Thursday, 18 March 2010

O luck husband blest of heavn
To thee the privlege is given
A much lovd wife at home to keep
Caress touch talk to - even sleep
Thrice happy mortal envied lot
What a rare treasure thou hast got
Who to a woman can lay claim
Whos tempers evry day the same.

This made me laugh when I saw it at the V&A's quilts exhibition. Did Elizabeth Chapman, tongue-in-cheek, stitch it into the quilt that commemorated her 1829 marriage to John, to remind him what a lucky man he was? In fact the ditty relates to a scandal about a London dentist who had his dead wife embalmed and displayed in his parlour, charging visitors to come and see her ... so that's why her temper never changed. Did Elizabeth Chapman have a black sense of humour to stitch this into her wedding quilt? Or maybe she came across the verse without knowing its macabre source.
The historic quilts in the exhibition are a delight. (The picture isn't from the Chapman quilt, but from another of my favourites.) Beside them, unfortunately, most of the contemporary quilts look utterly banal; the gentle art of quilting has become shouty and strident ... and who wants to be harangued by a bedspread with attitude!
I can barely thread a needle but it seems that all sorts of people are quilting today. I got chatting to a retired policeman (how scary is that, when even retired policemen are looking young?) and he told me that he started quilting to relax from a stressful job on a murder force.

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