In a recent conversation, I was discussing how many traditional skills have been lost over the years. Even in my own lifetime I can think of skills that have declined if not actually disappeared. Things like woodwork, cooking and knitting are no longer everyday skills, and many of the everyday talents of a Victorian Schoolchild would just astound the modern child. Take for example, handwriting. Many modern children can’t write legibly, can’t spell, and make elementary grammatical mistakes. You don’t need to look hard to find words like tomato’s, do’nt, could of done, and even grammer. But even more, the beautiful copperplate handwriting of Victorian and Edwardian times has been replaced with an illegible scrawl. No doubt part of the reason is that computers are a component of everyday life, and spell and grammar checkers take away the need to learn, but the real issue is that children are not taught these basic skills in school.
Sampler from Strangers’ Hall, Norwich, Norfolk, England
I am sure I will take up the subject of writing skills in future posts, but what I really want to mention here is the Victorian sampler. For those who are not informed, a sampler is a piece of needlework, so called because it demonstrates the stitching skills of the creator. It was not uncommon for samplers to include pictures and text, and these are highly sought after and valuable. As a typical male, I can’t tackle more than basic sewing, but then neither would Victorian boys or men. The Victorian lady, would be another story, because from an early age they would have been taught to sew, and by the age of ten or eleven they would produce a sampler of a quality that would defeat most modern needlewomen. Actually I have never seen a modern sampler, I wonder if anyone still makes them, I would be interested to know. But the Victorian sampler is an amazing demonstration of needle skills and dexterity.
I suppose that in the modern world there is no need to produce a sampler, but what a proud achievement it must have been for the Victorian child. I can’t help but regret its passing.