Eliza Batte was Victor Batte-Lay’s maternal grandmother. It was in 1922 that Victor adopted this maternal surname by deed poll.
A sampler is a piece of embroidery made traditionally by women to record and practice sewing stitches, motifs, designs and new techniques. Deriving from the Latin word exemplum- an example, a sampler was used as a teaching reference, in place of printed pattern books which were extremely rare. Early English examples of this practice date from the Tudor period, the earliest surviving work is by Jane Bostocke dated 1598, housed within the textiles collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. However, the tradition was most popular during the Regency and Victorian periods when it played an important part in a girl’s education before marriage.
Eliza Batte’s embroidery dated 1815 is an archetypal example of a nineteenth century sampler and it is likely to have been completed during Batte’s late childhood. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the sampler underwent stylistic transformations. From an eclectic collection of mismatched sewn motifs it became an ordered design and a considered composition, exemplifying the skill of the young woman and the strength of her moral character. This sampler typically comprises upper and lowercase lines of the alphabet in differing typographies, numerals, a decorative floral boarder, and ornamental motifs and is signed and dated. Eliza Batte chose to work a popular devotional verse in the centre of the composition. This verse appears in many samplers of the same period including one by a young Emily Dickinson (American Poet 1830 – 1886) which is housed in the Harvard Collection, USA. The inclusion of verse articulates the maker’s religious and spiritual virtue, while the achievement of completing a sampler recognises the attributes expected of the embroiderer in womanhood, such as hard work and devotion.
“Jesus permit thy gracious name to stand
As the first efforts of a youthful hand
And whilst her fingers over the canvass move
Engage her tender heart to seek thy love
With thy dear children let her have a part
And write thy name thyself upon her heart”.
Connie Ann Kirk, Emily Dickinson: A Biography, Greenwood Publishing Group: Amhurst (Mass.) USA, 2004, pp.22-24
Canada Virtual Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum