Two years ago to the day, I published Welcome to The Emu Café. In addition to introducing a new New Leaf Journal category, I endeavored to set an aesthetic tone for our humble online magazine. There is no better way to mark the two-year anniversary of the publication of my Emu Café piece than with the publication of aesthetic content. Mind Amongst the Spindles: A Micellany, Wholly Composed by the Factory Girls was published in 1845 (available on Project Gutenberg). It featured 37 short pieces composed by women who worked in factories in New England. In this piece, I will review excerpts from A Weaver’s Reverie by “Ella”.
About Ella, the Author of A Weaver’s Reverie
A Weaver’s Reverie was composed by a woman named Ella. Three of her works made it into Mind Amongst the Spindles. The editor of the collection, Charles Knight, wrote of Ella:
Ella, from whom we select three papers, is one of the imaginative spirits who dwell on high thoughts of the past, reveries of the future—one who has been an earnest thinker as well as a reader.
Ella was otherwise left to speak for herself through the three works of her’s that were selected for publication in Mind Amongst the Spindles.
Read the Full Text
I will print excerpts of A Weaver’s Reverie in this article along with some additional thoughts. You can (and should) read the full piece. I reproduced the original A Weaver’s Reverie as an HTML file.
The background of the document is a shade of hyacinth-blue, reflecting one description of the sky in Ella’s melancholically pretty essay.
Excerpts From A Weaver’s Reverie
A Weaver’s Reverie set out to answer a question from the perspective of a factory girl:
Why is it, said a friend to me one day, that the factory girls write so much about the beauties of nature?
Ella described one day at the factory at the top of her piece:
It was a sunny day, and I left for a few moments the circumscribed spot which is my appointed place of labor, that I might look from an adjoining window upon the bright loveliness of nature. Yes, it was a sunny day; but for many days before, the sky had been veiled in gloomy clouds; and joyous indeed was it to look up into the blue vault, and see it unobscured by its sombre screen; and my heart fluttered, like a prisoned bird, with its painful longings for an unchecked flight amidst the beautiful creation around me.
After exploring precisely why it was that the factory girls wrote about the beauties of nature, Ella returned to that day she stared into the clear sky:
I think I said there was a cloudless sky; but it was not so. It was clear, and soft, and its beauteous hue was one of ‘the hyacinth’s deep blue’—but there was one bright solitary cloud, far up in the cerulean vault; and I wished that it might for once be in my power to lie down upon that white, fleecy couch, and there, away and alone, to dream of all things holy, calm, and beautiful. Methought that better feelings, and clearer thoughts than are often wont to visit me, would there take undisturbed possession of my soul.
Were she to ride away on that cloud, Ella would:
[L]ook down upon the vessels pursuing their different courses across the bright waters; and as I watched their toilsome progress, I should feel how blessed a thing it was to be where no impediment of wind or wave might obstruct my onward way.
Prior to resuming her sunny day anecdote, Ella wrote a particularly striking passage about the meditation of the factory girl among the bustle of the factory and the noisiness of her tenement home:
Oh tell me this, and I will tell why the factory girl sits in the hour of meditation, and thinks—not of the crowded clattering mill, nor of the noisy tenement which is her home, nor of the thronged and busy street which she may sometimes tread,—but of the still and lovely scenes which, in bygone hours, have sent their pure and elevating influence with a thrilling sweep across the strings of the spirit-harp, and then awaken its sweetest, loftiest notes; and ever as she sits in silence and seclusion, endeavoring to draw from that many-toned instrument a strain which may be meet for another’s ear, that music comes to the eager listener like the sound with which the sea-shell echoes the roar of what was once its watery home. All her best and holiest thoughts are linked with those bright pictures which call them forth, and when she would embody them for the instruction of others, she does it by a delineation of those scenes which have quickened and purified her own mind.
Ella then made it clear who the meditative factory girl was:
It was this love of nature’s beauties, and a yearning for the pure hallowed feelings which those beauties had been wont to call up from their hidden springs in the depths of the soul, to bear away upon their swelling tide the corruption which had gathered, and I feared might settle there,—it was this love, and longing, and fear, which made my heart throb quickly, as I sent forth a momentary glance from the factory window.
Ella’s essay ended with her being unceremoniously snapped out of her reverie:
‘Your looms are going without filling,’ said a loud voice at my elbow; so I ran as fast as possible and changed my shuttles.
Final Thoughts on A Weaver’s Reverie
I came across A Weaver’s Reverie while searching for interesting content in the Project Gutenberg . While skimming the larger Mind Amongst the Spindles text, the following line (reprinted above):
Oh tell me why is this, and I will tell why the factory girl sits in the hour of meditation, and thinks—not of the crowded clattering mill, nor of the noisy tenement which is her home, nor of the thronged and busy street which she may sometimes tread,—but of the still and lovely scenes which, in bygone hours, have sent their pure and elevating influence with a thrilling sweep across the strings of the spirit-harp…
A Weaver’s Reverie is equal parts melancholic and hauntingly aesthetic. Ella’s life consisted of busy work in the “crowded chattering mill” and little respite in “the noisy tenement which is her home.” Her reveries were her escape from a bleak world from which there was no obvious escape. My excerpts focused primarily on Ella’s descriptions of nature in her reverie, but in un-printed excerpts, she plainly analogized her reveries to “the delirious dreams of the famine-stricken” and “the desert-traveler who looks forward upon the burning boundless waste, and sees pictured before his aching eyes, some verdant oasis…” Ella lived a hard life with little tangible in it to satiate her aesthetic sensibilities, love of beauty, and desire for requiescence. In between filling the looms, traversing “the thronged and busy street” to and from work, and only finding quietude near midnight in her home, Ella thought of beautiful things and places far away and conveyed those sad and beautiful dreams with her pen.
It is a sentimental piece perfectly in line with the ethos of our project: “Hours pass by slowly, like a reverie, in the bold colors of the afternoon.”
(I conclude with a reminder that I made the entire A Weaver’s Reverie essay available here.)