steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Ancestors as Cigarette Cards

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes (you know what they can be like), I often turn to a bit of family history: I'm not sure why. It's a diverting research task: challenging but not too difficult, with no practical consequence riding on it. And they're many of them interesting people. But I've always disliked the idea of taking vicarious pride (or shame) in the achievements or follies of other people, and I can't deny there's some glory-basking going on too. There's yet another factor, though, which is the lure of completing the set. I'm not a huge collector of things in the normal way, but I've now got pictures of 8 out of the 10 children of my great-great-grandparents, and I'd dearly like the other two.

george william butler

George William (1838-1913) (sometime poet and scourge of fiction)

Tom & Lucy Tonge (Butler)

Lucy Isabella (b.1840), who married the Rev. Tonge, vicar of Sparkbrook

Annie Robina Butler

Annie Robina (1841-1911) - children's author, memoirist, and stalwart of the Children's Medical Mission.


Edward Dundas (1842-1919) - my first omission. He was an expert on Finnish and Magyar philology, which raises him in my estimation, though also author of The Song of Simeon, composed expressly for the Hebrew services of the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews (1874), which seems a little iffier.


Arthur Gardiner Butler (1844-1925). I'd known he worked in the British Museum as Assistant Keeper of the Zoological Department (this was from 1879, just before the natural history collection was moved to South Kensington), but only recently realized he was a pretty well-known lepidopterist and aviculturalist - and also a correspondent of Darwin, which is cool. (In response to one letter about sparrows who persist in building nests in the same spot even when they are removed daily, Darwin remarked: “I have always been inclined to think that sparrows were acute & crafty birds, but you certainly show that they are Fools, & if they go on behaving in so idiotic a manner, you will do quite right to expose their conduct in some public Journal!–”). AGB's article on The Stupidity of Sparrows seems never to have appeared, however.

thomas robinson butler

Thomas Robinson (1846-1923), cleric - and my great-grandfather.

frank butler

Francis Henry Butler (1849-1935). According to the website of the Manchester Museum, "Butler was a medical doctor, poet, assistant editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and a leading London mineral dealer. He opened for business in 1884, moving the stock of the famous Cornish mineral dealer Richard Talling, who had committed suicide the previous year, to Brompton Road. By the time he retired, 43 years later, most of the world's leading mineral collections had specimens with Butler labels." If these figures are right, he retired aged 78. Dr Frank sure did love his rocks.

fannie butler2

Fanny Jane Butler (1850-1889) - whose exploits as the first qualified female doctor to work (and die) in the subcontinent I've mentioned before.


Montagu Russell Butler (1852-1924) - our third and final clergyman, and my second missing portrait. From the titles of his books, he was pretty anti-Catholic: they include The Snare of the Fowler: a Tract on Confession and a portrait of the Abbé Chiniquy (who left Rome for Protestantism and tried to take French-speaking Canada with him).


Mary Ellen Butler (1858-1946), who stayed home, looked after her father, and outlived all the rest...
Tags: family history
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