Tuesday, 2 January 2007


For those intrepid souls inclined to brave the New Year weather and scour the seashore for marine specimens, the following advice may be useful.

Mrs Margaret Gatty [1809-73] was a pioneering collector and classifier of seaweed. On many seaside holidays she would collect specimens and bring home seaweed samples, bottles of seawater, baskets of shells, and pieces of rock.

In the introduction to her History of British Seaweeds [1863], Mrs Gatty advised her aspiring female followers to

“lay aside, for a time, all thought of conventional appearances and be content to support the weight of a pair of boy’s shooting boots, which furthermore, should be rendered as waterproof as possible by receiving a thin coat of Neat’s-foot oil, such as is used by fishermen – a process well understood in most lodging houses...Next to boots comes the question of petticoats; and if anything could excuse a woman from imitating the costume of a man, it would be what she suffers as a seaweed collector from these necessary draperies! But to make the best of a bad matter, let woollen be in the ascendant as much as possible; and let the petticoats never come below the ankle. A ladies’ yachting costume has come into fashion of late, which is perhaps as near perfection for shore-work as anything that could be devised. It is a suit consisting of a full short skirt of blue flannel or serge (like very fine bathing gown material), with waistcoat and jacket to match. Cloaks and shawls which necessarily hamper the arms, besides having long ends and corners, which cannot fail to get soaked, are, of course, very inconvenient, and should be as much avoided as possible; but where this cannot be, a good deal may be done towards tucking them neatly up out of the way. In conclusion, a hat is preferable to bonnet, merino stockings to cotton ones, and a strong pair of gloves is indispensable. All millinery work, silks, satins, lace, bracelets and other jewellery etc. must, and will be, laid aside by every rational being who attempts to shore-hunt…But even in reflecting on the best and easiest shore…it must be owned that a low-water-mark expedition, is more comfortably undertaken under the protection of a gentleman. He may fossilise, or sketch, or even (if he will be savage and barbaric) shoot gulls; but no need anyhow to involve him in the messing after what he may consider “rubbish”, unless happily, he be inclined to assist. Only let there be sea and plenty of low, dark rock……”


anticant said...

Mermaids an optional extra.

Szwagier said...

"He may fossilise"?

Surely it's not that boring.

anticant said...

'Fossilising' is a Victorian euphemism for canoodling with mermaids.

anticant said...

Permitted as long as it's decently behind the low, dark rock.

Szwagier said...

So the lady, a rational being, is searching for what may be considered "rubbish" along the seafront while the gentleman, her supposed protector, is frolicking with some flippers behind a rock.

How's that for synchronicity? Sex and languge on Toby's site, Gentleman and fishy fun here, and Ladies with dolphins on the Pond. What on earth's going on?

anticant said...

Just an ordinary Awkward Squad working day.