dinsdag 23 februari 2016

John James Audubon -- 24 februari 1828

• John James Audubon (1785-1851) was een Frans-Amerikaanse schrijver, woudloper, natuuronderzoeker en kunstschilder, vooral van vogels. Zijn dagboeken staan hier online.

February 24. I heard to-day of the death of Mrs. Gregg of Quarry Bank. I was grieved to know that kind lady, who had showed me much hospitality, should have died; I have hesitated to write to her son-in-law, Mr. Rathbone, fearing to disturb the solemnity of his sorrow. At the Linnæan Society this evening, my friend Selby's work lay on the table by mine, and very unfair comparisons were drawn between the two; I am quite sure that had he had the same opportunities that my curious life has granted me, his work would have been far superior to mine; I supported him to the best of my power. The fact is, I think, that no man yet has done anything in the way of illustrating the birds of England comparable to his great work; then besides, he is an excellent man, devoted to his science, and if he has committed slight errors, it becomes men of science not to dwell upon these to the exclusion of all else. I was to-day elected an original member of the Zoölogical Society. I also learned that it was Sir Thomas Lawrence who prevented the British Museum from subscribing to my work; he considered the drawing so-so, and the engraving and coloring bad; when I remember how he praised these same drawings in my presence, I wonder—that is all.

February 25. A most gloomy day; had I no work what a miserable life I should lead in London. I receive constantly many invitations, but all is so formal, so ceremonious, I care not to go. Thy piano sailed to-day; with a favorable voyage it may reach New Orleans in sixty days. I have read the Grand Turk's proclamation and sighed at the awful thought of a war all over Europe; but there, thou knowest I am no politician. A fine young man, Mr. J. F. Ward, a bird-stuffer to the King, came to me this afternoon to study some of the positions of my birds. I told him I would lend him anything I had.

February 28. To-day I called by appointment on the Earl of Kinnoul, a small man, with a face like the caricature of an owl; he said he had sent for me to tell me all my birds were alike, and he considered my work a swindle. He may really think this, his knowledge is probably small; but it is not the custom to send for a gentleman to abuse him in one's own house. I heard his words, bowed, and without speaking, left the rudest man I have met in this land; but he is only thirty, and let us hope may yet learn how to behave to a perfect stranger under his roof.

February 29. A man entered my room this afternoon, and said: "Sir, I have some prisoners to deliver to you from the town of York." "Prisoners!" I exclaimed, "why, who are they?" The good man produced a very small cage, and I saw two sweet little Wood Larks, full of vivacity, and as shy as prisoners in custody. Their eyes sparkled with fear, their little bodies were agitated, the motions of their breasts showed how their hearts palpitated; their plumage was shabby, but they were Wood Larks, and I saw them with a pleasure bordering on frenzy. Wood Larks! The very word carried me from this land into woods indeed. These sweet birds were sent to me from York, by my friend John Backhouse, an ornithologist of real merit, and with them came a cake of bread made of a peculiar mixture, for their food. I so admired the dear captives that for a while I had a strong desire to open their prison, and suffer them to soar over London towards the woodlands dearest to them; and yet the selfishness belonging to man alone made me long to keep them. Ah! man! what a brute thou art!—so often senseless of those sweetest feelings that ought to ornament our species, if indeed we are the "lords of creation."

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