In another post, I told you about the British lady Edith Holden who grew up not far from Beatrix Potter and also at about the same time. Like Potter, Holden spent her childhood romping through the forests and drawing and painting nature. When she became an adult, she created several illustrated journals. Her watercoloured entries tended toward rewriting and illustrating the words of famous writers before her, as well as her own monthly observations, as follows:
April 1 Very still grey day. I went to a little spinney to see a large bush of the Great Round-leaved Willow, which is a perfect picture just now, covered all over with great golden catkins, that light up the copse like hundreds of little fairy lamps. The bees were humming all round, busy gathering pollen.
4 Third day of bright sunshine. I found another field of wild Daffodils today. The sun has brought out the green leaf-buds on the trees and hedges very rapidly, there is a marked difference in the Sycamore and Hawthorn the last few days; and Larch is beginning to hang his tassels forth.
7 Another glorious day. Cycled to Knowle, on the way found some March Marigolds and Blackthorn in blossom. The Tadpoles have come out of their balls of jelly and career madly about the aquarium wagging their little black tails. A Gudgeon which had put into the aquarium has made a meal of a good many of them. Ground Ivy in blossom.
9 Travelled down to Stoke Bishop near Bristol. The low-lying fertile lands round the Avon in Worcestershire were golden with Marsh Marigolds, and as we went through Gloucestershire the banks were starred with primroses and I saw a good many Cowslips. The Plum and Damson trees were all in bloom.
Following is one of her watercolours:
And following is one of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poems that she copied in the April portion of one of her journals:
“The young lambs are bleating in the meadows,
The young birds are chirping in the nest,
The young fawns are playing with the shadows,
The young flowers are blowing toward the west —
Go out, children, from the mind and from the city;
Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do;
Pluck your handfuls of the meadow-cowslips pretty,
Laugh aloud to feel your fingers let them through!” – The City of the Children – E.B. Browning
The yellow flowers in the painting with the bunny above are primroses. Primroses are also called cowslips.
To the Cowslip
“Of all spring joys the dearest is to drink thy breathe again freshest of flowers;
The bluebell lights the copse the primrose paves the glen;
But thy frank beauty over-tops in open fields
The new-born grass, to meet the kiss of sun and wind and showers
And yields Springs’ essence from those fire red drops
That dyed the breast of Imogen.
Sun-freckled art thou as the child who kneeleth down to snap thy sturdy stem;
And fill with thy pure gold Her snowy-aproned lap; White treasury of wealthy untold;
Deftly she makes In bountiful profusion piled A regal ball of them,
And takes for sceptre one that high doth hold His head in pride of April sap.
My earliest love of flowers, how good to lay my sunburnt face
In grass so lush It shames the name of green;
And fold in one embrace The clustered heads of all I glean,
And kiss the pure Or mid their golden flush Immure
The splendour of some cowslip queen,Who reigned apart in loftier grace.” – Alfred Hayes
“Oh; how this spring of love resembleth The uncertain glory of an April day!
Which now shows all of the beauty of the sun And by and bye a cloud takes all away.” –
Two Gents of Verona – Shakespeare
“Soon o’er their heads blithe April airs shall sing;
A thousand wild flowers round them shall unfold;
The green buds glisten in the dews of spring,
And all be vernal rapture as old.” – J Keble.
“Come forth ye blossoms! – over hill and lea,
A breathe of sweetness wantons with the sea,
And mid the smiles and tears of tender Spring,
Ye cups and stars that strew the fair, green field,
Ye wings of gold the prickly gorses yield;
Ye perisive bells to purple pageants born,
Ye milk-white may-buds of the mantling thorn;
Ye violet gems and eyes of sapphire blue;
Wan, flushing wind-flowers and shy elfin crew
Of every crannied wall, — come forth! –and fling
Young vernal showers around me while I sing;” – A Song of Salutation – E.M. Holden
Image from Nature Notes page 35 – Primroses [also called Cowslips] are in front of the bunny
10 Travelled on, to Deusland on Dartmoor. Primroses thick all along the line.
11 Glorious day. Went for a stroll round the fields in the morning and gathered Primroses, some of them the largest I ever saw The Wild Strawberry, Early Vetch Wood Sorrel and Greater Stitchwort are in blossom here. In the afternoon, I went up onto the moor to bring home a pony and a foal. Both are delightfully picturesque in their shaggy winter coats, and I hope to begin their portraits tomorrow. Up on the moor the world seemed to be made up of sky and gorse, – such acres of fragrant, golden blossom under a sky of cloudless blue. I saw Wall butterflies fluttering about in the sunshine.
“I come, I come! Ye have called me long,
I come o’er the mountains with light and song!
Ye may trace my step o’er the wakenig earth,
By the winds that tell of the violets’ birth,
By the primrose stars in the shadowy grass
By the green leaves opening as I pass.
I have passed o’er the hills of the stormy North;
And the larch has hung all his tassels forth
The fisher is out on the sunny sea,
And the reindeer bound thro’ the pasture free,
And the pine has a fringe of softer green,
And the moss looks bright where my step has been.” – Mrs. Hemans
“And wind-flowers and violets
Which yet join not scent to hue
Crown the pale year weak and new.” – Shelley
“Long as there’s a sun that sets Primroses will have their glory
Long as there are violets, They will have a place in story.” – Wordsworth
“Now lav’rocks wake the merry morn Aloft on dewy wing;
The merle in his noontide bower Makes woodland echoes ring
The mavis wild wi’ many a note sings drowsy day to rest;
In love and freedom they rejoice wi’ care nor thrall oppress’d.
Now blooms the lily on the bank, The primrose down the brae;
The hawthorn’s budding in the glen And mild-white is the slae;” – Burns
Image from Nature Notes April pg.41
April 12 Painted the pony and colt all morning in the field very hot sun and cool breeze. Saw a beautiful Peacock butterfly and found some Purple Orchis in flower.
13 Good Friday. Went to Burrator and down into Meavy Glen. Everything is very dry; a good storm of rain would bring out many more flowers now. Down in the glen beside the Meavy, the Primroses and Wood-sorrel were very plentiful, growing among the boulders some of the young Sycamore trees are in full flower and leaf. While we were resting on the bank of the river, we saw a Heron rise through the trees on the opposite slope and sail away over the wood, the pink and grey tints of his legs and plumage, sowing up very distinctly against the brown background of bare trees. We came home across the moor. In many parts the Gorse blossom was glorious, but on Yanadon Down there were great black stretches where the gorse had been burnt:
14 Saw the first Swallow and a Yellow Brimstone Butterfly.
15. Easter Sunday. Another brilliant day. Saw a pair of House Martins, watched some Trout in the Leet and found a Chaffinch’s nest nearly finished in a young Hawthorn.
17. Pink Campion in bloom. Walking through the fields, came upon quite a grove of young Cherry-trees in blossom, growing all along the top of one of the banks. The wall-banks that divide the fields here and run along the lanes are beginning to be enamelled with little flowers and ferns, and on the broad tops, crowned with low hedges, the Blue-bells are coming up very thickly. The Blackthorn bushes ae a wonderful sight just now, their masses of snowy blossom making a striking contrast with the deep gold of the Gorse. Miss B. had some lovely Pasque Flowers sent her from Oxfordshire this morning.
19. Bright sun and strong North East wind. Set out for a walk to Lowry. Going over Yannakon Down we saw a young Hare lying in its form among the gorse bushes. It lay quite still till we had all but trodden on it, when it dashed off among the heather ad gorse. Going down the long, steep lane to Lowry, we found some pink Milk-wort, Tormentil and Germander. Speedwell in flower on the bank. Opposite the Leatman’s little white, thatched cottage we turned off the road, over the leat, and across the marshy gorse-covered ground that stretches down to the edge of the lake. Here the Gorse and Blackthorn blossom was very fine and in the bogs we found Marsh Violets and the Small Water Crowfoot but there are very few of the bog-flowers out as yet: We also found a good many blossoms of the Lousewort. At the edge of the leat, on the shady side, the icicles were hanging in the clusters on the long moss that overhung the water. In Lowry Lane just below the quarry I saw one of the prettiest Blackbird’s nests I have ever seen; it was all made of moss and placed in the fork of a Gorse bush, growing close beside the road. The mother bird was sitting on the nest and gazed at us with her bright, black eyes, but never stirred from her post.
In the afternoon went to Huckworthy Bridge that spans the river Walkham; Down hill all the way. In the meadows beside the river I was surprised to find the blue Alkanet already in blossom just where I found it in July last year. over the overhanging bank beside the river; The Primroses were thick along the field-banks and I gathered Cuckoo flowers, Red Campion and Bluebells and Bullace; on the way home saw Horn-beam tree in flower.
April 20 Today I saw and heard the Chiff-chaff for the first time this year. A number of them to have arrived in the neighbourhood, as I saw three different birds, I also saw Stone-chats for the first time on the moor.
April 23. Bright and cold….Watched the sun set behind the hills, from the top of Yannadon Dow. Gorgeous gold and purple clouds, near the horizon and up above, clear golden sky! While we were watching it, a Hawk suddenly sailed into the sea of gold above the setting sun and remained stationary, poised on quivering wings for quite a long time, then it suddenly dived down into the purple shadows of the platation just below.
25. Found two more Chaffinch’s nests today, and a Hedge Sparrow’s nest with four eggs. The Willow Wren has put in his appearance here the last day or two. A native of Dousland showed me a bank covered with gorse and briars, where he said he was sure a Bramble Finch was building. I only know this bird by reputation, so mean to go again and watch for it.
27. Found two wren’s nests, both built of moss, one in the side of a haystack, the other in a bank. Saw a swift.
28. Showers of hail and sleet.
29. Heavy snow shower in the night; when I looked out this morning the landscape was all white; the distant tors [hils-Jacki’s note] veiled in a mist of driving sleet. Bright sunshine later, with fine effects of sunlight on the distant tors covered with snow.
30. Cold north east wind, with frequent showers, but bright intervals. The latter part of April has been very cold and stormy.
The February drawings and writings are here: https://edithholden.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/edith-holdens-writings-and-illustrations-from-february-1906-country-diary-of-an-edwardian-lady/
Feb. 1. Dull day with slight drizzle of rain in the morning but bright and mild in the afternoon.
2. Candlemas day. Wil and stormy.
3. It says in today’s Chronicle that at Dover a Blackbird’s nest with two eggs has been found at Edenbridge a Hedge-sparrow with four eggs and at Elmstead, a robin’s with five eggs.
7. Picked some Dog’s Mercury in flowers, This is the first to blossom of all the wild herbaceous plants, Daisies and Groundsel excepted.
8, There was a thunder-storm today, with showers of rain, hail and sleet.
9, Snow-storm in the night, this morning we looked out on a white landscape, this is the first deep snow we have had this winter. i swept a space free on the lawn and strewed it with bread and rice: Crowds of birds came. I counted eight Tits at one time on the cocoa-nut and the tripod of sticks supporting it. There were some terrible battles among the Tits this morning. One tiny Blue-cap took possession of the cocoa-nut sitting down in the middle of it and bidding defiance to all the others. It was very funny to see him squatting in the shell, sparring and hissing at a Great Tit who came at him with open wings and beak. There was a partial eclipse of the moon visible this morning at 5:57 a.m. At 8 oclock in the evening there was a beautiful rainbow-coloured halo round the moon, unusually bright and distinct.
10. Rain and wind from the South-west; rapid thaw
12. I visited the violet wood again today, the Lords and Ladies are quite up above the ground now, and the Violet roots are sending up little green trumpets of new leaves. The ground in the wood is covered with tiny seedlings of the Moschatel. I gathered some Gorse blossom on my way home. The Elm trees are just breaking into blossom, and the Willows are showing their downy white catkins–very small as yet.
13. Snowing all day.
14. Saint Valentine’s Day. Sharp frost and bright sunshine.
To a Mouse
“Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An’ fellow mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t.
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld.
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear” – Robert Burns
“Now the North wind ceases; The warm South-west awakes,
The heavens are out in fleeces And earth’s green banner shakes.” – Geo. Meredith
This is not one of my favorite of Holden’s illustrations; but it is one of the January 1906 Illustrations.
Below I am copying the January entries for Country Diary. Notice that entries can be no more than a few words–just an observation. They do not have to be epistles. Edith Holden does write longer and more elaborate entries, too. In addition, she copies writings from other authors and poets. Occasionally, she adds more scientific information. Her entries vary. I have typed her spelling and grammar errors, as she printed them.
January 1 New Year’s Day. Bright and cold with hard frost.
5 Great gale of wind and rain from the southwest.
11. Visited a small wood on the canal ban, to get violet leaves. On moving away some of the dead leaves lying beneath the trees, I discovered a Wild Arun plant, thrusting it’s white sheath up from the soil. When I removed the outer covering, the pale yellow leaves with dark spots were quite discernable, rolled tightly round each other and beautifully packed away inside the white skin. I noticed that many of the leaf-buds on the elderberry bushes had burst into green.
12. Saw serveral Moorhens feeding on a newly ploughed field, not far from a pond.
14. Great gale of wind and rain
18. Today I saw a curious Oak-tree, growing in a field new Elmdon Park. From a distance it looked as if half of the tree were dead the the other half covered with glossy green leaves. On examination, the main trunk and two of the main branches proved to be of a species of oak, that has mossy acorn cups and large, deeply serrated leaves–leafless in winter. Growing out of the crown of the trunk and forming fully half of the tree was an Ever-green or Cork Oak, in full foliage. To join two trunks was scarcely perceptable.
June 23. Sharp frost and thick fog in the early morning. The fog cleared off ab out 9.30. a.m. and the sun shone brightly. Went for a country walk. Every twig on every tree and bush was outlied in silver tracery against the sky; some of the dead grasses and seed-vessels growing by the road-side were specially beautiful, every detail of them sparkling with frost-crystals in the sunshine. I saw great flocks of Rooks and Starlings, down on the fields, and a pair of beautiful Bullfinches in a Hawhorn bush. The Gorse was in blossom, till within a week or two ago, but the sharp frosts of the past week have nipped off the bloom. The mild winter has brought out the Hazel catkins, wonderfully early, the small green flowers are fully expanded on some of the catkins, and the pretty little red stars of the female flowers are appearing. The green leaves are out on the Woodbine too making little spots of green among the undergrowth.
Jan. 26. The last few weeks, our own and our neighbours’ gardens have been haunted by a very curious Robin. The whole of the upper plumage, which in ordinary Robins is brown, shaded with olive green, is light silvery grey in this bird, so that when flying about it looks like a white bird with a scarlet breast. I hear that it was seen about here last summer, it is so conspicuous, it is a wonder it has not fallen a victim to somebody’s gun.
Jan. 27. Primroses, Polyanthus, Winter Aconite, Mazereon and Snowdrops are all in flower in the garden. Every mild morning now the birds are singing and they continue more or less throughout the day.
Jan. 29. Today I picked some Daisies in a field and saw some Yew in blossom. The young Nettles are shooting up and a number of herbaceous plants are shewing new green leaves, as Foxglove, Treacle Mustard, Ground Ivy etc. The Groundsel is in flower too.
Ploughing, and hedging and ditching are going on everywhere. This has been a wonderfully mild January
Following are Holden’s scientific or factual entries for January:
January – Named from the Roman god Janus, who is represented with two faces looking in opposite directions, –as retrospective to the past, and prospective, to the coming year.
Jan.1. New Year’s Day
Jan 6. Twelfth Day Epiphany
Following are her entries that she classifies as Mottoes:
“A wet January A wet spring”
“The blackest month of all the year Is the month of Janiveer.”
Following are the Poems Holden entered for January 1906:
Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flow’r,
Thou’s met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stoure
Thy slender stem:
To spare thee now is past my pow’r,
Thou bonie gem.
Alas! it’s no thy neebor sweet,
The bonie lark, companion meet!
Bending thee ‘mang the dewy weet!
Wi’ spreckl’d breast,
When upward-springing, blythe, to greet
The purpling east.
Cauld blew the bitter-biting north
Upon thy early, humble birth;
Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth
Amid the storm,
Scarce rear’d above the Parent-earth
Thy tender form.
The flaunting flow’rs our gardens yield,
High shelt’ring woods and wa’s maun shield;
But thou, beneath the random bield
O’ clod or stane,
Adorns the histie stibble-field,
There, in thy scanty mantle clad,
Thy snawie bosom sun-ward spread,
Thou lifts thy unassuming head
In humble guise;
But now the share uptears thy bed,
And low thou lies! – Edward Burns – To A Mountain Daisy
“Above all flouris in the mede Than I love most those flouris white and rede: Soche that men call daisies in our towne” – Geoffrey Chaucer
“Daisies smelless, but most quaint.” – Fletcher
“Daisies, ye flowers of lowly birth Embroiderers of the carpet earth that gem of the velvet sod;”- Clare
“Wee, modest, crimson=tippet flower” – Burns
“Thee Winter in the garland wears
That thinly decks his few grey hairs;
Spring parts the clouds with softest airs,
That she may sun thee;
Whole Summer-fields are thine by right;
And Autumn, melancholy Wight!
Doth in thy crimson head delight
When rains are on thee.
In shoals and bands, a morrice train,
Thou greet’st the traveller in the lane;
Pleased at his greeting thee again;
Yet nothing daunted,
Nor grieved if thou be set at nought:
And oft alone in nooks remote
We meet thee, like a pleasant thought,
When such are wanted.
Child of the Year! that round dost run
Thy pleasant course,–when day’s begun
As ready to salute the sun
As lark or leveret,
Thy long-lost praise thou shalt regain;
Nor be less dear to future men
Than in old time;–thou not in vain
Art Nature’s favourite.” – William Wordsworth – To A Daisy
Edith Holden was an incredible illustrator during the late 19th & early 20th centuries. In another post, I discuss how I have used her books [nature journals] for the past couple of years to help teach my students how to draw; how to create and maintain an art journal; and how to better appreciate nature. In this post, I want to salute Holden’s picturesque writing. I have masters degrees in both writing and visual art; and I wrote a thesis about William Blake, the 18th century poet who also illustrated his work. I have long been drawn to people who are both authors and illustrators. When I write, I form mental pictures to help me recreate my image in words. This is called picture writing. I teach children in my small art school; and during pretty weather, we go outside; observe something; draw it; and then write about it. Writing, drawing, and painting reinforce each other. They increase a person’s power of observation; and that not only improves one’s art–it also increases intelligence.
As I said in the previous post, I just discovered an old series based on Holden’s life and works. There are 12 episodes — one for each month. You have to wade through some of the Corn and Heidi’s Grandpa stuff; but there is just enough gold in each episode to base a study. The good part of the episode [which was 11 minutes into the 24-minutes of episode 1] shows the nature [i.e. the rabbits for January] and other wildlife in nature. It has excerpts from her writing; and it shows the actress seeming to draw from what might have been Edith’s findings.
I highly recommend this series for both artist and writers–and teachers of the same. It shows how one’s observations can be distilled into creative works–both visual and literary.
AGAIN–I Suggest skipping the first 11 minutes of this video, which is Episode 1–especially if you are using this as a resource with children. They might agree with me that the first 11 minutes are a bit weak, perhaps even inappropriate for kids.