No. 606. Wednesday, October 13, 1714.

--longum cantu solata laborem Arguto Conjux percurrit pectine Telas.'


'I have a couple of Nieces under my Direction, who so often run gadding abroad, that I don't know where to have them. Their Dress, their Tea, and their Visits take up all their Time, and they go to Bed as tired with doing nothing, as I am after quilting a whole Under-Petticoat. The only time they are not idle, is while they read your SPECTATORS; which being dedicated to the Interests of Virtue, I desire you to recommend the long neglected Art of Needle-work. Those Hours which in this Age are thrown away in Dress, Play, Visits, and the like, were employ'd, in my time, in writing out Receipts, or working Beds, Chairs, and Hangings for the Family. For my Part, I have ply'd 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 proud 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 weigh'd this important Subject, and promise my self, from the Arguments here laid down, that all the fine Ladies of England will be ready, as soon as their Mourning is over, [1] 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, exempts from Publick 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 their Needle, or little Cupids which they have brought into the World without Pain!

This is, methinks, the most proper way wherein a Lady can shew a fine Genius, and I cannot forbear wishing, that several Writers of that Sex had chosen to apply themselves rather to Tapestry than Rhime. Your Pastoral Poetesses may vent their Fancy in Rural Landskips, and place despairing Shepherds under silken Willows, or drown them in a Stream of Mohair. The Heroick Writers may work up 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 awkardly, 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 unactive 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 the more proper Colour. How much greater Glory would Sophronia do the General, if she would chuse rather to work the Battle of Blenheim in Tapestry, than signalize her self with so much Vehemence against those who are Frenchmen in their Hearts.

A Third Reason that I shall mention, is the Profit that is brought to the Family where these pretty Arts are encouraged. It is manifest that this way of Life not only keeps fair Ladies from running out into Expences, but is at the same time an actual Improvement. How memorable would that Matron be, who should have it Inscribed upon her Monument, 'that she Wrought out the whole Bible in Tapestry, and died in a good old Age, after having covered three hundred Yards of Wall in the Mansion-House.'

The Premises being consider'd, I humbly submit the following Proposals to all Mothers in Great Britain.

I. That no young Virgin whatsoever be allow'd to receive the Addresses of her first Lover, but in a Suit of her own Embroidering.

II. That before every fresh Servant, she be oblig'd to appear with a new Stomacher at the least.

III. That no one be actually married, till 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 decay'd Art of Needle-work, and make the Virgins of Great Britain exceedingly Nimble-finger'd in their Business.

There is a memorable Custom of the Grecian Ladies in this particular, preserv'd in Homer, which I hope will have a very good Effect with my Country-women. A Widow in Ancient Times could not, without Indecency, receive a second Husband, till she had Woven a Shrowd for her deceased Lord, or the next of Kin to him. Accordingly, the Chaste Penelope having, as she thought, lost Ulysses at Sea, she employed her time in preparing a Winding-sheet for Laertes, the Father of her Husband. The Story of her Web being very Famous, and yet not sufficiently known in its several Circumstances, I shall give it to my Reader, as Homer makes one of her Wooers relate it.

'Sweet Hope she gave to every Youth apart, With well-taught Looks, and a deceitful Heart: A Web she wove of many a slender Twine, Of curious Texture, and perplext Design; My Youths, she cry'd, my Lord but newly dead, Forbear a while to court my widow'd Bed, 'Till I have wov'n, as solemn Vows require, This Web, a Shrowd for poor_ Ulysses' _Sire. His Limbs, when Fate the Hero's Soul demands, Shall claim this Labour of his Daughter's Hands: Lest all the Dames of Greece my Name despise, While the great King without a Covering lies.

Thus she. Nor did my Friends mistrust the Guile. All Day she sped the long laborious Toil: But when the burning Lamps supply'd the Sun, Each Night unravell'd what the Day begun. Three live-long Summers did the Fraud prevail. The Fourth her Maidens told th' amazing Tale. These Eyes beheld, as close I took my Stand, The backward Labours of her faithless Hand: 'Till watch'd at length, and press'd on every Side, Her Task she ended, and commenc'd a Bride.'

[Footnote 1: Public Mourning for Q. Anne, who died Aug. 1, 1714.]

Translation of motto:
VIRG. Georg. i. 293.
'Mean time at home
The good wife singing plies the various loom.'