When Thou Art Rich c. 1710-1730


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“When Thou Art Rich Thou Many Friends Shall Find, When Riches Fail Friends Soon Will Prove Unkind”

This beautiful Quaker band sampler from the early 1700’s is worked with brightly coloured silks on fine linen. Stitches include cross stitch, Algerian eye, satin stitch and Queen (rococo) stitch. The sampler has been rated intermediate due to the variety of stitches, however, the project is an excellent choice for beginners wishing to progress to the next level.

In the early 18th Century the need to learn a great variety of stitches and complex traditional patterns reduced as embroidered costumes and furnishings were replaced by extravagant woven and printed fabrics. The format of English samplers evolved into a squarer shape, reflecting the further changing perception of their purpose. It combined in a single exercise the different stages that a girl would previously have gone through in the acquisition of needlework skills.

The result was not a long, narrow piece to be rolled up and stored in workbaskets as a reference of stitches and patterns, but something that could be proudly displayed like a painting or print. Besides the reduction in length there was an increasing use of a surrounding border which enclosed the finished needlework. As the century progressed the border became the norm.

Other similar early Quaker samplers are Dorcas Haynes 1720 in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Grace Catlin 1719 in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum and Martha Haynes 1704 featured in “Samplers and Tapestry Embroideries” by Marcus Huish.

Early Quaker samplers are far removed from the later sombre samplers associated with Ackworth and other Quaker schools. Devout Quakers of the early 18th century retreated from mainstream society into a period of “Quietism” and two distinct strands of Quaker life existed one more worldly and prosperous, usually urban and involved in trade and manufacturing, the other often rural, isolated, poorer and referred to as “plain” Quakers.

Both strands of Quakers were concerned with the education of their young and literacy and numeracy were of prime importance to be able to read the Bible. Words and sentiments stitched in samplers were much repeated and common between religions yet the verse in this sampler has only been seen by us in one other sampler – Ann Keele 1736.

It is an old English Proverb recorded in the 18th century book “The School Masters Repository or Youth’s Moral Preceptor – Containing A Select Store Of Curious Sentences and Maxims in Prose and Verse” by  John Tapner.

The proverb can also be found in a late 17th century mural on a wall in a Grade II listed medieval farmhouse in South Halstow, Devon, England. Interestingly the antique sampler has a label on the reverse from a framer in Ilfracombe Devon.

The fondness for translating portions of the Latin Bible into English rhyme was not unusual in early modern England and the verse is a playful translation of Proverbs 14:20 or 19:4. It could even have been inspired by the Book of Job. Shakespeare uses and plays with the proverb in “Made for Measure” and the proverb’s moral appears in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Tale of Melibee” from the Canterbury Tales.

Thread Legend

Thread Legend for website only 1

Stitch Guide

Stitch guide for website

Thee & Thou

The verse selected for samplers frequently contains the pronouns “thee”, “thou”, “thy”, and “thine”, a feature we have come to expect given the words’ association with biblical verse and our recognition of the primacy of Christian education in England and the United States during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. However, the words have not always connoted the formality of speech that we read into them today. The earliest translations of the Bible into English reflected common language usage and included words—including “thee”, “thou”, “thy”, and “thine”—that were both popular and informal. Later, as English shifted toward the modern preference for “you” and “your”, the biblical context of the once-familiar “thee”, “thou”, “thy”, and “thine” made the words sound more formal to most ears.

Many of us would be hard-pressed to use them correctly in a sentence, but it’s actually easier than it seems. Use “thou” in the subject position of the sentence, and use “thee” as a direct object (that is, the object or recipient of the action). For example: Thou art a sight for sore eyes and I only have eyes for thee. As for “thy” and “thine”, they are possessive, much like “your” or “yours”, and vary too, depending upon whether or not they are followed by a word beginning with a vowel: Deny thy father and refuse thy name and to thine own self be true. Perhaps through our dedication to reproducing samplers, we might also revive this beautiful manner of speech!

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