The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO ALEXANDER NORMAN MACLEOD; 28 November 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18271100-TC-ANM-01; CL 4:286-287.


[November 1827]

Mrs Graham,1 the maker of this hat, is a poor but industrious woman, about five-and-thirty years of age, resident with her husband and daughter, in a cottage belonging to a little farm called Myer, in the parish of Hoddam, Dumfriesshire. Her husband, who is a weaver, is, from the state of his health, unable to work much, so that, for a number of years, the charge of providing for the little household has fallen chiefly on his wife, who, although in poor health herself, has hitherto contrived to perform this task in a highly creditable manner. Her chief resource is the making of straw-hats, chiefly of the wheat-straw kind, for which, by reason of their cheapness, she finds a ready sale during the summer season, all over the neighbourhood.2 About four years ago she procured a loan of Cobbet[t]'s Cottage Economy from a Farmer of that district, and finding there some instructions about the plaiting of Leghorn Bonnets, she forthwith set about turning it to advantage. By means of Cobbet[t]'s figures & descriptions she succeeded in discovering the proper sort or rather sorts of Grass in the fields; and then in bleaching, cleaning, and plaiting it as he described. Further trials gave her more insight: In this branch of the business she was soon perfect. The sewing of the plaited stripes together into a bonnet or other continuous Web of straw plait cost her more trouble: But this also by unravelling and scrutinising several pieces of real Leghorn she at length accomplished to her own satisfaction. The art of pressing and otherwise smoking3 and trimming the plait was next learned; and ere long various Leghorns of her manufacture were to be seen in actual wear in that quarter; indeed as many as she could make were willingly bought by the Shopkeepers of Dumfries.4