sarcenets, tissue, gauzes, and trimmings, of all
sorts. A queen, says Miss Strickland, had not the satisfaction of
ordering her own gown when she obtained leave to have a new one; the
warlike hand of her royal lord signed the order for the delivery of
the materials from his stores, noting down with minute precision the
exact quantity to a quarter of a yard of the cloth, velvet, or
brocade, of which the garment was composed.

"Blessed be the memory of King Edward III. and Philippa of Hainault
his queen, who first invented clothes," was, we are told, the grateful
adjuration of a monkish historian, who referred probably not to the
first assumption of apparel, but to the charter which was granted
first by that monarch to the "cutters and linen armourers,"
subsequently known as the merchant-tailors, who at that period were
usually the makers of all garments, silk, linen, or woollen. Female
fingers had sufficient occupation in the finer parts of the work; in
the "silke broiderie" with which every garment of fashion was
embellished; in the tapestry; in the spinning of wool and flax, every
thread of which was drawn by female hands, and in the weaving of which
a great portion was also executed by them.

In the forty-fourth year of this king, "as the book of Worcester
reporteth, they began to use cappes of divers coloures, especially
red, with costly lynings; and in the year 1372, the forty-seventh of
the above prince, they first began to wanton it in a new round curtall
weede, which they call a cloake, and in Latin _armilausa_, as only
covering the shoulders, and this notwithstanding the king had
endeavoured to restrain all these inordinances and expenses in
clothing; as appears by the law by Parliament established in the
thirty-sixth year of his reign. All ornaments of gold or silver,
either on the daggers, girdles, necklaces, rings, or other ornaments
for the body, were forbid to all that could not spend ten pounds
a-year; and farther, that no furre or pretious and costly apparel,
should be worne by any but men possessed of 100_l._ a year."

Besides the rigid enactments of the law, and the anathemas of divines,
other and gentler means were from time to time resorted to as warnings
from that sin of dress which seems inherent in our nature, or as
inducements to a more becoming one. We quote a specimen of both:--

"There was a lady whiche had her lodgynge by the chirche. And she was
alweye accustomed for to be longe to araye her, and to make her freshe
and gay, insomuch that it annoyed and greued moche the parson of the
chirche, and the parysshens. And it happed on a Sonday that she was so
longe, that she sent to the preeste that he shod tarye for her, lyke
as she had been accustomed. And it was thenne ferforthe on the day.
And it annoyed the peple. And there were somme that said, How is hit?
shall not this lady this day be pynned ne wel besene in a Myrroure?
And somme said softely, God sende to her an evyll syght in her
myrroure that causeth us this day and so oftymes to muse and to abyde
for her. And thene as it plesyd God for an ensample, as she loked in
the myrroure she sawe therein the Fende, whiche shewed hymselfe to her
so fowle and horryble, that the lady wente oute of her wytte, and was
al demonyak a long tyme. And after God sente to her helthe. And after
she was not so longe in arayeng but thanked God that had so suffered
her to be chastysed."[99]

The 'Garment of Gude Ladyis' is a lecture of a most beguiling kind,
and an exquisite picture.

    "Wald my gud lady lufe me best,
      And wirk after my will,
    I suld ane garment gudliest
      Gar mak hir body till.

    "Of he honour suld be her hud,
      Upoun hir heid to weir,
    Garneist with governance so gud,
      Na demyng[100] suld hir deir.[101]

    "Hir kirtill suld be of clene constance,
      Lasit with lesum lufe,
    The mailyeis[102] of continwance
      For nevir to remufe.

    "Her gown suld be of gudliness,
      Weill ribband with renowne,
    Purfillit[103] with plesour in ilk place,
      Furrit with fyne fassoun.[104]

    "Her belt suld be of benignitie,
      About hir middill meit;
    Hir mantill of humilitie,
      To tholl[105] bayth wind and weit.

    "Hir hat suld be of fair having[106],
      And her tepat of trewth,
    Hir patelet[107] of gude pansing,
      Hir hals-ribbane of rewth.

    "Hir slevis suld be of esperance,
      To keip hir fra dispair;
    Hir gluvis of the gud govirnance,
      To hyd hir fingearis fair.

    "Hir schone suld be of sickernes[108]
      In syne that scho nocht slyd;
    Hir hois of honestie, I ges,
      I suld for hir provyd.

    "Wald scho put on this garmond gay,
      I duret sweir by my seill,
    That scho woir nevir grene nor gray
      That set hir half so weill."


[95] Lady's Magazine.

[96] Bugg--buge, lamb's furr.--Dr. Jamieson.

[97] Ancassin and Nicolette.

[98] The first instance in which the name of this stone is
found.--Miss Lawrence.

[99] The Knyght of the Toure.

[100] _Demyng_--censure.

[101] _Deir_--dismay.

[102] _Mailyeis_--network.

[103] _Purfillit_--furbelowed.

[104] _Fassoun_--address, politeness.

[105] _Tholl_--endure.

[106] _Having_--behaviour.

[107] _Patelet_--run.

[108] _Sickernes_--steadfastness.



    "And the short French breeches make such a comelie
    vesture that, except it were a dog in a doublet, you
    shall not see anie so disguised as are my countriemen of


    "Out from the Gadis to the eastern morne,
    Not one but holds his native state forlorne.
    When comelie striplings wish it were their chance
    For Cenis' distaffe to exchange their lance;
    And weare curl'd periwigs, and chalk their face,
    And still are poring on their pocket glasse;
    Tyr'd with pinn'd ruffs, and fans, and partlet strips,
    And buskes and verdingales about their hips:
    And tread on corked stilts a prisoner's pace."

                        Bp. Joseph Hall.

    "They brought in fashions strange and new,
      With golden garments bright;
    The farthingale and mighty ruff,
      With gowns of rich delight."

                        A Warning-Piece to England.

The queen (Anne Neville) of Richard III. seems to have been somewhat
more regally accoutred than those of her royal predecessors to whom we
referred in the last chapter. Among "the stuff delivered to the queen
at her coronation are twenty-seven yards of white cloth of gold for a
kirtle and train, and a mantle of the same, richly furred with
ermine. This was the dress in which she rode in her litter from the
Tower to the palace of Westminster. This was an age of long trains,
and the length was regulated by the rank of the wearer; Anne, for her
whole purple velvet suit, had fifty-six yards. From the entries of
scarlet cloth given to the nobility for mantles on this occasion, we
find that duchesses had thirteen yards, countesses ten, and baronesses

The costume of Henry VII.'s day differed little from that of Edward
IV., except in the use of shirts bordered with lace and richly trimmed
with ornamental needlework, which continued a long time in vogue
amongst the nobility and gentry.

A slight inspection of the inventories of Henry VIII.'s apparel will
convince us of a truth which we should otherwise, readily have
guessed, viz., that no expense and no splendour were spared in the
"swashing costume" of his day. Its general aspect is too familiar to
us to require much comment. We may remark, however, that four several
acts were passed in his reign for the reformation of apparel, and that
all but the royal family were prohibited from wearing "any cloth of
gold of purpure colour, or silk of the same colour," upon pain of
forfeiture of the same and £20 for every offence. Shirt bands and
ruffles of gold were worn by the privileged, but none under the degree
of knight were permitted to decorate their shirts with silk, gold, or
silver. Henry VIII.'s "knitte gloves of silk" are particularly
referred to, and also his "handkerchers" edged with gold, silver, or
fine needlework. These handkerchiefs, wrought with gold and silver,
were not uncommon in the after-times. In the ballad of George
Barnwell, it is said of Milwood--

    "A handkerchief she had,
      All wrought with silk and gold,
    Which she, to stay her trickling tears,
      Before her eyes did hold."

In the east these handkerchiefs are common, and it is still a
favourite occupation of the Egyptian ladies to embroider them.

We are surprised now to find to what minute particulars legal
enactments descended. "No husbandman, shepherd, or common labourer to
any artificer, out of cities or boroughs (having no goods of their own
above the value of £10), shall use or wear any cloth the broad yard
whereof passeth 2_s._ 4_d._, or any hose above the price of 12_d._ the
yard, upon pain of imprisonment in the stocks for three days."

It was in a subsequent reign, that of Mary, that a proclamation was
issued that no man should "weare his shoes above sixe inches _square_
at the toes." We have before seen that the attention of the grave and
learned members of the Senate, the "Conscript Fathers" of England, was
devoted to the due regulation of this interesting part of apparel,
when the shoe-toes were worn so long that they were obliged to be tied
up to the waist ere the happy and privileged wearer could set his foot
on the ground. Now, however, "a change came o'er the spirit of the
day," and it became the duty of those who exercised a paternal
surveillance over the welfare of the community at large to legislate
regarding the _breadth_ of the shoe-toes, that they should not be
above "sixe inches square."

"Great," was anciently the cry--"Great is Diana of the Ephesians;"
but how immeasurably greater and mightier has been, through that and
all succeeding ages, the supreme potentate who with a mesh of flimsy
gauze or fragile silk has constrained nations as by a shackle of iron,
that shadowy, unsubstantial, ever-fleeting, yet ever-exacting
deity--FASHION! At her shrine worship all the nations of the earth.
The savage who bores his nose or tattooes his tawny skin is impelled
by the same power which robes the courtly Eastern in flowing garments;
and the dark-hued beauty who smears herself with blubber is influenced
by the selfsame motive which causes the fair-haired daughter of
England to tint her delicate cheek with the mimic rose.

And it is not merely in the shape and form of garments that this deity
exercises her tyrannic sway, transforming "men into monsters," and
women likewise--if it were possible: her vagaries are infinite and
unaccountable; yet, how unaccountable soever, have ever numberless and
willing votaries. It was once the _fashion_ for people who either were
or fancied themselves to be in love to prove the sincerity of their
passion by the fortitude with which they could bear those extremes of
heat and cold from which unsophisticated _nature_ would shrink. These
"penitents of love," for so the fraternity--and a pretty numerous one
it was--was called, would clothe themselves in the dog-days in the
thickest mantles lined throughout with the warmest fur: when the winds
howled, the hail beat, and snow invested the earth with a freezing
mantle, they wore the thinnest and most fragile garments. It was
forbidden to wear fur on a day of the most piercing cold, or to appear
with a hood, cloak, gloves, or muff. They supposed or pretended that
the deity whom they thus propitiated was LOVE: we aver that the
autocrat under whose irreversible decrees they thus succumbed--was

And, after all, who is this all-powerful genius? What is her
appearance? Whence does she arise? Did she alight from the skies,
while rejoicing stars sang Pæans at her birth? Was she born of the
Sunbeams while a glittering Rainbow cast a halo of glory around her?
or did she spring from Ocean while Nereids revelled around, and
Mermaids strung their Harps with their own golden locks, soft melodies
the while floating along the glistering waves, and echoing from the
Tritons' booming shells beneath? No. Alas, no! She is subtle as the
air; she is evanescent as a sunbeam, and unsubstantial as the ocean's
froth;--but she is none of these. She is--but we will lay aside our
own definition in order that the reader may have the advantage of that
of one of the greatest and wisest of statesmen.

"Quelqu'un qui voudrait un peu étudier d'où part en première source ce
qu'on appelle LES MODES verrait, à notre honte, qu'un petit nombre de
gens, de la plus méprisable espèce qui soit dans une ville, laquelle
renferme tout indifféremment dans son sein; pour qui, si nous les
connaissions, nous n'aurions que le mépris qu'on a pour les gens sans
moeurs, ou la pitié qu'on a pour les fous, disposent pourtant de nos
bourses, et nous tiennent assujettis à tous leurs caprices."

Can this indeed be that supereminent deity for whom so "many do
shipwrack their credits," and make themselves "ridiculous apes, or at
best but like the cynnamon-tree, whose bark is more worth than its

"Clothes" writes a venerable historian, "are for necessity; warm
clothes for health; cleanly for decency; lasting for thrift; and rich
for magnificence. Now, there may be a fault in their number, if too
various; making, if too vain; matter, if too costly; and mind of the
wearer, if he takes pride therein.

"_He that is proud of the russling of his silks, like a madman laughs
at the rattling of his fetters._ For, indeed, clothes ought to be our
remembrancers of our lost innocency. Besides, why should any brag of
what's but borrowed? Should the Estrige snatch off the Gallant's
feather, the Beaver his hat, the Goat his gloves, the Sheep his sute,
the Silkworm his stockings, and Neat his shoes (to strip him no
farther than modesty will give leave), he would be left in a cold
condition. And yet 'tis more pardonable to be proud, even of cleanly
rags, than (as many are) of affected slovennesse. The one is proud of
a molehill, the other of a dunghill."

But the worthy Fuller's ideal picture of suitable dress was the very
antipodes of the reality of Elizabeth's day, when that rage for
foreign fashions existed which has since frequently almost inundated
the island, and our ancestors masked themselves

        "------in garish gaudery
    To suit a fool's far-fetched livery.
    A French hood join'd to neck Italian,
    The thighs from Germany and breast from Spain.
    An Englishman in none, a fool in all,
    Many in one, and one in several."

And Shakspeare, who has perhaps suffered no peculiarity of his time
to escape observation, makes Portia satirize this affectation in her
English admirer:--"How oddly he is suited! I think he bought his
doublet in Italy, his round hose in France, his bonnet in Germany, and
his behaviour everywhere."

A reverend critic thus remarks on the luxurious modes of his time:
"These tender Parnels must have one gown for the day, another for the
night; one long, another short; one for winter, another for summer.
One furred through, another but faced; one for the workday, another
for the holiday. One of this colour, another of that. One of cloth,
another of silk or damask. Change of apparel; one afore dinner,
another at after: one of Spanish fashion, another of Turkey. And to be
brief, never content with enough, but always devising new fashions and
strange. Yea, a ruffian will have more in his ruff and his hose than
he should spend in a year. He which ought to go in a russet coat
spends as much on apparel for him and his wife as his father would
have kept a good house with."

The following is of later date, and seems, somewhat unjustly we think,
to satirize the fair sex alone.

"Why do women array themselves in such fantastical dresses and quaint
devices; with gold, with silver, with coronets, with pendants,
bracelets, earrings, chains, rings, pins, spangles, embroideries,
shadows, rebatoes, versicoloured ribbons, feathers, fans, masks, furs,
laces, tiffanies, ruffs, falls, calls, cuffs, damasks, velvets,
tassels, golden cloth, silver tissue, precious stones, stars,
flowers, birds, beasts, fishes, crisped locks, wigs, painted faces,
bodkins, setting sticks, cork, whalebone, sweet odours, and whatever
else Africa, Asia, and America can produce; flaying their faces to
produce the fresher complexion of a new skin, and using more time in
dressing than Cæsar took in marshalling his army,--but that, like
cunning falconers, they wish to spread false lures to catch unwary
larks, and lead by their gaudy baits and dazzling charms the minds of
inexperienced youth into the traps of love?"

Though the costume of Elizabeth's day, especially at the period of her
coronation was, splendid, it had not attained to the ridiculous
extravagance which at a later period elicited the above-quoted
strictures; and we are told that her own taste at an early period of
life was simple and unostentatious. Her dress and appearance are thus
described by Aylmer, Lady Jane Grey's tutor, and afterwards Bishop of

"The king (Henry VIII.) left her rich clothes and jewels; and I know
it to be true, that, in seven years after her father's death, she
never in all that time looked upon that rich attire and precious
jewels but once, and that against her will. And that there never came
gold or stone upon her head, till her sister forced her to lay off her
former soberness, and bear her company in her glittering gayness. And
then she so wore it as every man might see that her body carried that
which her heart misliked. I am sure that her maidenly apparel, which
she used in King Edward's time, made noblemen's daughters and wives to
be ashamed to be dressed and painted like peacocks; being more moved
with her most virtuous example than with all that ever Paul or Peter
wrote touching that matter. Yea, this I know, that a great man's
daughter (Lady Jane Grey) receiving from Lady Mary, before she was
queen, good apparel of tinsel, cloth of gold and velvet, laid on with
parchment-lace of gold, when she saw it, said, 'What shall I do with
it?' 'Marry!' said a gentlewoman, 'wear it.' 'Nay,' quoth she, 'that
were a shame, to follow my Lady Mary against God's Word, and leave my
Lady Elizabeth, which followeth God's Word.' And when all the ladies,
at the coming of the Scots' Queen Dowager, Mary of Guise, (she who
visited England in Edward's time), went with their hair frownsed,
curled, and double-curled, she altered nothing, but kept her old
maidenly shame-facedness."

And there is a print from a portrait of her when young, in which the
hair is without a single ornament, and the whole dress remarkably

Yet this is the lady whose passion for dress in after life could not
be sated; to whom, or at least before whom (and the Queen was not slow
in appropriating and resenting the hint[109]), Latimer, Bishop of
London, thought it necessary to preach on the vanity of decking the
body too finely; and who finally left behind her a wardrobe containing
three thousand dresses. A modern fair one may wonder how such a
profusion of dresses could be accommodated at all, even in a royal
wardrobe, with fitting respect to the integrity of puffs and
furbelows. But clothes were not formerly kept in drawers, where but
few can be laid with due regard to the safety of each, but were hung
up on wooden pegs, in a room appropriated to the sole purpose of
receiving them; and though such cast-off things as were composed of
rich substances were occasionally _ripped_ for domestic uses (viz.,
mantles for infants, vests for children, and counterpanes for beds),
articles of inferior quality were suffered to _hang by the walls_ till
age and moths had destroyed what pride would not permit to be worn by
servants or poor relations. To this practice, also, does Shakspeare
allude: Imogen exclaims, in 'Cymbeline,'--

    "Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion;
    And, for I am richer than to hang by the walls,
    I must be ripp'd--"

The following regulations may be interesting; and the knowledge of
them will doubtless excite feelings of joy and gratitude in our fair
readers that they are born in an age where "will is free," and the
dustman's wife may, if it so please her, outshine the duchess, without
the terrors of Parliament before her eyes:--

    "By the Queene.

    "Whereas the Queene's Maiestie, for avoyding of the
    great inconvenience that hath growen and dayly doeth
    increase within this her Realme, by the inordinate
    excesse in Apparel, hath in her Princely wisdome and
    care for reformation thereof, by sundry former
    Proclamations, straightly charged and commanded those in
    Authoritie under her to see her Lawes provided in that
    behalfe duely executed; Whereof notwithstanding, partly
    through their negligence, and partly by the manifest
    contempt and disobedience of the parties offending, no
    reformation at all hath followed; Her Maiestie, finding
    by experience that by Clemencie, whereunto she is most
    inclinable, so long as there is any hope of redresse,
    this increasing evill hath not beene cured, hath thought
    fit to seeke to remedie the same by correction and
    severitie, to be used against both these kindes of
    offenders, in regard of the present difficulties of this
    time; wherein the decay and lacke of hospitalitie
    appeares in the better sort in all countreys,
    principally occasioned by the immeasurable charges and
    expenses which they are put to in superfluous
    apparelling their wives, children, and families, the
    confusion also of degrees in all places being great;
    where the meanest are as richly apparelled as their
    betters, and the pride that such inferior persons take
    in their garments, driving many for their maintenance to
    robbing and stealing by the hieway, &c. &c.

    "Her Maiestie doth straightly charge and command--

    "That none under the degree of a Countess wear:

        Cloth of gold or silver tissued;

        Silke of coulor purple.

    "Under the degree of a Baronesse:--

        Cloth of golde;

        Cloth of silver;

        Tinselled satten;

        Sattens branched with silver or golde;

        Sattens striped with silver or golde;

        Taffaties brancht with silver or golde;

        Cipresses flourisht with silver or golde;

        Networks wrought in silver or golde;

        Tabines brancht with silver or golde;

        Or any other silke or cloth mixt or embroidered with
            pearle, golde, or silver.

    "Under the degree of a Baron's eldest sonne's wife:

        Any embroideries of golde or silver;

        Passemaine lace, or any other lace, mixed with golde,
            silver, or silke;

        Caules, attires, or other garnishings for the head
            trimmed with pearle.

    "Under the degree of a Knighte's wife:--

        Velvet in gownes, cloakes, savegards, or other uppermost

        Embroidery with silke.

    "Under the degree of a Knighte's eldest sonne's wife:--

        Velvet in kirtles and petticoates;

        Sattens in gownes, cloakes, savegards, or other
            uppermost garments.

    "Under the degree of a Gentleman's wife, bearing armes:--

        Satten in kirtles, }
        Damaske,           }
        Tuft taffetie,     }  in gownes."
        Plaine taffetie,   }
        Grograine          }

Venice and Paris seem to have been the chief sources of fashion; from
these depôts of taste were derived the flaunting head-dresses, the
"shiptire," the "tire valiant," &c., which were commonly worn in these
days of gorgeous finery, and which were rendered still more _outré_
and unnatural by the _dyed_ locks which they surmounted. The custom of
dyeing the hair is of great antiquity, and was very prevalent in the
East. Mohammed dyed his hair red; Abu Bekr his successor did the same,
and it is a custom among the Scenite Arabs even to this day.

The ancients often mixed gold dust in their hair, and the Gauls used
to wash the hair with a liquid which had a tendency to redden it. It
was doubtless in personal compliment to Queen Elizabeth, that all the
fashionables of her day dyed their locks of a hue which is generally
considered the reverse of attraction. Periwigs, which were introduced
into England about 1572, were to be had of _all colours_. It is in
allusion to this absurd fashion that Benedick says of the lady whom he
might chuse to marry:--"Her hair shall be of what colour it please

Men first wore wigs in Charles the Second's time; and these were
gradually increased in size, until they reached the acme of their
magnificence in the reign of William and Mary, when not only men, but
even young lads and children were disguised in enormous wigs. And
though in the reign of Queen Anne this latter custom was not so
common, yet the young men had the want of wigs supplied by artificial
curlings, and dressing of the hair, which was then only performed by
the women.

One Bill preserved amongst the Harl. MSS. runs thus:--

"Next door to the Golden Ball, in St. Bride's Lane, Fleet Street,
Lyveth Lidia Beercraft. Who cutteth and curleth ladies, gentlemen, and
children's hair. She sells a fine pomatum, which is mixed with
ingredients of her own making, that if the hair be never so thin, it
makes it grow thick; and if short, it makes it grow long. If any
gentleman's or children's hair be never so lank, she makes it curle in
a little time, and to look like a periwig."

And this, indeed, the looking like a periwig, seems to have been then
the very _beau ideal_ of all beauty and perfection, for another fair
tonsoress advertises to cut and curl hair after the French fashion,
"after so fine a manner, that _you shall not know it to be their own

How applicable to these absurdities are the lines of an amiable censor
of a later day!--

                    "We have run
    Through ev'ry change, that Fancy, at the loom
    Exhausted, has had genius to supply;
    And, studious of mutation still, discard
    A real elegance, a little us'd,
    For monstrous novelty and strange disguise."

To return to Elizabeth:--

The best known, and most distinguishing characteristic of the costume
of her day was the ruff; which was worn of such enormous size that a
lady in full dress was obliged to feed herself with a spoon two feet
long. In the year 1580, sumptuary laws were published by
proclamation, and enforced with great exactness, by which the ruffs
were reduced to legal dimensions. Extravagant prices were paid for
them, and they were made at first of fine holland, but early in
Elizabeth's reign they began to wear lawn and cambric, which were
brought to England in very small quantities, and sold charily by the
yard or half yard; for there was then hardly one shopkeeper in fifty
who dared to speculate in a whole piece of either. So "strange and
wonderful was this stuff," says Stowe, speaking of lawn, "that
thereupon rose a general scoff or byeword, that shortly they would
wear ruffs of a spider's web." And another difficulty arose; for when
the Queen had ruffs made of this new and beautiful fabric, there was
nobody in England who could starch or stiffen them; but happily Her
Grace found a Dutchwoman possessed of that knowledge which England
could not supply, and "Guillan's wife was the first starcher the Queen
had, as Guillan himself was the first coachman."

"Afterward, in 1564, (16th of Elizabeth), one Mistress Dinghen Vauden
Plasse, born at Teenen in Flanders, daughter of a worshipful knight of
that province, with her husband, came to London, and there professed
herself a starcher, wherein she excelled; unto whom her own nation
presently repaired and employed her, rewarding her very liberally for
her work. Some of the curious ladies of that time, observing the
neatness of the Dutch, and the nicety of their linen, made them
cambric ruffs, and sent them to Mistress Dinghen to starch; soon after
they began to send their daughters and kinswomen to Mistress Dinghen,
to learn how to starch; her usual price was, at that time, 4_l._ or
5_l._ to teach them to starch, and 20_s._ to learn them to see the
starch. This Mrs. Dinghen was the first that ever taught starching in

The RUFFS were adjusted by poking sticks of iron, steel, or silver,
heated in the fire--(probably something answering to our Italian
iron), and in May 1582 a lady of Antwerp, being invited to a wedding,
could not, although she employed two celebrated laundresses, get her
ruff plaited according to her taste, upon which "she fell to sweare
and teare, to curse and ban, casting the ruffes under feete, and
wishing that the devill might take her when shee did wear any
neckerchers againe." This gentleman, whom it is said an invocation
will always summon, now appeared in the likeness of a favoured suitor,
and inquiring the cause of her agitation, he "took in hande the
setting of her ruffes, which he performed to her great contentation
and liking; insomuch, as she, looking herself in a glasse (as the
devill bade her) became greatly enamoured with him. This done, the
young man kissed her, in the doing whereof, he writhed her neck in
sunder, so she died miserably."

But here comes the marvel: four men tried in vain to lift her "fearful
body" when coffined for interment; six were equally unsuccessful;
"whereat the standers-by marvelling, caused the coffin to be opened to
see the cause thereof: where they found the body to be taken away, and
a blacke catte, very leane and deformed, sitting in the coffin,
_setting of great ruffes and frizling of haire_, to the great feare
and woonder of all the beholders."

The large hoop farthingales were worn now, but they were said to be
adopted by the ladies from a laudable spirit of emulation, a
praiseworthy desire on their parts to be of equal standing with the
"nobler sex," who now wore breeches, stuffed with rags or other
materials to such an enormous size, that a bench of extraordinary
dimension was placed round the parliament house, (of which the traces
were visible at a very late period) solely for their accommodation.

Strutt quotes an instance of a man whom the judges accused of wearing
breeches contrary to the law (for a law was made against them): he,
for his excuse, drew out of his slops the contents; at first a pair of
sheets, two table-cloths, ten napkins, four shirts, a brush, a glass,
and a comb; with nightcaps and other things of use, saying, "Your
worship may understand, that because I have no safer a storehouse,
these pockets do serve me for a room to lay up my goods in,--and,
though it be a strait prison, yet it is big enough for them, for I
have many things of value yet within it." His excuse was heartily
laughed at and accepted.

This ridiculous fashion was for a short time disused, but revived
again in 1614. The breeches were then chiefly stuffed with hair. Many
satirical rhymes were written upon them; amongst others, "A lamentable
complaint of the poore Countrye Men agaynst great hose, for the loss
of their cattelles tales." In which occur these:--

    "What hurt, what damage doth ensue,
      And fall upon the poore,
    For want of wool and flaxe, of late,
      Whych monstrous hose devoure.

    "But haire hath so possess'd, of late,
      The bryche of every knave,
    That no one beast, nor horse can tell,
      Whiche way his taile to save."

Henry VIII. had received a few pairs of silk stockings from Spain, but
knitted silk ones were not known until the second year of Elizabeth,
when her silk-woman, Mrs. Montague, presented to Her Majesty a pair of
black knit silk stockings, for a new-year's gift, with which she was
so much pleased that she desired to know if the donor could not help
her to any more, to which Mrs. Montague answered, "I made them
carefully on purpose for your Majestie; and seeing they please you so
well, I will presently set more in hand." "Do so (said the Queen), for
I like silk stockings so well, that I will not henceforth wear any
more cloth hose." These shortly became common; though even over so
simple an article as a stocking, Fashion asserted her supremacy, and
at a subsequent period they were two yards wide at the top, and made
fast to the "petticoat breeches," by means of strings through eyelet

But Elizabeth's predilection for rich attire is well known, and if the
costume of her day was fantastic, it was still magnificent. A suit
trimmed with sables was considered the richest dress worn by men; and
so expensive was this fur, that, it is said a thousand ducats were
sometimes given for "a face of sables." It was towards the close of
her reign that the celebrated Gabrielle d'Estrées wore on a festive
occasion a dress of black satin, so ornamented with pearls and
precious stones, that she could scarcely move under its weight. She
had a handkerchief, for the embroidering of which she engaged to pay
1900 crowns. And such it was said was the influence of her example in
Paris, that the ladies ornamented even their shoes with jewels.

Yet even this costly magnificence was afterwards surpassed by that of
Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, with whom it was common, even at an
ordinary dancing, to have his clothes trimmed with great diamond
buttons, and to have diamond hatbands, cockades, and earrings, to be
yoked with great and manifold ropes and knots of pearl; in short, to
be manacled, fettered, and imprisoned in jewels: insomuch that at his
going to Paris in 1625, he had twenty-seven suits of clothes made, the
richest that embroidery, lace, silk, velvet, gold, and gems could
contribute; one of which was a white uncut velvet set all over, both
suit and cloak, with diamonds valued at fourscore thousand pounds,
besides a great feather, stuck all over with diamonds, as were also
his sword, girdle, hatband, and spurs.[110]

It would but weary our readers were we to dwell on the well-known
peculiarities of the "Cavalier and Roundhead" days; and tell how the
steeple-crowned hat was replaced at the Restoration by the plumed and
jewelled velvet; the forlorn, smooth, methodistical pate, by the
curled ringlets and flowing lovelock; the sober, sombre, "sad"
coloured garment, with its starched folds, by the gay, varied, flowing
drapery of all hues. Then, how the plume of feathers gave way to the
simpler band and buckle, and the thick large curling wig and full
ruffle, to the bagwig, the tie, and stock.

The dashing cloak and slashed sleeves were succeeded by the coat of
ample dimensions, and the waistcoat with interminable pockets resting
on the knees; the "breeches" were in universal use, though they were
not of the universal "black" which Cowper immortalises; but "black
breeches" and "powder" have had their reign, and are succeeded by the
"inexpressible" costume of the present day. We will conclude a
chapter, which we fear to have spun out tediously, by Lady Morgan's
animated account of the introduction, in France, of that
universally-coveted article of dress--a Cashmir shawl:--

"While partaking of a sumptuous collation (at Rouen), the conversation
naturally turned on the splendid views which the windows commanded,
and on the subjects connected with their existence. The flocks, which
were grazing before us had furnished the beautiful shawls which hung
on the backs of the chairs occupied by our fair companions, and which
might compete with the turbans of the Grand Signor. It would be
difficult now to persuade a Parisian _petite maitresse_ that there was
a time when French women of fashion could exist without a cashmir, or
that such an indispensable article of the toilet and _sultan_ was
unknown even to the most elegant. 'The first cashemir that appeared in
France,' said Madame D'Aubespine, (for an educated French woman has
always something worth hearing to say on all subjects,) 'was sent over
by Baron de Tott, then in the service of the Porte, to Madame de
Tessé. When they were produced in her society, every body thought them
very fine, but nobody knew what use to make of them. It was determined
that they would make pretty _couvre-pieds_ and veils for the cradle;
but the fashion wore out with the shawls, and ladies returned to their
eider-down quilts.'

"Monsieur Ternaux observed that 'though the produce of the Cashmerian
looms had long been known in Europe, they did not become a vogue until
after Napoleon's expedition to Egypt; and that even then they took, in
the first instance, but slowly.' The shawl was still a novelty in
France, when Josephine, as yet but the wife of the First Consul, knew
not how to drape its elegant folds, and stood indebted to the
_brusque_ Rapp for the grace with which she afterwards wore it.

"'Permettez que je vous fasse l'observation,' said Rapp, as they were
setting off for the opera; 'que votre schall n'est pas mis avec cette
grâce qui vous est habituelle.'

"Josephine laughingly let him arrange it in the manner of the Egyptian
women. This impromptu toilette caused a little delay, and the infernal
machine exploded in vain!

"What destinies waited upon the arrangement of this cashemir! A moment
sooner or later, and the shawl might have given another course to
events, which would have changed the whole face of Europe."[111]

The Empress Josephine (says her biographer) had quite a passion for
shawls, and I question whether any collection of them was ever as
valuable as hers. At Navarre she had one hundred and fifty, all
extremely beautiful and high-priced. She sent designs to
Constantinople, and the shawls made after these patterns were as
beautiful as they were valuable. Every week M. Lenormant came to
Navarre, and sold her whatever he could obtain that was curious in
this way. I have seen white shawls covered with roses, bluebells,
perroquets, peacocks, &c., which I believe were not to be met with any
where else in Europe; they were valued at 15,000 and 20,000 francs

The shawls were at length sold _by auction_ at Malmaison, at a rate
much below their value. All Paris went to the sale.


[109] "Her Majesty told the ladies, that if the Bishop held more
discourse on such matters, she would fit him for heaven; but he should
walk thither without a staff, and leave his mantle behind him."

[110] Life of Raleigh, by Oldys.

[111] Lady Morgan's France in 1829-30.



    "Where are the proud and lofty dames,
    Their jewell'd crowns, their gay attire,
    Their odours sweet?
    Where are the love-enkindled flames,
    The bursts of passionate desire
    Laid at their feet?
    Where are the songs, the troubadours,
    The music which delighted then?--
    It speaks no more.
    Where is the dance that shook the floors,
    And all the gay and laughing train,
    And all they wore?

    "The royal gifts profusely shed,
    The palaces so proudly built,
    With riches stor'd;
    The roof with shining gold o'erspread,
    The services of silver gilt,
    The secret hoard,
    The Arabian pards, the harness bright,
    The bending plumes, the crowded mews,
    The lacquey train,
    Where are they?--where!--all lost in night,
    And scatter'd as the early dews
    Across the plain."

                        Bowring's Anc. Span. Romances.

Romance and song have united to celebrate the splendours of the "Field
of the Cloth of Gold." The most scrupulously minute and faithful of
recorders has detailed day by day, and point by point, its varied and
showy routine, and every subsequent historian has borrowed from the
pages of the old chronicler; and these dry details have been so
expanded by the breath of Fancy, and his skeleton frame has been so
fleshed by the magical drapery of talent, that there seems little left
on which the imagination can dilate, or the pen expatiate.

The astonishing impulse which has in various ways within the last few
years been given to the searching of ancient records, and the
development of hitherto obscure and comparatively uninteresting
details, and vesting them in an alluring garb, has made us as familiar
with the domestic records of the eighth Henry, as in our school-days
we were with the orthodox abstract of necessary historical
information,--that "Henry the Eighth ascended the throne in the 18th
year of his age;" that "he became extremely corpulent;" that "he
married six wives, and beheaded two." Not even affording gratuitously
the codicil which the talent of some writer hath educed--that "if
Henry the Eighth had not beheaded his wives, there would have been no
impeachment on his gallantry to the fair sex."

But in describing this, according to some, "the most magnificent
spectacle that Europe ever beheld," and to others, "a heavy mass of
allegory and frippery," historians have been contented to pourtray the
outward features of the gorgeous scene, and have slightly, if at all,
touched on the contending feelings which were veiled beneath a broad
though thin surface of concord and joy. Truly, it were a task of deep
interest, even slightly to picture them, or to attempt to enter into
the feelings of the chief actors on that field.

First and foremost, as the guiding spirit of the whole, as the mighty
artificer of that pageant on which, however gaudy in its particulars
the fates of Europe were supposed to depend, and the earnest eyes of
Europe were certainly fixed--comes WOLSEY.--Gorgeously habited
himself, and the burnished gold of his saddle cloth only partially
relieved by the more sombre crimson velvet; nay, his very shoes
gleaming with brilliants, and himself withal so lofty in bearing, of
so noble a presence, that this very magnificence seemed but a natural
appendage, Wolsey took his lofty way from monarch to monarch; and so
well did he become his dignity, that none but kings, and such kings as
Henry and Francis, would have drawn the eyes of the myriad spectators
from himself. And surely he was now happy; surely his ambition was now
gratified to the uttermost; now, in the eyes of all Europe did the two
proudest of her princes not merely associate with him almost as an
equal, but openly yield to his suggestions--almost bow to his
decisions. No--loftily as he bore himself, courtly as was his
demeanour, rapid and commanding as was his eloquence, and influential
as seemed his opinions on all and every one around--the cardinal had a
mind ill at ease, as, despite his self-control, was occasionally
testified by his contracted brow and thoughtful aspect. After exerting
all the might of his mighty influence, and for his own aggrandisement,
to procure this meeting between the two potentates, he had at the
last moment seen fit to alter his policy. He had sold himself to a
higher bidder; he had pledged himself to Charles in the very teeth of
his solemn engagement to Francis. Even whilst celebrating this league
of amity, he was turning in his own mind the means by which to rupture
it; and was yet withal, nervously fearful of any accident which should
prematurely break it, or lead to a discovery of his own
faithlessness.--So much for his enjoyment!

Our KING HENRY was all delight, and eager impetuous enjoyment. He had
not outlived the good promise of his youth; nor had his foibles
become, by indulgence, vices. He loved to see all around him happy; he
loved, more especially, to make them so. He delighted in all the
exercises of the field; he was unrivalled in the tilt and the
tournament; and when engaged in them forgot kings and kingdoms. His
vanity, outrageous as it was, hardly sat ungracefully on him, so much
was it elevated then by buoyant good humour--so much was it softened
at that time by his noble presence, his manly grace, his kingly
accomplishments, and his regal munificence. The stern and selfish
tyrant whom one shudders to think upon, was then only "bluff King
Hal," loving and beloved, courted and caressed by an empire. He gave
himself up to the gaieties of the time without a care for the present,
a thought for the future. Could he have glanced dimly into that
future! But he could not, and he was happy.

FRANCIS was admirably qualified to grace this scene, and to enjoy it,
as probably he did enjoy it, vividly. Yet was this gratification by no
means unalloyed. His gentle manly nature was irritated at certain
stipulations of Henry's advisers, by which their most trivial
intercourse was subjected to specific regulations. There were recorded
instances enough of treacherous advantages taken to justify fully this
conduct on the part of Henry's ministers; but Francis felt its
injustice, as applied to himself, and at that time, made use of a
generous and well-known stratagem to convince others. But in the midst
of his enjoyments he had misgivings on his mind of a more serious
nature, caused by the Emperor's recent visit to Dover. These
misgivings were increased by the meeting between Henry and Charles at
Gravelines; and too surely confirmed by quickly-following

The gentle and good KATHARINE of England, and the equally amiable
Queen CLAUDE, the carefully-trained stepdaughter of the noble and
admirable Anne of Bretagne, probably derived their chief gratification
here from the pleasure of seeing their husbands amicable and happy.
For queens though they were, their happiness was in domestic life, and
their chief empire was over the hearts of those domesticated with

Not so the DOWAGER QUEEN of France--the lively, and graceful, and
beautiful Duchess of Suffolk; for though very fond of her royal
brother, and devoted to her gallant husband, she had yet an eye and an
ear for all the revelries around, and had a radiant glance and a
beaming smile for all who crowded to do homage to her charms. And yet
her heart must have been somewhat hard--and that we know it was
not--if she could have inhaled the air of France, or trod its sunny
soil, without recollections which must have dimmed her eye at the
thoughts of the past, even whilst breathing a thanksgiving for the
present. Somewhat less than five years ago, she had been taken thither
a weeping bride; youth, nature, inclination, nay, hope itself,
sacrificed to that expediency by which the actions of monarchs are
regulated. We are accustomed to read these things so much as mere
historical memoranda, to look upon them in their cold unvarnished
simplicity of detail, like the rigid outlines of stiff old portraits
which we can scarcely suppose were ever meant to represent living
flesh and blood--that it requires a strong effort to picture these
circumstances to our eyes as actually occurring.

In considering the state policy of the thing--and the apparent
national advantage of the King of England's sister being married to
the King of France--we forget that this King of England's sister was a
fair young creature, with warm heart, gushing affections, and passions
and feelings just opening in all the vividness of early womanhood; and
that she was condemned to marry a sickly, querulous, elderly man, who
began his loving rule by dismissing at once, even while she was "a
stranger in a foreign land," every endeared friend and attendant who
had accompanied her thither; and that, worse than all, her young
affections had been sought and gained by a noble English gentleman,
the favourite of the English king, and the pride of his Court.

Surely her lot was hard; and well might she weepingly exclaim, "Where
is now my hope?" Little could she suppose (for Louis, though infirm,
was not aged) that three or four short months would see her not only
at liberty from her enforced vows, but united to the man of her heart.

Must there not, while watching the tilting of her graceful and gallant
husband, must there not have been melancholy in her mirth?--must there
not, in the keen encounter of wits during the banquet or the
ball--must there not have mingled method with her madness?

Who shall record, or even refer to the hopes, and feelings, and
wishes, and thoughts, and reflections of the thousands congregated
thither; each one with feelings as intense, with hopes as individually
important as those which influenced the royal King of France, or the
majestic monarch of England! The loftiest of Christendom's knights,
the loveliest of Christendom's daughters were assembled here; and the
courteous Bayard, the noble Tremouille, the lofty Bourbon, felt
inspired more gallantly, if possible, than was even their wont, when
contending in all love and amity with the proudest of England's
champions, in presence of the fairest of her blue-eyed maidens,--the
noblest of her courtly dames.

Nor were the lofty and noble alone there congregated. After the
magnificent structure for the king and court, after every thing in the
shape of a tenement in, out, or about the little town of Guisnes, and
the neighbouring hamlets, were occupied, two thousand eight hundred
tents were set up on the side of the English alone. No noble or baron
would be absent; but likewise knights, and squires, and yeomen flocked
to the scene: citizens and city wives disported their richest silks
and their heaviest chains; jews went for gain, pedlars for knavery,
tradespeople for their craft, rogues for mischief. Then there were
"vagaboundes, plowmen, laborers, wagoners, and beggers, that for
drunkennes lay in routes and heapes, so great resorte thether came,
that bothe knightes and ladies that wer come to see the noblenes, were
faine to lye in haye and strawe, and hold theim thereof highly

The accommodations provided for the king and privileged members of his
court on this occasion were more than magnificent; a vast and splendid
edifice that seemed to be endued with the magnificence, and to rise
almost with the celerity of that prepared by the slaves of the lamp,
where the richest tapestry and silk embroidery--the costliest produce
of the most accomplished artisans, were almost unnoticed amid the gold
and jewellery by which they were surrounded--where all that art could
produce, or riches devise had been lavished--all this has been often
described. And the tent itself, the nucleus of the show, the point
where the "brother" kings were to confer, was hung round with cloth of
gold: the posts, the cones, the cords, the tents, were all of the same
precious metal, which glittered here in such excessive profusion as to
give that title to the meeting which has superseded all others--"The
Field of the Cloth of Gold."

This gaudy pageant was the prelude to an era of great interest, for
while dwelling on the "galanty shew" we cannot forget that now reigned
Solyman the magnificent, and that this was the age of Leo the Tenth;
that Charles the Fifth was now beginning his influential course; that
a Sir Thomas More graced England; and that in Germany there was "one
Martin Luther," who "belonged to an order of strolling friars." Under
Leo's munificent encouragement, Rafaello produced those magnificent
creations which have been the inspiration of subsequent ages; and at
home, under Wolsey's enlightened patronage, colleges were founded,
learning was encouraged, and the College of Physicians first
instituted in 1518, found in him one of its warmest advocates and
firmest supporters.

A modern writer gives the following amusing picture of part of the
bustle attendant on the event we are considering. "The palace (of
Westminster) and all its precincts became the elysium of tailors,
embroiderers, and sempstresses. There might you see many a shady form
gliding about from apartment to apartment, with smiling looks and
extended shears, or armed with ell-wands more potent than Mercury's
rod, driving many a poor soul to perdition, and transforming his
goodly acres into velvet suits, with tags of cloth of gold. So
continual were the demands upon every kind of artisan, that the
impossibility of executing them threw several into despair. One tailor
who is reported to have undertaken to furnish fifty embroidered suits
in three days, on beholding the mountain of gold and velvet that
cumbered his shop-board, saw, like Brutus, the impossibility of
victory, and, with Roman fortitude, fell on his own shears. Three
armourers are said to have been completely melted with the heat of
their furnaces; and an unfortunate goldsmith swallowed molten silver
to escape the persecutions of the day.

"The road from London to Canterbury was covered during one whole week
with carts and waggons, mules, horses, and soldiers; and so great was
the confusion, that marshals were at length stationed to keep the
whole in order, which of course increased the said confusion a hundred
fold. So many were the ships passing between Dover and Calais, that
the historians affirm they jostled each other on the road like a herd
of great black porkers.

"The King went from station to station like a shepherd, driving all
the better classes of the country before him, and leaving not a single
straggler behind."

Though we do not implicitly credit every point of this humorous
statement, we think a small portion of description from the old
chronicler Hall (we will really inflict _only_ a small portion on our
readers) will justify a good deal of it; but more especially it will
enlighten us as to some of the elaborate conceits of the day, in
which, it seems, the needle was as fully occupied as the pen.

Indeed, what would the "Field of the Cloth of Gold" have been without
the skill of the needlewoman? _Would it have been at all?_

"The Frenche kyng sette hymself on a courser barded, covered with
purple sattin, broched with golde, and embraudered with corbyns
fethers round and buckeled; the fether was blacke and hached with
gold. Corbyn is a rauen, and the firste silable of corbyn is _Cor_,
whiche is a harte, a penne in English, is a fether in Frenche, and
signifieth pain, and so it stode; this fether round was endles, the
buckels wherwith the fethers wer fastened, betokeneth sothfastnes,
thus was the devise, _harte fastened in pain endles, or pain in harte
fastened endles_.

"Wednesdaie the 13 daie of June, the twoo hardie kynges armed at all
peces, entered into the feld right nobly appareled, the Frenche kyng
and all his parteners of chalenge were arraied in purple sattin,
broched with golde and purple velvet, embrodered with litle rolles of
white sattin wherein was written _quando_, all bardes and garmentes
wer set full of the same, and all the residue where was no rolles,
were poudered and set with the letter ell as thus, L, whiche in
Frenche is she, which was interpreted to be _quando elle_, when she,
and ensuyng the devise of the first daie it signifieth together,
_harte fastened in pain endles, when she_.

"The Frenche kyng likewise armed at al pointes mounted on a courser
royal, all his apparel as wel bardes as garmentes were purple velvet,
entred the one with the other, embrodred ful of litle bookes of white
satten, and in the bokes were written _a me_; aboute the borders of
the bardes and the borders of the garmentes, a chaine of blewe like
iron, resemblyng the chayne of a well or prison chaine, whiche was
enterpreted to be _liber_, a booke; within this boke was written as is
sayed, _a me_, put these two together, and it maketh _libera me_; the
chayne betokeneth prison or bondes, and so maketh together in
Englishe, _deliver me of {bondes}_; put to {the} reason, the fyrst
day, second day, and third day of chaunge, for he chaunged but the
second day, and it is _hart fastened in paine endles, when she
deliuereth me not of bondes_; thus was thinterpretation made, but
whether it were so in all thinges or not I may not say."

The following animated picture from an author already quoted, has been
drawn of this spirit-stirring scene:--

"Upon a large open green, that extended on the outside of the walls,
was to be seen a multitude of tents of all kinds and colours, with a
multitude of busy human beings, employed in raising fresh pavilions on
every open space, or in decorating those already spread with
streamers, pennons, and banners of all the bright hues under the sun.
Long lines of horses and mules, loaded with armour or baggage, and
ornamented with gay ribbons to put them in harmony with the scene,
were winding about all over the plain, some proceeding towards the
town, some seeking the tents of their several lords, while mingled
amongst them, appeared various bands of soldiers, on horseback and on
foot, with the rays of the declining sun catching upon the heads of
their bills and lances; and together with the white cassock and broad
red cross, marking them out from all the other objects. Here and
there, too, might be seen a party of knights and gentlemen cantering
over the plain, and enjoying the bustle of the scene, or standing in
separate groups, issuing their orders for the erection and garnishing
of their tents; while couriers, and poursuivants, and heralds, in all
their gay dresses, mingled with mule drivers, lacqueys, and peasants,
armourers, pages, and tent stretchers, made up the living part of the

"The sounding of the trumpets to horse, the shouts of the various
leaders, the loud cries of the marshals and heralds, and the roaring
of artillery from the castle, as the king put his foot in the stirrup,
all combined to make one general outcry rarely equalled. Gradually the
tumult subsided, gradually also the confused assemblage assumed a
regular form. Flags, and pennons, and banderols, embroidered banners,
and scutcheons; silver pillars, and crosses, and crooks, ranged
themselves in long line; and the bright procession, an interminable
stream of living gold, began to wind across the plain. First came
about five hundred of the gayest and wealthiest gentlemen of England,
below the rank of baron; squires, knights, and bannerets, rivalling
each other in the richness of their apparel and the beauty of their
horses; while the pennons of the knights fluttered above their heads,
marking the place of the English chivalry. Next appeared the proud
barons of the realm, each with his banner borne before him, and
followed by a custrel with the shield of his arms. To these again
succeeded the bishops, not in the simple robes of the Protestant
clergy, but in the more gorgeous habits of the Church of Rome; while
close upon their steps rode the higher nobility, surrounding the
immediate person of the king, and offering the most splendid mass of
gold and jewels that the summer sun ever shone upon.

"Slowly the procession moved forward to allow the line of those on
foot to keep an equal pace. Nor did this band offer a less gay and
pleasing sight than the cavalcade, for here might be seen the
athletic forms of the sturdy English yeomanry, clothed in the various
splendid liveries of their several lords, with the family cognisance
embroidered on the bosom and arm, and the banners and banderols of
their particular houses carried in the front of each company. Here
also was to be seen the picked guard of the King of England,
magnificently dressed for the occasion, with the royal banner carried
in their centre by the deputy standard bearer, and the banner of their
company by their own ancient. In the rear of all, marshalled by
officers appointed for the purpose, came the band of those whose rank
did not entitle them to take place in the cavalcade, but who had
sufficient interest at court to be admitted to the meeting. Though of
an inferior class, this company was not the least splendid in the
field; for here were all the wealthy tradesmen of the court, habited
in many a rich garment, furnished by the extravagance of those that
rode before; and many a gold chain hung round their necks, that not
long ago had lain in the purse of some prodigal customer."

But we cease, being fully of opinion with the old chronicler that "to
tell the apparel of the ladies, their riche attyres, their sumptuous
juelles, their diversities of beauties, and their goodly behaviour
from day to day sithe the fyrst metyng, I assure you ten mennes wittes
can scarce declare it."

And in a few days, a few short days, all was at an end; and the pomp
and the pageantry, the mirth and the revelry, was but as a dream--a
most bitter, indeed, and painful dream to hundreds who had bartered
away their substance for the sake of a transient glitter:

    "We seken fast after felicite
    But we go wrong ful often trewely,
    Thus may we sayen alle."

Homely indeed, after the paraphernalia of the "Field of the Cloth of
Gold," would appear the homes of England on the return of their
masters. For though the nobles had begun to remove the martial fronts
of their castles, and endeavoured to render them more commodious, yet
in architecture the nation participated neither the spirit nor the
taste of its sovereign. The mansions of the gentlemen were, we are
told, still sordid; the huts of the peasantry poor and wretched. The
former were generally thatched buildings composed of timber, or, where
wood was scarce, of large posts inserted in the earth, filled up in
the interstices with rubbish, plastered within, and covered on the
outside with coarse clay. The latter were light frames, prepared in
the forest at small expense, and when erected, probably covered with
mud. In cities the houses were constructed mostly of the same
materials, for bricks were still too costly for general use; and the
stories seem to have projected forward as they rose in height,
intercepting sunshine and air from the streets beneath. The apartments
were stifling, lighted by lattices, so contrived as to prohibit the
occasional and salutary admission of external air. The floors were of
clay, strewed with rushes, which often remained for years a receptacle
of every pollution.[112]

In an inventory of the goods and chattels of Sir Andrew Foskewe,
Knight, dated in the 30th year of King Henry the Eighth, are the
following furnitures. We select the hall and the best parlour, in
which he entertained company, first premising that he possessed a
large and noble service of rich plate worth an amazing sum, and so
much land as proved him to be a wealthy man:--

"The hall.--A hangin of greine say, bordered with darneng (or
needlework); item a grete side table, with standinge tressels; item a
small joyned cuberde, of waynscott, and a short piece of counterfett
carpett upon it; item a square cuberde, and a large piece of
counterfett wyndowe, and five formes, &c.

"Perler.--Imprim., a hangynge of greene say and red, panede; item a
table with two tressels, and a greyne verders carpet upon it; three
greyne verders cushyns; a joyned cupberd, and a carpett upon it; a
piece of verders carpet in one window, and a piece of counterfeit
carpett in the other; one Flemishe chaire; four joyned stooles; a
joyned forme; a wyker skryne; two large awndyerns, a fyer forke, a
fyer pan, a payer of tonges; item a lowe joyned stole; two joyned
foote-stoles; a rounde table of cipress; and a piece of counterfeitt
carpett upon it; item a paynted table (or picture) of the Epiphany of
our Lord."[113]

But notwithstanding this apparent meagreness of accommodation, luxury
in architecture was making rapid strides in the land. Wolsey was as
magnificent in this taste as in others, as Hampton Court, "a
residence," says Grotius, "befitting rather a god than a king," yet
remains to attest. The walls of his chambers at York Place,
(Whitehall,) were hung with cloth of gold, and tapestry still more
precious, representing the most remarkable events in sacred
history--for the easel was then subordinate to the loom.

The subjects of the tapestry in York Place consisted, we are told, of
triumphs, probably Roman; the story of Absalom, bordered with the
cardinal's arms; the Petition of Esther, and the Honouring of
Mordecai; the History of Sampson, bordered with the cardinal's arms;
the History of Solomon; the History of Susannah and the Elders,
bordered with the cardinal's arms; the History of Jacob, also
bordered; Holofernes and Judith, bordered; the Story of Joseph, of
David, of St. John the Baptist; the History of the Virgin; the Passion
of Christ; the Worthies; the Story of Nebuchadnezzar; a Pilgrimage;
all bordered.

This place--Whitehall--Henry decorated magnificently; erected splendid
gateways, and threw a gallery across to the Park, where he erected a
tilt-yard, with all royal and courtly appurtenances, and converted the
whole into a royal manor. This was not until after fire had ravaged
the ancient, time-honoured, and kingly palace of Westminster, a place
which perhaps was the most truly regal of any which England ever
beheld. Recorded as a royal residence as early--almost--as there is
record of the existence of our venerable abbey; inhabited by Knute the
Dane; rebuilt by Edward the Confessor; remodelled by Henry the Third;
receiving lustre from the residence, and ever-added splendour from
the liberality of a long line of illustrious monarchs, it had obtained
a hold on the mind which is even yet not passed away, although the
ravages of time, and of fire, and the desecrations of subsequent ages,
have scarcely left stone or token of the original structure.

After the fire, however, Henry forsook it. He it was who first built
St. James's Palace on the site of an hospital which had formerly stood
there. He also possessed, amongst other royal retreats, Havering
Bower, so called from the legend of St. Edward receiving a ring from
St. John the Evangelist on this spot by the hands of a pilgrim from
the Holy Land; which legend is represented at length in Westminster
Abbey; Eltham, in Kent, where the king frequently passed his
Christmas; Greenwich, where Elizabeth was born; and Woodstock,
celebrated for

          "the unhappy fate
    Of Rosamond, who long ago
      Prov'd most unfortunate."

The ancient palace of the Savoy had changed its destination as a royal
residence only in his father's time. With the single exception of
Westminster--if indeed that--the most magnificent palace which the
hand of liberality ever raised, which the finger of taste ever
embellished. Various indeed have been the changes to which it has been
doomed, and now not one stone remains on another to say that such
things have been. Now--of the thousands who traverse the spot, scarce
one, at long and far distant intervals, may glance at the dim memories
of the past, to think of the plumed knights and high-born dames who
revelled in its halls; the crowned and anointed kings who, monarch or
captive, trod its lofty chambers; the gleaming warriors who paced its
embattled courts; the gracious queen who caused its walls to echo the
sounds of joy; the subtle heads which plodded beneath its gloomy
shades; the unhappy exiles who found a refuge within its dim recesses;
or[114] the lame, the sick, the impotent, who in the midst of
suffering blessed the home that sheltered them, the hands that
ministered to their woes.

No. The majestic walls of the Savoy are in the dust, and not merely
all trace, but all idea of its radiant gardens and sunny bowers, its
sparkling fountains and verdant lawns, is lost even to the imagination
in the matter-of-fact, business-like demeanour of the myriads of
plodders who are ever traversing the dusty and bustling environs of
Waterloo-bridge. In our closets we may perchance compel the unromantic
realities of the present to yield beneath the brilliant imaginations
of the past; but on the spot itself it is impossible.

Who can stand in Wellington-street, on the verge of Waterloo-bridge,
and fancy it a princely mansion from the lofty battlements of which a
royal banner is flying, while numerous retainers keep watch below?
Probably the sounds of harp and song may be heard as lofty nobles and
courtly dames are seen to tread the verdant alleys and flower-bestrewn
paths which lead to the bright and glancing river, where a costly
barge (from which the sounds proceed) is waiting its distinguished
freight. Ever and anon are these seen gliding along in the sunbeams,
or resting at the avenue leading to one or other of the noble mansions
with which the bright strand is sprinkled.

Of these, perhaps, the most gorgeous is York-place, while farthest in
the distance rise the fortified walls of the old palace of
Westminster, inferior only to those of the ancient abbey, which are
seen to rise, dimmed, yet distinct, in the soft but glowing haze cast
around by the setting sun.

And that building seen on the opposite side of the river? Strangely
situated it seems, and in a swamp, and with none of the felicity of
aspect appertaining to its loftier neighbour, the Savoy. Yet its lofty
tower, its embattled gateway, seem to infer some important
destination. And such it had. The unassuming and unattractively placed
edifice has outlived its more aspiring neighbours; and while the
stately palace of the Savoy is extinct, and the slight remains of
Westminster are desecrated, the time-honoured walls of Lambeth yet
shelter the head of learning and dignify the location in which they
were reared.

Eastward of our position the city looks dim and crowded; but, with the
exception of the sprinkled mansions to which we have alluded, there is
little to break the natural characteristics of the scene between
Temple-bar and the West Minster. The hermitage and hospital on the
site of Northumberland House harmonise well with the scene; the little
cluster of cottages at Charing has a rural aspect; and that beautiful
and touching memento of unfailing love and undiminished
affection--that tribute to all that was good and excellent in
woman--the Cross, which, formed of the purest and, as yet, unsoiled
white marble, raised its emblem of faith and hope, gleaming like
silver in the brilliant sky--that--would that we had it still!

Somewhat nearer, the May-pole stands out in gay relief from the woods
which envelop the hills northward, where yet the timid fawn could
shelter, and the fearful hare forget its watch; where yet perchance
the fairies held their revels when the moon shone bright; where they
filled to the brim the "fairy-cups" and pledged each other in dew;
where they played at "hide and seek" in the harebells, ran races in
the branches of the trees, and nestled on the leaves, on which they
glittered like diamonds; where they launched their tiny barks on the
sparkling rivulets, breathing ere morning's dawn on the flowers to
awaken them, tinting the gossamer's web with silver, and scattering
pearls over the drops of dew.

Closer around, among meadows and pastures, are all sounds and emblems
of rural life; which as yet are but agreeably varied, not ruthlessly
annihilated, by the encroachments of population and the increase of

Truly this is a difficult picture to realise on Waterloo-bridge, yet
is it nevertheless a tolerably correct one of this portion of our
metropolis at the time of "The Field of the Cloth of Gold."


[112] Henry.

[113] Strutt's Manners and Customs.

[114] It was at length converted into an hospital.



    "A grave Reformer of old Rents decay'd."

                        J. Taylor.

    "His garment--
    With thornes together pind and patched was."

                        Faerie Queene.

    _Hodge._  "Tush, tush, her neele, her neele, her neele, man; neither
                      flesh nor fish,
              A lytle thing with an hole in the ende, as bright as any
              Small, long, sharp at the point, and straight as any piller."

    _Diccon._ "I know not what it is thou menest, thou bringst me more in

    _Hodge._  "Knowest not what Tom tailor's man sits broching thro' a
              A neele, a neele, a neele, my gammer's neele is gone."

                        Gammer Gurton's Needle.

It is said in the old chronicles that previous to the arrival of Anne
of Bohemia, Queen of Richard the Second, the English ladies fastened
their robes with skewers; but as it is known that pins were in use
among the early British, since in the barrows that have been opened
numbers of "neat and efficient" ivory pins were found to have been
used in arranging the grave-clothes, it is probable that this remark
is unfounded.

The pins of a later date than the above were made of boxwood, bone,
ivory, and some few of silver. They were larger than those of the
present day, which seem to have been unknown in England till about the
middle of the fifteenth century. In 1543, however, the manufacture of
brass pins had become sufficiently important to claim the attention of
the legislature, an Act having been passed that year by which it was
enacted, "That no person shall put to sale any pins, but only such as
shall be double headed and have the head soldered fast to the shank,
the pins well smoothed, and the shank well sharpened."

Gloucestershire is noted for the number of its pin manufactories. They
were first introduced in that county, in 1626, by John Tilsby; and it
is said that at this time they employ 1,500 hands, and send up to the
metropolis upwards of £20,000 of pins annually.

Our motto says, however, that his garment

    "With thornes together pind and _patched_ was;"

and a French writer says, that before the invention of steel needles
people were obliged to make use of thorns, fish bones, &c., but that
since "l'établissement des sociétés, ce petit outil est devenu d'un
usage indispensable dans une infinité d'arts et d'occasions."

He proceeds:--"De toutes les manières d'attacher l'un à l'autre deux
corps flexibles, celle qui se pratique avec l'aiguille est une des
plus universellement répandues: aussi distingue-t-on un grand nombre
d'aiguilles différentes. On a les aiguilles à coudre, ou de tailleur;
les aiguilles de chirurgie, d'artillerie, de bonnetier, ou faiseur de
bas au métier, d'horloger, de cirier, de drapier, de gainier, de
perruquier, de coiffeuse, de faiseur de coiffe à perruques, de piqueur
d'étuis, tabatières, et autres semblables ouvrages; de sellier,
d'ouvrier en soie, de brodeur, de tapissier, de chandelier,
d'emballeur; à matelas, à empointer, à tricoter, à enfiler, à presser,
à brocher, à relier, à natter, à boussole ou aimantée, &c. &c."

Needles are said to have been first made in England by a native of
India, in 1545, but the art was lost at his death; it was, however,
recovered by Christopher Greening, in 1560, who was settled with his
three children, Elizabeth, John, and Thomas, by Mr. Damar, ancestor of
the present Lord Milton, at Long Crendon, in Bucks, where the
manufactory has been carried on from that time to the present

Thus our readers will remark, that until far on in the sixteenth
century, there was not a needle to be had but of foreign manufacture;
and bearing this circumstance in mind, they will be able to enter more
fully into the feelings of those who set such inestimable value on a
needle. And, indeed, _if_ all we are told of them be true, needles
could not be too highly esteemed. For instance, we were told of an
old woman who had used one needle so long and so constantly for
mending stockings, that at last the needle was able to do them of
itself. At length, and while the needle was in the full perfection of
its powers, the old woman died. A neighbour, whose numerous "olive
branches" caused her to have a full share of matronly employment,
hastened to possess herself of this domestic treasure, and gathered
round her the weekly accumulation of sewing, not doubting but that
with her new ally, the wonder-working needle, the unwieldy work-basket
would be cleared, "in no time," of its overflowing contents. But even
the all-powerful needle was of no avail without thread, and she
forthwith proceeded to invest it with a long one. But thread it she
could not; it resisted her most strenuous endeavours. In vain she
turned and re-turned the needle, the eye was plain enough to be seen;
in vain she cut and screwed the thread, she burnt it in the candle,
she nipped it with the scissars, she rolled it with her lips, she
twizled it between her finger and thumb: the pointed end was fine as
fine could be, but enter the eye of the needle it would not. At
length, determined not to relinquish her project whilst any hope
remained of its accomplishment, she borrowed a magnifying glass to
examine the "little weapon" more accurately. And there, "large as life
and twice as natural," a pearly gem, a translucent drop, a crystal
_tear_ stood right in the gap, and filled to overflowing the eye of
the needle. It was weeping for the death of its old mistress; it
refused consolation; it was never threaded again.

We give this incident on the testimony of a gallant naval officer; an
unquestionable authority, though we are fully aware that some of our
readers may be ungenerously sceptical, and perhaps even rude enough to
attempt some vile pun about the brave sailor's "drawing a long yarn."

If, however, Gammer Gurton's needle resembled the one we have just
referred to, and that, too, at a time when a needle, even not
supernaturally endowed, was not to be had of English manufacture, and
therefore could only be purchased probably at a high price, we cannot
wonder at the aggrieved feelings of her domestic circle when the
catastrophe occurred which is depicted as follows:--The parties
interested were the Dame Gammer Gurton herself; Hodge, her farming
man; Tib, her maid; Cocke, her boy; and Gib, her cat. The play from
which our quotation is taken is not without some pretensions to wit,
though of the coarsest kind: it is supposed to have been first
performed at Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1566; and Warton observes
on it, that while Latimer's sermons were in vogue at court, Gammer
Gurton's needle might well be tolerated at the university.

    Act I. Scene 3. Hodge and Tib.

    _Hodge._  "I am agast, by the masse, I wot not what to do;
              I had need blesse me well before I go them to:
              Perchance, some felon spirit may haunt our house indeed,
              And then I were but a noddy to venter where's no need."

    _Tib._    "I'm worse than mad, by the masse, to be at this stay.
              I'm chid, I'm blam'd, and beaten all th' hours on the day.
              Lamed and hunger starved, pricked up all in jagges,
              Having no patch to hide my backe, save a few rotten ragges."

    _Hodge._  "I say, Tib, if thou be Tib, as I trow sure thou be,
              What devil make ado is this between our dame and thee?"

    _Tib._    "Truly, Hodge, thou had a good turn thou wart not here this
              It had been better for some of us to have been hence a mile:
              My Gammer is so out of course, and frantike all at once,
              That Cocke, our boy, and I poor wench, have felt it on our

    _Hodge._  "What is the matter, say on, Tib, whereat she taketh so on?"

    _Tib._    "She is undone, she saith (alas) her life and joy is gone:
              If she hear not of some comfort, she is she saith but dead,
              Shall never come within her lips, on inch of meat ne bread.
              And heavy, heavy is her grief, as, Hodge, we all shall feel."

    _Hodge._  "My conscience, Tib, my Gammer has never lost her neele?"

    _Tib._    "Her neele."

    _Hodge._  "Her neele?"

    _Tib._    "Her neele, by him that made me!"

    _Hodge._  "How a murrain came this chaunce (say Tib) unto her dame?"

    _Tib._    "My Gammer sat her down on the pes, and bade me reach thy
              And by and by, a vengeance on it, or she had take two
              To clout upon the knee, by chaunce aside she lears,
              And Gib our cat, in the milk pan, she spied over head
                      and ears.
              Ah! out, out, theefe, she cried aloud, and swapt the
                      breeches down,
              Up went her staffe, and out leapt Gib at doors into the town:
              And since that time was never wight cold set their eyes
                      upon it.
              God's malison she have Cocke and I bid twentie times light
                      on it."

    _Hodge._  "And is not then my breches sewed up, to-morrow that I shuld

    _Tib._    "No, in faith, Hodge, thy breches lie, for all this never the

    _Hodge._  "Now a vengeance light on al the sort, that better shold
                      have kept it;
              The cat, the house, and Tib our maid, that better should
                      have swept it.
              Se, where she cometh crawling! Come on, come on thy
                      lagging way;
              Ye have made a fair daies worke, have you not? pray you,

         *   *   *   *   *

    Act I. Scene 4. Gammer, Hodge, Tib, Cocke.

    _Gammer._ "Alas, alas, I may well curse and ban
              This day, that ever I saw it, with Gib and the milke pan.
              For these, and ill lucke together, as knoweth Cocke my boy,
              Have stacke away my dear neele, and rob'd me of my joy,
              My fair long straight neele, that was mine only treasure,
              The first day of my sorrow is, and last of my pleasure."

    _Hodge._  "Might ha kept it when ye had it; but fools will be fools
              Lose that is fast in your hands? ye need not, but ye will."

    _Gammer._ "Go hie the, Tib, and run along, to th' end here of the town.
              Didst carry out dust in thy lap? seek where thou porest
                      it down;
              And as thou sawest me roking in the ashes where I morned,
              So see in all the heap of dust thou leave no straw unturned."

    _Hodge._  "Your neele lost? it is pitie you shold lacke care and
                      endles sorrow.
              Tell me, how shall my breches be sewid? shall I go thus

    _Gammer._ "Ah, Hodge, Hodge, if that I could find my neele, by the
              I'd sew thy breches, I promise the, with full good double
              And set a patch on either knee, shall last this months twain,
              Now God, and Saint Sithe, I pray, to send it back again."

    _Hodge._  "Whereto served your hands and eyes, but your neele keep?
              What devil had you els to do? ye keep, I wot, no sheep.
              I'm fain abrode to dig and delve, in water, mire and clay,
              Sossing and possing in the dirt, still from day to day
              A hundred things that be abroad, I'm set to see them weel;
              And four of you sit idle at home, and cannot keep a neele."

    _Gammer._ "My neele, alas, I lost, Hodge, what time I me up hasted,
              To save milk set up for thee, which Gib our cat hath wasted."

    _Hodge._  "The devil he take both Gib and Tib, with all the rest;
              I'm always sure of the worst end, whoever have the best.
              Where ha you ben fidging abroad, since you your neele lost?"

    _Gammer._ "Within the house, and at the door, sitting by this same
              Where I was looking a long hour, before these folke came
              But, wel away! all was in vain, my neele is never the near!"

"Gammer Gurton's Needle," says Hazlitt, "is a regular comedy, in five
acts, built on the circumstance of an old woman having lost her needle
which throws the whole village into confusion, till it is at last
providentially found sticking in an unlucky part of Hodge's dress.
This must evidently have happened at a time when the manufactures of
Sheffield and Birmingham had not reached the height of perfection
which they have at present done. Suppose that there is only one sewing
needle in a village, that the owner, a diligent notable old dame,
loses it, that a mischief-making wag sets it about that another old
woman has stolen this valuable instrument of household industry, that
strict search is made every where in-doors for it in vain, and that
then the incensed parties sally forth to scold it out in the open air,
till words end in blows, and the affair is referred over to the higher
authorities, and we shall have an exact idea (though, perhaps, not so
lively a one) of what passes in this authentic document between Gammer
Gurton and her gossip Dame Chat; Dickon the Bedlam (the causer of
these harms); Hodge, Gammer Gurton's servant; Tyb, her maid; Cocke,
her 'prentice boy; Doll Scapethrift; Master Baillie, his master; Dr.
Rat, the curate; and Gib, the cat, who may fairly be reckoned one of
the _dramatis personæ_, and performs no mean part."

From the needle itself the transition is easy to the needlework which
was in vogue at the time when this little implement was so valuable
and rare a commodity. We are told that the various kinds of needlework
practised at this time would, if enumerated, astonish even the most
industrious of our modern ladies. The lover of Shakspeare will
remember that the term _point device_ is often used by him, and that,
indeed, it is a term frequently met with in the writers of that age
with various applications; and it is originally derived, according to
Mr. Douce, from the fine stitchery of the ladies.

It has been properly stated, that _point device_ signifies _exact_,
_nicely_, _finical_; but nothing has been offered concerning the
etymology, except that we got the expression from the French. It has,
in fact, been supplied from the labours of the needle. _Poinct_, in
the French language, denotes a _stitch_; _devise_ any thing
_invented_, disposed, or _arranged_. _Point devise_ was, therefore, a
particular sort of patterned lace worked with the needle; and the term
_point lace_ is still familiar to every female. They had likewise
their _point-coupé_, _point-compté_, _dentelle au point devant
l'aiguille_, &c. &c.

But it is apparent, he adds, that the expression _point devise_ became
applicable, in a _secondary_ sense, to whatever was uncommonly exact,
or constructed with the nicety and precision of stitches made or
devised with the needle.

Various books of patterns of needlework for the assistance and
encouragement of the fair stitchers were published in those days. Mr.
Douce[116] enumerates some of them, and the omission of any part of
his notation would be unpardonable in the present work.

The earliest on the list is an Italian book, under the title of
"Esemplario di lavori: dove le tenere fanciulle et altre donne nobile
potranno facilmente imparare il modo et ordine di lavorare, cusire,
raccamare, et finalmente far tutte quelle gentillezze et lodevili
opere, le quali pò fare una donna virtuosa con laco in mano, con li
suoi compasse et misure. Vinegia, per Nicolo D'Aristotile detto
Zoppino, MDXXIX. 8vo."

The next that occurs was likewise set forth by an Italian, and
entitled, "Les singuliers et nouveaux pourtraicts du Seigneur Federic
de Vinciolo Venitien, pour toutes sortes d'ouvrages de lingerie.
Paris, 1588. 4to." It is dedicated to the Queen of France, and had
been already twice published.

In 1599 a second part came out, which is much more difficult to be met
with than the former, and sometimes contains a neat portrait, by
Gaultier, of Catherine de Bourbon, the sister of Henry the Fourth.

The next is "Nouveaux pourtraicts de point coupé et dantelles en
petite moyenne et grande forme, nouvellement inventez et mis en
lumière. Imprimé à Montbeliard, 1598. 4to." It has an address to the
ladies, and a poem exhorting young damsels to be industrious; but the
author's name does not appear. Vincentio's work was published in
England, and printed by John Wolfe, under the title of "New and
Singular Patternes and Workes of Linnen, serving for paternes to make
all sortes of lace, edginges, and cutworkes. Newly invented for the
profite and contentment of ladies, gentilwomen, and others that are
desireous of this Art. 1591. 4to." He seems also to have printed it
with a French title.

We have then another English book, of which this is the title: "Here
foloweth certaine Patternes of Cutworkes; newly invented and never
published before. Also, sundry sortes of spots, as flowers, birdes,
and fishes, &c., and will fitly serve to be wrought, some with gould,
some with silke, and some with crewell in coullers; or otherwise at
your pleasure. And never but once published before. Printed by Rich.
Shorleyker." No date. In oblong quarto.

And lastly, another oblong quarto, entitled, "The Needle's Excellency,
a new booke, wherein are divers admirable workes wrought with the
needle. Newly invented and cut in copper for the pleasure and profit
of the industrious." Printed for James Boler, &c., 1640. Beneath this
title is a neat engraving of three ladies in a flower garden, under
the names of Wisdom, Industrie, and Follie. Prefixed to the patterns
are sundry poems in commendation of the needle, and describing the
characters of ladies who have been eminent for their skill in
needlework, among whom are Queen Elizabeth and the Countess of
Pembroke. The poems were composed by John Taylor the water poet. It
appears that the work had gone through twelve impressions, and yet a
copy is now scarcely to be met with. This may be accounted for by
supposing that such books were generally cut to pieces, and used by
women to work upon or transfer to their samplers. From the dress of a
lady and gentleman on one of the patterns in the last mentioned book,
it appears to have been originally published in the reign of James the
First. All the others are embellished with a multitude of patterns
elegantly cut in wood, several of which are eminently conspicuous for
their taste and beauty.

We are happy to add a little further information on some of these
works, and on others preserved in the British Museum.

"Les singuliers et nouveaux Pourtraicts du Seigneur Federic de
Vinciolo Venitien, pour toutes sortes d'ouvrages de Lingerie. Dédié à
la Reyne. A Paris, 1578."[117]

The book opens with a sonnet to the fair, which announces to them an
admirable motive for the work itself:--

    "Pour tromper vos ennuis, et l'esprit employer."

Aux Dames et Damoyselles.


    "L'un s'efforce à gaigner le coeur des {grands} Seigneurs
    Pour posseder en fin une exquise richesse;
    L'autre aspire aux estats, pour monter en altesse,
    Et l'autre, par la guerre alléche les honneurs.

    "Quand à moy, seulement pour chasser mes langueurs,
    Je me sen satisfaict de vivre en petitesse,
    Et de faire si bien, qu'aux Dames ie delaisse
    Un grand contentement en mes graves labeurs.

    "Prenez doncques en gré (mes Dames) ie vous prie,
    Ces pourtrais ouvragez lesquels ie vous dedie,
    Pour tromper vos ennuis, et l'esprit employer.

    "En ceste nouveauté, pourrez beaucoup apprendre,
    Et maistresses en fin en cest oeuvre vous rendre,
    Le travail est plaisant: Si grand est le loyer."

Which, barring elegant diction and poetic rule, may be read thus:--

    Whilst one man worships lordly state
      As yielding all that he desires--
    This, fertile acres begs from fate;
      Another, bloody laurels fires.

    To dissipate my devils blue,
    Trifles, I'm satisfied to do;
    For surely if the fair I please,
    My very labours smack of ease.

    Take then, fair ladies, I you pray,
    The book which at your feet I lay,
    To make you happy, brisk and gay.

    There's much you here may learn anew,
    Which _comme il faut_ will render you,
    And bring you joy and honour too.

Proceed we to the--

"Ouvrages de point Coupé," of which there are thirty-six. Some birds,
animals, and figures are introduced; but the patterns are chiefly
arabesque, set off in white, on a thick black ground.

Then, with a repetition of the ornamented title-page, come about fifty
patterns, which are represented much like the German patterns of the
present day, in squares for stitches, but not so finely wrought as
some which we shall presently notice. These patterns consist of
arabesques, figures, birds, beasts, flowers, in every variety. To many
the stitches are ready counted (as well as pourtrayed), thus:--

"Ce Pélican contient en longueur 70 mailles, et en hauteur 65." This
pattern of maternity is represented as pecking her breast, towards
which three young ones are flying; their course being indicated by the
three lines of white stitches, all converging to the living nest.

"Ce Griffon {contient} en hauteur 58 mailles, et en {longueur} 67."
Small must be the skill of the needlewoman who does not make this a
very rampant animal indeed.

"Ce Paon contient en longueur 65 mailles, et en hauteur 61."

"La Licorne en hauteur {contient} 44 mailles, et en longueur 62, &c.

"La bordure contient 25 mailles."

"La bordure de haut {contient} 35 mailles." This is a very handsome
one, resembling pine apples.

"Ce quarré contient 65 mailles." There are several of these squares,
and borders appended, of very rich patterns.

But the book contains far more ambitious designs. There are Sol, Luna,
Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Neptune, and others, whose
dignities and vocation must be inferred from the emblematical

There is "La Déesse des fleurs représentant le printemps."

"La Déesse des Bleds representant l'esté."

"Ce Bacchus representant l'Autonne."

"Ceste figure representant l'hiver," &c. &c.

Appended is this "Extraict du Privilege."

"Per grace et privelege du Roy, est permis a Jean le Clerc le jeune,
tailleur d'histoires à Paris, d'imprimer ou faire imprimer {vendre} et
distribuer un livre intitulé livre de patrons de Lingerie, DEDIE A LA
ROYNE, nouvellement inventé par le Seigneur Federic de Vinciolo
Venitien, avec deffences à tous Libraires, Imprimeurs, ou autres, de
quelque condition et qualité quilz soyent, de faire ny contrefaire,
aptisser ny {agrandir}, ou pocher lesdits figures, ny exposer en vente
ledict Livre sans le {congé} ou permission dudict le Clerc, et ce
jusques au temps et terme de neuf ans finis et accomplis, sur peine de
confiscation de tous les livres qui se trouveront imprimez, et damande
arbitraire: comme plus a plein est declaré en lettres patentes,
données à Paris ce douziesme jour de Novembre, 1587."

Another work, preserved in the British Museum, was published at
Strasbourg, 1596, seemingly from designs of the same Vinciolo. These
consist of about six-and-thirty plates, with patterns in white on a
black ground, consisting of a few birds and figures, but chiefly of
stars and wreaths pricked out in every possible variety; and at the
end of the book a dozen richly wrought patterns, without any edging,
were seemingly designed for what we should now call "insertion" work
or lace.

There is another, by the same author, printed at Basil in 1599, which
varies but slightly from the foregoing.

This Frederick de Vinciolo is doubtless the same person who was
summoned to France, by Catherine de Medicis, to instruct the ladies of
the court in the art of netting the lace of which the then fashionable
ruffs were made.

In another volume we have--

"Corona delle Nobili et virtuose Donne, nel quale si dimostra in varij
Dissegni tutte le sorti di Mostre di punti tagliati, punti in Aria,
punti Fiamenghi, punti à Reticelle, e d'ogni altre sorte, cosi per
Freggi, per Merli, e Rosette, che con l'Aco si usano hoggidì per tutta

"E molte delle quali Mostre possono servire ancora per opere a

"Con le dichiarationi a le Mostre a Lavori fatti da Lugretia Romana.

"In Venetia appresso Alessandro di Vecchi, 1620."

The plates here are very similar to those in the above-mentioned
works. Some are accompanied by short explanations, saying where they
are most used and to whom they are best suited, as--

"Hopera Bellissima, che per il più le Signore Duchese, et altre
Signore si servono per li suoi lavori."

"Queste bellissime Rosette usano anco le gentildonne Venetiane da far

But certainly the best work of the kind is, "The Needle's Excellency,"
referred to in Mr. Douce's list. It contains a variety of plates, of
which the patterns are all, or nearly all, arabesque. They are
beautifully executed, many of them being very similar to, and equally
fine with, the German patterns before the colouring is put on, which,
though it guides the eye, defaces the work. These are seldom seen
uncoloured, the Germans having a jealousy of sending them; but we have
seen, through the polite attention of Mr. Wilks, of Regent Street, one
or two in this state, and we could not but admire the extreme delicacy
and beauty of the work. Some few of the patterns in the book we are
now referring to are so extremely similar, that we doubt not the
modern artists have borrowed the _idea_ of their beautifully traced
patterns from this or some similar work; thereby adding one more proof
of the truth of the oft quoted proverb, "There is nothing new under
the sun."

As a fitting close to this chapter, we give the Needle's praises in
full, as sung by the water poet, John Taylor, and prefixed to the
last-mentioned work.


    "To all dispersed sorts of arts and trades,
    I write the needles prayse (that never fades)
    So long as children shall be got or borne,
    So long as garments shall be made or worne,
    So long as hemp or flax, or sheep shall bear
    Their linnen wollen fleeces yeare by yeare:
    So long as silkwormes, with exhausted spoile,
    Of their own entrailes for man's gaine shall toyle:
    Yea till the world be quite dissolv'd and past,
    So long at least, the needles use shall last:
    And though from earth his being did begin,
    Yet through the fire he did his honour win:
    And unto those that doe his service lacke,
    He's true as steele and mettle to the backe
    He hath indeed, I see, small single sight,
    Yet like a pigmy, _Polipheme_ in fight:
    As a stout captaine, bravely he leades on,
    (Not fearing colours) till the worke be done,
    Through thicke and thinne he is most sharpely set,
    With speed through stitch, he will the conquest get.
    And as a souldier (Frenchefyde with heat)
    Maim'd from the warres is forc'd to make retreat;
    So when a needles point is broke, and gone,
    _No point Mounsieur_, he's maim'd, his worke is done,
    And more the needles honour to advance,
    It is a tailor's javelin, or his lance;
    And for my countries quiet, I should like,
    That women kinde should use no other pike.
    It will increase their peace, enlarge their store,
    To use their tongues lesse, and their needles more.
    The needles sharpnesse, profit yields, and pleasure,
    But sharpnesse of the tongue, bites out of measure.
    A needle (though it be but small and slender)
    Yet it is both a maker and a mender:
    A grave Reformer of old rents decay'd,
    Stops holes and seames and desperate cuts display'd,
    And thus without the needle we may see
    We should without our bibs and biggins bee;
    No shirts or smockes, our nakednesse to hide,
    No garments gay, to make us magnifide:
    No shadowes, shapparoones, caules, bands, ruffs, kuffs,
    No kerchiefes, quoyfes, chinclouts, or marry-muffes,
    No croscloaths, aprons, handkerchiefes, or falls,
    No table-cloathes, for parlours or for halls,
    No sheetes, no towels, napkins, pillow beares,
    Nor any garment man or woman weares.
    Thus is a needle prov'd an instrument
    Of profit, pleasure, and of ornament.
    Which mighty queenes have grac'd in hand to take,
    And high borne ladies such esteeme did make,
    That as their daughters daughters up did grow,
    The needles art, they to the children show.
    And as 'twas then an exercise of praise,
    So what deserves more honour in these dayes,
    Than this? which daily doth itselfe expresse
    A mortall enemy to idlenesse.
    The use of sewing is exceeding old,
    As in the sacred text it is enrold:
    Our parents first in Paradise began,
    Who hath descended since from man to man:
    The mothers taught their daughters, sires their sons
    Thus in a line successively it runs
    For generall profit, and for recreation,
    From generation unto generation.
    With work like cherubims embroidered rare,
    The covers of the tabernacle were.
    And by the Almighti's great command, we see,
    That Aaron's garments broidered worke should be;
    And further, God did bid his vestments should
    Be made most gay, and glorious to behold.
    Thus plainly and most truly is declar'd
    The needles worke hath still bin in regard,
    For it doth art, so like to nature frame,
    As if it were her sister, or the same.
    Flowers, plants and fishes, beasts, birds, flyes, and bees,
    Hills, dales, plaines, pastures, skies, seas, rivers, trees;
    There's nothing neere at hand, or farthest sought,
    But with the needle may be shap'd and wrought.
    In clothes of arras I have often seene,
    Men's figur'd counterfeits so like have beene,
    That if the parties selfe had been in place,
    Yet art would vie with nature for the grace;
    Moreover, posies rare, and anagrams,
    Signifique searching sentences from names,
    True history, or various pleasant fiction,
    In sundry colours mixt, with arts commixion,
    All in dimension, ovals, squares, and rounds,
    Arts life included within natures bounds:
    So that art seemeth merely naturall,
    In forming shapes so geometricall;
    And though our country everywhere is fild
    With ladies, and with gentlewomen, skild
    In this rare art, yet here they may discerne
    Some things to teach them if they list to learne.
    And as this booke some cunning workes doth teach,
    (Too hard for meane capacities to reach)
    So for weake learners, other workes here be,
    As plaine and easie as are A B C.
    Thus skilful, or unskilful, each may take
    This booke, and of it each good use may make,
    All sortes of workes, almost that can be nam'd,
    Here are directions how they may be fram'd:
    And for this kingdomes good are hither come,
    From the remotest parts of Christendome,
    Collected with much paines and industrie,
    From scorching _Spaine_ and freezing _Muscovie_,
    From fertill _France_, and pleasant _Italy_,
    From _Poland_, _Sweden_, _Denmark_, _Germany_,
    And some of these rare patternes have beene fet
    Beyond the bounds of faithlesse _Mahomet_:
    From spacious _China_, and those kingdomes East,
    And from great _Mexico_, the Indies West.
    Thus are these workes, _farrefetcht_ and _dearely bought_,
    And consequently _good for ladies thought_.
    Nor doe I derogate (in any case)
    Or doe esteeme of other teachings base,
    For _tent worke_, _rais'd worke_, _laid worke_, _frost works_,
            _net worke_,
    Most curious _purles_, or rare _Italian cut worke_,
    Fine, _ferne stitch_, _finny stitch_, _new stitch_, and _chain stitch_,
    Brave _bred stitch_, _Fisher stitch_, _Irish stitch_, and _Queen
    The _Spanish stitch_, _Rosemary stitch_, and _Mowse stitch_
    The smarting _whip stitch_, _back stitch_, and the _crosse stitch_
    All these are good, and these we must allow,
    And these are everywhere in practise now:
    And in this booke there are of these some store,
    With many others, never seene before.
    Here practise and invention may be free.
    And as a squirrel skips from tree to tree,
    So maids may (from their mistresse or their mother)
    Learne to leave one worke, and to learne another,
    For here they may make choice of which is which,
    And skip from worke to worke, from stitch to stitch,
    Until, in time, delightful practise shall
    (With profit) make them perfect in them all.
    Thus hoping that these workes may have this guide,
    To serve for ornament, and not for pride:
    To cherish vertue, banish idlenesse,
    For these ends, may this booke have good successe."


[115] It is worth while to remark the circumstance, that by a machine
of the simplest construction, being nothing in fact but a tray, 20,000
needles thrown promiscuously together, mixed and entangled in every
way, are laid parallel, heads to heads, and points to points, in the
course of three or four minutes.

[116] Illustrations, vol. ii. p. 92.

[117] This seems to be a somewhat earlier edition of the second book
in Mr. Douce's list.



      "For, round about, the walls yclothed were
      With goodly Arras of great majesty,
      Woven with gold and silk so close and nere,
      That the rich metal lurked privily,
      As faining to be hidd from envious eye;
      Yet here, and there, and every where unwares
      It shew'd itselfe and shone unwillingly;
      Like to a discolour'd Snake, whose hidden snares
    Through the greene gras his long bright burnisht back declares."

                        Faerie Queene.

Raphael, whose name is familiar to all "as a household word," seems to
have been equally celebrated for a handsome person, an engaging
address, an amiable disposition, and high talents. Language exhausts
itself in his eulogy.[118] But the extravagant encomiums of Lanzi and
others must be taken in a very modified sense, ere we arrive at the
rigid truth. The tone of morals in Italy "did not correspond with
evangelical purity;" and Raphael's follies were not merely permitted,
but encouraged and fostered by those who sought eagerly for the
creations of his pencil. His thousand engaging qualities were
disfigured by a licentiousness which probably shortened his career,
for he died at the early age of thirty-seven.

Great and sincere was the grief expressed at Rome for his untimely
death, and no testimony of sorrow could be more affecting, more
simple, or more highly honourable to its object than the placing his
picture of the Transfiguration over his mortal remains in the chamber
wherein he died.

It was probably within two years of the close of his short life when
he was engaged by Pope Leo the Tenth to paint those cartoons which
have more than all his works immortalised his name, and which render
the brief hints we have given respecting him peculiarly appropriate to
this work.

The cartoons were designs, from Scripture chiefly, from which were to
be woven hangings to ornament the apartments of the Vatican; and their
dimensions being of course proportioned to the spaces they were
designed to fill, the tapestries, though equal in height, differed
extremely in breadth.

The designs were,

    1. The Nativity.

    2. The Adoration of the Magi.

    3. }
    4. } The Slaughter of the Innocents.
    5. }

    6. The Presentation in the Temple.

    7. The Miraculous Draught of Fishes.

    8. St. Peter receiving the Keys.

    9. The Descent of Christ into Limbus.

    10. The Resurrection.

    11. Noli me tangere.

    12. Christ at Emmaus.

    13. The Ascension.

    14. The Descent of the Holy Ghost.

    15. The Martyrdom of St. Stephen.

    16. The Conversion of St. Paul.

    17. Paul and Barnabas at Lystra.

    18. Paul Preaching.

    19. Death of Ananias.

    20. Elymas the Sorcerer.

    21. An earthquake; showing the delivery of Paul and
    Silas from prison: named from the earthquake which shook
    the foundations of the building. The artist endeavours
    to render it ideally visible to the spectator by placing
    a gigantic figure, which appears to be raising the
    superincumbent weight on his shoulders; but the result
    is not altogether successful.

    22. St. Peter healing the cripple.

    23-24. Contain emblems alluding to Leo the Tenth. These
    are preserved in one of the private apartments of the
    Vatican palace.

    25. Justice. In this subject the figures of Religion,
    Charity, and Justice are seen above the papal armorial
    bearings. The last figure gives name to the whole.

When the cartoons were finished they were sent into Flanders to be
woven (at the famous manufactory at Arras) under the superintendence
of Barnard Van Orlay of Brussels, and Michael Coxis, artists who had
been for some years pupils of Raphael at Rome. Two sets were executed
with the utmost care and cost, but the death of Raphael, the murder of
the Pope, and subsequent intestine troubles seem to have delayed their
appropriation. They cost seventy thousand crowns, a sum which is said
to have been defrayed by Francis the First of France, in consideration
of Leo's having canonised St. Francis of Paola, the founder of the

Adrian the Second was a man "alienissimo da ogni bell'arte;" an
indifference which may account for the cartoons not being sent with
the tapestries to Rome, though some accounts say that the debt for
their manufacture remained unliquidated, and that the paintings were
kept in Flanders as security for it. They were carried away by the
Spanish army in 1526-7 during the sack of Rome, but were restored by
the zeal and spirit of Montmorenci the French general, as set forth in
the woven borders of the tapestries Nos. 6 and 9. Pope Paul the Fourth
(1555) first introduced them to the gaze of the public by exhibiting
them before the Basilica of St. Peter on the festival of Corpus
Domini, and also at the solemn "function of Beatification." This use
of them was continued through part of the last century, and is now

In 1798 they were taken by the French from Rome and sold to a Jew at
Leghorn, and one of them was burnt by him in order to extract the gold
with which they were richly interwoven; but happily they did not
furnish so much spoil as the speculator hoped, and this devastation
was arrested. The one that was destroyed represented Christ's Descent
into Limbus; the rest were repurchased for one thousand three hundred
crowns, and restored to the Vatican in 1814.

We have alluded to two sets of these tapestries, and it is believed
that there were two; whether _exactly_ counterparts has not been
ascertained. We have traced the migrations of one set. The other was,
according to some authorities, presented by Pope Leo the Tenth to our
Henry the Eighth; whilst others say that our king purchased it from
the state of Venice. It was hung in the Banqueting House of
Whitehall, and after the unhappy execution of Charles the First, was
put up, amongst other royal properties, to sale. Being purchased by
the Spanish ambassador, it became the property of the house of Alva,
and within a few years back was sold by the head of that illustrious
house to Mr. Tupper, our consul in Spain, and by him sent back to this

These tapestries were then exhibited for some time in the Egyptian
Hall, Piccadilly, and were afterwards repurchased by a foreigner.
Probably they have been making a "progress" throughout the kingdom, as
within this twelvemonth we had the satisfaction of viewing them at the
principal town in a northern county. The motto of our chapter might
have been written expressly for these tapestries, so exquisitely
accurate is the description as applied to them of the gold thread:--

        "As here and there, and every where unwares
        It shew'd itselfe and shone unwillingly;
        Like to a discolour'd snake, whose hidden snares
    Through the greene gras his long bright burnisht back declares."

The cartoons themselves, the beautiful originals of these magnificent
works, remained in the Netherlands, and were all, save seven, lost and
destroyed through the ravages of time, and chance, and revolution.
These seven, much injured by neglect, and almost pounced into holes by
the weaver tracing his outlines, were purchased by King Charles the
First, and are now justly considered a most valuable possession. It is
supposed that the chief object of Charles in the purchase was to
supply the then existing tapestry manufactory at Mortlake with
superior designs for imitation. Five of them were _certainly_ woven
there, and it is far from improbable that the remaining ones were

There was also a project for weaving them by a person of the name of
James Christopher Le Blon, and houses were built and looms erected at
Chelsea expressly for that purpose, but the design failed.

The "British Critic," for January, this year, has the following
spirited remarks with regard to the present situation of the cartoons.
"The cartoons of Raffaelle are very unfairly seen in their present
locale; a long gallery built for the purpose by William the Third, but
in which the light enters through common chamber windows, and therefore
is so much below the cartoons as to leave the greater part of them in
shade. We venture to say there is no country in Europe in which such
works as these--unique, and in their class invaluable--would be treated
with so little honour. It has been decided by competent opinions, that
their removal to London would be attended with great risk to their
preservation, from the soot, damp, accumulation of dust, and other
inconveniences, natural or incident to a crowded city. This, however,
is no fair reason for their being shut up in their present ill-assorted
apartment. There is not a petty state in Germany that would not erect a
gallery on purpose for them; and a few thousand pounds would be well
bestowed in providing a fitting receptacle for some of the finest
productions of human genius in art; and of the full value of which we
_alone_, their possessors, seem to be comparatively insensible. Various
portions of cartoons by Raffaelle, part of the same series or set,
exist in England; and it is far from unlikely that, were there a proper
place to preserve and exhibit the whole in, these would in time, by
presentation or purchase, become the property of the country, and we
should then possess a monument of the greatest master of his art, only
inferior to that which he has left on the walls of the Vatican."

Of all these varied and beautiful paintings, that of the Adoration of
the Magi, from the variety of character and expression, the splendor
and oriental pomp of the whole, the multitude of persons, between
forty and fifty, the various accessaries, elephants, horses, &c., with
the variety of splendid and ornamental illustrations, and the
exquisite grouping, is considered as the most attractive and brilliant
in tapestry. As a piece of general and varied interest it may be so;
but we well remember being, not so suddenly struck, as attracted and
fascinated by the figure of the Christ when, after his resurrection,
he is recommending the care of his flock to St. Peter. The colours
have faded gradually and equably--(an advantage not possessed by the
others, where some tints which have stood the ravages of time better
than those around them, are in places strikingly and painfully
discordant)--but in this figure the colours, though greatly faded,
have yet faded so harmoniously as to add very much to the illusion,
giving to the figure really the appearance of one risen from the
dead. The outline is majestic; turn which way we would, we
involuntarily returned to look again. At length we mentioned our
admiration to the superintendent, and the reply of the enthusiastic
foreigner precluded all further remark--for nothing further could be

"Madam, I should have been astonished if you had not admired that
figure: _it is itself_; it is precisely _the finest thing in the


[118] For example:--"Egli avea tenuto sempre un contegno da
guadagnarsi il cuore di tutto. Rispettoso verso il maestro, ottenne
dal Papa che le sue pitture in una volta delle camere Vaticane
rimanessero intatte; giusto verso i suoi emuli ringraziava Dio
d'averlo fatto nascere a' tempi del Bonarruoti; grazioso verso i
discepoli gl'istruì e gli amò come figli; cortese anche verso
gl'ignoti, a chiunque ricorse a lui per consiglio prestò liberalmente
l'opera sua, e per far disegni ad altrui o dar gl'indirizzo lasciò
indietro talvolta i lavori propri, non sapendo non pure di negar
grazia, ma differirla."--Lanzi, vol. ii.

Consequently when his body before interment lay in the room in which
he was accustomed to paint, "Non v'ebbe sì duro artefice che a quello
spettacolo non lagrimasse."--"Ne pianse il Papa."

Of his works:--"Le sue figure veramente amano, languiscono, temono,
sperano, ardiscono; mostrano ira, placabilità, umiltà, orgoglio, come
mette bene alla storia: spesso chi mira que' volti, que' guardi,
quelle mosse, non si ricorda che ha innanzi una immagine; si sente
accendere, prende partito, crede di trovarsi in sul fatto.--Tutto
parla nel silenzio; ogni attore, _Il cor negli occhi e nella fronte ha
scritto_; i piccioli movimenti degli occhi, degli narici, della bocca,
delle dita corrispondono a' primi moti d'ogni passione; i gesti più
animati e più vivi ne descrivono la violenza; e ciò ch'è più, essi
variano in cento modi senza uscir mai del naturale, e si attemperano a
cento caratteri senza uscir mai dalla proprietà. L'eroe ha movimenti
da eroe, il volgar da volgare; e quel che non descriverebbe lingua nè
penna, descrive in pochissimi tratti l'ingegno e l'arte di
Raffaello."--p. 65.

"Il paese, gli elementi, gli animali, le fabbriche, le manifatture,
ogni età dell'uomo, ogni condizione, ogni affetto, tutte comprese con
la divinità del suo ingegno, tutto ridusse più bello."--p. 71.

I have thought this long extract pardonable as applied to one whose
finest designs are now, through so many channels, rendered familiar to

[119] In a priced catalogue of His Majesty's collection of "Limnings,"
edited by Vertue, is the following entry. "Item, in a slit box-wooden
case, some TWO CARTOONS of Raphael Urbinus for hangings to be made by,
and _the other FIVE are by the King's appointment delivered to Mr.
Francis Cleen at Mortlake, to make hangings by_."--Cartonensia.



    "A worthie woman judge, a woman sent for staie."

    "When Fame resounds with thundring trump, which rends the ratling
    And pierceth to the hautie Heavens, and thence descending flies
    Through flickering ayre: and so conjoines the sea and shore togither,
    In admiration of thy grace, good Queene, thou'rt welcome hither."

                        _The Receyving of the Queene's Maiestie
                            into hir Citie of Norwich._

    "We may justly wonder what has become of the industry of
    the English ladies; we hear no more of their rich
    embroiderings, and curious needlework. Is all the
    domestic simplicity of the former ages entirely

The age of Elizabeth presents a never-failing field of variety through
which people of all tastes may delightedly rove, gathering flowers at
will. The learned statesman, the acute politician, the subtle lawyer,
will find in the measures of her Burleigh, her Walsingham, her Cecil,
abundant food for approbation or for censure; the heroic sailor will
glory over the achievements of her time; the adventurous traveller
will explore the Eldoradic regions with Raleigh, or plough the waves
with Drake and Frobisher; the soldier will recal glorious visions of
Essex and Sidney, while poesy wreathes a bay round the memory of the
last, which shines freshly and bright even in the age which produced a
Ben Jonson, and him "who was born with a star on his forehead to last
through all time"--Shakspeare.

The age of Elizabeth was especially a learned age. The study of the
dead languages had hitherto been confined almost exclusively to
ecclesiastics and scholars by profession, but from the time of Henry
the Seventh it had been gradually spreading amongst the higher
classes. The great and good Sir Thomas More gave his daughters a
learned education, and they did honour to it; Henry the Eighth
followed his example; Lady Jane Grey made learning lovely; and
Elizabeth's pedantry brought the habit into full fashion.

If a queen were to talk Sanscrit, her court would endeavour to do so
likewise. The example of learned studies was given by the queen
herself, who translated from the Greek a play of Euripides, and parts
of Isocrates, Xenophon, and Plutarch; from the Latin considerable
portions of Cicero, Seneca, Sallust, Horace, &c. She wrote many Latin
letters, and is said to have spoken five languages with facility. As a
natural consequence the nobility and gentry, their wives and
daughters, became enthusiasts in the cause of letters. The novelty
which attended these studies, the eager desire to possess what had
been so long studiously and jealously concealed, and the curiosity to
explore and rifle the treasures of the Greek and Roman world, which
mystery and imagination had swelled into the marvellous, contributed
to excite an absolute passion for study and for books. The court, the
ducal castle, and the baronial hall were suddenly converted into
academies, and could boast of splendid tapestries. In the first of
these, according to Ascham, might be seen the queen reading "more
Greeke every day than some prebendarie of this church doth read
_Latin_ in a whole week;" and while she was translating Isocrates or
Seneca, it may be easily conceived that her maids of honour found it
convenient to praise and to adopt the disposition of her time. In the
second, observes Warton, "the daughter of a duchess was taught not
only to distil strong waters, but to construe Greek; and in the third,
every young lady who aspired to be fashionable was compelled, in
imitation of the greater world, to exhibit similar marks of

A contemporary writer says, that some of the ladies of the court
employ themselves "in continuall reading either of the holie
Scriptures, or histories of our owne or forren nations about us, and
diverse in writing volumes of their owne, or translating of other mens
into our English and Latine toongs. I might here (he adds) make a
large discourse of such honorable and grave councellors, and noble
personages, as give their dailie attendance upon the queene's
majestie. I could in like sort set foorth a singular commendation of
the vertuous beautie, or beautiful vertues of such ladies and
gentlewomen as wait upon his person, betweene whose amiable
countenances and costlinesse of attire there seemeth to be such a
dailie conflict and contention, as that it is verie difficult for me
to gesse whether of the twaine shall beare awaie the preheminence.
This further is not to be omitted, to the singular commendation of
both sorts and sexes of our courtiers here in England, that there are
verie few of them which have not the use and skill of sundrie
speaches, beside an excellent veine of writing before-time not
regarded. Would to God the rest of their lives and conversations were
correspondent to these gifts! for as our common courtiers (for the
most part) are the best lerned and endued with excellent gifts, so are
manie of them the worst men when they come abroad, that anie man shall
either heare or read of. Trulie it is a rare thing with us now to
heare of a courtier which hath but his owne language. And to saie how
many gentlewomen and ladies there are, that beside sound knowledge of
the Greeke and Latine toongs, are thereto no lesse skilful in the
Spanish, Italian, and French, or in some one of them, it resteth not
in me. Sith I am persuaded, that as the noblemen and gentlemen doo
surmount in this behalfe, so these come verie little or nothing at all
behind them for their parts, which industrie God continue, and
accomplish that which otherwise is wanting!"[120]

At this time the practice (derived from the chivalrous ages, when
every baronial castle was the resort of young persons of gentle birth,
of both sexes) was by no means discontinued of placing young women, of
gentle birth, in the establishment of ladies of rank, where, without
performing any menial offices, they might be supposed to have their
own understood duties in the household, and had in return the
advantage of a liberal education, and constant association with the
best company. Persons of rank and fortune often retained in their
service many young people of both sexes of good birth, and bestowed on
them the fashionable education of the time. Indeed their houses were
the best, if not then the only schools of elegant learning. The
following letter, written in 1595, is from a young lady thus situated:

    "To my good mother Mrs. Pake, at Broumfield, deliver this.

    "Deare Mother,

    "My humble dutye remembred unto my father and you, &c. I
    received upon Weddensday last a letter from my father
    and you, whereby, I understand, it is your pleasures
    that I should certifie you what times I do take for my
    lute, and the rest of my exercises. I doe for the most
    part playe of my lute after supper, for then commonlie
    my lady heareth me; and in the morninges, after I am
    reddie, I play an hower; and my wrightinge and
    siferinge, after I have done my lute. For my drawinge I
    take an hower in the afternowne, and my French at night
    before supper. My lady hath not bene well these tooe or
    three dayes: she telleth me, when she is well, that she
    will see if Hilliard will come and teche me; if she can
    by any means she will, &c. &c.--As touchinge my newe
    corse in service, I hope I shall performe my dutye to my
    lady with all care and regard to please her, and to
    behave myselfe to everye one else as it shall become me.
    Mr. Harrisone was with me upone Fridaye; he heard me
    playe, and brought me a dusson of trebles; I had some of
    him when I came to London. Thus desiring pardone for my
    rude writinge, I leave you to the Almightie, desiringe
    him to increase in you all health and happines.

        "Your obedient daughter,

            "Rebecca Pake."

Could any thing afford a stronger contrast to the grave and certainly
severe study to which Elizabeth had habituated herself, than the vain
and fantastic puerility of many of her recreations and habits,--the
unintellectual brutality of the bearbaits which she admired, or the
gaudy and glittering pageants in which she delighted? She built a
gallery at Whitehall at immense expense, and so superficially, that it
was in ruins in her successor's time; but it was raised, in order to
afford a magnificent reception to the ambassadors who, in 1581, came
to treat of an alliance with the Duke of Anjou. It was framed of
timber, covered with painted canvas, and decorated with the utmost
gaudiness. Pendants of fruit of various kinds (amongst which cucumbers
and even carrots are enumerated) were hung from festoons of flowers
intermixed with evergreens, and the whole was powdered with gold
spangles; the ceiling was painted like a sky with stars, sunbeams, and
clouds, intermixed with scutcheons of the royal arms; and glass
lustres and ornaments were scattered all around. Here were enacted
masques and pageants chiefly remarkable for their pedantic prolixity
of composition, and the fulsome and gross flattery towards the queen
with which they were throughout invested.

Everything, in accordance with the rage of the day, assumed an
erudite, or, more truly speaking, a pedantic cast. When the queen
(says Warton) paraded through a country town, almost every pageant was
a pantheon. When she paid a visit at the house of any of her nobility,
at entering the hall she was saluted by the Penates, and conducted to
her privy chamber by Mercury. Even the pastry cooks were expert
mythologists. At dinner, select transformations of Ovid's
metamorphoses were exhibited in confectionary; and the splendid iceing
of an immense historic plum-cake was embossed with a delicious
basso-relievo of the destruction of Troy. In the afternoon, when she
condescended to walk in the garden, the lake was covered with Tritons
and Nereids; the pages of the family were converted into wood-nymphs,
who peeped from every bower; and the footmen gambolled over the lawns
in the figure of satyrs.

Scarcely we think could even the effusions of Euphues--a fashion also
of this period--be more wearisome to the spirit than a repetition of
these dull delights.

This predilection for learning, and the time perforce given to its
acquisition, must necessarily have subtracted from those hours which
might otherwise have been bestowed on the lighter labours and
beguiling occupations of the needle. Nor does it appear that after her
accession Elizabeth did much patronise this gentle art. She was cast
in a more stirring mould. In her father's court, under her sister's
jealous eye, within her prison's solitary walls, her needle might be a
prudent disguise, a solacing occupation, "woman's pretty excuse for
thought." But after her own accession to the throne _action_ was her

Nevertheless we are not to suppose that, because needlework was not "a
rage," it was frowned upon and despised. By no means. It is perhaps
fortunate that Elizabeth did not especially patronise it; for so
dictatorial and absolute was she, that by virtue of the "right divine"
she would have made her statesmen embroider their own robes, and her
warriors lay aside the sword for the distaff. But as, happily, it now
only held a secondary place in her esteem, we have Raleigh's poems
instead of his sampler, and Bacon's learning instead of his stitchery.
But it was not in her nature to suffer any thing in which she excelled
to lie quite dormant. She was an accomplished needlewoman; some
exquisite proofs of her skill were then glowing in all their
freshness, and her excellence in this art was sufficiently obvious to
prevent the ladies of her court from entirely forsaking it. Many
books, with patterns for needlework, were published about this time,
and in a later one Queen Elizabeth is especially celebrated in a
laudatory poem for her skill in it. That proficiency in ornamental
needlework was an absolute requisite in the accomplishments of a
country belle, may be inferred from the prominent place it holds in
Drayton's description of the well-educated daughter of a country
knight in Elizabeth's days:

    "The silk well couth she twist and twine,
    And make the fine march pine,
        And with the needlework:
    And she couth help the priest to say
    His mattins on a holy day,
        And sing a psalm in kirk.

    "She wore a frock of frolic green,
    Might well become a maiden queen,
        Which seemly was to see;
    A hood to that so neat and fine,
    In colour like the columbine,
        Ywrought full featously."

The march pine or counterpanes here alluded to, taxed in these days to
the fullest extent both the purse of the rich and the fingers of the
fair. Elizabeth had several most expensively trimmed with ermine as
well as needlework; the finest and richest embroidery was lavished on
them; and it was no unusual circumstance for the counterpane for the
"standing" or master's bed to be so lavishly adorned as to be worth a
thousand marks.

At no time was ornamental needlework more admired, or in greater
request in the every-day concerns of life, than now. Almost every
article of dress, male and female, was adorned with it. Even the
boots, which at this time had immense tops turned down and fringed,
and which were commonly made of russet cloth or leather, were worn by
some exquisites of the day of very fine cloth (of which enough was
used to make a shirt), and were embroidered in gold or silver, or in
various-coloured silks, in the figures of birds, animals, or
antiques; and the ornamental needlework alone of a pair of these boots
would cost from four to ten pounds. The making of a single shirt would
frequently cost 10_l._, so richly were they ornamented with
"needleworke of silke, and so curiously stitched with other knackes."

"Woman's triflings," too, their handkerchiefs, reticules, workbags,
&c., were decorated richly. We have seen within these few days a
workbag which would startle a modern fair one, for, as far as regards
_size_, it has a most "industrious look," but which, despite the
ravages of near three centuries, yet gives token of much original
magnificence. It is made of net, lined with silk; the material, the
net itself, (a sort of honeycomb pattern, like what we called a few
years ago the Grecian lace,) was made by the fair workwoman in those
days, and was a fashionable occupation both in France and England.
This bag is wrought in broad stripes with gold thread, and between the
stripes various flowers are embroidered in different coloured silks.
The bag stands in a sort of card-board basket, covered in the same
style; it is drawn with long cords and tassels, and is large enough
perhaps, on emergency, to hold a good sized baby.

It is more than probable that female skill was in request in various
matters of household decoration. The Arras looms, indeed, had long
superseded the painful fingers of notable dames in the construction of
hangings for walls, which were universally used, intermingled and
varied in the palaces and nobler mansions by "painted cloth," and
cloth of gold and silver. Thus Shakspeare describes Imogen's chamber
in Cymbeline:

    "Her bed-chamber was hanged
    With tapestry of silk and silver."

We have remarked that Henry the Eighth's palaces were very splendid;
Elizabeth's were equally so, and more consistently finished in minor
conveniences, as it is particularly remarked that "easye quilted and
lyned formes and stools for the lords and ladyes to sit on" had
superseded the "great plank forms, that two yeomen can scant remove
out of their places, and waynscot stooles so hard, that since great
breeches were layd asyde men can skant indewr to sitt on." Her two
presence chambers at Hampton Court shone with tapestry of gold and
silver, and silk of various colours; her bed was covered with costly
coverlids of silk, wrought in various patterns, by the needle; and she
had many "chusions," moveable articles of furniture of various shapes,
answering to our large family of tabourets and ottomans, embroidered
with gold and silver thread.

But it was not merely in courts and palaces that arras was used; it
was now, of a coarser fabric, universally adopted in the houses of the
country gentry. "The wals of our houses on the inner sides be either
hanged with tapisterie, arras-work,[121] or painted cloths, wherein
either diverse histories, or hearbes, beasts, knots, and such like are
stained, or else they are seeled with oke of our owne, or wainescot
brought hither out of the east countries." The tapestry was now
suspended on frames, which, we may infer, were often at a considerable
distance from the walls, since the portly Sir John Falstaff ensconced
himself "behind the arras" on a memorable occasion; Polonius too met
his death there; and indeed Shakspeare presses it into the service on
numerous occasions.

The following quotation will give an accurate idea of properties
thought most valuable at this time; and it will be seen that
ornamental needlework cuts a very distinguished figure therein. It is
a catalogue of his wealth given by Gremio when suing for Bianca to her
father, who declares that the wealthiest lover will win her, in the
Taming of the Shrew.

    _Gremio._ "First, as you know, my house within the city
              Is richly furnished with plate and gold;
              Basons and ewers, to lave her dainty hands;
              My hangings all of Tyrian tapestry;
              In ivory coffers I have stuff'd my crowns;
              In cypres chests my _arras_, counterpoints,
              Costly apparel, tents, and canopies,
              Fine linen, _Turkey cushions boss'd with pearl,
              Valence of Venice gold, in needlework_,
              Pewter and brass, and all things that belong
              To house or house-keeping."

The age of Elizabeth was one which powerfully appeals to the
imagination in various ways. The æra of warlike chivalry was past; but
many of its lighter observances remained, and added to the variety of
life, and perhaps tended to polish it. We are told, for instance,
that as the Earl of Cumberland stood before Elizabeth she dropped her
glove; and on his picking it up graciously desired him to keep it. He
caused the trophy to be encircled with diamonds; and ever after, at
all tilts and tourneys, bore it conspicuously placed in front of his
high crowned hat. Jousting and tilting in honour of the ladies (by
whom prizes were awarded) continued still to be a favourite diversion.
There were annual contentions in the lists in honour of the sovereign,
and twenty-five persons of the first rank established a society of
arms for this purpose, of which the chivalric Sir Henry Lee was for
some time president.

The "romance of chivalry" was sinking to be succeeded by the heavier
tomes of Gomberville, Scudery, &c., but the extension of classical
knowledge, the vast strides in acquirement of various kinds, the utter
change, so to speak, in the system of literature, all contributed to
the downfall of the chivalric romance. Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia
introduced a rage for high-flown pastoral effusions; and now too was
re-born that taste for metaphorical effusion and spiritual romance,
which was first exhibited in the fourth century in the Bishop of
Tricca's romance of "Barlaam and Josaphat," and which now pervaded the
fast-rising puritan party, and was afterwards fully developed in that
unaccountably fascinating work, "The Pilgrim's Progress."
Nevertheless, as yet

                  "Courted and caress'd,
    High placed in hall, a welcome guest,"

the harper poured to lord and lady gay not indeed "his unpremeditated
lay," but a poetical abridgment (the precursor of a fast succeeding
race of romantic ballads) of the doughty deeds of renowned knights, so
amply expatiated upon in the time-honoured folios of the "olden time."
The wandering harper, if fallen somewhat from his "high estate," was
still a recognised and welcome guest; his "matter being for the most
part stories of old time, as the tale of Sir Topas, the reportes of
Bevis of Southampton, Guy of Warwicke, Adam Bell, and Clymme of the
Clough, and such other old romances or historical rhimes." Though the
character of the minstrel gradually lost respectability, yet for a
considerable part of Elizabeth's reign it was one so fully
acknowledged, that a peculiar garb was still attached to the office.

    "Mongst these, some bards there were that in their sacred rage
    Recorded the descents and acts of everie age.
    Some with their nimbler joynts that strooke the warbling string;
    In fingering some unskild, but onelie vsed to sing
    Vnto the other's harpe: of which you both might find
    Great plentie, and of both excelling in their kind."

The superstitions of various kinds, the omens, the warnings, the
charms, the "potent spells" of the wizard seer, which

    "Could hold in dreadful thrall the labouring moon,
    Or draw the fix'd stars from their eminence,
    And still the midnight tempest,"--

the supernatural agents, the goblins, the witches, the fairies, the
satyrs, the elves, the fauns, the "shapes that walk," the

        "Uncharnel'd spectres, seen to glide
    Along the lone wood's unfrequented path"--

the being and active existence of all these was considered "true as
holy writ" by our ancestors of the Elizabethan age. On this subject we
will transcribe a beautifully illustrative passage from Warton:--

"Every goblin of ignorance" (says he) "did not vanish at the first
glimmerings of the morning of science. Reason suffered a few demons
still to linger, which she chose to retain in her service under the
guidance of poetry. Men believed, or were willing to believe, that
spirits were yet hovering around, who brought with them _airs from
heaven, or blasts from hell_; that the ghost was duly relieved from
his prison of torment at the sound of the curfew, and that fairies
imprinted mysterious circles on the turf by moonlight. Much of this
credulity was even consecrated by the name of science and profound
speculation. Prospero had not yet _broken and buried his staff_, nor
_drowned his book deeper than did ever plummet sound_. It was now that
the alchemist and the judicial astrologer conducted his occult
operations by the potent intercourse of some preternatural being, who
came obsequious to his call, and was bound to accomplish his severest
services, under certain conditions, and for a limited duration of
time. It was actually one of the pretended feats of these fantastic
philosophers to evoke the queen of the fairies in the solitude of a
gloomy grove, who, preceded by a sudden rustling of the leaves,
appeared in robes of transcendant lustre. The Shakspeare of a more
instructed and polished age would not have given us a magician
darkening the sun at noon, the sabbath of the witches, and the
cauldron of incantation."

It were endless, and indeed out of place here, to attempt to specify
the numberless minor superstitions to which this credulous tendency of
the public mind gave birth or continuation; or the marvels of
travellers,--as the Anthropophagi, the Ethiops with four eyes, the
Hippopodes with their nether parts like horses, the Arimaspi with one
eye in the forehead, and the Monopoli who have no head at all, but a
face in their breast--which were all devoutly credited. One potent
charm, however, we are constrained to particularise, since its
infallibility was mainly dependent on the needlewoman's skill. It was
a waistcoat which rendered its owner invulnerable: we believe that if
duly prepared it would be found proof not only against "silver
bullets," but also against even the "charmed bullet" of German
notoriety. Thus runs the charm:--

"On Christmas daie at night, a thread must be sponne of flax, by a
little virgine girle, in the name of the divell; and it must be by hir
woven, and also _wrought with the needle_. In the brest or forepart
thereof must be made _with needleworke_ two heads; on the head at the
right side must be a hat and a long beard, and the left head must have
on a crowne, and it must be so horrible that it maie resemble
Belzebub; and on each side of the wastcote must be _wrought_ a

The newspaper, that now mighty political engine, that "thewe and
sinew" of the fourth estate of the realm, took its rise in Elizabeth's
day. How would her legislators have been overwhelmed with amazement
could they have beheld, in dim perspective, this child of the press,
scarcely less now the offspring of the imagination than those chimeras
of their own time to which we have been alluding; and would not the
wrinkled brow of the modern politician be unconsciously smoothened,
would not the careworn and profound diplomatist "gather up his face
into a smile before he was aware," if the FIRST NEWSPAPER were
suddenly placed before him? It is not indeed in existence, but was
published under the title of "_The English Mercurie_," in April, 1588,
on the first appearance near the shores of England of the Spanish
Armada, a crisis which caused this innovation on the usual public
news-letter circulated in manuscript. No. 50, dated July 23, 1588, is
the first now in existence; and as the publication only began in
April, it shows they must have been issued frequently. We have seen
this No. 50, which is preserved in the British Museum.[122]

In it are no advertisements--no fashions--no law reports--no court
circular--no fashionable arrivals--no fashionable intelligence--no
murders--no robberies--no reviews--no crim. cons.--no elopements--no
price of stocks--no mercantile intelligence--no police reports--no
"leaders,"--no literary memoranda--no poets' corner--no spring
meetings--no radical demonstrations--no conservative dinners--but


    "English Mercurie,

    "Published by AUTHORITIE,

    "For the Prevention of False Reportes,

    "_Whitehall, July 23, 1588._"

Contains three pages and a half, small quarto, of matter of fact

Two pages respecting the Armada then seen "neare the Lizard, making
for the entrance of the Channell," and appearing on the surface of the
water "like floating castles."

A page of news from Ostend, where "nothing was talked of but the
intended invasion of England. His Highnesse the Prince of Parma having
compleated his preparationes, of which the subjoined Accounte might be
depended upon as _exacte and authentique_."

Something to say--for a newspaper.

And a few lines dated "London, July 13, of the lord mayor, aldermen,
common councilmen, and lieutenancie of this great citie" waiting on
Her Majesty with assurances of support, and receiving a gracious
reception from her.

Such was the newspaper of 1588.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great events of Elizabeth's reign, in war, in politics, in
legislation, belong to the historian; the great march of mind, the
connecting link which that age formed between the darkness of the
preceding ones (for during the period of the wars of the Roses all
sorts of art and science retrograded), and the high cultivation of
later days, it is the province of the metaphysician and philosopher to
analyse; and even the lighter characteristics of the time have become
so familiar through the medium of many modern and valuable works, that
we have ventured only to touch very superficially on some few of the
more prominent of them.


[120] Harrison.

[121] From this separate mention of _tapisterie_ and _arras-work_ by
so accurate a describer as Harrison, it would seem that tapestry of
the needle alone was not, even yet, quite exploded.

[122] Sloane MSS. No. 4106.



    "He did blow with his wind, and they were scattered."

                        'Inscription on the Medal.'

The year 1588 had been foretold by astrologers to be a wonderful year,
the "climacterical year of the world;" and the public mind of England
was at that period sufficiently credulous and superstitious to be
affected with vague presentiments, even if the preparation of an
hostile armada so powerful as to be termed "invincible," had not
seemed to engraft on these vague surmises too real and fearful a
groundwork of truth.

The preparations of Philip II. in Spain, combined with those of the
Duke of Parma in the Low Countries, and furthered by the valued and
effective benediction of the shaken and tottering, but still
influential and powerful head of the Roman church, had produced a
hostile array which, with but too much probability of success,
threatened the conquest of England, and its subjugation to the papal
yoke. Not since the Norman Conquest had any event occurred which, if
successful, would be fraught with results so harassing and distressing
to the established inhabitants of the island. Though the Norman
Conquest had, undoubtedly, _in the course of time_, produced a
beneficial and civilising and ennobling influence on the island, it
was long and bitter years ere the groans of the subjugated and
oppressed Anglo-Saxons had merged in the contented peacefulness of a
united people.

Yet William was certainly of a severe temper, and was incited by the
unquenchable opposition of the English to a cruel and exterminating
policy. Philip of Spain seemed not to promise milder measures. He was
a bigot, and moreover hated the English with an utter hatred. During
his union with Mary he had utterly failed to gain their good will, and
his hatred to them increased in an exact ratio to the failure of his
desired influence with them. Neither time, nor trouble, nor care, nor
expense, was spared in this his decided invasion; and it is said that
from Italy, Sicily, and even America, were drafted the most
experienced captains and soldiers to aid his cause. Well, then, might
England look with anxiety, and even with terror, to this threatened
and fast approaching event.

But her energies were fully equal to the emergency. Elizabeth, now in
the full plenitude of her power, was at the acme of her influence over
the wills, and in a great degree over the affections of her subjects,
at least over by far the greater portion of them; one factious and
discontented party there was, but too insufficient to be any effectual
barrier to her designs. And the cause was a popular one: Protestants
and Romanists joined in deprecating a foreign yoke. Her powerful and
commanding energies did not forsake her. Her appeal to her subjects
was replied to with heart-thrilling readiness, the city of London
setting a noble example; for when ministers desired from it five
thousand men and fifteen ships, the lord mayor, in behalf of the city,
craved their sovereign to accept of ten thousand soldiers and thirty

This spirited precedent was followed all through the empire, all
classes vied with each other in contributing their utmost quota of
aid, by means and by personal service, and amongst many similar
instances it is recorded of "that noble, vertuous, honourable man, the
Viscount Montague, that he now came, though he was very sickly, and in
age, with a full resolution to live and dye in defence of the queene,
and of his countrie, against all invaders, whether it were pope, king,
and potentate whatsoever, and in that quarrell he would hazard his
life, his children, his landes and goods. And to shew his mynde
agreeably thereto, he came personally himselfe before the queene, with
his band of horsemen, being almost two hundred; the same being led by
his owne sonnes, and with them a yong child, very comely, seated on
horseback, being the heire of his house, that is, ye eldest sonne to
his sonne and heire; a matter much noted of many, to see a
grandfather, father, and sonne, at one time on horsebacks afore a
queene for her service."

For three years had Philip been preparing, in all parts of his
dominions, for this overwhelming expedition, and his equipments were
fully equal to his extensive preparations; and so popular was the
project in Spain, and so ardent were its votaries, that there was not
a family of any note which had not contributed some of its dearest and
nearest members; there were also one hundred and eighty Capuchins,
Dominicans, Jesuits, and Mendicant friars; and so great was the
enthusiastic anticipation, that even females hired vessels to follow
the fleet which contained those they loved; two or three of these were
driven by the storm on the coast of France.

This Armada consisted of about one hundred and fifty ships, most of
which were of an uncommon size, strength, and thickness, more like
floating castles than anything else; and to this unwieldy size may,
probably, be attributed much of their discomfiture. For the greater
holiness of their action, twelve were called the Twelve Apostles; and
a pinnace of the Andalusian squadron, commanded by Don Pedro de
Valdez, was called the "Holy Ghost." The fleet is said to have
contained thirty-two thousand persons, and to have cost every day
thirty thousand ducats.

The Duke of Parma's contemporary preparations were also prodigious,
and of a nature which plainly declared the full certainty and
confidence in which the invaders indulged of making good their object.
But the preparations were doomed not to be even tried. The finesse and
manoeuvres of the shrewd Sir Francis Walsingham[123] had caused the
invasion to be retarded for a whole year, and by this time England
was fully prepared for her foes. The result is known. The hollow
treaty of peace into which Parma had entered in order, when all
preparations were completed, to take her by surprise, was entered into
with an equal share of hypocritical policy by Elizabeth. "So (says an
old historian) as they seemed on both sides to sew the foxe's skin to
the lion's."

So powerful was the effect on the public mind, not only of this
projected enterprise, but of its almost unhoped for discomfiture, that
all possible means were taken to commemorate the event. One method
resorted to was the manufacture of tapestry representing a series of
subjects connected with it. At that time Flanders excelled all others
in the manufacture of tapestry, it was scarcely indeed introduced into
England; and our ancestors had a series of ten charts, designed by
Henry Cornelius Vroom, a celebrated painter of Haarlem, from which
their Flemish neighbours worked beautiful draperies, which ornamented
the walls of the House of Lords.

At the time of the Union with Ireland, when considerable repairs and
alterations were made here, these magnificent tapestries were taken
down, cleaned, and replaced, with the addition of large frames of dark
stained wood, which set off the work and colouring to advantage. They
formed a series of ten pictures, round which portraits of the
distinguished officers who commanded the fleet were wrought into a

With a prescience, which might now almost seem prophetic, Mr. John
Pine, engraver, published in 1739 a series of plates taken from these
tapestries; and "because," says he, "time, or accident, or moths may
deface these valuable shadows, we have endeavoured to preserve their
likeness in the preceding prints, which, by being multiplied and
dispersed in various hands, may meet with that security from the
closets of the curious, which the originals must scarce always hope
for, even from the sanctity of the place they are kept in."

"On the 17th day of July, 1588, the English discovered the Spanish
fleet with lofty turrets like castles, in front like a half moon, the
wing thereof spreading out about the length of seven miles, sailing
very slowly, though with full sails, the winds being as it were tired
with carrying them, and the ocean groaning under the weight of them."

This forms the subject of the first tableau. The English commanders
suffered the Spaniards to pass them unmolested, in order that they
might hang upon their rear, and harass them when they should be
involved in the Channel; for the English navy were unable to confront
such a power in direct and close action. The second piece represents
them thus, near Fowey, the English coast displayed in the back-ground,
diversified perhaps somewhat too elaborately into hill and dale, and
the foliage scattered somewhat too regularly in lines over each hill,
but very pretty nevertheless. A small village with its church and
spire appears just at the water edge, Eddystone lighthouse lifts its
head above the waters, and, fit emblem of the patriotism which now
burned throughout the land, and even glowed on the waters, a huge sea
monster uprears itself in threatening attitude against the invading
host, and shows a countenance hideous enough to scare any but
Spaniards from its native shores.

No. 3 represents the first engagement between the hostile fleets, and
also the subsequent sailing of the Spanish Armada up the channel,
closely followed by the English, whose ships were so much lighter,
that in a running warfare of this kind they had greatly the advantage.
The sea is alive too with dolphins and other strange fish, with right
British hearts, as it has been said that "they seemed to oppose
themselves with fierce and grim looks to the progress of the Spanish
fleet." The view of the coast here is very good; and, where it retires
from Start Point so as to form a bay or harbour, the perspective is
really admirably indicated by two vessels dimly defined in the

The views of the coast are varied and interesting; and the distances
and perspective views are much more accurately delineated than was
usual at the time; but, as we have remarked, they were designed by an
eminent painter, and one whose particular _forte_ was the delineation
of shipping and naval scenes.

The pictures are certainly as a series devoid of variety. In two of
them the Calais shore is introduced; and the intermixture of
fortifications, churches, houses, and animated spectators, eagerly
crowding to behold the fleets sailing by, produces an enlivening and
busy scene, which, set off by the varied, lively, and appropriate
colouring of the tapestry, would have a most striking effect. But the
man who, unmoved by the excitement about him, is calmly fishing under
the walls, without even turning his head toward the scene of tumult,
must be blessed with an apathy of disposition which the poor enraged
dolphins and porpoises might have envied.

With these exceptions the tapestries are all sea pieces with only a
distant view of the coast, and portray the two fleets in different
stages of their progress, sometimes with engagements between single
ships, but generally in an apparent state of truce, the English always
the pursuers, and the Spaniards generally drawn up in form of a
crescent. The last however shows the invading fleet hurriedly and in
disorder sailing away, when bad weather, the Duke of Parma's delay,
and a close engagement of fourteen hours, in which they "suffered
grievously," having "had to endure all the heavy cannonading of their
triumphant opponents, while they were struggling to get clear of the
shallows," convinced them of the impossibility of a successful close
to their enterprise, and made them resolve to take advantage of a
southern breeze to make their passage up the North sea, and round
Scotland home.

    "He that fights and runs away,
    May live to fight another day."

So, however, did _not_ the Spaniards. "About these north islands their
mariners and soldiers died daily by multitudes, as by their bodies
cast on land did appear. The Almighty ordered the winds to be so
contrary to this proud navy, that it was, by force, dissevered on the
high seas west upon Ireland; and so great a number of them driven into
sundry dangerous bays, and upon rocks, and there cast away; some
sunk, some broken, some on the sands, and some burnt by the Spaniards

Misfortune clung to them; storm and tempest on the sea, and
inhospitable and cruel treatment when they were forced on shore so
reduced them, that of this magnificent Armada only sixty shattered
vessels found their home; and their humbled commander, the Duke de
Medina Sidonia, was led to understand that his presence was not
desired at court, and that a private country residence would be the
most suitable.

It was on this occasion, when the instant danger was past but by no
means entirely done away, as for some time it was supposed that the
Armada, after recruiting in some northern station, would return, that
Elizabeth with a general's truncheon in her hand rode through the
ranks of her army at Tilbury, and addressed them in a style which
caused them to break out into deafening and tumultuous shouts and
cries of love, and honour, and obedience to death. Thus magnificently
the English heroine spoke:

"My loving People,--We have been persuaded by some that are careful of
our safety to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed Multitudes;
but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and
loving People. Let Tyrants fear; I have always so behaved myself that,
under GOD, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the
loyal Hearts and Goodwill of my Subjects; and therefore I am come
amongst you, as you see at this time, not for my Recreation and
Disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the Battle, to
live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my GOD, and for my
kingdom, and for my People, my Honour, and my Blood, even in the dust.
I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble Woman, but I have the
Heart and Stomach of a King, and of a King of England too; and think
foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any Prince of Europe should dare to
invade the Borders of my Realm; to which, rather than any Dishonour
shall grow by me, I myself will take up Arms, I myself will be your
General, Judge, and Rewarder of every one of your Virtues in the
Field; I know already, for your forwardness, you have deserved Rewards
and Crowns; and we do assure you, in the word of a Prince, they shall
be duly paid you. In the mean time my Lieutenant-general shall be in
my stead, than whom never Prince commanded a more noble or worthy
subject; not doubting but, by your obedience to my General, by your
Concord in the camp, and your Valour in the Field, we shall shortly
have a famous victory over those Enemies of my GOD, of my Kingdoms,
and of my People."

The tapestry, the magnificent memorial of this great event, was lost
irreparably in the devastating fire of 1834. Some fragments, it is
said, were preserved, but we have not been able to ascertain this
fact. One portion still exists at Plymouth, though shorn of its
pristine brilliancy, as some of the silver threads were drawn out by
the economists of the time of the Commonwealth. This piece was cut out
to make way for a gallery at the time of the trial of Queen Caroline,
was secreted by a German servant of the Lord Chamberlain, and sold by
him to a broker who offered it to Government for 500_l._

Some inquiry was made into the circumstances, which, however, do not
seem to have excited very great interest, since the relic was
ultimately bought by the Bishop of Landaff (Van Mildert) for 20_l._ By
him it was presented to the corporation of Plymouth, who still possess


[123] He contrived, by means of a Venetian priest, his spy, to obtain
a copy of a letter from Philip to the Pope; a gentleman of the
bedchamber taking the keys of the cabinet from the pockets of his
holiness as he slept. Upon intelligence thus obtained, Walsingham got
those Spanish bills protested at Genoa which should have supplied
money for the preparations.



    "Here have I cause in men just blame to find,
      That in their proper praise too partial bee,
    And not indifferent to womankind,

         *   *   *   *   *

      Scarse do they spare to one, or two, or three,
    Rowme in their writtes; yet the same writing small
    Does all their deedes deface, and dims their glories all."

                        Faerie Queene.

    "Christine, whiche understode these thynges of Dame
    Reason, replyed upon that in this manere. Madame Ise wel
    {that} ye myght fynde ynowe & of grete nombre of women
    praysed in scyences and in crafte; but knowe ye ony that
    by {the} vertue of their felynge & of subtylte of wytte
    _haue founde of themselfe_ ony newe craftes and scyences
    necessary, good, & couenable that were neuer founde
    before nor knowne? for it is not so grete maystry to
    folowe and to lerne after ony other scyence founde and
    comune before, as it is to fynde of theymselfe some newe
    thynge not accustomed before.

    "_Answere._--Ne doubte ye not {the} contrary my dere
    frende but many craftes and scyences ryght notable hathe
    ben founde by the wytte and subtylte of women, as moche
    by speculacyon of understandynge, the whiche sheweth
    them by wrytynge, as in craftes, {that} sheweth theym
    _in werkynge of handes_ & of laboure."

                        _The Boke of the Cyte of Ladyes._

Again we must lament that the paucity of historical record lays us
under the necessity of concluding, by inference, what we would fain
have displayed by direct testimony. The respectable authority quoted
above affirms that "many craftes and scyences ryght notable hathe ben
founde by the wytte and subtylte of women," and it specifies
particularly "werkynge of handes," by which we suppose the "talented"
author means needlework. That the necessity for this pretty art was
first created by woman, no one, we think, will disallow; and that it
was first practised, as it has been subsequently perfected, by her, is
a fact of which we feel the most perfect conviction.

This conviction has been forced upon us by a train of reasoning which
will so readily suggest itself to the mind of all our readers, that we
content ourselves with naming the result, assured that it is
unnecessary to trouble them with the intervening steps. One only link
in the chain of "circumstantial evidence" will we adduce, and that is
afforded by the ancient engraving to which we have before alluded in
our remarks upon Eve's needle and thread. There whilst our "general
mother" is stitching away at the fig-leaves in the most edifying
manner possible, our "first father," far from trying to "put in a
stitch for himself," is gazing upon her in the most utter amazement.
And while she plies her busy task as if she had been born to
stitchery, his eyes, _not_ his fingers,

    "Follow the nimble fingers of the fair,"

with every indication of superlative wonder and admiration.

In fact, it is no slight argument in favour of the original invention
of sewing by women, that men very rarely have wit enough to learn it,
even when invented. There has been no lack of endeavour, even amongst
the world's greatest and mightiest, but poor "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,
    And where she bid me go, I go.
    And where she likes to call, I come,
    I serve, I bow, I look, I lowte,
    My eye followeth her about.
    What so she will, so will I,
    When she would set, I kneel by.
    And when she stands, then will I stand,
    _And when she taketh her work in hand_,
    Of _wevyng or of embroidrie_.
    Then can I _only_ muse and prie,
    Upon her fingers long and small."

Our modern Hercules, the Leviathan of literature, was not more

_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

_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
knotting 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

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--
ferne--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 +nous+, 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 have
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,
    Since first our sky was overcast,
    Ah, would that this might be the last!
                                    My Mary!

    "Thy spirits have a fainter flow,
    I see thee daily weaker grow,
    'Twas my distress that brought thee low,
                                    My Mary!

    "Thy needles, once a shining store,
    For my sake restless heretofore,
    Now rust disused and shine no more,
                                    My Mary!

    "For though thou gladly would'st fulfil
    The same kind office for me still,
    Thy sight now seconds not thy will,
                                    My Mary!

    "But well thou play'dst the housewife's part,
    And all thy threads with magic art,
    Have wound themselves about this heart,
                                    My Mary!"

An interesting circumstance connected with needlework is mentioned in
the delightful memoir written by lady Murray, of her mother, the
excellent and admirable Lady Grisell Baillie. The allusion itself is
very slight, merely to the making of a frill or a collar; but the
circumstances connected with it are deeply interesting, and place
before us a vivid picture of the deprivations of a family of rank and
consequence in "troublous times," and moreover offer us a portrait
from _real life_ of true feminine excellence, of a young creature of
rank and family, of cultivated and refined tastes and of high
connexions, utterly forgetting all these in the cheerful and
conscientious discharge, for years, of the most arduous and humble
duties, and even of menial and revolting offices. It may be that my
readers all are not so well acquainted with this little book as
ourselves, and, if so, they will not consider the following extract
too long.

"They lived three years and a half in Holland, and in that time she
made a second voyage to Scotland about business. Her father went by
the borrowed name of Dr. Wallace, and did not stir out for fear of
being discovered, though who he was, was no secret to the wellwishers
of the revolution. Their great desire was to have a good house, as
their greatest comfort was at home; and all the people of the same way
of thinking, of which there were great numbers, were continually with
them. They paid for their house what was very extravagant for their
income, nearly a fourth part; they could not afford keeping any
servant, but a little girl to wash the dishes.

"All the time they were there, there was not a week that my mother did
not sit up two nights, to do the business that was necessary. She went
to market, went to the mill to have the corn ground, which it seems is
the way with good managers there, dressed the linen, cleaned the
house, made ready the dinner, mended the children's stockings and
other clothes, made what she could for them, and, in short, did

"Her sister, Christian, who was a year or two younger, diverted her
father and mother and the rest who were fond of music. Out of their
small income they bought a harpsichord for little money, but is a
_Rucar_ now in my custody, and most valuable. My aunt played and sang
well, and had a great deal of life and humour, but no turn to
business. Though my mother had the same qualifications, and liked it
as well as she did, she was forced to drudge; and many jokes used to
pass betwixt the sisters about their different occupations. Every
morning before six my mother lighted her father's fire in his study,
then waked him (she was ever a good sleeper, which blessing, among
many others, she inherited from him); then got him, what he usually
took as soon as he got up, warm small beer with a spoonful of bitters
in it, which he continued his whole life, and of which I have the

"Then she took up the children and brought them all to his room, where
he taught them everything that was fit for their age; some Latin,
others French, Dutch, geography, writing, reading, English, &c.; and
my grandmother taught them what was necessary on her part. Thus he
employed and diverted himself all the time he was there, not being
able to afford putting them to school; and my mother, when she had a
moment's time, took a lesson with the rest in French and Dutch, and
also diverted herself with music. I have now a book of songs of her
writing when there; many of them interrupted, half-writ, some broke
off in the middle of a sentence. She had no less a turn for mirth and
society than any of the family, when she could come at it without
neglecting what she thought more necessary.

"Her eldest brother, Patrick, who was nearest her age, and bred up
together, was her most dearly beloved. My father was there, forfeited
and exiled, in the same situation with themselves. She had seen him
for the first time in the prison with his father, not long before he
suffered;[124] and from that time their hearts were engaged. Her
brother and my father were soon got in to ride in the Prince of
Orange's Guards, till they were better provided for in the army, which
they were before the Revolution. They took their turn in standing
sentry at the Prince's gate, but always contrived to do it together,
and the strict friendship and intimacy that then began, continued to
the last.

"Though their station was then low, they kept up their spirits; the
prince often dined in public, then all were admitted to see him: when
any pretty girl wanted to go in they set their halberts across the
door and would not let her pass till she gave each of them a kiss,
which made them think and call them very pert soldiers. I could relate
many stories on this subject; my mother could talk for hours and never
tire of it, always saying it was the happiest part of her life. Her
_constant attention was to have her brother appear right in his linen
and dress_; they wore little point cravats and cuffs, which many a
night she sat up to have in as good order for him as any in the place;
and one of their greatest expenses was in dressing him as he ought to

"As their house was always full of the unfortunate people banished
like themselves, they seldom went to dinner without three, four, or
five of them to share it with them; and many a hundred times I have
heard her say she could never look back upon their manner of living
there without thinking it a miracle. They had no want, but plenty of
everything they desired, and much contentment, and always declared it
the most pleasing part of her life, though they were not without their
little distresses; but to them they were rather jokes than grievances.
The professors and men of learning in the place came often to see my
grandfather; the best entertainment he could give them was a glass of
alabast beer, which was a better kind of ale than common. He sent his
son Andrew, the late Lord Kimmerghame, a boy, to draw some for them
in the cellar, and he brought it up with great diligence, but in the
other hand the spigot of the barrel. My grandfather said, 'Andrew!
what is that in your hand?' When he saw it he ran down with speed, but
the beer was all run out before he got there. This occasioned much
mirth, though perhaps they did not well know where to get more.

"It is the custom there to gather money for the poor from house to
house, with a bell to warn people to give it. One night the bell came,
and no money was there in the house but a orkey, which is a doit, the
smallest of all coin; everybody was so ashamed no one would go to give
it, it was so little, and put it from one to the other: at last my
grandfather said, 'Well, then, I'll go with it; we can do no more than
give all we have.' They were often reduced to this by the delay of the
ships coming from Scotland with their small remittances; then they put
the little plate they had (all of which they carried with them) in the
lumber, which is pawning it, till the ships came: and that very plate
they brought with them again to Scotland, and left no debt behind

This is a long but not an uninteresting digression, and we were led to
it from the recollection that Lady Grisell Baillie, when encompassed
with heavy cares, not only sat up a night or two every week, but felt
a satisfaction, a pleasure, in doing so, to execute the needlework
required by her family. And when sewing with a view to the comfort and
satisfaction of others, the needlewoman--insignificant as the details
of her employment may appear--has much internal satisfaction; she has
a definite vocation, an important function.

Nor few nor insignificant are her handmaidens, one or other of whom is
ever at her side, inspiriting her to her task. Her most constant
attendant is a matron of stayed and sober appearance, called UTILITY.
The needlewoman's productions are found to vary greatly, and this
variation is ascribed with truth to the influencing suggestions of the
attendant for the time being.

Thus, for instance, when Utility is her companion all her labours are
found to result in articles of which the material is unpretending, and
the form simple; for however she may be led wandering by the vagaries
of her other co-mates, it is always found that in moments of steady
reflection she listens with the most implicit deference to the
intimations of this her experienced and most respectable friend.

But occasionally, indeed frequently, Utility brings with her a fair
and interesting relative, called TASTE; a gentle being, of modest and
retiring mien, of most unassuming deportment, but of exquisite grace;
and it is even observed that the needlewoman is more happy in her
labours, and more universally approved when accompanied by these two
friends, than by any other of the more eccentric ones who occasionally
take upon themselves to direct her steps.

Of these latter, FASHION is one of her most frequent visitors, and it
is very often found that as she approaches Utility and Taste retire.
This is not, however, invariably the case. Sometimes the three agree
cordially together, and their united suffrages and support enhance
the fame of the needlewoman to the very highest pitch; but this happy
cordiality is of infrequent occurrence, and usually of short duration.
Fashion is fickle, varying, inconstant; given to sudden partialities
and to disruptions unlooked for, and as sudden. She laughs to scorn
Utility's grave maxims, and exaggerates the graceful suggestions of
Taste until they appear complete caricatures. Consequently they,
offended, retire; and Fashion, heedless, holds on her own course,
keeping the needlewoman in complete subjection to her arbitrary rule,
which is often enforced in her transient absence by her own peculiar
friend and intimate--CAPRICE. This fantastic being has the greatest
influence over Fashion, who having no staple character of her own, is
easily led every way at the beck of this whimsical and absurd
dictator. The productions which emanate from the hands of the
needlewoman under their guidance are much sought for, much looked at,
but soon fall into utter contempt.

But there is another handmaiden created for the delight and solace of
mankind in general, and who from the earliest days, even until now,
has been the loving friend of the needlewoman; ever whispering
suggestions in her ear, or tracing patterns on her work, or gently
guiding her finger through the fantastic maze. She is of the most
exquisite beauty: fragile in form as the gossamer that floats on a
summer's breath--brilliant in appearance as the colours that illumine
the rainbow. So light, that she floats on an atom; so powerful that
she raises empires, nay, the whole earth by her might. Her habits are
the most vagrant imaginable; she is indeed the veriest little gossip
in creation, but her disposition to roam is not more boundless than
her power to gratify it.

One instant she is in the depths of the ocean, loitering upon coral
beds; the next above the stars, revelling in the immensity of space;
one moment she tracks a comet in his course, the next hobnobs with the
sea-king, or foots a measure with mermaids. A most skilful architect,
she will build palaces on the clouds radiant with splendour and
beautiful as herself; then, demolishing them with a breath, she flies
to some moss-grown ruin of the earth, where a glimpse of her
countenance drives away the bat and the owl; the wallflower, the moss,
and the ivy, are displaced by the rose, the lily, and the myrtle; the
damp building is clothed in freshness and splendour, the lofty halls
resound with the melody of the lute and the harp, and the whole scene
is vivid with light and life, with brilliancy and beauty. Again, in an
instant, all is mute, and dim, and desolate, and the versatile
sorceress is hunting the otter with an Esquimaux; or, pillowed on
roses whose fragrance is wafted by softest zephyrs around, she listens
to the strain which the Bulbul pours; or, wrapped in deepest maze of
philosophic thought, she "treads the long extent of backward time," by
the gigantic sepulchres of Egyptian kings; or else she flies "from the
tempest-rocked Hebrides or the icebound Northern Ocean--from the red
man's wilderness of the west--from the steppes of Central Asia--from
the teeming swamps of the Amazon--from the sirocco deserts of
Africa--from the tufted islands of the Pacific--from the heaving
flanks of Ætna--or from the marbled shores of Greece;"--and draws the
whole circle of her enchantments round the needlewoman's fingers,
within the walls of an humble English cottage.

But it were equally unnecessary and useless to dilate on her fairy
wanderings. Suffice it to say that so great is the beneficent
liberality of this fascinating being, that every corner of her rich
domain is open to the highest or lowest of mortals without reserve;
and so lovely is she herself, and so bewitching is her company, that
few, few indeed, are they who do not cherish her as a bosom friend and
as the dearest of companions.

Bearing, however, her vagrant characteristics in mind, we shall not be
surprised at the peculiar ideas some people entertain of her haunts,
nor at the strange places in which they search for her person. One
would hardly believe that hundreds of thousands have sought her
through the smoke, din, and turmoil of those lines "where all
antipathies to comfort dwell,"--the railroads; while others, more
adventurous, plough the ocean deep, scale the mighty mountains, or
soar amid the clouds for her; or, strange to say, have sought her in
the battle field 'mid scenes of bloody death. Like Hotspur, such would
pluck her--

    "From the pale-faced moon;"

or would

    "Dive into the bottom of the deep,
    Where fathom-line could never touch the ground"

for her.

But she is a lady before whom strength and pride fall nerveless and
abased; her gracious smiles are to be wooed, not commanded; her bright
presence may be won, not forced;

    "For spotless, and holy, and gentle, and bright,
    She glides o'er the earth like an angel of light."

Possessing all the gentleness of her mother--_Taste_, she shrinks from
everything rude or abrupt; and when, as has frequently been the case,
persons have attempted to lay violent hands upon her, she has invariably
eluded their vigilance, by leaving in her place, tricked out in her
superabundant ornaments to blind them, her half-brother--_Whim_, who
sprang from the same father--_Wit_, but by another mother--_Humour_. She
herself, wanderer as she is, is not without her favourite haunts, in
which she lingers as if even loath to quit them at all.

Finally, wherever yet the _accomplished_ needlewoman has been found,
in the Jewish tabernacle of old--in the Grecian dome where the "Tale
of Troy divine" glowed on the canvass--or in the bower of the
high-born beauty of the "bright days of the sword and the lance"--in
the cell of the pale recluse--or in the turretted prison of the royal
captive--there has FANCY been her devoted friend, her inseparable


[124] She was then a mere child, not more, if I remember rightly, than
twelve years old.



    "There is a sanctity in the past."


All monuments of antiquity are so speedily passing away, all traces of
those bygone generations on which the mind loves to linger, and which
in their dim and indistinct memories exercise a spell, a holy often,
and a purifying spell on the imagination are so fleeting, and when
_irrevocably_ gone will be so lamented--that all testimonies which
throw certain light on the habits and manners of the past, how slight
soever the testimonies they afford, how trivial soever the
characteristics they display, are of the highest possible value to an
enlightened people, who apply the experience of the past to its
legitimate and noblest use, the guidance and improvement of the

In this point of view the work which forms the subject of this
chapter[125] assumes a value which its intrinsic worth--beautiful as
is its execution--would not impart to it; and it is thus rendered not
less valuable as an historical record, than it is attractive as a work
of taste.

"Là chez eux, (we quote from the preface to the work itself,) c'est un
siège ou un tournoi; ici un festin, plus loin une chasse; et toujours,
chasse, festin, tournoi, siège, tout cela est _pourtraict au vif_,
comme aurait dit Montaigne, tout cela nous retrace au naturel la vie
de nos pères, nous montre leurs châteaux, leurs églises, leurs
costumes, leurs armes et même, grâce aux légendes explicatives, leur
langage à diverses époques. Il y a mieux. Si nous nous en rapportons à
l'inventaire de Charles V., exécuté en 1379, toute la littérature
française des siècles féconds qui précédèrent celui de ce sage
monarque, aurait été par ces ordres traduite en laine."

This book consists of representations of all the existing ancient
tapestries which activity and research can draw from the hiding-places
of ages, copied in the finest outline engraving, with letter-press
descriptions of each plate. They are published in numbers, and in a
style worthy of the object. We do not despair of seeing this spirited
example followed in our own country, where many a beautiful specimen
of ancient tapestry, still capable of renovation by care--is
mouldering unthought of in the lumber-rooms of our ancient mansions.

We have seen twenty-one numbers of this work, with which we shall deal
freely: excepting, however, the eight parts which are entirely
occupied by the Bayeux Tapestry. Our own chapters on the subject were
written before we were fortunate enough to obtain a sight of these,
which include the whole of the correspondence on the tapestry to
which we in our sketch alluded.

LA TAPISSERIE DE NANCY.--"aurait une illustre origine, et remonterait
à une assez haute antiquité. Prise dans la tente de Charles le
Téméraire, lors de la mort de ce prince, en 1477, devant la capitale
de la Lorraine, qu'il assiégeait, elle serait devenue un meuble de la
couronne, et aurait servi au palais des ducs de ce pays, depuis René 2
jusqu'à Charles IV.----C'est une de ces anciennes tapisseries
flamandes dont le tissu, de laine tres fine, est éclairé par l'or et
la soie. La soie et la laine subsistent encore, mais l'or ne
s'aperçoit plus que dans quelques endroits et à la faveur d'un beau
soleil. Nous ferons remarquer que le costume des divers personnages
que figurent dans notre monument est tout à fait caractéristique. Ce
sont bien là les vêtements et les ornements en usage vers la moitié du
quinzième siècle, et la disposition artistique, le choix du sujet,
ainsi que l'exécution elle-même portent bien l'empreinte du style des
oeuvres de 1450 environ.----La maison de Bourgogne était fort riche
en joyaux, en vaisselle d'or ou d'argent et en _tapis_."

The tapestry presents an allegorical history, of which the object is
to depict the inconveniences consequent on what is called "good
cheer." Later on this formed the subject of "a morality." Originally
this tapestry was only one vast page, the requisite divisions being
wrought in the form of ornamented columns. It was afterwards cut in
pieces, and unfortunately the natural divisions of the subject were
not attended to in the severment. More unhappily still the pieces have
since been rejoined in a wrong order; and after every possible
endeavour to read them aright, the publishers are indebted to the
"Morality" before referred to, which was taken from it, and was
entitled "La Nef de Santé, avec le gouvernail du corps humain, et la
condamnaçion des bancquetz, a la louenge de Diepte et Sobriéte, et la
Traictie des Passions de l'ame."

Banquet, Bonnecompagnie, Souper, Gourmandise, Friandise, Passetemps,
Je pleige d'autant, Je boy à vous, and other rare personifications,
not forgetting that indispensable guest _then_ in all courtly pastime,
Le fol, "go it" to their hearts' content, until they are interrupted
_vi et armis_ by a ghastly phalanx in powerful array of Apoplexie,
Ydropsie, Epilencie, Pleurisie, Esquinancie, Paralasie, Gravelle,
Colicque, &c.

TAPISSERIE DE DIJON.--"On conviendra qu'il serait difficile de trouver
un monument de ce genre plus fidèle sur le rapport historique, plus
intéressant pour les arts, et plus digne d'être reproduit par la
gravure. Je ferai en outre remarquer combien cet immense tableau de
laine, qui est unique, renferme de détails précieux à la fois pour la
panoplie, pour les costumes, et l'architecture du commencement du 16
siècle, ainsi que pour l'histoire monumentale de Dijon."

This tapestry, judging by the engravings in the work we quote, must be
very beautiful. The groups are spirited and well disposed; and the
countenances have so much _nature_ and expression in them, as to lead
us readily to credit the opinion of the writer that they were
portraits. The buildings are well outlined; and in the third piece an
excellent effect is produced by exposing--by means of an open window,
or some simple contrivance of the sort--part of the interior of the
church of Nôtre Dame, and so displaying the brave leader of the French
army, La Tremouille, as he offers thanks before the shrine of the

The tapestry was worked immediately after the siege of Dijon, (1513)
and represents in three scenes the most important circumstances
relating to it; the costumes, the arms, and the architecture of the
time being displayed with fidelity and exactitude. The first
represents the invading army before the walls; the second a solemn
procession in honour of Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Espoir. In the midst is
elevated the image of the Virgin, which is surrounded by the clergy in
their festal vestments, by the religious communities, by the nobility,
the bourgeois, and the military, all bearing torches.

To this solemn procession was attributed the truce which led to a more
lasting peace, though there are some heterodox dissentients who
attribute this substantial advantage to the wisdom and policy of the
able commander La Tremouille, who shared with Bayard the honourable
distinction of being "sans peur et sans reproche."

TAPISSERIES DE BAYARD.--A château which belonged to this noted hero
was despoiled at the Revolution, and it was doubtless only owing to an
idea of its worthlessness that some of the ancient tapestry was left
there. These fragments, in a deplorable state, were purchased in 1807,
and there are yet sufficient of them to bear testimony to their former
magnificence, and to decide the date of their creation at the close
of the fourteenth or beginning of the fifteenth century. The subjects
are taken from Homer's "Iliad," and "il est probable (says M. Jubinal)
que ce poëme se trouvait originairement reproduit en laine presque
tout entier, malgré sa longueur, car ce n'était pas le travail qui
effrayait nos aïeux."

Valenciennes was celebrated for the peculiar fineness and gloss of its
tapestry. By the indefatigable industry of certain antiquarians, some
pieces in good preservation representing a tournament, have lately
been taken from a garret, dismantled of their triple panoply of dust,
cleaned and hung up; after being traced from their original abode in
the state apartments of a prince through various gradations, to the
damp walls of a registry office, where, from their apparent fragility
alone, they escaped being cut into floor mats.

also named here; but there is little to say about them, as the
subjects are more imaginary than historical. They are of the sixteenth
century, representing scenes of the chase, and are enlivened with
birds in every position, some of them being, in proportion to other
figures, certainly _larger_ than life, and "twice as natural."

TAPISSERIES DE LA CHAISE DIEU.--"L'Abbaye de la Chaise Dieu fut fondée
en 1046 par Robert qu'Alexandre 2de canonisa plus tard en 1070; et
dont l'origine se rattachait à la famille des comtes de Poitou.

"Robert fut destiné de bonne heure aux fonctions du sacerdoce." He
went on pilgrimage to the tombs of some of the Apostles, and it was on
his return thence that he was first struck with the idea of founding a
coenobitical establishment.

"Réuni à un soldat nommé Etienne, à un solitaire nommé Delmas, et à un
chanoine nommé Arbert, il se retira dans la solitude, et s'emparant du
désert au profit de la religion, il planta la croix du Sauveur dans
les lieux jusqu'à-là couverts de forêts et de bruyères incultes, et
rassembla quelques disciples pour vivre auprès de lui sous la règle
qu'un ange lui avait, disait il, apportée du ciel.

"Bientôt la réputation des cénobites s'étendit; Robert fut reconnu
comme leur chef. De toutes parts on accourut les visiter. Des
donations leur furent faites, et sur les ruines d'une ancienne église
une nouvelle basilique s'éleva.

"Telle est à peu prés l'histoire primitive de l'abbaye de la

The Chaise-Dieu tapestries are fourteen in number, three of them are
ten feet square, and the others are six feet high by eighteen long,
excepting one which measures nearly twenty-six feet. Twelve are hung
on the carved wood-work of the choir of the great church, and thus
cover an immense space. Further off is the ancient choir of the monks,
of which the wood-work of sculptured oak is surprisingly rich. Not
even the cathedral of Rheims, of which the wood-work has long been
regarded as the most beautiful in the kingdom, contains so great a
number. Unhappily in times of intestine commotion this chef d'oeuvre
has been horribly mutilated by the axes of modern iconoclasts, more
ferocious than the barbarians of old. The two other tapestries are
placed in the Church of the Penitents, an ancient refectory of the
monks which now forms a dependent chapel to the great temple.

These magnificent hangings are woven of wool and silk, and one yet
perceives almost throughout, golden and silver threads which time has
spared. When the artist prepared to copy them for the work we are
quoting, no one dreamt of the richness buried beneath the accumulated
dust and dirt of centuries. They were carefully cleaned, and then,
says the artist, "Je suis ébloui de cette magnificence que nous ne
soupçonnions plus. C'est admirable. Les Gobelins ne produisent pas
aujourd'hui de tissus plus riches et plus éclatans. Imaginez-vous que
les robes des femmes, les ornemens, les colonnettes sont émaillés,
ruisselants de milliers de pierres fines et de perles," &c.

It would be tedious to attempt to describe individually the subjects
of these tapestries. They interweave the histories of the Old and New
Testaments; the centre of the work generally representing some passage
in the life of our Saviour, whilst on each side is some correspondent
typical incident from the Old Testament. Above are rhymed quatrains,
either legendary or scriptural; and below and around are sentences
drawn from the prophets or the psalms.

These tapestries appear to have been the production of the close of
the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries, denoting
in the architecture and costumes _more_ the reigns of Charles VIII.
and Louis XI., than of Louis XII. and Francis I. Such pieces were
probably long in the loom, since the tapestry of Dijon, composed of a
single _lai_ of twenty-one feet, required not less, according to a
competent judge, than ten years' labour.

There are some most beautiful, even amongst these all-beautiful
engravings, which we much regret to see there--engravings of the
tapestry in the cathedral of Aix, which tapestry ought still to enrich
our own country. Shame on those under whose barbarous rule these,
amongst other valuable and cherished monuments, were, as relics of
papistry, bartered for foreign gold. "L'histoire manuscrite de la
ville d'Aix dit que cette tapisserie avait servi à l'église de St.
Paul de Londres ou à toute autre église cathédrale d'Angleterre; qu'à
l'époque de la Réformation, les tableaux et les tapisseries ayant été
exclus des temples, les Anglais cherchèrent à vendre dans les pays
étrangers quelques-unes des tapisseries qui ornaient leurs
cathédrales, et _qu'ils en brûlèrent un plus grand nombre_!"

This tapestry represents the history of our Saviour, in twenty seven
compartments, being in the whole about 187 feet long. It is supposed
to have been woven about 1511, when William Warham was Archbishop of
Canterbury, and Chancellor. Warham had been previously Bishop of
London; and as his arms are on this tapestry, and also the arms of two
prior bishops of London who are supposed to have left legacies to
ornament the church which were applied towards defraying the expenses
of this manufacture, it seems quite probable that its destination was
St. Paul's, and not any other cathedral church. The arms of the king
are inwrought in two places; for Henry contributed to the
embellishment of this church. He loved the arts; he decorated
churches; and though he seceded from the Roman communion, he
maintained throughout his life magnificent decorations in his
favourite churches as well as the worship of the ancient Catholic
Church. It was first under Edward, and more decidedly under Elizabeth,
that the ceremonies of the church were completely changed, and that
those which had been considered only decent and becoming were
stigmatised as popish. Nor did this fantasy reach its height until the
time of Cromwell.

Lord Douglas, Earl of Buchan, who founded the Society of Antiquaries
in Edinburgh, endeavoured during the interval of the Peace of Amiens,
to treat with the Archbishop of Aix for the repurchase of this
tapestry. He would have placed it in a Gothic church belonging to an
ancient Scotch Abbey on his domains. He had already ornamented this
church with several beautiful monuments of antiquity, and he wished to
place this tapestry there as a national monument, but the treaty was
broken off.

The TAPESTRIES OF AULHAC, representing the siege of Troy, and those of
BEAUVAIS, embracing a variety of subjects from history both sacred and
profane; of the LOUVRE, representing the Miracle of St. Quentin,
tapestry representing ALEXANDER, King of Scotland; and those of ST.
REMI, at Rheims, are all engraven and described.

Those of the magnificent cathedral church at Rheims, consisting of
forty tapestries, forming different collections, but all on religious
subjects, will probably form the material for future numbers.

       *       *       *       *       *

That there are ancient tapestries existing in England fully equal to
those in France is, we think, almost certain; but of course they are
not to be summoned from the "vasty deep" of neglect and oblivion by
the powerless voice of an obscure individual. Gladly would we, had it
been in our power, have enriched our sketch by references to some of

The following notice of a tapestry at Coventry is drawn from "Smith's
Selections of the ancient Costume of Britain;" and the names of the
tapestries at Hampton Court Palace from "Pyne's Royal Residences." We
have recently visited Hampton Court for the express purpose of viewing
the tapestries. There, we believe, they were, entirely (with the
exception of a stray inch or two here and there) hung over with

The splendid though neglected tapestry of St. Mary's Hall at Coventry
offers a variety of materials no less interesting on account of the
sanctity and misfortunes of the prince (Henry VI.) who is there
represented, than curious as specimens of the arts of drawing, dyeing,
and embroidery of the time in which it was executed.

It is thirty feet in length and ten in height; and is divided into six
compartments, three in the upper tier and three in the lower,
containing in all upwards of eighty figures or heads. The centre
compartment of the upper row, in its perfect and original state,
represented the usual personification of the Trinity--(the Trinity
Guild held its meetings in the hall of St. Mary) surrounded by angels
bearing the various instruments of the Passion. But the zeal of our
early reformers sacrificed this part of the work, and substituted in
its stead a tasteless figure of Justice, which now holds the scales
amidst the original group of surrounding angels.

The right hand division of this tier is occupied with sundry figures
of saints and martyrs, and the opposite side is filled with a group of
female saints.

In the centre compartment below is represented the Virgin Mary in the
clouds, standing on the crescent, surrounded by the twelve Apostles
and many cherubs. But the two remaining portions of this fine tapestry
constitute its chief value and importance to the city of Coventry, as
they represent the figures of Henry VI., his Queen, the ambitious, and
crafty, and cruel, yet beautiful and eloquent and injured Margaret of
Anjou, and many of their attendants. During all the misfortunes of
Henry, the citizens of Coventry zealously supported him; and their
city is styled by historians "Queen Margaret's secret bower." As the
tapestry was purposely made for the hall, and probably placed there
during the lives of the sovereigns, the figures may be considered as
authentic portraits.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first Presence Chamber in Hampton Court is (or was) hung with rich
ancient tapestry, representing a landscape, with the figures of
Nymphs, Fawns, Satyrs, Nereides, &c.

There is some fine ancient tapestry in the King's Audience Chamber,
the subjects being, on one side, Abraham and Lot dividing their lands;
and on the other, God appearing to Abraham purchasing ground for a

The tapestry on the walls of the King's Drawing-Room represents
Abraham entertaining the three Angels; also Abraham, Isaac, and

The tapestry which covers three sides of the King's State Bedchamber
represents the history of Joshua.

The walls of the Queen's Audience Chamber are covered with tapestry
hangings, which represent the story of Abraham and Melchisedec, and
Abraham and Rebecca.

The Ball Room is called also the Tapestry Gallery, from the superb
suite of hangings that ornament its walls, which was brought from
Flanders by General Cadogan, and set up by order of George I. The
series of seven compartments describes the history of Alexander the
Great, from the paintings of the celebrated Charles le Brun. The first
represents the story of Alexander and his horse Bucephalus; the
second, the visit of Alexander to Diogenes; the third, the passage of
Alexander over the Granicus; the fourth, Alexander's visit to the
mother and wife of Darius, in their tent, after the battle of Arbela;
the fifth, Alexander's triumphal entrance into Babylon; the sixth,
Alexander's battle with Porus; the seventh, his second entrance into
Babylon.--These magnificent hangings were wrought at the Gobelins.

The tapestry hangings in the king's private bedchamber describe the
naval battle of Solebay between the combined fleets of England and
France and the Dutch fleet, in 1672.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of all the tapestries here recorded, the last only, representing the
Battle of Solebay, are now visible.


[125] "Les Anciennes Tapisseries Historiées, ou Collection des
Monumens les plus remarquables, de ce genre, qui nous soient restés du
moyen age." A Paris.



    "Flowers, Plants and Fishes, Beasts, Birds, Flyes, and Bees,
    Hils, Dales, Plaines, Pastures, Skies, Seas, Rivers, Trees,
    There's nothing neere at hand, or farthest sought,
    But with the Needle may be shap'd and wrought."

                        John Taylor.

Perhaps of all nations in very ancient times the Medes and Babylonians
were most celebrated for the draperies of the apartments, about which
they were even more anxious than about their attire. All their noted
hangings with which their palaces were so gorgeously celebrated were
wrought by the needle. And though now everywhere the loom is in
request, still these and other eastern nations maintain great practice
and unrivalled skill in needle embroidery. Sir John Chardin says of
the Persians, "Their tailors certainly excel ours in their sewing.
They make carpets, cushions, veils for doors, and other pieces of
furniture of felt, in Mosaic work, which represents just what they
please. This is done so neatly, that a man might suppose the figures
were painted instead of being a kind of inlaid work. Look as close as
you will, the joining cannot be seen;" and the Hall of Audience at
Jeddo, we are told, is a sumptuous edifice; the roof covered with gold
and silver of exquisite workmanship, the throne of massy gold enriched
with pearls, diamonds, and other precious stones. The tapestry is of
the finest silk, wrought by the _most curious hands_, and adorned with
pearls, gold, and silver, and other costly embellishments.

About the close of the ninth or beginning of the tenth century, the
Caliph Moctadi's whole army, both horse and foot, (says Abulfeda) were
under arms, which together made a body of 160,000 men. His state
officers stood near him in the most splendid apparel, their belts
shining with gold and gems. Near them were 7000 black and white
eunuchs. The porters or door-keepers were in number 700. Barges and
boats, with the most superb decorations, were swimming on the Tigris.
Nor was the palace itself less splendid, in which were hung _38,000
pieces of tapestry, 12,500 of which were of silk embroidered with
gold_. The carpets on the floor were 22,000. A hundred lions were
brought out with a keeper to each lion. Among the other spectacles of
rare and stupendous luxury, was a tree of gold and silver, which
opened itself into eighteen larger branches, upon which, and the other
less branches sate birds of every sort, made also of gold and silver.
The tree glittered with leaves of the same metals, and while its
branches, through machinery, appeared to move of themselves, the
several birds upon them warbled their natural notes.

The skill of the eastern embroiderer has always had a wide field for
display in the decoration of the _tents_, which were in such request
in hot countries, among Nomadic tribes, or on military excursions.

The covering of tents among the Arabs is usually black goats' hair, so
compactly woven as to be impervious to rain. But there is, besides
this, always an inner one, on which the skill and industry of the fair
artisan--for both outer and inner are woven and wrought by women--is
displayed. This is often white woollen stuff, on which flowers are
usually embroidered. Curious hangings too are frequently hung over the
entrances, when the means of the possessors do not admit of more
general decoration. Magnificent _perdahs_, or hangings of needlework,
are always suspended in the tents of persons of rank and fashion, who
assume a more ambitious decoration; and there are accounts in various
travellers of tents which must have been gorgeous in the extreme.

Nadir Shah, out of the abundance of his spoils, caused a tent or
tabernacle to be made of such beauty and magnificence as were almost
beyond description. The outside was covered with fine scarlet broad
cloth, the lining was of violet coloured satin, on which were
representations of all the birds and beasts in the creation, with
trees and flowers; the whole made of pearls, diamonds, rubies,
emeralds, amethysts, and other precious stones; and the tent-poles
were decorated in like manner. On both sides of the peacock throne was
a screen, on which were the figures of two angels in precious stones.
The roof of the tent consisted of seven pieces; and when it was
transported to any place, two of these pieces packed in cotton were
put into a wooden chest, two of which chests were a sufficient load
for an elephant: the screen filled another chest. The walls of the
tent--tent-poles and tent-pins, which were of massy gold, loaded five
more elephants; so that for the carriage of the whole were required
seven elephants. This magnificent tent was displayed on all festivals
in the public hall at Herat, during the remainder of Nadir Shah's

Sir J. Chardin tells us that the late King of Persia caused a tent to
be made which cost 2,000,000_l._ They called it the House of Gold,
because gold glittered everywhere about it. He adds, that there was an
inscription wrought upon the cornice of the antechamber, which gave it
the appellation of the Throne of the second Solomon, and at the same
time marked out the year of its construction. The following
description of Antar's tent from the Bedouin romance of that name has
been often quoted:--

"When spread out it occupied half the land of Shurebah, for it was the
load of forty camels; and there was an awning at the door of the
pavilion under which 4000 of the Absian horse could skirmish. It was
embroidered with burnished gold, studded with precious stones and
diamonds, interspersed with rubies and emeralds, set with rows of
pearls; and there was painted thereon a specimen of every created
thing, birds and trees, and towns, and cities, and seas, and
continents, and beasts, and reptiles; and whoever looked at it was
confounded by the variety of the representations, and by the
brilliancy of the silver and gold: and so magnificent was the whole,
that when the pavilion was pitched, the land of Shurebah and Mount
Saadi were illuminated by its splendour."

Extravagant as seems this description, we are told that it is not so
much exaggerated as we might imagine. "Poetical license" has indeed
been indulged in to the fullest extent, especially as to the size of
the pavilion; yet Marco Polo in sober earnest describes one under
which 10,000 soldiers might be drawn up _without incommoding the
nobles at the audience_.

It is well known that Mohammed forbade his followers to imitate any
animal or insect in their embroideries or ornamental work of any sort.
Hence the origin of the term _arabesque_, which we now use to express
all odd combinations of patterns from which human and animal forms are
excluded. That portion of the race which merged in the Moors of Spain
were especially remarked for their magnificent and beautiful
decorative work; and from them did we borrow, as before alluded to,
the custom of using tapestry for curtains.

At the present day none are perhaps more patient and laborious
embroiderers than the Chinese; their regularity and neatness are
supposed to be unequalled, and the extreme care with which they work
preserves their shades bright and shining.

The Indians excel in variety of embroidery. They embroider with cotton
on muslin, but they employ on gauze, rushes, skins of insects, nails
and claws of animals, of walnuts, and dry fruits, and above all, the
feathers of birds. They mingle their colours without harmony as
without taste; it is only a species of wild mosaic, which announces no
plan, and represents no object. The women of the wandering tribes of
Persia weave those rich carpets which are called Turkey carpets, from
the place of their immediate importation. But this country was
formerly celebrated for magnificent embroideries, and also for
tapestries composed of silk and wool embellished with gold. This
latter beautiful art, though not entirely lost, is nearly so for want
of encouragement. But of all eastern nations the Moguls were the most
celebrated for their splendid embroideries; walls, couches, and even
floors were covered with silk or cotton fabrics richly worked with
gold, and often, as in ancient times, with gems inwrought. But this
empire has ever been proverbial for its splendour; at one time the
throne of the Mogul was estimated at 4,000,000_l._ sterling, made up
by diamonds and other jewels, received in gifts during a long
succession of ages.

We have, in a former chapter, alluded to the custom of embroidery in
imitation of feathers, and also for using real feathers for ornamental
work. This is much the custom in many countries. Some of the
inhabitants of New Holland make artificial flowers with feathers, with
consummate skill; and they are not uncommon, though vastly inferior,
here. Various articles of dress are frequently seen made of them, as
feather muffs, feather tippets, &c.; and we have seen within the last
few months a bonnet covered with _peacock's_ feathers. This, however,
is certainly the _extreme_ of fancy. The celebrated Mrs. Montague had
hangings ornamented with feathers: the hangings doubtless are gone:
the name of the accomplished lady who displayed them in her
fashionable halls is sinking into oblivion, but the poet, who
perchance merely glanced at them, lives for ever.


    "The birds put off their ev'ry hue,
    To dress a room for Montague.
    The peacock sends his heavenly dyes,
    His _rainbows_ and his _starry eyes_;
    The pheasant plumes, which round infold
    His mantling neck with downy gold;
    The cock his arch'd tail's azure shew;
    And, river blanch'd, the swan his snow.
    All tribes beside of Indian name,
    That glossy shine, or vivid flame,
    Where rises, and where sets the day,
    Whate'er they boast of rich and gay,
    Contribute to the gorgeous plan,
    Proud to advance it all they can.
    This plumage, neither dashing shower,
    Nor blasts that shape the dripping bow'r,
    Shall drench again or discompose--
    But screen'd from ev'ry storm that blows
    It boasts a splendour ever new,
    Safe with protecting Montague."

Some Canadian women embroider with their own hair and that of animals;
they copy beautifully the ramifications of moss-agates, and of several
plants. They insinuate in their works skins of serpents and morsels of
fur patiently smoothed. If their embroidery is not so brilliant as
that of the Chinese, it is not less industrious.

The negresses of Senegal embroider the skin of different animals of
flowers and figures of all colours.

The Turks and Georgians embroider marvellously the lightest gauze or
most delicate crape. 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

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,
    Gave them a twisted form vermicular,
    And o'er the seat with plenteous wadding stuff'd,
    Induc'd a splendid cover, green and blue,
    Yellow and red, of tapestry richly wrought
    And woven close, or needlework sublime.
    There might ye see the piony spread wide,
    The full-blown rose, the shepherd and his lass,
    Lapdog and lambkin with black staring eyes,
    And parrots with twin cherries in their beak."

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,
    With pen, frame, or stoole; all pictures artificial,
    Curious knots or trailes, what fancy could devise;
    Beasts, birds, or flowers, even as things natural."

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.

    "Mr. Spectator,

    "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 great-grandmother.
    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

    "The premises being considered, I humbly submit the
    following proposals to all mothers in Great Britain:--

    "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 shall be
    obliged to appear with a new stomacher at the least.

    "3. That no one be actually married until she hath the
    child-bed pillows, &c., ready stitched, as likewise the
    mantle for the boy quite finished.

    "These laws, if I mistake not, would effectually restore
    the decayed art of needlework, and make the virgins of
    Great Britain exceedingly nimble-fingered in their



            "And often did she look
    On that which in her hand she bore,
    In velvet bound and broider'd o'er--
    Her breviary book."


                      "Books are ours,
    Within whose silent chambers treasure lies
    Preserved from age to age--
    These hoards of truth we can unlock at will."


Deep indeed are our obligations for those treasures which "we can
unlock at will:" treasures of far more value than gold or gems, for
they oftentimes bestow that which gold cannot purchase--even
forgetfulness of sorrow and pain. Happy are those who have a taste for
reading and leisure to indulge it. It is the most beguiling solace of
life: it is its most ennobling pursuit. It is a magnificent thing to
converse with the master spirits of past ages, to behold them as they
were; to mingle thought with thought and mind with mind; to let the
imagination rove--based however on the authentic record of the
past--through dim and distant ages; to behold the fathers and prophets
of the ancient earth; to hold communion with martyrs and prophets,
and kings; to kneel at the feet of the mighty lawgiver; to bend at the
shrine of the eternal poet; to imbibe inspiration from the eloquent,
to gather instruction from the wise, and pleasure from the gifted; to
behold, as in a glass, all the majesty and all the beauty of the
mighty PAST, to revel in all the accumulated treasures of Time--and
this, all this, we have by reading the privilege to do. Imagination
indeed, the gift of heaven, may soar elate, unchecked, though
untutored through time and space, through Time to Eternity, and may
people worlds at will; but that truthful basis which can alone give
permanence to her visions, that knowledge which ennobles and purifies
and elevates them is acquired from books, whether

    "Song of the Muses, says historic tale,
    Science severe, or word of Holy Writ,
    Announcing immortality and joy."

The "word of Holy Writ," the BIBLE--we pass over its hopes, its
promises, its consolations--these themes are too sacred even for
reference on our light page--but here, we may remark, we see the world
in its freshness, its prime, its glory. We converse truly with godlike
men and angelic women. We see the mighty and majestic fathers of the
human race ere sin had corrupted all their godlike seeming; ere
sorrow--the bequeathed and inherited sorrows of ages--had quite seared
the "human face divine;" ere sloth, and luxury, and corruption, and
decay, had altered features formed in the similitude of heaven to the
gross semblance of earth; and we walk step by step over the new fresh
earth as yet untrodden by foot of man, and behold the ancient
solitudes gradually invaded by his advancing steps.

Most gentle, most soothing, most faithful companions are books. They
afford amusement for the lonely hour; solace perchance for the
sorrowful one: they offer recreation to the light-hearted; instruction
to the inquiring; inspiration to the aspiring mind; food for the
thirsty one. They are inexhaustible in extent as in variety: and oh!
in the silent vigil by the suffering couch, or during the languor of
indisposition, who can too highly praise those silent friends--silent
indeed to the ear, but speaking eloquently to the heart--which
beguile, even transiently, the mind from present depressing care,
strengthen and elevate it by communion with the past, or solace it by
hopes of the future!

Listen how sweetly one of the first of modern men apostrophises his

    "My days among the dead are past;
      Around me I behold,
    Where'er these casual eyes are cast,
      The mighty minds of old;
    My never-failing friends are they,
    With whom I converse day by day.

    "With them I take delight in weal,
      And seek relief in woe;
    And while I understand and feel
      How much to them I owe,
    My cheeks have often been bedew'd,
    With tears of thoughtful gratitude.

    "My thoughts are with the dead; with them
      I live in long past years;
    Their virtues love, their faults condemn,
      Partake their hopes and fears,
    And from their lessons seek and find
    Instruction with a humble mind.

    "My hopes are with the dead; anon
      My place with them will be,
    And I with them shall travel on
      Through all futurity;
    Yet leaving here a name, I trust,
    That will not perish in the dust."[126]

Yet how little are we of the present day, who have books poured into
our laps, able to estimate their real value! Nor is it possible that
they can ever again be estimated as they once were. The universal
diffusion of them, the incalculable multiplication of them, seems to
render it impossible that the world can ever be deprived of them. No.
We must call up some of the spirits of the "pious and painful"
amanuenses of those days when the fourth estate of the realm, the
public press--WAS NOT--to tell us the real value of the literary
treasures we now esteem so lightly. He will tell us that in his day
the donation of a single book to a religious house was thought to give
the donor a claim to eternal salvation; and that an offering so
valued, so cherished, would be laid on the high altar amid pomp and
pageantry. He might perhaps personally remember the prior and convent
of Rochester pronouncing an irrevocable sentence of damnation on him
who should purloin or conceal their treasured Latin translation of
Aristotle's physics. He would tell us that the holiest and wisest of
men would forego ease and luxury and spend laborious years in
transcribing books for the good of others; he will tell us that
amongst many others, Osmond, Bishop of Salisbury, did this, and
perchance he will name that Guido de Jars, in his fortieth year, began
to copy the Bible on vellum, with rich and elegant decorations, and
that the suns of half a century had risen and set, ere, with
unintermitting labour and unwearied zeal, he finished it in his
ninetieth. He will also tell us, that when a book was to be sold, it
was customary to assemble all persons of consequence and character in
the neighbourhood, and to make a formal record that they were present
on this occasion. Thus, amongst the royal MSS. is a book thus

"This book of the Sentences belongs to Master Robert, archdeacon of
Lincoln, which he bought of Geoffrey the chaplain, brother of Henry
vicar of Northelkingston, in the presence of Master Robert de Lee,
Master John of Lirling, Richard of Luda, clerk, Richard the Almoner,
the said Henry the vicar and his clerk, and others: and the said
archdeacon gave the said book to God and saint Oswald, and to Peter
abbot of Barton, and the convent of Barden."

These are a few, a very few of such instances as a spirit of the
fourteenth century might allude to--to testify the value of books.
Indeed, even so late as the reign of Henry the VI., when the invention
of paper greatly facilitated the multiplication of MSS. the
impediments to study, from the scarcity of books, must have been very
great, for in the statutes of St. Mary's College, Oxford, is this
order--"Let no scholar occupy a book in the library above one hour, or
two hours at the most; lest others shall be hindered from the use of
the same."

The scarcity of parchment seems indeed at times to have been a greater
hindrance to the promulgation of literature than even the laborious
and tedious transcription of the books. About 1120, one Master Hugh,
being appointed by the convent of St. Edmondsbury to write a copy of
the Bible, for their library, could procure no parchment in England.
The following particulars of the scarcity of books before the era of
printing, gathered chiefly by Warton, are interesting.

In 855, Lupus, abbot of Ferrieres in France, sent two of his monks to
Pope Benedict the third, to beg a copy of Cicero de Oratore, and
Quintilian's Institutes, and some other books: for, says the abbot,
although we have part of these books, yet there is no whole or
complete copy of them in all France.

Albert, abbot of Gemblours, who with incredible labour and immense
expense had collected a hundred volumes on theological, and fifty on
general subjects, imagined he had formed a splendid library.

About 790, Charlemagne granted an unlimited right to hunting to the
abbot and monks of Sithin, for making their gloves and girdles of the
skins of the deer they killed, and covers for their books.

At the beginning of the tenth century, books were so scarce in Spain,
that one and the same copy of the Bible, St. Jerome's Epistles, and
some volumes of ecclesiastical offices and martyrologies, often served
several different monasteries.

Amongst the constitutions given to the monks of England by Archbishop
Lanfranc, in 1072, the following injunction occurs: At the beginning
of Lent, the librarian is ordered to deliver a book to each of the
religious; a whole year was allowed for the perusal of this book! and
at the returning Lent, those monks who had neglected to read the
books they had respectively received, are commanded to prostrate
themselves before the abbot to supplicate his indulgence. This
regulation was partly occasioned by the low state of literature in
which Lanfranc found the English monasteries to be; but at the same
time it was a matter of necessity, and partly to be referred to the
scarcity of copies of useful and suitable authors.

John de Pontissara, Bishop of Winchester, borrowed of his cathedral
convent of St. Swithin at Winchester, in 1299, BIBLIAM BENE GLOSSATAM,
or the Bible, with marginal annotations, in two large folio volumes;
but he gives a bond for due return of the loan, drawn up with great
solemnity. This Bible had been bequeathed to the Convent the same year
by his predecessor, Bishop Nicholas de Ely: and in consideration of so
important a bequest, and 100 marks in money, the monks founded a daily
mass for the soul of the donor.

About 1225 Roger de Tusula, dean of York, gave several Latin Bibles to
the University of Oxford, with a condition that the students who
perused them should deposit a cautionary pledge.

The Library of that University, before the year 1300, consisted only
of a few tracts, chained or kept in chests in the choir of St. Mary's

Books often brought excessive prices in the middle ages. In 1174,
Walter, Prior of St. Swithin's at Winchester, and afterwards abbot of
Westminster, purchased of the monks of Dorchester in Oxfordshire
Bede's Homilies and St. Austin's Psalter, for twelve measures of
barley, and a pall on which was embroidered in silver the history of
Birinus converting a Saxon king.

About 1400, a copy of John de Meun's Roman de la Rose was sold before
the palace-gate at Paris for forty crowns, or 33_l._ 6_s._ 6_d._

In Edward the Third's reign, one hundred marks (equal to 1000_l._)
were paid to Isabella de Lancaster, a nun of Ambresbury, for a book of
romance, purchased from her for the king's use.

Warton mentions a book of the Gospels, in the Cotton Library, as a
fine specimen of Saxon calligraphy and decorations. It is written by
Eadfrid, Bishop of Durham, in the most exquisite manner. Ethelwold his
successor did the illuminations, the capital letters, the picture of
the cross, and the Evangelists, with infinite labour and elegance; and
Bilfred, the anchorite, covered the book, thus written and adorned,
with silver plates and precious stones. It was finished about 720.

The encouragement given in the English monasteries for transcribing
books was very considerable. In every great abbey there was an
apartment called "The Scriptorium;" where many writers were constantly
busied in transcribing not only the Service Books for the choir, but
books for the Library. The Scriptorium of St. Alban's Abbey was built
by Abbot Paulin, a Norman, who ordered many volumes to be written
there, about 1080. Archbishop Lanfranc furnished the copies. Estates
were often granted for the support of the Scriptorium. That at St.
Edmundsbury was endowed with two mills. The tithes of a rectory were
appropriated to the Cathedral convent of St. Swithin, at Winchester,
_ad libros transcribendos_, in the year 1171.

Nigel in the year 1160 gave the monks of Ely two churches, ad libros

When the library at Croyland Abbey was burnt in 1091, seven hundred
volumes were consumed which must have been thus laboriously produced.

Fifty-eight volumes were transcribed at Glastonbury during the
government of one Abbot, about the year 1300. And in the library of
this monastery, the richest in England, there were upwards of four
hundred volumes in the year 1248.

But whilst there is sufficient cause to admire the penmen of former
days, in the mere transcription of books, shall we not marvel at the
beauty with which they were invested; the rich and brilliant
illuminations, the finely tinted paintings, the magnificent and
laborious ornament with which not merely every page, but in many
manuscripts almost every line was decorated! They, such as have been
preserved, form a valuable proportion of the riches of the principal
European libraries: of the Vatican of Rome; the Imperial at Vienna;
St. Mark's at Venice; the Escurial in Spain; and the principal public
libraries in England.

The art of thus illuminating MSS., now entirely lost, had attained the
highest degree of perfection, and is, indeed, of ancient origin. In
the remotest times the common colours of black and white have been
varied by luxury and taste. Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus mention
purple and yellow skins, on which MSS. were written in gold and
silver; and amongst the eastern nations rolls of this kind (that is
gold and silver on purple), exquisitely executed, are found in
abundance, but of a later date. Still they appear to have been
familiar with the practice at a much more remote period; and it is
probable that the Greeks acquired this art from Egypt or India. From
the Greeks it would naturally pass to the Latins, who appear to have
been acquainted with it early in the second century. The earliest
specimen of purple or rose-coloured vellum is recorded in the life of
the Emperor Maximinus the younger, to whom, in the commencement of the
third century, his mother made a present of the poems of Homer,
written on purple vellum in gold letters. Such productions were,
however, at this time very rare. The celebrated Codex Argenteus of
Ulphilas, written in silver and gold letters on a purple ground, about
360, is probably the most ancient existing specimen of this
magnificent mode of calligraphy. In the fourth century it had become
more common: many ecclesiastical writers allude to it, and St. Jerome
especially does so; and the following spirited dialogue has reference
to his somewhat condemnatory allusions.

"Purple vellum Greek MSS.," says Breitinger, "if I remember rightly,
are scarcer than white crows!"

BELINDA. "Pray tell us 'all about them,' as the children say."

PHILEMON. "Well, then, at your next court visit, let your gown rival
the emblazoned aspect of these old purple vellums, and let stars of
silver, thickly 'powdered' thereupon, emulate, if they dare, the
silver capital Greek letters upon the purple membranaceous fragments
which have survived the desolations of time! You see, I do not speak
_coldly_ upon this picturesque subject!"

ALIMANSA. "Nor do I feel precisely as if I were in the _frigid_ zone!
But proceed and expatiate."

PHILEMON. "The field for expatiating is unluckily very limited. The
fact of the more ancient MSS. before noticed, the _Pentateuch_ at
_Vienna_, the fragment of the Gospels in the British Museum, with a
Psalter or two in a few libraries abroad, are all the MSS. which just
now occur to me as being distinguished by a _purple tint_, for I
apprehend little more than a _tint_ remains. Whether the white or the
purple vellum be the more ancient, I cannot take upon me to determine;
but it is right you should be informed that St. Jerom denounces as
_coxcombs_, all those who, in his own time, were so violently attached
to your favourite purple colour."

LISARDO. "I have a great respect for the literary attainments of St.
Jerom; and although in the absence of the old Italic version of the
Greek Bible, I am willing to subscribe to the excellence of his own,
or what is now called the _Vulgate_, yet in matters of taste,
connected with the harmony of colour, you must excuse me if I choose
to enter my protest against that venerable father's decision."

PHILEMON. "You appear to mistake the matter St. Jerom imagined that
this appetite for purple MSS. was rather artificial and voluptuous;
requiring regulation and correction--and that, in the end, men would
prefer the former colour to the intrinsic worth of their vellum

       *       *       *       *       *

We must not omit the note appended to this colloquy.

"The general idea seems to be that PURPLE VELLUM MSS. were intended
only for 'choice blades,' let us rather say, tasteful bibliomaniacs--in
book collecting. St. Jerom, as Philemon above observes, is very biting
in his sarcasm upon these 'purple leaves covered with letters of gold
and silver.'--'For myself and my friends (adds that father), let us
have lower priced books, and distinguished not so much for beauty as
for accuracy.'

"Mabillon remarks that these purple treasures were for the 'princes'
and 'noblemen' of the times.

"And we learn from the twelfth volume of the Specileginum of Theonas,
that it is rather somewhat unseemly 'to write upon purple vellum in
letters of gold and silver, unless at the particular desire of a

"The _subject_ also of MSS. frequently regulated the mode of executing
it. Thus we learn from the 28th Epistle of Boniface (Bishop and
Martyr) to the abbess Eadburga, that this latter is entreated 'to
write the Epistles of St. Peter, the master and Apostle of Boniface,
in letters of gold, for the greater reverence to be paid towards the
Sacred Scriptures, when the Abbess preaches before her carnally-minded

About the close of the seventh century the Archbishop of York procured
for his church a copy of the Gospels thus adorned; and that this
magnificent calligraphy was then new in England may be inferred from a
remark made on it that "inauditam ante seculis nostris quoddam

This art, however, shortly after declined everywhere; and in England
the art of writing in gold letters, even without the rich addition of
the purple-tinted material, seems to have been but imperfectly
understood. The only remarkable instance of it is said to be the
charter of King Edgar, in the new Minster at Winchester, in 966. In
the fourteenth century it seems to have been more customary than in
those immediately preceding it.

But we have been beguiled too long from that which alone is connected
with our subject, viz., the _binding_ of books. Probably this was
originally a plain and unadorned oaken cover; though as books were
found only in monastic establishments, or in the mansions of the rich,
even the cover soon became emblematic of its valuable contents.

The early ornaments of the back were chiefly of a religious
character--a representation of the Virgin, of the infant Saviour, of
the Crucifixion. Dibdin mentions a Latin Psalter of the ninth century
in this primitive and substantial binding, and on the oaken board was
riveted a large brass crucifix, originally, probably, washed with
silver; and also a MS. of the Latin Gospels of the twelfth or
thirteenth century, in oaken covers, inlaid with pieces of carved
ivory, representing our Saviour with an angel above him, and the
Virgin and Child.

The carved ivory may probably be a subsequent interpolation, but it
does not the less exemplify the practice. But as the taste for luxury
and ornament increased, and the bindings, even the clumsy wooden ones,
became more gorgeously decorated--the most costly gems and precious
stones being frequently inlaid with the golden ornaments--the shape
and form of them was altogether altered. With a view to the
preservation and the safety of the riches lavished on them, the
bindings were made double, each side being perhaps two inches thick;
and on a spring being touched, or a secret lock opened, it divided,
almost like the opening of a cupboard-door, and displayed the rich
ornament and treasure within; whilst, when closed, the outside had
only the appearance of a plain, somewhat clumsy binding.

At that time, too, books were ranged on shelves with the leaves in
front; therefore great pains were taken, both in the decoration of the
edges, and also in the rich and ornamental clasps and strings which
united the wooden sides. These clasps were frequently of gold, inlaid
with jewels.

The wooden sides were afterwards covered with leather, with vellum,
with velvet,--though probably there is no specimen of velvet binding
before the fourteenth century; and, indeed, as time advanced, there is
scarcely any substance which was not applied to this purpose. Queen
Elizabeth had a little volume of prayers bound in solid gold, which at
prayer-time she suspended by a gold chain at her side; and we saw, a
few years ago, a small devotional book which belonged to the
Martyr-King, Charles, and which was given by him to the ancestress of
the friend who showed it to us, beautifully bound in tortoise-shell
and finely-carved silver.

But it was not to gold and precious stones alone that the bindings of
former days were indebted for their beauty. The richest and rarest
devices of the needlewoman were often wrought on the velvet, or
brocade, which became more exclusively the fashionable material for
binding. This seems to have been a favourite occupation of the
high-born dames about Elizabeth's day; and, indeed, if we remember the
new-born passion for books, which was at its height about that time,
we shall not wonder at their industry being displayed on the covers as
well as the insides[127]. But very probably this had been a favourite
object for the needle long before this time, though unhappily the
fragility of the work was equal to its beauty, and these needleworked
covers have doubtless, in very many instances, been replaced by more
substantial binding.

The earliest specimen of this description of binding remaining in the
British Museum is "Fichetus (Guil.) Rhetoricum, Libri tres. (Impr. in
Membranis) 4to. Paris ad Sorbonæ, 1471." It has an illuminated
title-page, showing the author presenting, on his knees, his book to
the Pope; and it is decorated throughout with illuminated letters and
other ornaments; for long after the invention of printing, blank
spaces were left, for the capitals and headings to be filled up by the
pencil. Hence it is that we find some books quite incomplete; these
spaces having been left, and not filled up.

When the art of illuminating still more failed, the red ink was used
as a substitute, and everybody is acquainted with books of this style.
The binding of Fitchet's 'Rhetoric' is covered with crimson satin, on
which is wrought with the needle a coat-of-arms: a lion rampant in
gold thread, in a blue field, with a transverse badge in scarlet silk;
the minor ornaments are all wrought in fine gold thread.

The next in date which I have seen there is a description of the Holy
Land, in French, written in Henry VII.'s time, and illuminated. It is
bound in rich maroon velvet, with the royal arms: the garter and motto
embroidered in blue; the ground crimson; and the fleurs-de-lys,
leopards, and letters of the motto in gold thread. A coronet, or
crown, of gold thread, is inwrought with pearls; the roses at the
corners are in red silk and gold; and there is a narrow border round
the whole in burnished gold thread.

There is an edition of Petrarch's Sonnets, printed at Venice in 1544.
It is in beautiful preservation. The back is of dark crimson velvet,
and on each side is wrought a large royal coat-of-arms, in silk and
gold, highly raised. The book belonged to Edward VI., but the arms are
not his.

Queen Mary's Psalter, containing also the history of the Old Testament
in a series of small paintings, and the work richly illuminated
throughout, had once an exterior worthy of it. The crimson velvet, of
which only small particles remain to attest its pristine richness, is
literally thread-bare; and the highly-raised embroidery of a massy
fleur-de-lys is also worn to the canvas on which it was wrought. On
one side scarcely a gold thread remains, which enables one, however,
to perceive that the embroidery was done on fine canvas, or, perhaps,
rather coarse linen, twofold: that then it was laid on the velvet,
seamed to it, and the edges cut away, the stitches round the edge
being covered with a kind of cordon, or golden thread, sewed
over;--just, indeed, as we sew muslin on net.

There are three, in the same depository, of the date of Queen
Elizabeth. One a book of prayers, copied out by herself before she
ascended the throne. The back is covered with canvas, wrought all over
in a kind of tentstitch of rich crimson silk, and silver thread
intermixed. This groundwork may or may not be the work of the needle,
but there is little doubt that Elizabeth's own needle wrought the
ornaments thereon, viz., H. K. intertwined in the middle; a smaller H.
above and below, and roses in the corners; all raised high, and worked
in blue silk and silver. This is the dedication of the book:
"Illustrissimo ac potentissimo Henrico octavo, Angliæ, Franciæ,
Hiberniæq. regi, fidei defensori, et secundum Christum ecclesiæ
Anglicanæ et Hibernicæ supremo capiti. Elizabeta Majest. S. humillima
filia omne felicitatem precatur, et benedictionem suam suplex petit."

There is in the Bodleian library among the MSS. the epistles of St.
Paul, printed in old black letter, the binding of which was also queen
Elizabeth's work; and her handwriting appears at the beginning, viz.

"August.--I walk many times into the pleasant fields of the Holy
Scriptures, where I plucke up the goodliesome herbes of sentences by
pruning: eate them by reading: chawe them by musing: and laie them up
at length in the hie seate of memorie by gathering them together: that
so having tasted thy sweeteness I may the less perceive the bitterness
of this miserable life."

The covering is done in needlework by the queen (then princess)
herself: on one side an embroidered star, on the other a heart, and
round each, as borders, Latin sentences are wrought, such as "Beatus
qui Divitias scripturæ legens verba vertit in opera."--"Vicit omnia
pertinax virtus." &c., &c.[128]

There is a book in the British Museum, very _petite_, a MS containing
a French Pastoral--date 1587--of which the satin or brocade back is
loaded with needlework in gold and silver, which now, however, looks
heavy and tasteless.

But the most beautiful is Archbishop Parker's, "De Antiquitate
Britannicæ Ecclesiæ:" A.D. 1572.

The material of the back is rich green velvet, but it is thickly
covered with embroidery: there has not indeed, originally, been space
to lay a fourpenny-piece. It is entirely covered with animals and
flowers, in green, crimson, lilac, and yellow silk, and gold thread.
Round the edge is a border about an inch broad, of gold thread.

Of the date of 1624 is a book of magnificent penmanship, by the hand
of a female, of emblems and inscriptions. It is bound in crimson silk,
having in the centre a Prince's Feather worked in gold-thread, with
the feathers bound together with large pearls, and round it a wreath
of leaves and flowers. Round the edge there is a broader wreath, with
corner sprigs all in gold thread, thickly interspersed with spangles
and gold leaves.

All these books, with the exception of the one quoted from Ballard's
Memoirs, were most obligingly sought out and brought to me by the
gentlemen at the British Museum. Probably there are more; but as,
unfortunately for my purpose, the books there are catalogued according
to their authors, their contents, or their intrinsic value, instead of
their outward seeming, it is not easy, amidst three or four hundred
thousand volumes, to pick out each insignificant book which may happen
to be--

    "In velvet bound and broider'd o'er."


[126] Southey.

[127] We have seen cartouche-boxes embroidered precisely in the same
style, and probably therefore of the same period as some of the
embroidered books here referred to.

[128] Ballard's Memoirs.



    "Thus is a Needle prov'd an Instrument
    Of profit, pleasure, and of ornament,
    Which mighty Queenes have grac'd in hand to take."

                        John Taylor.

Needlework is an art so attractive in itself; it is capable of such
infinite variety, and is such a beguiler of lonely, as of social
hours, and offers such scope to the indulgence of fancy, and the
display of taste; it is withal--in its lighter branches--accompanied
with so little bodily exertion, not deranging the most _recherché_
dress, nor incommoding the most elaborate and exquisite costume, that
we cannot wonder that it has been practised with ardour even by those
the farthest removed from any necessity for its exercise. Therefore
has it been from the earliest ages a favourite employment of the high
and nobly born.

The father of song hardly refers at all to the noble dames of Greece
and Troy but as occupied in "painting with the needle." Some, the
heroic achievements of their countrymen on curtains and draperies,
others various rich and rare devices on banners, on robes and mantles,
destined for festival days, for costly presents to ambassadors, or for
offerings to friends. And there are scattered notices at all periods
of the prevalence of this custom. In all ages until this of

          "inventions rare
    Steam towns and towers."

the preparation of apparel has fallen to woman's share, the spinning,
the weaving, and the manufacture of the material itself from which
garments were made. But, though we read frequently of high-born dames
spinning in the midst of their maids, it is probable that this
drudgery was performed by inferiors and menials, whilst enough, and
more than enough of arduous employment was left for the ladies
themselves in the rich tapestries and embroideries which have ever
been coveted and valued, either as articles of furniture, or more
usually for the decoration of the person.

Rich and rare garments used to be infinitely more the attribute of
high rank than they now are; and in more primitive times a princess
was not ashamed to employ herself in the construction of her own
apparel or that of her relatives. Of this we have an intimation in the
old ballad of 'Hardyknute'--beginning

    "Stately stept he east the wa',
    And stately stept he west."

    "Farewell, my dame, sae peerless good,
      (And took her by the hand,)
    Fairer to me in age you seem,
      Than maids for beauty fam'd.
    My youngest son shall here remain
      To guard these lonely towers,
    And shut the silver bolt that keeps
      Sae fast your painted bowers.

    "And first she wet her comely cheeks,
      And then her boddice green,
    Her silken cords of twisted twist,
      Well plett with silver sheen;
    And apron set with mony a dice
      Of needlewark sae rare,
    Wove by nae hand, as ye may guess,
      Save that of Fairly fair."

But it harmonises better with our ideas of high or royal life to hear
of some trophy for the warrior, some ornament for the knightly bower,
or some decorative offering for the church, emanating from the taper
fingers of the courtly fair, than those kirtles and boddices which, be
they ever so magnificent, seem to appertain more naturally to the
"milliner's practice." Therefore, though we give the gentle Fairly
fair all possible praise for notability in the

    "Apron set with mony a dice
    Of needlework sae rare,"

we certainly look with more regard on such work as that of the Danish
princesses who wrought a standard with the national device, the
Raven,[129] on it, and which was long the emblem of terror to those
opposed to it on the battle-field. Of a gentler character was the
stupendous labour of Queen Matilda--the Bayeux tapestry--on which we
have dwelt too long elsewhere to linger here, and which was wrought by
her and under her superintendence.

Queen Adelicia, the second wife of Henry I., was a lady of
distinguished beauty and high talent: she was remarkable for her love
of needlework, and the skill with which she executed it. One peculiar
production of her needle has recently been described by her
accomplished biographer; it was a standard which she embroidered in
silk and gold for her father, during the memorable contest in which he
was engaged for the recovery of his patrimony, and which was
celebrated throughout Europe for the exquisite taste and skill
displayed by the royal Adelicia in the design and execution of her
patriotic achievement. This standard was unfortunately captured at a
battle near the castle of Duras, in 1129, by the Bishop of Liege and
the Earl of Limbourg, the old competitor of Godfrey for Lower
Lorraine, and was by them placed as a memorial of their triumph in the
great church of St. Lambert, at Liege, and was for centuries carried
in procession on Rogation days through the streets of that city. The
church of St. Lambert was destroyed during the French Revolution. The
plain where this memorable trophy was taken is still called the "Field
of the Standard."

Perhaps, second only to Queen Matilda's work, or indeed superior to
it, as being entirely the production of her own hand, were the
needlework pieces of Joan D'Albert, who ascended the throne of
Navarre in 1555. Though her own career was varied and eventful, she is
best known to posterity as the mother of the great Henry IV. She
adopted the reformed religion, of which she became, not without some
risk to her crown thereby, the zealous protectress, and on
Christmas-day, 1562, she made a public profession of the Protestant
faith; she prohibited the offices of the Catholic religion to be
performed in her domains, and suffered in consequence many alarms from
her Catholic subjects. But she possessed great courage and fortitude,
and baffled all open attacks. Against concealed treachery she could
not contend. She died suddenly at the court of France in 1572, as it
was strongly suspected, by poison.

This queen possessed a vigorous and cultivated understanding; was
acquainted with several languages, and composed with facility both in
prose and verse. Her needlework, the amusement and solace of her
leisure hours, was designed by her as "a commemoration of her love
for, and steadiness to, the reformed faith." It is thus described by
Boyle: "She very much loved devices, and she wrought with her own hand
fine and large pieces of tapestry, among which was a suit of hangings
of a dozen or fifteen pieces, which were called THE PRISONS OPENED; by
which she gave us to understand that she had broken the pope's bonds,
and shook off his yoke of captivity. In the middle of every piece is a
story of the Old Testament which savours of liberty--as the
deliverance of Susannah; the departure of the children of Israel out
of Egypt; the setting Joseph at liberty, &c. And at all the corners
are broken chains, shackles, racks, and gibbets; and over them in
great letters, these words of the third chapter of the second Epistle
to the Corinthians, UBI SPIRITUS IBI LIBERTAS.

"To show yet more fully the aversion she had conceived against the
Catholic religion, and particularly against the sacrifice of the mass,
having a fine and excellent piece of tapestry, made by her mother,
Margaret, before she had suffered herself to be cajoled by the
ministers, in which was perfectly well wrought the sacrifice of the
mass, and a priest who held out the holy host to the people, she took
out the square in which was this history, and, instead of the priest,
with her own hand substituted a fox, who turning to the people, and
making a horrible grimace with his paws and throat, delivered these

We are told that Anne of Brittany, the good Queen of France, assembled
three hundred of the children of the nobility at her court, where,
under her personal superintendence, they were instructed in such
accomplishments as became their rank and sex, but the girls, most
especially, made accomplished needlewomen. Embroidery was their
occupation during some specified hours of every day, and they wrought
much tapestry, which was presented by their royal protectress to
different churches.

Her daughter Claude, the queen of Francis I., formed her court on the
same model and maintained the same practice; Queen Anne Boleyn was
educated in her court, and was doomed to consume a large portion of
her time in the occupation of the needle. It was an employment little
suited to her lively disposition and coquettish habits, and we do not
hear, during her short occupation of the throne, that she resorted to
it as an amusement.

    "Ai lavori d'Aracne, all'ago, ai fusi
    Inchinar non degnò la man superba."

The practice of devoting some hours to embroidery seems to have
continued in the French court. When the young Queen of Scots was
there, the French princesses assembled every afternoon in the queen's
(Catherine of Medici's) private apartment, where "she usually spent
two or three hours in embroidery with her female attendants."

It is also said, that Katharine of Arragon was in the habit of
employing the ladies of her court in needlework, in which she was
herself extremely assiduous, working with them and encouraging them by
her example. Burnet records, that when two legates requested once to
speak with her, she came out to them with a skein of silk about her
neck, and told them she had been within at work with her women. An
anecdote, as far as regards the skein of silk, somewhat more
housewifely than queenly.

In this she differed much from her successor, Queen Catherine Parr,
for having had her nativity cast when a child, and being told, from
the disposition of the stars and planets in her house, that she was
born to sit in the highest seat of imperial majesty; child as she was,
she was so impressed by the prediction, that when her mother required
her to work she would say, "My hands are ordained to touch crowns and
sceptres, not needles and spindles."

When the orphaned daughter of this lady, by the lord admiral, was
consigned to the care of the Duchess of Suffolk, the furniture of "her
former nursery" was to be sent with her. The list is rather curious,
and we subjoin it.

"Two pots, three goblets, one salt parcel gilt, a maser with a band of
silver and parcel gilt, and eleven spoons; a quilt for the cradle,
three pillows, three feather-beds, three quilts, a testor of scarlet
embroidered with a counterpoint of silk say belonging to the same, and
curtains of crimson taffeta; two counterpoints of imagery for the
nurse's bed, six pair of sheets, six fair pieces of hangings within
the inner chamber; four carpets for windows, ten pieces of hangings of
the twelve months within the outer chamber, two quishions of cloth of
gold, one chair of cloth of gold, two wrought stools, a bedstead gilt,
with a testor and counterpoint, with curtains belonging to the same."

Return we to Katharine of Arragon: her needlework labours have been
celebrated both in Latin and English verse. The following sonnet
refers to specimens in the Tower, which now indeed are swept away,
having left not "a wreck behind."

    "I read that in the seventh King Henrie's reigne,
      Fair Katharine, daughter to the Castile king,
    Came into England with a pompous traine
      Of Spanish ladies which shee thence did bring.
    She to the eighth King Henry married was,
      And afterwards divorc'd, where virtuously
    (Although a Queene), yet she her days did pass
      In working with the _needle_ curiously,
    As in the Tower, and places more beside,
      Her excellent memorials may be seen;
    Whereby the _needle's_ prayse is dignifide
      By her faire ladies, and herselfe, a Queene.
    Thus far her paines, here her reward is just,
    Her works proclaim her prayse, though she be dust."

The same pen also celebrated her daughter's skill in this feminine

Mary was skilled in all sorts of embroidery; and when her mother's
divorce consigned her to a private life, she beguiled the intervals of
those severer studies in which she peaceably and laudably occupied her
time in various branches of needlework. It is not unlikely the Psalter
we have alluded to elsewhere was embroidered by herself; and a
reference to the fashionable occupations of the day will bring to our
minds various trifling articles, the embroidery of which beguiled her
time, though they have long since passed away.

    "Her daughter Mary here the sceptre swaid,
      And though she were a Queene of mighty power,
    Her memory will never be decaid,
      Which by her works are likewise in the Tower,
    In Windsor Castle, and in Hampton Court,
      In that most pompous roome called Paradise;
    Who ever pleaseth thither to resort,
      May see some workes of hers, of wondrous price.
    Her greatness held it no disreputation
      To take the needle in her royal hand;
    Which was a good example to our nation
      To banish idleness from out her land:
    And thus this Queene, in wisdom thought it fit,
    The needle's worke pleas'd her, and she grac'd it."

We extract the following notice of the gentle and excellent Lady Jane
Grey, from the 'Court Magazine.'

"Ten days' royalty! Alas, how deeply fraught with tragic interest is
the historic page recording the events of that brief period! and how
immeasurable the results proceeding therefrom. Love, beauty, religious
constancy, genius, and learning, were seen in early womanhood
intermingling their glorious halo with the dark shadowings of
despotism, imprisonment, and violent death upon the scaffold!

"In the most sequestered part of Leicestershire, backed by rude
eminences, and skirted by lowly and romantic valleys, stands Bradgate,
the birth-place and abode of Lady Jane Grey. The approach to Bradgate
from the village of Cropston is striking. On the left stands a group
of venerable trees, at the extremity of which rise the remains of the
once magnificent mansion of the Greys of Groby. On the right is a
hill, known by the name of 'The Coppice,' covered with slate, but so
intermixed with fern and forest-flowers as to form a beautiful
contrast to the deep shades of the surrounding woods. To add to the
loveliness of the scene, a winding trout-stream finds its way from
rock to rock, washing the walls of Bradgate until it reaches the
fertile meadows of Swithland.

"In the distance, situate upon a hill, is a tower, called by the
country-people Old John, commanding a magnificent view of the
adjoining country, including the distant castles of Nottingham and
Belvoir. With the exception of the chapel and kitchen, the princely
mansion has now become a ruin; but a tower still stands, which
tradition points out as her birth-place. Traces of the tilt-yard are
visible, with the garden-walls, and a noble terrace whereon Jane often
walked and sported in her childhood; and the rose and lily still
spring in favourable nooks of that wilderness, once the pleasance, or
pleasure-garden of Bradgate. Near the brook is a beautiful group of
old chestnut-trees.

    "'This was thy home then, gentle Jane,
      This thy green solitude; and here
    At evening from the gleaming pane,
      Thine eye oft watched the dappled deer
    (While the soft sun was in its wane)
      Browsing beside the brooklet clear;
    The brook runs still, the sun sets now,
      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."[130]

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:--

    "When this great queene, whose memory shall not
    By any terme of time be overcast;
    For when the world and all therein shall rot,
    Yet shall her glorious fame for ever last.
    When she a maid had many troubles past,
    From jayle to jayle by Maries angry spleene:
    And Woodstocke, and the Tower in prison fast,
    And after all was England's peerelesse queene.
    Yet howsoever sorrow came or went,
    She made the needle her companion still,
    And in that exercise her time she spent,
    As many living yet doe know her skill.
    Thus shee was still, a captive, or else crown'd,
    A needlewoman royall and renown'd."

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

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

Every one knows that the court costume of the French noblemen at that
period was most expensive; this absurd custom rendered it doubly,
trebly so; and was carried to such an excess, that frequently the
moment a gentleman appeared in a new coat the ladies crowded round him
and soon divested it of all its gold ornaments.

The following is an instance:--"The Duke de Coigny one night appeared
in a new and most expensive coat: suddenly a lady in the company
remarked that its gold bindings would be excellent for untwisting. In
an instant he was surrounded--all the scissors in the room were at
work; in short, in a few moments the coat was stripped of its laces,
its galoons, its tassels, its fringes; and the poor duke,
notwithstanding his vexation, was forced by _politeness_ to laugh and
praise the dexterity of the fair hands that robbed him."

But what a solace did that passion for needlework, which the queen
indulged in herself and encouraged in others, become to her during her
fearful captivity. This unhappy princess was born on the day of the
Lisbon earthquake, which seemed to stamp a fatal mark on the era of
her birth; and many circumstances occurred during her life which have
since been considered as portentous.

    "'Tis certain that the soul hath oft foretaste
    Of matters which beyond its ken are placed."

One circumstance, simple in itself and easily explained, is recorded
by Madame Campan as having impressed Marie with shuddering
anticipations of evil:--

"One evening, about the latter end of May, she was sitting in the
middle of her room, relating several remarkable occurrences of the
day. Four wax candles were placed upon her toilet; the first went out
of itself--I relighted it; shortly afterwards the second, and then the
third, went out also: upon which the queen, squeezing my hand with an
emotion of terror, said to me, 'Misfortune has power to make us
superstitious; if the fourth taper go out like the first, nothing can
prevent my looking upon it as a fatal omen!'--The fourth taper went

At an earlier period Goëthe seems, with somewhat of a poet's
inspiration, to have read a melancholy fate for her. When young he was
completing his studies at Strasburg. In an isle in the middle of the
Rhine a pavilion had been erected, intended to receive Marie
Antoinette and her suite, on her way to the French court.

"I was admitted into it," says Goëthe, in his Memoirs: "on my entrance
I was struck with the subject depicted in the tapestry with which the
principal pavilion was hung, in which were seen Jason, Creusa, and
Medea; that is to say, a representation of the most fatal union
commemorated in history. On the left of the throne the bride,
surrounded by friends and distracted attendants, was struggling with a
dreadful death; Jason, on the other side, was starting back, struck
with horror at the sight of his murdered children; and the Fury was
soaring into the air in her chariot drawn by dragons. Superstition
apart, this strange coincidence was really striking. The husband, the
bride, and the children, were victims in both cases: the fatal omen
seemed accomplished in every point."

The following notices of her imprisonment would but be spoiled by any
alteration of language. We shall perceive that one of her greatest
troubles in prison, before her separation from the king and the
dauphin, was the being deprived of her sewing implements.

"During the early part of Louis XVI.'s imprisonment, and while the
treatment of him and his family was still human, his majesty employed
himself in educating his son; while the queen, on her part, educated
her daughter. Then they passed some time in needlework, knitting, or

"At this time the royal family were in great want of clothes, insomuch
that the princesses were employed in mending them every day; and
Madame Elizabeth was often obliged to wait till the king was gone to
bed, in order to have his to repair. The linen they brought to the
Tower had been lent them by friends, some by the Countess of
Sutherland, who found means to convey linen and other things for the
use of the dauphin. The queen wished to write a letter to the countess
expressive of her thanks, and to return some of these articles, but
her majesty was debarred from pen and ink; and the clothes she
returned were stolen by her jailors, and never found their way to
their right owner.

"After many applications a little new linen was obtained; but the
sempstress having marked it with crowns, the municipal officers
insisted on the princesses picking the marks _out_, and they were
forced to obey.

"_Dec. 7._--An officer, at the head of a deputation from the commune,
came to the king and read a decree, ordering that the persons in
confinement should be deprived of all scissors, razors,
knives--instruments usually taken from criminals; and that the
strictest search should be made for the same, as well on their persons
as in their apartments. The king took out of his pocket a knife and a
small morocco pocket-book, from which he gave the pen-knife and
scissors. The officer searched every corner of the apartments, and
carried off the razors, the curling-irons, the powder-scraper,
instruments for the teeth, and many articles of gold and silver. They
took away from the princesses their knitting-needles and all the
little articles they used for their embroidery. The unhappy queen and
princesses were the more sensible of the loss of the little
instruments taken from them, as they were in consequence forced to
give up all the feminine handiworks which till then had served to
beguile prison hours. At this time the king's coat became ragged, and
as the Princess Elizabeth, his sister, was mending it, as she had no
scissors, the king observed that she had to bite off the thread with
her teeth--'What a reverse!' said the king, looking tenderly upon her;
'you were in want of nothing at your pretty house at Montreuil.' 'Ah,
brother!' she replied, 'can I feel a regret of any kind while I share
your misfortunes?'"

The Empress Josephine is said to have played and sung with exquisite
feeling: her dancing is said to have been perfect. She exercised her
pencil, and--though such be not now antiquated for an _élégante_--her
needle and embroidery-frame, with beautiful address.

Towards the close of her eventful career, when, after her divorce
from Bonaparte, she kept a sort of domestic court at Navarre or
Malmaison, she and her ladies worked daily at tapestry or
embroidery--one reading aloud whilst the others were thus occupied;
and the hangings of the saloon at Malmaison were entirely her own
work. They must have been elegant; the material was white silk, the
embroidery roses, in which at intervals were entwined her own

An interesting circumstance is related of a conversation between one
of those ministering spirits a _soeur de la charité_ and Josephine,
in a time of peculiar excitement and trouble. At the conclusion of it,
the _soeur_, having discovered with whom she was conversing, added,
"Since I am addressing the mother of the afflicted, I no longer fear
my being indiscreet in any demand I may make for suffering humanity.
We are in great want of lint; if your majesty would condescend"----"I
promise you shall have some; we will make it ourselves."

From that moment the evenings were employed at Malmaison in making
lint, and the empress yielded to none in activity at this work.

Few of my readers will have accompanied me to this point without
anticipating the name with which these slight notices of royal
needlewomen must conclude--a name which all know, and which, knowing,
all reverence as that of a dignified princess, a noble and admirable
matron--Adelaide, our Dowager Queen. It was hers to reform the morals
of a court which, to our shame, had become licentious; it was hers to
render its charmed circle as pure and virtuous as the domestic hearth
of the most scrupulous British matron; it was hers to combine with
the chilling etiquette of regal state the winning virtues of private
life, and to weave a wreath of domestic virtues, social charities, and
beguiling though simple occupations, round the stately majesty of
England's throne.

The days are past when it would be either pleasurable or profitable
for the Queen of the British empire to spend her days, like Matilda or
Katharine, "in poring over the interminable mazes of tapestry;" but it
is well known that Queen Adelaide, and, in consequence of her
Majesty's example, those around her, habitually occupied their leisure
moments in ornamental needlework; and there have been, of late years,
few Bazaars throughout the kingdom, for really beneficent purposes,
which have not been enriched by the contributions of the Queen
Dowager--contributions ever gladly purchased at a high price, not for
their intrinsic worth, but because they had been wrought by a hand
which every Englishwoman had learnt to respect and love.


[129] This sacred standard was taken by the Saxons in Devonshire, in a
fortunate onset, in which they slew one of the Sea-kings with eight
hundred of his followers. So superstitious a reverence was attached to
this ensign that its loss is said to have broken the spirit of even
these ruthless plunderers. It was woven by the sisters of Inguar and
Ubba, who divined by it. If the Raven (which was worked on it) moved
briskly in the wind, it was a sign of victory, but if it drooped and
hung heavily, it was supposed to prognosticate discomfiture.

[130] Von Raumer's Contributions.



                "Our Country everywhere is fild
    With Ladies, and with Gentlewomen, skild
    In this rare Art."


    "For here the needle plies its busy task,
    The pattern grows, the well-depicted flower
    Wrought patiently into the snowy lawn,
    Unfolds its bosom; buds, and leaves, and sprigs,
    And curling tendrils gracefully dispos'd,
    Follow the nimble fingers of the fair;
    A wreath that cannot fade."


    "The great variety of needleworks which the ingenious
    women of other countries, as well as of our own, have
    invented, will furnish us with constant and amusing
    employment; and though our labours may not equal a
    Mineron's or an Aylesbury's, yet, if they unbend the
    mind, by fixing its attention on the progress of any
    elegant or imitative art, they answer the purpose of
    domestic amusement; and, when the higher duties of our
    station do not call forth our exertions, we may feel the
    satisfaction of knowing that we are, at least,
    innocently employed."--Mrs. Griffiths.

The triumph of modern art in needlework is probably within our own
shores, achieved by our own countrywoman,--Miss Linwood. "Miss
Linwood's Exhibition" used to be one of the lions of London, and fully
deserves to be so now. To women it must always be an interesting
sight; and the "nobler gender" cannot but consider it as a curious
one, and not unworthy even of their notice as an achievement of art.
Many of these pictures are most beautiful; and it is not without great
difficulty that you can assure yourself that they are _bonâ fide_
needlework. Full demonstration, however, is given you by the facility
of close approach to some of the pieces.

Perhaps the most beautiful of the whole collection--a collection
consisting of nearly a hundred pieces of all sizes--is the picture of
Miss Linwood herself, copied from a painting by Russell, taken in
about her nineteenth year. She must have been a beautiful creature;
and as to this copy being done with a needle and worsted,--nobody
would suppose such a thing. It is a perfect painting. In the catalogue
which accompanies these works she refers to her own portrait with the
somewhat touching expression, (from Shakspeare,)

    "Have I lived thus long----"

This lady is now in her eighty-fifth year. Her life has been devoted
to the pursuit of which she has given so many beautiful testimonies.
She had wrought two or three pieces before she reached her twentieth
year; and her last piece, "The Judgment of Cain," which occupied her
ten years, was finished in her seventy-fifth year; since when, the
failure of her eyesight has put an end to her labours.

The pieces are worked not on canvas, nor, we are told, on linen, but
on some peculiar fabric made purposely for her. Her worsteds have all
been dyed under her own superintendence, and it is said the only
relief she has ever had in the manual labour was in having an
assistant to thread her needles.

Some of the pieces after Gainsborough are admirable; but perhaps Miss
Linwood will consider her greatest triumph to be in her copy of Carlo
Dolci's "Salvator Mundi," for which she has been offered, and has
refused, three thousand guineas.

The style of modern embroidery, now so fashionable, from the Berlin
patterns, dates from the commencement of the present century. About
the year 1804-5, a print-seller in Berlin, named Philipson, published
the first coloured design, on checked paper, for needlework. In 1810,
Madame Wittich, who, being a very accomplished embroideress, perceived
the great extension of which this branch of trade was capable, induced
her husband, a book and print-seller of Berlin, to engage in it with
spirit. From that period the trade has gone on rapidly increasing,
though within the last six years the progression has been infinitely
more rapid than it had previously been, owing to the number of new
publishers who have engaged in the trade. By leading houses up to the
commencement of the year 1840, there have been no less than fourteen
thousand copper-plate designs published.

In the scale of consumption, and, consequently, by a fair inference in
the quantity of needlework done, Germany stands first; then Russia,
England, France, America, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, &c., the three
first names on the list being by far the largest consumers. It is
difficult to state with precision the number of persons employed to
_colour_ these plates, but a principal manufacturer estimates them as
upwards of twelve hundred, chiefly women.

At first these patterns were chiefly copied in silk, then in beads,
and lastly in dyed wools; the latter more especially, since the
Germans have themselves succeeded in producing those beautiful
"Zephyr" yarns known in this country as the "Berlin wools." These
yarns, however, are only dyed in Berlin, being manufactured at Gotha.
It is not many years since the Germans drew all their fine woollen
yarns from this country: now they are the _exporters_, and probably
will so remain, whatever be the _quality_ of the wool produced in
England, until the art of _dyeing_ be as well understood and as
scientifically practised.

Of the fourteen thousand Berlin patterns which have been published,
scarcely one-half are moderately good; and all the best which they
have produced latterly are copied from English and French prints.
Contemplating the improvement that will probably ere long take place
in these patterns, needlework may be said to be yet in its infancy.

The improvement, however, must not be confined to the Berlin
designers: the taste of the consumer, the public taste must also
advance before needlework shall assume that approximation to art which
is so desirable, and not perhaps now, with modern facilities,
difficult of attainment. Hitherto the chief anxiety seems to have been
to produce a glare of colour rather than that subdued but beautiful
effect which makes of every piece issuing from the Gobelins a perfect
picture, wrought by different means, it is true, but with the very
same materials.

The Berlin publishers cannot be made to understand this; for, when
they have a good design to copy from, they mar all by the introduction
of some adventitious frippery, as in the "Bolton Abbey," where the
repose and beautiful effect of the picture is destroyed by the
introduction of a bright sky, and straggling bushes of lively green,
just where the Artist had thought it necessary to depict the stillness
of the inner court of the Monastery, with its solemn grey walls, as a
relief to the figures in the foreground.

Many ladies of rank in Germany add to their pin-money by executing
needlework for the warehouses.

France consumes comparatively but few Berlin patterns. The French
ladies persevere in the practice of working on drawings previously
traced on the canvas: the consequence is that, notwithstanding their
general skill and assiduity, good work is often wasted on that which
cannot produce an artist-like effect. They are, however, by far the
best embroideresses in chenille,--silk and gold. By embroidery we mean
that which is done on a solid ground, as silk or cloth.

The tapestry or canvas-work is now thoroughly understood in this
country; and by the help of the Berlin patterns more _good_ things are
produced here as articles of furniture than in France.

The present mode of furnishing houses is favourable to needlework. At
a time when fashion enacted that all the sofas and chairs of an
apartment should match, the completely furnishing it with needlework
(as so many in France have been) was the constant occupation of a
whole family--mother, daughters, cousins, and servants--for years, and
must indeed have been completely wearisome; but a cushion, a screen,
or an odd chair, is soon accomplished, and at once takes its place
among the many odd-shaped articles of furniture which are now found in
a fashionable saloon.

Francfort-on-the-Maine is much busying itself just now with
needlework. The commenced works imported from this city are made up
partly from Berlin patterns, and partly from fanciful combinations;
but although generally speaking _well worked_, they are too
complicated to be easy of execution, and very few indeed of those
brought to this country are ever _finished_ by the purchaser.

The history of the progress of the modern tapestry-needlework in this
country is brief. Until the year 1831, the Berlin patterns were known
to very few persons, and used by fewer persons still. They had for
some time been imported by Ackermann and some others, but in very
small numbers indeed. In the year 1831, they, for the first time, fell
under the notice of Mr. Wilks, Regent-street, (to whose kindness I am
indebted for the valuable information on the Berlin patterns given
above,) and he immediately purchased all the good designs he could
procure, and also made large purchases both of patterns and working
materials direct from Berlin, and thus laid the foundation of the
trade in England. 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,[131] where the skill and taste of the
needlewoman imparted a grace to her picture which was wanting in the

"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 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

Could we now take a more extended view of modern needlework, how wide
the range to which we might refer,--from the jewelled and
golden-wrought 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.[132]

       *       *       *       *       *

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
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 none.


[131] Some account of London.--1793.

[132] 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.


London: Printed by W. Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street.

Transcriber's Note

Archaic and variable spelling is preserved as printed. Minor
punctuation errors have been repaired.

Hyphenation and use of accents have been made consistent in the main
text where there was a prevalence of one form over another. However,
inconsistencies are preserved as printed where material originates
from different authors.

The title page contains the word 'needle-work.' The author's text, and
a repeat of the title, uses 'needlework'. This has been preserved as

The following items were found:

    Page viii--the page number for the chapter titled "The
    Needle" was omitted from the table of contents.
    Reference to the text shows it to be page 252, and this
    has been added in the appropriate place.

    Page 93--there is some obscured text at the end of the
    page. Given the context and the amount of space, it seems
    reasonable to assume that the missing words are 'he is'
    and these have been added in this etext.

    Page 123, third footnote--mentions the word Alner, but
    doesn't define it. "An Illustrated Dictionary of Words
    Used in Art and Archaeology" by J. W. Mollett defines it
    as: "Aulmonière. The Norman name for the pouch, bag, or
    purse appended to the girdle of noble persons, and
    derived from the same root as 'alms' and 'almoner'. It
    was more or less ornamented and hung from long laces of
    silk or gold; it was sometimes called Alner." The
    transcriber has added 'pouch, bag or purse' as a

    Page 129--There is an obscured word in the line, "With
    steven f-ll- stoute". Comparison with other sources of
    the same verse show the word to be fulle, which has been
    used in this etext.

    Page 175--the footnote marker in the text was missing.
    The transcriber has checked the referenced text, and
    inserted a marker in what appears to be the correct

    Page 257--the speaker of the line "Her neele" was
    obscured. It appears that the speaker should be Tib, and
    this has been inserted.

The following amendments have been made:

    Page 2--certain amended to certains and meurissent
    amended to mûrissent--"... et comme on voit à certains
    arbres des fruits qui ne mûrissent jamais; ..."

    Page 27--footsep amended to footstep--"Each accidental
    passer hushed his footstep ..."

    Page 42--le amended to la--"Suivant la différence des
    états, elles apprennent à lire, ..."

    Page 42--elle amended to elles--"... mais elles insistent
    beaucoup plus sur la nécessité

    Page 83--supurb amended to superb--"... seated on a
    superb throne, and crowned with the papal tiara."

    Page 99, footnote--lvo. amended to vol.--"Archæologia,
    vol. xix."

    Page 119--manngement amended to management--"... for on
    her wise and prudent management depended not merely the
    comfort, ..."

    Page 134--macheloires amended to machoires--"... car si
    tant ne fait que j'aye la barbe & les dents machoires
    sans aucune tromperie ne mensonge, ..."

    Page 155--sixteeenth amended to sixteenth--"In the
    sixteenth century[79] a sort of hanging was introduced,

    Page 175--repeated 'to' deleted--"So she went to bed,
    and in the morning she was found stone dead."

    Page 175--renowed amended to renowned--"Help me, shades
    of renowned slaughterers, whilst I record his

    Page 184--Frence amended to French--"At Durham Place
    were the Citie of Ladies (a French allegorical Romance);

    Page 199--Britions amended to Britons--"... and, as
    supposed, of the ancient Britons."

    Page 200--eylet-holes amended to eyelet-holes--"... full
    of small eyelet-holes, as thickly as they could be put,

    Page 207--His amended to Hir--"Hir hat suld be of fair
    having ..."

    Page 213--meurs amended to moeurs--"... nous n'aurions
    que le mépris qu'on a pour les gens sans moeurs, ..."

    Page 214--magnificience amended to magnificence--"...
    lasting for thrift; and rich for magnificence."

    Page 216--marshelling amended to marshalling--"... using
    more time in dressing than Cæsar took in marshalling his
    army, ..."

    Page 229--Permittez amended to Permettez--"Permettez que
    je vous fasse l'observation, ..."

    Page 234--bouyant amended to buoyant--"... so much was
    it elevated then by buoyant good humour ..."

    Page 242--wtth amended to with--"... mingled with mule
    drivers, lacqueys, and peasants, ..."

    Page 254--chandellier amended to chandelier--"... de
    brodeur, de tapissier, de chandelier, d'emballeur; ..."

    Page 261--finalment amended to finalmente--"... et
    finalmente far tutte quelle gentillezze et lodevili
    opere, ..."

    Page 262--repeated 'of' deleted--"It is dedicated to the
    Queen of France, ..."

    Page 264--Damoiselles amended to Damoyselles--"Aux Dames
    et Damoyselles."

    Page 266--Baccus amended to Bacchus--"Ce Bacchus
    representant l'Autonne."

    Page 267--delli amended to delle--"Corona delle Nobili
    et virtuose Donne, ..."

    Page 267--Mayzette amended to Mazzette--"E molto delle
    quali Mostre possono servire ancora per opere a

    Page 269--logg amended to long--"So long as hemp of
    flax, or sheep shall bear ..."

    Page 273, footnote--al amended to ad--"... e per far
    disegni ad altrui o dar gl'indirizzo ..."

    Page 273, footnote--della dita amended to delle
    dita--"... degli narici, della bocca, delle dita
    corrispondono a' primi moti d'ogni passione; ..."

    Page 273, footnote--del amended to dal--"... e ciò ch'è
    più, essi variano in cento modi senza uscir mai dal
    naturale, ..."

    Page 273, footnote--ridusce amended to ridusse--"...
    tutte comprese con la divinità del suo ingegno, tutto
    ridusse più bello."

    Page 276--privat eapartments amended to private
    apartments--"These are preserved in one of the private
    apartments of the Vatican palace."

    Page 307--Closely amended to closely--"... the Spanish
    Armada up the channel, closely followed by the English,

    Page 331--morte amended to mort--"Prise dans la tente de
    Charles le Téméraire, lors de la mort de ce prince, ..."

    Page 332--intérressant amended to intéressant--"... plus
    intéressant pour les arts, et plus digne d'être
    reproduit par la gravure."

    Page 334--destinée amended to destiné--"Robert fut
    destiné de bonne heure aux fonctions du sacerdoce."

    Page 335--jusque-là converts amended to jusqu'à-là
    couverts--"... il planta la croix du Sauveur dans les
    lieux jusqu'à-là couverts de forêts et de bruyères
    incultes, ..."

    Page 336--émaillées amended to émaillés, and
    ruisselantes amended to ruisselants--"... les
    colonnettes sont émaillés, ruisselants de milliers de
    pierres fines et de perles, ..."

    Page 363--libaries amended to libraries--"... and the
    principal public libraries in England."

    Page 369--illuminaitng amended to illuminating--"When
    the art of illuminating still more failed, ..."

    Page 398--scarely amended to scarcely--"... scarcely
    one-half are moderately good; ..."

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Art of Needle-work, from the Earliest Ages, 3rd ed. - Including Some Notices of the Ancient Historical Tapestries" ***

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