Monday, April 16, 2012

The Moral of a Pair of Stockings. 1851

The Pittsfield Sun [Massachusetts] June 12, 1851
The Moral of a Pair of Stockings.
            The following letter was written by a distinguished literary lady, Mrs. W., of Troy, N.Y., and sent to a learned judge of New Haven, on the eve of his marriage.

            “Dear Cousin: Herewith you will receive a present of a pair of woolen stockings, knit by my own hands; and be assured, dear coz., that my friendship for you is warm as the maternal, active as the finger-work, and generous as the donation.

            But I consider this present as peculiarly appropriate on the occasion of your marriage.—
You will remark, in the first place, that there are two individuals united into one pair, who are to walk side by side, guarding against coldness, and giving comfort as long as they last. The thread of their texture is mixed; and so, alas! is the tread of life. In these, however, the white is made to predominate, expressing my desire and confidence that thus it will be with the color of your existence.—
No black is used, for I believe your lives will be wholly free from the black passions of wrath and jealousy. The darkest color here is blue, which is excellent, when we do not make it too blue.
            Other appropriate thoughts rise in my mind in regarding these stockings. The most indifferent subjects, when viewed by the mind in a suitable frame, may furnish instructive inferences, as saith the poet:

                        “The iron dogs, the fuel and tongs,
                        The bellows that have leathern lungs;
                        The firewood, ashes, and the smoke,
                        Do all to righteousness provoke.”

            But to the subject. You will perceive that the tops of these stocking (by which I suppose courtship to be represented) are seamed, and by means of seaming are drawn into a snarl; but afterwards comes a time when the whole is made plain and continues so to the end and final toeing off. By this I wish to take occasion to congratulate your self that you are now through with seeming, and have come to plain reality. Again, as the whole of these comely stockings was not made at once, but by the addition of one little stitch after another, put in with skill and discretion, until the whole presents the fair and equal piece of work which you see, so life does not consist of one great action; but millions of little ones combined; and so may it be with your lives. No stitch dropped when duties are to be performed; no widening made where but principles are to be reproved, or economy is to be preserved; neither seeming nor narrowing where truth and generosity are in question.
            Thus every stitch of life made right and set in the right place: none either too large or too small, to tight or too loose; thus you may keep on your smooth and even course—making existence one fair and consistent piece—until together, having passed the heel, you come to the very toe of life; and here, in the final narrowing off and dropping off the coil of this emblematical pair of companions and comforting associates, nothing appears but white, the token of innocence and peace, of purity and light. May you, like these stocking, the final stitch being dropped, and the work completed, go together from the place where you were formed to a happier state of existence, a present from Earth to Heaven.—
Hoping that these stockings and admonitions may meet a civil reception, I remain in the true-blue friendship, seemly, yet without seeming, Yours, from top to toe.  

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