Observing buttterflies fluttering in my garden I remembered the story of Margaret Fountaine, a Victorian butterfly collector, from Norwich.
Margaret was born on May 16th 1862 in Norfolk and after her father’s death in 1877, her family moved to Norwich. At the age of 16, Margaret, who was educated at home, began keeping a diary, which she continued until her death. She thought about a career as a painter, she was quite talented, as her sketchbooks show, and spent some years in Milan studying voice. Apparently she was just as talented a singer, but what she really loved was travelling.
Strong-minded, eager for adventure and disdainful of convention, she often travelled by bicycle which was quite daring in those days. She started hunting butterflies as a way of making a living. While a lady’s maid could earn 90 guineas a year, a single quality example of a rare butterfly species could fetch three guineas so Margaret could earn enough to have a more than decent life.
She visited over sixty countries in her collecting career. After Margaret died in 1942, while collecting butterflies in Jamaica at age 78, her sketchbooks were left to the Natural History Museum in London and her collection of about 22000 butterflies and a sealed metal box went to theNorwich Castle Museum, with instructions that the box remain sealed until 1978. Together they provide an important insight into a Victorian female naturalist who collected, and wrote about, sixty countries on six continents over fifty years.
The collection was put on display, and remains so today. When the box was opened, it was found to contain her 12-volume diary, which she had begun exactly 100 years earlier. The diaries are not only informative but beautiful, adorned with images, pressed flowers and insects. Two volumes of selections from Fountaine’s diaries have been published under the titlle : Love among the butterflies
This article was written thanks to the following sources you can consult online if you want to know more about Margaret Fountaine :
Depuis le début de la pandémie et du confinement de nouveaux termes sont apparus dans la langue anglaise. Les voici :
Are you fully conversant with the new terminology?
*Coronacoaster* The ups and downs of your mood during the pandemic. You’re loving lockdown one minute but suddenly weepy with anxiety the next. It truly is “an emotional coronacoaster”. *Quarantinis* Experimental cocktails mixed from whatever random ingredients you have left in the house. The boozy equivalent of a store cupboard supper. Southern Comfort and Ribena quarantini with a glacé cherry garnish, anyone? These are sipped at “locktail hour”, ie. wine o’clock during lockdown, which seems to be creeping earlier with each passing week. *Le Creuset wrist* It’s the new “avocado hand” – an aching arm after taking one’s best saucepan outside to bang during the weekly ‘Clap For Carers.’ It might be heavy but you’re keen to impress the neighbours with your high-quality kitchenware. *Coronials* As opposed to millennials, this refers to the future generation of babies conceived or born during coronavirus quarantine. They might also become known as “Generation C” or, more spookily, “Children of the Quarn”. *Furlough Merlot* Wine consumed in an attempt to relieve the frustration of not working. Also known as “bored-eaux” or “cabernet tedium”. *Coronadose* An overdose of bad news from consuming too much media during a time of crisis. Can result in a panicdemic. *The elephant in the Zoom* The glaring issue during a videoconferencing call that nobody feels able to mention. E.g. one participant has dramatically put on weight, suddenly sprouted terrible facial hair or has a worryingly messy house visible in the background. *Quentin Quarantino* An attention-seeker using their time in lockdown to make amateur films which they’re convinced are funnier and cleverer than they actually are. *Covidiot* or *Wuhan-ker* One who ignores public health advice or behaves with reckless disregard for the safety of others can be said to display “covidiocy” or be “covidiotic”. Also called a “lockclown” or even a “Wuhan-ker”. *Goutbreak* The sudden fear that you’ve consumed so much wine, cheese, home-made cake and Easter chocolate in lockdown that your ankles are swelling up like a medieval king’s. *Antisocial distancing* Using health precautions as an excuse for snubbing neighbours and generally ignoring people you find irritating. *Coughin’ dodger* Someone so alarmed by an innocuous splutter or throat-clear that they back away in terror. *Mask-ara* Extra make-up applied to « make one’s eyes pop » before venturing out in public wearing a face mask. *Covid-10* The 10lbs in weight that we’re all gaining from comfort-eating and comfort-drinking. Also known as “fattening the curve.
Before the current situation, London-based artist and photographer Lewis Khan was granted unrestricted access to two hospitals in the capital over a four-year period. He was permitted to attend operations, observe patients and staff in pain, in joy, in despair. The result is a brilliant photobook, ‘Theatre’. All profits from sales of the book are going to the NHS.