It always surprises me how in the middle of all the bustle and rush and deadlines and the call to move on to the next thing, an occasional quiet voice calls me back, becomes a persistent companion and refuses to be denied. I spent much of Thursday on a cold train; in my bag was an image of the Marianne Nevill stitched scroll of the Testament of St Luke I wanted to share with a friend who does not use a computer. The scroll had been described as a sampler in an auction catalogue and I was saddened that this testament to the incredible passion and life-long efforts of a woman had been dismissed by this classification. Other examples came to mind - The Lorina Bulwer Sampler in Carrow House Museum, Norwich; a stitched text in a private collection by someone with mental disability; and Elizabeth Parker's stitched text in the V&A - aka Sampler T.6-1956. How can it be that we continue to sanction the classification of sampler to a stitched document, the text of which includes: “O that I may but be saved on the day of judgement God be merciful to me a sinner but oh how can I expect mercy who went on in sin until or W remind me of my wickedness for with shame I returned to thee O God because I had nowhere else to go how can such repentance as mine be sincere what will become of my soul.” Perhaps it is time to dignify these sufferings as Stitched Texts, Confessions or Testaments....or maybe you can think of a better term, please? And perhaps we can ask the V&A to reclassify Elizabeth's work?
For a sea of sorrows is not a stage, and one who cries out is not a dancing bear.