" Simmons is at Holker Street but I hear he is proposing to take himself a wife and that will probably drive all the insects out of his head for a while".
I enjoyed reading the Dale correspondence and looking at all those specimens caught nearly two hundred years ago in a very different Britain from what we can experience today. How precious those specimens really are and especially the "genuine" nominate extinct Lyceana dispar, unobtainable today. Specimens such Dale's in good condition would have a very high value but its their link to the 'Great' entomologist which makes them beyond price. I found the above quote from Henderson to Dale regarding the collector Simmonds "timeless".
I wonder: Was, by any chance, the famous American artist/lepidopterist John Abbott (author of "The Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia") a descendant of the Rev. Abbott discussed in this thread? Their dates would seem to make that possible.
Same surnames but not connected to each other except through the study of entomology. Charles Abbot corresponded with many other famous naturalists and it is possible John Abbot may have been one of them.
Before my last post regarding Benjamin Standish, here are photographs of what could be enjoyed by naturalists and entomologists in the fenland surrounding Whittlesea Mere berfore they were destroyed by drainage. The images of Lycaena dispar are ssp batavus from the fenland of North Holland, which is the next best thing to the extinct nominate race, being very similar in appearance, except for a few very minor differences that perhaps a few experts might be able to distinguish? I am sure some might enjoy these images especially those living in northern Climes as they show further examples of this glorious large subspecies in its natural habitat. The flora of Whittlesea Mere was as rich as its insect life and would be one of the major delights of the summer months. The fenland flora shown here was also photographed in Holland.
Below. Lycaena dispar batavus. The rather faded male is visiting, Hemp-agrimony, Eupatorium cannabinum.
Below. Fen Ragwort. Senecio paludosus. Thought to be extinct with the draining of the fens but rediscovered in a ditch near Ely in Cambridgeshire. It has since been reintroduced at some historic sites, such as Wicken Fen.
Below. The flowers of the carnivorous Bladderwort, Utricularia species.
Below. Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris. A frequent plant of wet woodland, marshes and fens.
Benjamin Standish. Legendary British Butterflies, Rare Migrants and extinct Fenland Moths.
Benjamin Standish wrote to J. C. Dale in a letter dated September 8, 1820 that he had been to Epping Forest in Essex in search of the Purple Edged Copper, Polyommatus chryseis = Lycaena hippothoe, then thought to be a British insect. He had searched what he thought might be a perfect location, a grassy area around a pond fringed with tall reeds but saw no sign of the butterfly. James Francis Stephens (1792–1852) had informed Standish that specimens of this butterfly had been taken at Woodside on the northern fringe of Epping forest. The notorious dealer in rarities, Plastead had sent specimens of L. hippothoe to Dr Leach at the British Museum with a note saying that he took them in 1818 at Woodside where he lived. No one suspected at that time that all the British L. hippothoe were emanating from Plastead breeding cages. Standish quest for L. hippothoe after being urged by Dale to discover the location was a wild goose chase! Three of Plastead historic two hundred year old specimens of L. hippothoe survive in Dale's collection at OUMNH.
It was not long before Dr Leach became suspicious of receiving in successive years perfect specimens of L. hippothoe from Woodside and as Plastead refused to disclose the actual location, he sent a letter to the young Henry Doubleday (1808 –1875) of Epping who lived close to Plastead to make discrete inquiries. Doubleday told Dr Leach that he was quite satisfied that the L. hippothoe from Woodside were not of British origin.
Below. Male Lycaena hippothoe. Woodside, Epping. 1818. Ex Plastead. Dale coll. OUMNH.
The late summer of 1820 it seems was a good year for the rare immigrant the Camberwell Beauty, Nymphalis antiopa. Standish saw one three miles from Epping and Stephens told him he observed one at Hartford, Cambridgeshire but he was unable to capture it because he had no net.
Below. British specimen of Nymphalis antiopa. Edward Donovan 1803. Dale coll. OUMNH.
In a letter dated October 11, 1820, Standish thanked Dale for the seven pounds he had sent to cover his expenses during his stay at Yaxley. This is the equivalent of £565 pounds today, a good price for a twelve night sojourn in those lost fenlands. Standish in his letter informed Dale that his friend Dr Leach at the British Museum had been taken very ill, and had gone to the country for the benefit of his health. Standish mentioned that he had spoken to Stephens of the possibility of a trip to Scotland after the Apollo Butterfly, Parnassius apollo, then reputed to be a British species. Dale had been told by the botanist Sir William Hooker (1785–1865) that in 1812, a specimen was taken on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides by a tenant of Lord Seaford who had the specimen but that there was some ships from Norway visiting the Island and the specimen may have come from there. Standish continued in his letter that he thought the distance of 800 or 900 miles (the distance is 700 miles) would be too far for his father but that he would be prepared to travel to the Isle of Lewis in search of the Apollo if Dale wished. However, for an unknown reason perhaps the expense of such a trip, Dale's idea never seems to have left the drawing board!
During his visit to Scotland with J.C. Dale in 1825, John Curtis was convinced he saw a specimen of P. apollo flying over the top of a house at the foot of Ben Lawers in Perthshire. Later Curtis observed P. apollo on the Continent and was certain the butterfly that he observed in Scotland was this species.
At Birch Wood in Kent during September 1820, Standish had just arrived when he encountered a rare immigrant species, Issoria lathonia and not having put his net together, he caught the butterfly by placing his top hat over it. However, as he tried to transfer the insect into his net it made its escape, one can imagine his cry of anguish. He had taken a specimen of this species the two years previously, a mile from this spot at Birch Wood Corner and this specimen is still to be seen in the Dale collection. Edward Newman in The Natural History of British Butterflies (1869) recorded that Standish had taken eight specimens of I. lathonia on the flowers of the broad-leaved Hawkweed (Hieracium sabaudum) at Birch Wood ; three of these were taken in one year, the others only one during each year ; Newman added " I have often looked for the insect in the same spot when the hawkweed was in bloom but without success".
Standish informed Dale that he had heard that five further specimens of the Camberwell Beauty, N. antiopa had been taken in Norfolk during 1820 and he mentioned the sighting of an unusual Swallowtail, the previous September while he out with a friend in Richmond Park, Surrey. Both men had seen it and he was sure it was not the common one but the scarce one. Dale believed what Standish and his friend observed was the Scarce Swallowtail, Iphiclides podalirius.
In a letter dated, May 30, 1821, Benjaman Standish informed Dale that a number of fine specimens of the Swallowtail, Papilio machaon (ssp. britannicus) had emerged from those that he bred from his collections the previous year at Whittlesea Mere. He enlightened Dale to the fact that he had bred a fine specimen of the Elephant Hawk-moth, Deilephila elpenor from a larva he had collected at Whittlesea Mere and a fine specimen of the Cream spot Tiger, Arctia villica from a larva he had found in Darenth Wood, Kent. He also had a pair of the dimorphic, Muslin Moth, Diaphora mendica that he had bred from larvae collected in Coombe Wood in Surrey and he wrote that he was going after the Large Blue, Maculinea arion at Bedford in July.
Bedford and the Large Blue.
Standish arrived in Bedford on July 5, 1821 and was there until the 13th of that month, the weather was bad for the first three days but fine for the next three and he saw nothing of M. arion at the Mouse's Pasture at Bromham. M. arion had been discovered at this locality by Charles Abbott on June 28, 1798 and he took it there again on July 16 of that year and the following year on July 5 & 9, 1799 and almost certainly in successive years. During his visit in 1819 Dale only found one worn specimen, so it was obviously dying out there, and had almost certainly gone from that locality by the time that Dale and Standish went to Bromham in 1820. Standish had walked the 11 miles from Bedford to the heathland at Shefford and back again, but found no special insects. The best thing Standish had obtained at Bedford were two varieties of the Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina. Standish was going from Bedford to Whittlesea Mere for the Large Copper, Lycaena dispar and he hoped Dale might be able to join him. Standish mentioned the great kindness that Mr & Mrs Bucklow had shown to him at Bedford and on every fine day, the local collector was going to search the Mouse's Pasture for the Large Blue and write to Dale if he caught any.
Below. Large Blue, Maculinea arion. Barnwell Wold. Dale coll. OUMNH. This locality was discovered by William Bree in 1837.
Standish told Dale he had purchased a specimen of the Spotted Hawk Moth, Hyles euphorbiae from William Raddon of Tottenham Court Road, London. The price of the specimen was 30 shillings, a small fortune for an insect of that period. Raddon's razza among the sand dunes with H euphorbiae at Braunton Burrows of Devon is a fascinating story that I have written an article about.
Benjamin Standish. A second visit to Whittlesea Mere 1821.
Benjamin Standish reached Yaxley from Bedford on August 3, 1821 at 6 am and was in the meres (fens) about 7.30 am and he was there until 6pm. He was not in the fens long when he took several worn specimens of the Large Copper, L. dispar, he mentions he was sorry to see them in that condition. However, during his stay at Yaxley, Standish writes in his letter dated August 4, 1821 "as luck fell to his share, he took eight tolerable specimens". Among those that he caught during his visit was a large male and a very small female. In fact some specimens were so very fine that their beauty Standish informed Dale in his letter would be hard to imagine unless you see them upon the wing. Later during the visit he would take other good examples.
Below. Male Lycaena dispar. Whittlesea Mere. Dale coll. OUMNH.
Standish on his the very first day in the fens had captured three specimens of The Reed Tussock Moth, Laelia coenosa. Dale had added L. coenosa to the British list when he collected a larva during his visit to Yaxley Fen in July 1819 which unfortunately died. At that time this moth had yet to be given an English name. Standish who referred to it as the White Moth suggested to Dale that perhaps it should be named after Whittlesea Mere. Curtis when he figured L. coenosa in his British Entomology V 5 (1825) from specimens collected by Standish, called it the Whittlesea Arctia. Specimens of this species collected by Standish during this visit in 1821 can still be seen in the Dale collection today. Standish probably found the adults of L. coenosa resting on the foodplants, Common Reed (Phragmites australis) Great Fen Sedge (Cladium mariscus) and Branched Bur Reed (Sparganium erectum). The last specimen of L. coenosa taken in Britain was during 1879 at Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire. Standish had taken and bred some fine large specimens of the Gypsy Moth, Lymantria dispar and the local and very pretty Purple-bordered Gold, Idaea muricata. Dale finished his rather short letter of August 4th by saying he would stay at Yaxley as long as he could, the weather being so very fine.
Below Laelia coenosa. Whittlesea Mere. August 1821. Benjamin Standish. Top male. Bottom female. Dale coll. OUMNH.
In a letter dated September 14, 1821, Standish thought he might have found a good spot where the Purple Edged Copper, Polyommatus chryseis = L. hippothoe and the Scarce Copper, L. virgaureae might fly. Standish certainly at this time was unaware the former was not a native British insect and today there are doubts about the true status of L. virgaureae because of much fraudulent dealer material. Standish had saved 8 of his finest Large Coppers from Whittlesea Mere for Dale. He mentioned in the letter that he had found a very good place for the Large Copper but whether or not this was the same spot that he took them the year before he does not say. He had no doubt the other two coppers, L. virgaureae and L. hippothoe occurred at Whittlesea Mere but it was long before they were on the wing he did not see them. Standish informed Dale he had found the larva of L. coenosa at Whittlesea Mere and had bred some specimens and he had procured the best pair for Dale. Standish had met with the Scarlet Tiger moth, Callimorpha dominula in Yaxley Fen but found few swallowtails, Papilio machaon larvae this year.
There is no record that Dale paid Standish expenses during his visit to Whittlesea Mere in 1821. Standish's transactions with Dale usually went smoothly, but although there was sometimes confusion over payment, relations between the two men remained amicable. In September of 1821, Standish sent Dale a box of rarities that he had taken at Whittlesea Mere. Standish price to Dale for his Whittlesea Mere rarities were, Lyceana dispar 10 shillings (He mentioned he would not charge more for them than the previous year). Gypsy Moth, Lymantria dispar. Female 15 shillings. Male 6 shillings. Reed Tussock, Laelia coenosa. Male 35 shillings, Female 25 shillings (the price Stephens gave him). 6 Swallowtail, Papilio machaon for free.
On receiving the specimens from Standish, Dale found that many of the specimens had been damaged. A female Lycaena dispar had lost an antennae and two of the female Lymantria dispar were damaged, one badly, an abdomen had become detached and had broken other specimens in the box. Dale sent many of the specimens back to Standish including one of the Lycaena dispar. Dale's box, unknown to him at that time had three future extinct fenland British species, it was a considerable disaster especially when one takes into account the time, effort and money that Standish put into collecting them at Whittlesea Mere. However, as every collector knows nothing can be guaranteed when sending set specimens by post.
Standish returned to Whittlesea Mere in 1822 and in 1824. He captured some fine specimens of Lymantria dispar at Whittlesea Mere during 1822 and again in 1824. This extinct race had especially large females and was confined to the Fenland and to the Norfolk Broads and is thought to have been an unnamed subspecies. Unlike those Lymantria dispar occurring in Europe and those introduced into North America, it was not a pest species in Britain. The larva of the fenland race fed mainly upon Bog-myrtle, Myrica gale.
Below Male Lymantria dispar. Whittlesea Mere 1822. B. Standish. Dale coll. OUMNH.
Below. Male & Female. Lymantria dispar. Whittlesea Mere 1822. B. Standish. Dale coll. OUMNH. The female is an especially fine example.
The last Benjaman Standish letter to J.C. Dale. Entomological Equipment. 1830
The last letter Standish wrote to J.C. Dale on August 30, 1831 is of interest because it details the Entomological equipment that Dale had requested. This may have been Standish's last correspondence with Dale because he was able to retire as a professional collector and entomological supplier. Newman mentioned that Standish after he was invested his money by buying London properties could live by independent means and wished to devote his time in building up his own entomological collection. At this time Standish was living at No 9 George Place opposite the Rosemary Branch, Camberwell, London.
Dale had ordered an entomological cabinet from Standish and it had been packed into a case and put on the Sherborne Waggon on Saturday 28 August and would arrive the following Tuesday. The cost of the cabinet was £16, approximately £1,250 pounds in today's money. Dale had also purchased from Standish, a clap net & sticks and a ring net together with a special water net for aquatic beetles.
Below. A clap net or bat fowler net. The sticks are originals (the only known surviving examples) with the net recently added. OUMNH.
Frame of an early 19th century ring net. OUMNH.
All the images in this article were taken by me and remain the copyright of Oxford University Museum of Natural History. A special thanks to Kate Diston, Head of Archives and Library for access to Dale's Journals, letters & diaries and to James Hogan of the Entomology Department for access and permission to photograph specimens in the Dale Collection.
Charles Abbott who is mentioned in this thread, notebook Lepidoptera Anglias does survive and is among James Charles Dale's manuscripts at Oxford. Abbot commenced his notebook in 1797.
Mr Simmonds who is also mentioned in this thread, the collector who divided his time between London and Milton near Peterborough, first name was William. He wrote 16 letters to Dale, the first in 1838 and the last in 1847. He exchanged boxes of insects with Dale.
Below is a lovely aberration of the Dark Green Fritillary, Argynnis aglaja. The inner silver underside spots are enlarged and elongated in this example. It was caught by Charles Abbot at Bedford. His diary records that he took this species in 1799! Dale collection. Copyright Oxford Museum of Natural History. OUMNH.