Pride & Precedence: Make Do and Mend?

A continuing series by Persuasion’s Mary Musgrove

Of all the irksome tasks allotted to a lady — and there are many, believe you me! — needlework is the most unfair.

Oh, the hours I have spent embroidering elaborate designs on something useless, such as that set of cushions for our parish church. And to what purpose? So that someone’s hind end will be more comfortable while he or she listens to a sermon? Please.

I would rather be doing something productive.  Like paging through the latest fashion periodical. Or taking a nap.

Now that I am a mother, I am expected to help with the mending. Me, darning stockings! Making repairs to torn breeches! Replacing lost buttons and frayed cuffs! Heavens.

Who says I ought to be the one to mend? Yes, I am a mother and the lady of the house. Does this mean that I must work like a serf?

As an Elliot of Kellynch Hall, I well understand the importance of clothes. See here, I cannot go about announcing my exalted ancestry always. I have beautiful clothing for that.

Yes, exquisite garments are society’s Town Crier, calling forth the best places at dinner parties and respectful service in the village shops. Nothing says Well Born quite as effectively as spotlessly clean, stylish attire.

But young boys make “clean” impossible to maintain!  My poor nerves. My sons climb trees and scramble across stiles, and they engage in rough-and-tumble play with my husband’s dogs. If I keep the boys with me in the house, they are never still. They spill strawberry jam on themselves at breakfast, and later they open my writing desk and upset the ink pot.

Am I a serf?

Then too, my sons are continually growing. It’s like a joke of cosmic proportions. Once their wardrobe needs are met, overnight they must shoot up two inches in height. And do not speak to me about their too-tight shoes!

Charles merely laughs and says growing families are like this, as if torn and stained garments are a joke. It costs good money to hire a needlewoman — and we need a fleet of them!

Therefore, I must make do without a new gown this month — again. Because the Young Squire’s sons cannot go about in rags, it seems that I am forced to do so.

I trust that your needlework obligations are more tolerable than mine.

Most cordially,

Mary Elliot Musgrove
Daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, Bart.
Future Mistress of Uppercross
Laura Hile (1)


7 thoughts on “Pride & Precedence: Make Do and Mend?

    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Dear Mary. Is there anything she does not whine about?

      Writing her is kind of like Lewis writing Uncle Screwtape, ha.

      Two blessings of modern civilization for which I am sincerely grateful: medicine and clothing (production and laundering). I helped my grandma use the wringer washer (and the clothesline and the ironing) — what a chore! And mending has been the despair of mothers since time began. I am beyond grateful for the sewing machine.


  1. Robin Helm

    I cannot sew, thank goodness. Both of my daughters seem to have inherited their Mama Mills’s gifts in that area. Mel is in the middle of making a T shirt quilt, and Mandy routinely sews for her brood. Me? Zulily is my friend, and they deliver adorable clothes from me to my grandchildren without forcing me to thread a needle. I love the internet.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Susan Kaye

    I still darn socks. This is no humble brag, just an admission that I am so bloody cheap I can’t throw them out without taking a needle to them at least twice.

    Yes, I am a sad, sad little person.



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