Margaret Fountaine’s Diary Accounts of Her Restless Idling and Butterflying

  • Heidi LiedkeEmail author


This chapter analyses Margaret Fountaine’s accounts of her travels and shows how she finds a focus in “butterflying.” It is this peculiar mode of moving about, and at the same time a kind of scientific amateurism, which, in fact, furthers her (physical) experience of idleness. In Fountaine’s case, scientific work and idleness are interdependent. An engagement with her work and travels reveals not only that the articulation of idleness is connected to the pursuit of natural history but her accounts exemplify very vividly the dynamics of idling when happening alongside a focussed activity. Liedke thus reconstructs the significance of Fountaine’s positively understood idleness and (scientific) work as pleasant idleness by reading her diary entries alongside her letters and/or scientific writing. The boundaries between the personal and the professional/public become blurry which reflects the subversive, category-defying potential of idling.


  1. Anderson, Monica. 2006. Women and the Politics of Travel, 1870–1914. Madison and Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Becker, Lydia Ernestine. 1869. “On the Study of Science by Women.” The Contemporary Review (1 January): 386–404. ProQuest.Google Scholar
  3. Birkett, Dea. 1989. Spinsters Abroad. Victorian Lady Explorers. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  4. Blodgett, Harriet. 1996. “Preserving the Moment in the Diary of Margaret Fountaine.” In Inscribing the Daily: Critical Essays on Women’s Diaries, edited by Suzanne L. Bunkers and Cynthia Anne Huff, 156–68. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.Google Scholar
  5. Buzard, James. 1993. The Beaten Track: European Tourism, Literature and the Ways to ‘Culture’, 1800–1918. Oxford: Clarendon.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Early, Julie English. 1995. “The Science of Work, Life, and Text: Margaret Fountaine’s Captures/Capturing Margaret Fountaine.” Women’s Writing 2 (2): 183–97.Google Scholar
  7. Foster, Shirley. 1990. Across New Worlds: Nineteenth-Century Women Travellers and Their Writings. New York and London: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
  8. Fountaine, Margaret. Letter to N. D. Riley. 18 May 1931. ENT MSS, Fou B 1.1. Riley Fountaine Correspondence. Entomological Library of the Natural History Museum, London.Google Scholar
  9. ———. Letter to N. D. Riley. 28 January 1938. ENT MSS, Fou B 1.1. Riley Fountaine Correspondence. Entomological Library of the Natural History Museum, London.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 1980. Love Among the Butterflies. The Travels and Adventures of a Victorian Lady, edited by W. F. Cater. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 1986. Butterflies and Late Loves. The Further Travels and Adventures of a Victorian Lady, edited by W. F. Cater. London: Collins.Google Scholar
  12. ———. “Extracts from the Will of the Late Miss Margaret Elizabeth Fountaine of100a, Fellows Road, N. W. 3.” ENT MSS, Fou A 2.2. Correspondence and Notes Regarding Probate of Fountaine’s Will. Natural History Museum, London.Google Scholar
  13. Fountaine, Margaret. 1911. “An Autumn Morning in the Alleghany Mountains.” The Entomologist 44: 14–15.Google Scholar
  14. Frawley, Maria H. 1994. A Wider Range: Travel Writing by Women in Victorian England. London and Toronto: Associated University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Ghose, Indira. 1998. Women Travellers in Colonial India: The Power of the Female Gaze. Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Harper, Lila Marz. 2007. Rev. of Wild and Fearless: The Life of Margaret Fountaine, by Natascha Scott-Stokes. Victorian Studies 49, no. 4 (Summer): 72931. EBSCOhost.Google Scholar
  17. Hart, Andrea. 2014. Women Artists. London: Natural History Museum.Google Scholar
  18. Ingold, Tim. 2011. “Against Space. Place, Movement, Knowledge.” In Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description, 145–55. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Kane, William Francis de Vismes. 1885. European Butterflies. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  20. Lang, H.C. 1884. The Butterflies of Europe, Described and Figured. London: L. Reeve & Co.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lucas, William John. 1893. The Book of British Butterflies. Upcott Gill: A Practical for Collectors and Naturalists. London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. ———. 1895. The Book of British Hawk-Moths: A Popular and Practical Handbook for Lepidopterists. London: Upcott Gill.Google Scholar
  23. Mason, Michael. 1994. The Making of Victorian Sexuality. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McKenzie, Precious. 2012. “Introduction”. In The Right Sort of Woman: Victorian Travel Writers and the Fitness of an Empire, 1–11. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.Google Scholar
  25. Merrill, Lynn L. 1989. The Romance of Victorian Natural History. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Middleton, Dorothy. [1965] 1993. “Part One: Well-Qualified Ladies.” In Victorian Lady Travellers, 1–16. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  27. Mills, Sara. 1991. Discourses of Difference. An Analysis of Women’s Travel Writing and Colonialism. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Morris, William. 2008. Useful Work v. Useless Toil. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  29. Moskal, Jeanne. 2003. “Travel Writing.” In The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley, edited by Esther Schor, 242–58. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Parker, Christopher. 1995. “Introduction.” In Gender Roles and Sexuality in Victorian Literature, edited by Parker, 1–24. Aldershot: Scolar Press.Google Scholar
  31. Parsons, Deborah L. 2000. Streetwalking the Metropolis. Women, the City and Modernity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Salmon, Michael A. 2000. “Margaret Elizabeth Fountaine (1862–1940).” In The Aurelian Legacy. British Butterflies and Their Collectors, 199–201. Colchester, Essex: Harley Books.Google Scholar
  33. Scott-Stokes, Natascha. 2006. Wild and Fearless: The Life of Margaret Fountaine. London and Chester Springs: Peter Owen.Google Scholar
  34. Shteir, Ann B. 1995. “Introduction.” Women’s Writing 2 (2): 99–100.Google Scholar
  35. Simms, George E. 1892. Butterfly and Moth Collecting: Where to Search, and What to Do. London: Upcott Gill.Google Scholar
  36. Trollope, Joanna. 1983. Britannia’s Daughters: Women of the British Empire. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  37. Walvin, James. 1978. “Sinful Recreations.” In Leisure and Society 1830–1950, 33–46. London and New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  38. Wolff, Janet. 1985. “The Invisible Flâneuse. Women and the Literature of Modernity.” Theory, Culture & Society 2: 37–46.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Koblenz-LandauLandauGermany
  2. 2.Queen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations