Monday 7 December 2009

The Curious Case of Marianne Nevill

Many thanks once again to the wonderful Lynne Anderson at Sampler Consortium for drawing my attention to this lot appearing incongruously in a Christie's Interiors Auction tomorrow 8 December. I am intrigued why this 1000 inch (2500 cm) stitched scroll of the Gospel of St Luke in English and Italian is categorised as a sampler - has this judgement been made on the basis that it is just one of those whotnot thingies stitched by women? It is also wrongly attributed in the catalogue. The work was by Miss Nevill without the e. With that knowledge we can begin to unravel the curious case of Miss Nevill who, in 1829, wrote out, in her own hand, in just one month, A Book of Common Prayer in Hebrew and Greek. She was also a fashionably educated Irish heiress who in the 1830s had property rents and interest on £8,000 wealth amounting to an annual income of around £2,500.

Miss Nevill who in her words stitched here, was confined to her house by the court 'For believing the Omnipotence of God and the restoration of Israel, according to the scriptures... and further with intending to lay out GBP150... in establishing a portion of the Ten Tribes of Israel in Idumea etc; and was likewise charged with having printed a Geography, for the use of Schools'. The problem lay not with her religious beliefs, but rather with her affectionate (sic) nephew who, concerned about her charity and religious vision being the consumer of his future inheritance, issued a writ of de lunatico inquirendo against his aunt. An affidavit based on no more than a five minute examination by a doctor sealed her commital. For more information see The Speech of the Right Honourable Francis Blackburne on behalf of Miss Nevill on Google Books. Miss Nevill though confined to her home was still allowed to bestow some charity by giving sewing classes to orphans and this scroll was stitched with the aid of 5 girls. As a coda to her tale - which should be told at far greater length - Miss Marianne Nevill's Needlework on Irish Linen was one of the exhibits at the New York Exhibition of Industry of All Nations in 1853.


  1. very interesting bit of history
    thanks for sharing
    this could be a good book or movie

  2. what an amazing story .. women were treated so unfairly .. often a woman could be committed to an asylum just because their husband was tired of her or wanted her money .. the wonderful miss nevill showed such courage and tenacity and of course such loving charity, even in her own incarceration.. thankyou for this story ..