Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Madalene and Louisa Pasley, Victorian Entomologists

I'm not sure how I feel about having a checkpoint list to confirm whether I'm legitimately drawn to something or not. Independent thinking and slightly naughty kids? Check. Art created by kids? Check. Insects? Check and check. I might bore myself with my newly discovered predictability but I still like what's on my checkpoint list. :-)

I bought the book "The Adventures of Madalene and Louisa, Pages from the album of L. and M. S. Pasley, Victorian Entomologists" a long time ago. It was published in 1980, is out of print, but you can still find it at some on-line booksellers.

The two girls who created the stories and drawings were sisters and created this album from ages 12-16 (they were born in 1847 and 1848). No relative seems to know why the two girls chose to portray themselves as "middle-aged spinsters"-just one of those odd private jokes between sisters that would set them off in laughter I suppose. I think these two girls were absolutely brilliant (and goofballs at the same time). I love to find evidence of silliness like this from the past.

These girls loved to "entomologize." That's all they wanted to do but sometimes they were forced to hang out with their older sister Georgie who they said "had been sent away to a school where she was made to drink quantities of calomel which had made her SOUR." The album was drawn and written by the two sisters (not Georgie) and tells their stories of chasing insects despite their sister Georgie and Mr. Mitchell (their drawing instructor) messing with their plans. Those kids were on a mission with their bugs. They were just as determined to go after the bugs as the bugs were determined to thwart their plans in unexpected ways. Reminds me of my summer. :-)

The story of "The Rare Larva"

We discover a beetle larva in a dead tree,
with great effort it is secured
in a collecting case.
It however bursts the ends out
and another method
has to be adopted.

I think it's really funny that one of the sister's faces turns red with all the exertion...but not the other. :-)

I also think it's funny how CONSUMED they are with the chasing of bugs. And that Mr. Mitchell (in the above illustration) is totally unaware of being surrounded by insects (for him, he could only see Lake Windermere, that was apparently the only thing he thought worth drawing). He has no idea that there is a big mosquito thing drilling a hole in his head. When you're aware of insects, they look just like this illustration- they become huge and they are everywhere. What is bewildering to me is that there are so many Mr. Mitchells out there, people who just don't see that there is a whole other world being lived around them.

I'm thinking owning a camera might have something to do with it too. Sherry said that once I started taking pictures, I would soon be looking at the world with a photographer's eyes. When I get a better camera, I am going to be insufferable.


Mental P Mama said...

I must find this book. Those women must have been wonderfully fun people to be with! By the way, you could never be insufferable;)

How are the turtles today?

Maria said...

Try this:

And ha ha ha about not becoming insufferable. We'll see about that. I do appreciate your confidence in that not happening though. :-)

Mental P Mama said...

LOL! I ordered it from Amazon...a bookseller on Amazon for 3.95!

Country Girl said...

You go ahead and be insufferable. I just can't wait for that.

And these pictures in this little book are absolutely fantastic! What interesting people these girls were. I wonder whatever happened to them?

Mental P, I'm going to have to get that book, too!

Maria said...

There really isn't too much about them on the internet. Madalene's book on insects (that she wrote and illustrated at age 14) is now owned by The American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. Click on the link below to view it.

As for what happened to them, here's the postscript from the book:

"Madalene married Sir Henry Jenkins, who was Parliamentary Counsel to the Treasury from 1886-1889. She founded and for many years edited the "Mother's Union Journal"-a quarterly with a circulation of 200,000 copies. Madalene died in 1939. Louisa never married and died in 1929. Both sisters remained keen entomologists and artists all their lives. The Craig, where their "adventures" took place, was demolished in 1968. An estate of modern bungalows was built in its grounds."

It's a darling book. It makes me laugh every time I read it because those two girls were so darn funny. There is so much expression in their drawing and their lettering designs are very modern.

As for the insufferable description of myself, I think I'm there. :-) You two don't work with me. I think that's all I talk about now. Bugs. Bugs. Bugs. At least when I yabber away, it's with other bug enthusiasts in the department.

Dee said...

I just found one of these books at an estate sale today! It is so unusual...I love it! I decided to do some research on the book and found your blog!

Maria said...

Dee-Isn't that book GREAT?? There was an exhibit of their actual work in England this year. Dang. Wish I could have seen it.

SimpleSue said...

Your blog is great! I'm an illustrator that loves animals too. So far I've just read this post, but am looking forward to exploring your wold!