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From the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, hundreds of British women wrote about and drew from nature. Some—like the beloved children's author Beatrix Potter, who produced natural history about hedgehogs as well as fiction about rabbits—are still familiar today. But others have all but disappeared from view. Barbara Gates recovers these lost works and prints them alongside little-known pieces by more famous authors, like Potter's field notes on hedgehogs, reminding...
From the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, hundreds of British women wrote about and drew from nature. Some—like the beloved children's author Beatrix Potter, who produced natural history about hedgehogs as well as fiction about rabbits—are still familiar today. But others have all but disappeared from view. Barbara Gates recovers these lost works and prints them alongside little-known pieces by more famous authors, like Potter's field notes on hedgehogs, reminding us of better known stories that help set the others in context.
The works contained in this volume are as varied as the women who produced them. They include passionate essays on the protection of animals, vivid accounts of travel and adventure from the English seashore to the Indian Alps, poetry and fiction, and marvelous tales of nature for children. Special features of the book include a detailed chronology placing each selection in its historical and literary context; biographical sketches of each author's life and works; a comprehensive bibliography of primary and secondary literature; and over sixty illustrations.
An ideal introduction to women's powerful and diverse responses to the natural world, In Nature's Name will be treasured by anyone interested in natural history, women, or Victorian and Edwardian Britain.
... Would you see Nature in all her savage grandeur? Then follow me to
her wildest solitudes-the home of the yak, and the wild deer, the land of
the citron, and the orange, the arctic lichen, and the pine-where, in deep
Alpine valley, rivers cradled in gigantic precipices, and fed by icy
peaks, either thunder over tempest-shattered rock, or sleep to the music
of their own lullaby-even to the far East, amongst the Indian Alps....
It has been said that nothing can be more grand and majestic than the Alps
of Switzerland, and that size is a phantom of the brain, an optical
illusion, grandeur consisting rather in form than size. As a rule it may
be so; but they are 'minute philosophers' who sometimes argue thus. Not
that I would disparage the Swiss Alps, which were my first loves, and
which, it must be acknowledged, do possess more of picturesque beauty than
the greater, vastermountains of the East; but the stupendous Himalaya-in
their great loneliness and vast magnificence, impossible alike to pen and
pencil adequately to portray, their height, and depth, and length, and
breadth of snow appealing to the emotions-impress one as nothing else can,
and seem to expand one's very soul.
We were sitting at dinner one evening beneath a punkah in one of the
cities of the plains of India, feeling languid and flabby and miserable,
the thermometer standing at anything you like to mention, when the
'khansamah' (butler) presented F- with a letter, the envelope of which
bore the words, 'On Her Majesty's Service'; and on opening it he found
himself under orders for two years' service at Darjeeling, one of the
lovely settlements in the Himalaya, the 'Abode of Snow'-Him, in Sanscrit,
signifying 'Snow,' and alaya 'Abode'-the Imaus of the ancients.
Were the 'Powers that be' ever so transcendently gracious? Imagine, if you
can, what such an announcement conveyed to our minds. Emancipation from
the depleting influences of heat almost unbearable, for the bracing and
life-giving breezes which blow over regions of eternal ice and snow.
But even in these days it is wonderful to what an extent ignorance
prevails about the more unfrequented parts of India; for it is not
generally known, except as a mere abstract truth, that in this vast
continent-associated as it is in the purely English mind with scorching
heat and arid plains, stretching from horizon to horizon, relieved by
naught save belts of palm-girt jungle, the habitat of the elephant, the
tiger, and the deadly snake-every variety of climate may be found, from
the sultry heat and miasma of the tropical valley, to the temperature of
Is not India, indeed, almost exclusively regarded as a land of songless
birds arrayed in brightest plumage; of gorgeous butterflies and 'atlas'
moths; of cacao-nuts, and dates, and pines more luscious than anything of
which the classic Pomona could boast?-a land also where snakes sit
corkscrew-like at the foot of one's bed, and wild beasts take shelter in
one's 'bungalow'; and where her Majesty's liege subjects, whose fate it is
to be exiled there, are exposed to the alternate processes of roasting
under a tropical sun, and melting beneath a punkah?
To the feminine mind, again, is it not a land of Cashmere shawls-'such
loves'-and fans, and sandalwood boxes, and diaphanous muslins?-presents
sent over at too infrequent intervals from uncles and cousins, about whom,
vegetating in that far-off land, there is always a halo of pleasant
mystery, and arriving, redolent of 'cuscus' and spicy odours and a whole
bouquet of Indian fragrance, which wafts one away in spirit across the
desert and the sunlit ocean to that wonderland in an instant.
A region there is, however, of countless bright oases in these vast
plains, where the cuckoo's plaintive note recalls sweet memories of our
island home, and mingles with the soft melody of other birds; where the
stately oak-monarch of our English woods-spreading its branches, blends
them with those of the chestnut, the walnut, and the birch; where in mossy
slopes the 'nodding violet blows,' and wild strawberries deck the green
bank's side, like rubies set in emerald. I allude of course to the noble
snow-capped Himalaya, the loftiest mountains in the world, with whose
existence everyone is acquainted, but about which brains even saturated
with geographical knowledge are yet as ignorant, so far as their
topographical aspect and wondrous hidden beauty are concerned, as they are
about the mountains in the moon.
At half-past ten o'clock, peeping forth from my tent, the moon was still
shining brilliantly, but clouds that almost appeared to touch me were
scurrying past. The snows too were veiled by a semi-transparent mist which
half hid them, so that, my ardour somewhat abating, I subsided beneath the
canvas, and sat on the foot of my little camp bed reading. At length
extinguishing the light, I threw myself down without undressing, and was
soon fast asleep, and the moonlight and the snows and my hoped-for picture
were alike forgotten. But the evening's impressions must have been strong
upon me still, causing my sleep to be uneasy and intermittent, for two
hours later I awoke, and a little moonbeam was shining on my bed through a
crack in the canvas. This induced me to get up to see how all was looking
Noiselessly untying the flaps which enclosed the entrance, I crept out.
The moon was shining so brightly that I could have read the smallest print
by its aid, and the snows were positively dazzling. The sky was of that
exquisite violet blue, or rather, what I think describes it better,
sapphire, which one sees on clear moonlight nights in Italy-that land so
favoured by heaven with tender beauteous skies.
Now I have no wish to make myself out to be a heroine, being on the
contrary the veriest coward; never, entre nous, having yet been able to go
into a dark room alone, or pass an open doorway at night, without seeing
faces peering at me out of the darkness; but somehow I can go through a
great deal for a picture.
It was the thought of a moment; I never dreamt of possibilities. Once more
groping my way under the 'kernaughts,' I felt for my block and chalks,
which I had prepared in readiness early in the evening, knowing that I
could not use colours on this occasion, and throwing a cloak over my
shoulders and a fur hood over my head, I sallied forth, closing the
aperture as well as I could from the outside, and then pausing, held my
breath to listen whether F- was stirring; but no! he still breathed
heavily. Passing C-'s tent, I could hear that he too was fast asleep.
I had now to make my way past the camp, under the lee of the rhododendron
bushes. The fires still burnt brightly, and the poor tired fellows were
lying prostrate around them, wrapped in deepest slumber, their
gay-coloured gaberdines paled in the moonlight, except here and there,
when a fire, gleaming forth with a sudden flash, lighted up patches of red
and amber, which stood out prominently where all else was colourless.
No one observed me, or, if they did, probably mistook me for some erratic
member of their own fraternity. Amongst the number I recognised the
Herculean form of Hatti, lying with his face upwards, and I could not help
thinking, as I passed close to him with stealthy footsteps, how easy it
would have been to drive a nail into his head, had I been Jael the wife of
Heber, and he Sisera!
I dared not arouse him; to have awakened one, would have been to awaken
all. Otherwise I should have done so, as I needed someone to carry my
block, which, though no encumbrance to me at present, I knew would be so
further on, when I should require both hands free to help myself along.
The ground, which had thawed in the vicinity of the fires, was here
thickly coated with frost, which crunched beneath each footfall; yet no
one moved. Nor was there even a breath of air stirring, to bear me company
as I walked onwards, and it was not long before I found myself starting at
my own shadow. The very beauty of the scene made me afraid, it was all so
supernatural, so pale, so still, so passionless, so spectral. I grew
cowardly, and, stopping short, I felt I could not face it alone. Retracing
my steps as far as Fanchyng's sleeping-place on the outskirts of the camp,
I stooped till my lips almost touched the covering of the tilt.
"Fanchyng," I whispered-"Fanchyng, I want you,-come out!"
But there was no answer, though I waited long; she was sleeping too
heavily to be awakened by a call so gentle, yet I dare not speak more
At last, despising myself for my cowardice, I determined to be brave, and
go on alone. I was soon under the shelter of the copse, having taken care
to enter it by the way which F- and I had previously taken together, as a
pathway had already been made for me there; whilst the moon shining
through the branches afforded quite sufficient light to enable me to trace
it by the fallen trees, that had been cut down as we passed early in the
evening. I was about halfway through, when something rose at my feet with
a whr-r-r, which startled me greatly. I had no doubt flushed a bird, a
moonal (hill pheasant), probably. On I went, the thick rhododendron leaves
through which I brushed covering me with a shower of hoar frost. Then
arriving at the rock I before mentioned, which I climbed on hands and
knees, throwing my block before me at every few steps, I succeeded in
reaching the top.
What a spectacle now presented itself to my view! In the valley lay a
white lake of transparent mist, and rising out of it, the snows, shrouded
in unearthly vapour, looked mysterious and ghost-like. To the right, rocky
mountains, shattered and riven, appeared like battlements for giant
soldiery, whilst to the left were the beetling crags and swelling
buttresses of the Singaleelah range. Dotted about the lesser and
unsnow-clad mountains, where the moonlight fell, were portions of 'mica
schist,' which, sparkling brilliantly, looked like stars fallen to earth.
Stars seemed not only twinkling above, but below me, and this glittering
'mica' produced the most extraordinary effect imaginable; whilst the dead
pines standing with their trunks blanched, looked like phantom guardians
of the whole.
It was altogether such a spectral and unearthly scene, that I realised in
an instant how utterly hopeless it would be to attempt to portray it, and
simply stood entranced, losing for awhile even my own individuality,
feeling that I had almost entered some new world.
I do not know how long I had been standing there, when a sensation came
over me as though some one behind were softly enveloping me in a wet
sheet. Looking over my shoulder, I found that the rhododendron copse had
vanished; the gleam of the many camp-fires was visible no longer, and the
rock at my feet, with every other object, was shut out by a white ocean of
My position was by no means a dangerous one. I knew that I had only to
remain quietly where I stood, till the cloud had passed over, and all
would be well; but my heart beat fast and thick notwithstanding. My limbs
were getting numb and frozen, and I knew not how long I could hold out. My
first impulse was to call for help; but trying to reason calmly with
myself, I saw how futile that would be, for no one could possibly find his
way through the copse in the mist, even if he tried, while I should be
exposing many to the risk of falling over the ridge into the abyss
As I reasoned thus with myself, the vapour grew gradually more dense,
while the thickest part of the cloud passed over me, and I was surrounded
by almost total darkness. A death-like stillness prevailed, the only thing
audible being the thumping of my own heart.
Drawing my cloak more closely round me, I struggled to be brave. After a
short time the mist became thinner, shining vapour succeeded in darkness,
and the moon asserting its supremacy gradually shone out brightly as
before, whilst a stratum of vapour which had just arisen from the valley
seemed floating beneath my very feet. In stooping to pick up my block, I
became conscious of the appearance of a dark shadow or figure opposite;
and on standing erect, a phantom of gigantic dimensions was before me.
Terribly frightened, my heart this time stopped beating altogether, and a
deadly faintness crept over me. I had grown nervous and superstitious. But
summoning up all my courage, which rarely forsakes me utterly in times of
need, I felt sure it must be only one of those phenomena, which I had
heard of as occasionally to be met with in these altitudes.
The moon was shining obliquely behind me, and what I saw might be nothing
more than my own shadow, greatly exaggerated, thrown upon the lake of
white mist at my feet. Without tarrying to convince myself of the truth or
otherwise of this hypothesis, I descended the rock as quickly as I could,
and retraced my steps; nor did I stop even to take breath till I reached
the tent, when, for an instant pressing my ear to the canvas to ascertain
whether F- slept, I softly entered.
For one moment only I thought he was waking, as the open 'kernaughts'
admitted a flood of light; in addition to which I must, forsooth, catch my
foot in the dhurrie, and overturn one of the baggage baskets leaning
against the wall of the tent; but he only turned over on the other side,
and I could hear by his stertorous breathing that he was sleeping soundly
Excerpted from In Nature's Name
Copyright © 2003
by University of Chicago.
Excerpted by permission.
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SECTION ONE: SPEAKING OUT
SECTION TWO: PROTECTING
Sensitivity to Other Species
The Horrors of Sport
Conservation: The Land and Its Plants
SECTION THREE: DOMESTICATING
Menageries and Animal Stories
Farming and Gardsening
Plants and Interiors
SECTION FOUR: ADVENTURING
SECTION FIVE: APPRECIATING
The Color of Life
SECTION SIX: POPULARIZING SCINECE
Kinds of Science Popularization
Women and Darwin
SECTION SEVEN: AMATEURS OR PROFESSIONALS?
Who/What Was a Professional?
Seaweeds, Zoophytes, and Women
For Further Reading