Elisabeth Cowper

Scottish Samplers

Elisabeth Cowper


Auchterarder, Perthshire


We hardly know where to begin - this piece is just that amazing! Elisabeth has filled this sampler with a plethora of motifs that are well executed and together represent her many talents. The large, stylized swan can be seen in many other Scottish samplers, but Elisabeth's rendition is exceptional. In addition to the swan, take note of the complexities within the Adam & Eve, peacocks, crowns, deer, trees, sheep and ships. We have not seen forests depicted in this fashion in any previous samplers. Every inch has something new, but the entire sampler is well balanced and consistent.

The elegant, three-storied manor house has a grand entry way, decorative finials on the roof, window panes and well stitched quoins along the corners. We are at a quandary about whether the central section of the house is truly unfinished or just an interesting design choice. Compared to the rest of the house it is very sparsely stitched.

As with the rest of the sampler, Elisabeth has designed a border that is complex, colourful, and unusual, creating an undulating pattern of two different flowers that frames the sampler within. 

We have been unable to link Elisabeth to Janet Mailer, but presume they are cousins to some degree, as well as taught by the same teacher.

Familial initials: EC, JC, JC, BF, NL, CS, JC, JC, EM 

Size (W x H): 17 3/4 x 21 3/4 inches

Stitches: Cross, satin, double running, cross-over-one, Queens, eyelet, tent

Media: Silk on wool


The Cowper named is also spelled Couper/Coupar. In 1804 James Cooper, farmer, married Jean Cooper in Trinity-Gask, Perthshire. Elisabeth Couper was born 28 January and christened 5 February 1809 in Auchterarder, Perthshire. Siblings included Euphemia (1805), Jean (1812), James (1814) and Jean #2 (1816). Elisabeth's paternal grandparents were John Cooper and Elizabeth Mailer. 

Elisabeth married William Dow, a farmer, 11 July 1834 in Dunning parish. They had six children: Jane (1835), Margaret (1837), Elizabeth (1839), John (1841), Helen Mary (1846) and William (1849). Husband William dies in 1856. Daughter Jane marries Robert Mailer in 1857. The 1861 Scotland census lists the family living at Kirktonlees farm, Elisabeth is head of household, and all the children except Jane are living with her. By the 1871 census, Elisabeth is living on Main Street in Auchterarder with daughters Margaret and Helen Mary. Helen Mary Dow married John Mcrobbie in 1874. Widow Elisabeth died in 1881 of cardiac arrest. Both deaths are witnessed by son John. The 1901 census shows Margaret, unmarried, living with her widowed sister Jane Mailer. 


Self to self and God to man reveal'd
 Two themes to nature's eye forever seal'd
Are taught by rays that fly with equal pace
From the same centre of enlightning grace

Elisabeth Cowper Auchterarder 1824

Remember death for you most die

God is light God is love

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(This sampler was added to the site on February 15, 2013)

Additional Information

Elisabeth's verse is an excerpt from the poem Charity, written in 1781 by William Cowper. At this point we have been unable to determine the familial relationship between the two, if there is any at all. William Cowper is more known for co-authoring the Olney Hymns with his friend John Newton -- the most famous of which is Amazing Grace.