Great Nebraska

Naturalists and Scientists

Edith Schwartz Clements

Letters, 1911

Sept. 3, 1911



Under a beechwood tree: September 3rd.

We count ourselves among the fortunate to-day​, for the formal excursion to the Isle of Wright, with an eight mile tramp, followed by tea & supper at the castle of the Deputy-Governor
of the Island has been given up. The difficulty of harmonizing the latter functions at which would beabou guests in proper attire, with the tramp in old clothes decided us to spend a quiet
day at the hostel & Mrs. Tansley bettered this by asking if we would care to motor with herself, two sisters & a friend
to this lonely beech forest & spend the quiet day there with books, letters or what-not.
The fact that we are here indicates the answer we made to the question. It is another
perfect day & we are blissfully happy. The English girls are most interesting, both
in themselves & as a study. They have very pleasant voices & manner of talking, which
is quite un-American & there are many, many women here at the Association meetings. It quite
astonishes me to find so many botanists among them. They are a militant crowd & I
begin to see reasons for their attitude, both in scientific matters as well as political.
Only at this meeting have they been allowed to attend the annual botanical dinner
of the Association & then only after a determined fight for it. English men are apparently
not as liberal & courteous as Americans who even allow wives of botanists at the dinner,
as well as any botanical student. Of course the fear here is that the women will overwhelm



the men by superior numbers & so “spoil” the occasion. This attitude of aggression
is also evident in their insistence when they have a right to the little “Doctor”
as many of them have, to being called so. I fear I am still a little old-fashioned
in these matters & am decidedly so when it comes to their smoking. I still gaze in
amazement at sweet-faced, rosy-mouthed firls puffing nochalantly at their cigarettes!
They find it just as surprising when we tell them how it is looked upon in America!
It seems too bad, the “New Woman” movement, which is such a tremendous step in advance,
should be hampered or attended by these manifestations. Another astonishing things
is the calm way in which they become engaged & married then carry on their “work”
in different parts of the country, or different countries! Dr. Stopes is now in America “visiting” her husband. The engagement of two British botanists
is just announced with the news that one is to have a position in Dublin, while the
other retains hers in London!

They are ceratinly treating us right royally here, where we are being entertained
as guests of the town. We are lodged, fed, supplied with cigars, cigarettes, drinks,
& writing paper; taken on trips & to dinners, at no expense to us! We are lodged in
the dormitories of the girls’ Training School, which is a Normal School, taking our
lunch & dinner together in one,



and breakfasts where we sleep. We attended one session of ecological papers on Thursday
& an excursion by train & wagon to some chalk downs & yew forests. It is pleasant
to really see a chalk down after reading of them in novels. Tea was served underneath
giant yew trees. This tea “business” is also an English custom I cannot accommodate
myself to. I hope Jule’s ambitions for our broadening include neither that nor smoking,
for I fear I cannot suit her in them. Afternoon tea is a scared custom. Everything
must give way for it. It spoils an afternoon for it comes right in the middle & it
spoils one’s digestion by inserting a meal before the previous one is assimilated
& it spoils a healthy appetite for dinner! The tea itself is so strong, it is sometimes
the color of coffee! When Fritz & I do take a cup for politeness sake, we take 1/4 tea & 3/4 cup water! It is almost
impossible to get out of drinking & eating them, as the English mind cannot conceive
of one not wanting it. They seem so sorry & bewildered when one refuses & keep urging
with such zeal, that one must perforce give in ! I suppose they have somewhat the
feeling we would have on a hot day for one who refused ice cream! Best Not only do the English indulge in afternoon tea, but they must have a cup or more
served to them in bed in the morning. Some of them insist that they cannot get up,



until they have had it, or would be unbearably cross if they did. Perhaps it is the
same feeling I have when forced to do without my quota of water! “All habit.” But,
if one is to be bound by habit one should see to it that the habit is a good one,
& as between tea & water, I think there is small room for doubt.

Monday evening: We enjoyed a rare treat for us land lubbers to-day​, in the shape of a naval display. We went about the battleship “Revenge” in the harbor
at two o’clock — several hundred of the members of the British Association & were
then taken out to the “Exercise Grounds” at the mouth of the harbor where the manoevers
were executed. The day which had threatened a little cleared off, & the sea had enough
white caps on to be beautiful & to make small boats which followed bob & dance about
merrily. The ironclad was as steady as a rock: I wish all ocean liners were! After
we had come to anchor, the show was opened by ten or a dozen torpedo boats. These
are low, ugly black things, which you-all have seen pictures often. Their part was
to attack our vessels with torpedoes. These were immense steel cigar-shaped affairs
which were shot through the waters, their course being marked at the surface of the sea by a pale



Sept 3 & 10

green streak. They went at a great rate & hit the sides of the battleship with a dull
thud. Of course these were not loaded, or I might not be writing now. Shortly after
striking, they rose to the surface & were picked up by the boats for further use.
The submarine boats were the “belles of the ball,” however: graceful, gray creatures,
on a level or below the level of the water, with a “crow’s nest” in the centre where
the men stood, while above water. You can readily see from the enclosed program what
they did for us. It was most interesting to see them sink out of sight & again emerge.

We were all interested last night in an account in the paper of the poisoning of the
guide who showed us through the castle — prison at Lancaster. It seems his sister poisoned him the vey next day & he died a few days later!

On board the Teutonic; Sunday, Sept. 10-

Heigh-ho! Here we are started for home, “sweet, sweet, home.” And I actually believe
I’m going to enjoy it! Not because of any greater love for this leaden expanse of
monotony, on which we sail, but because there is only a week of it & there are hundreds
of good books aboard, a pleas



ant library (on the Pretoria, one had only the dining-room) & a crowd of nice people
aboard. The ship itself is much pleasanter with broader promenade decks & white &
gold decorations. Our cabin is smaller, but lighter, better ventilated & better located.
The faster greater speed of the boat (twice as fast as Pretoria almost) procuces a greater vibration.
I slept well, nevertheless: it was like being a baby & “joggled” on one’s knee!

Deary-me! where did I leave off & what were some of the experiences which will bear

Tuesday, there was quite a conflict of pleasures. Fritz had been invited to a banquet given by the Mayor in the evening. He accepted, thinking
the rest of the party were included. As it turned out, they were not & he felt quite
chagrined, because a public dinner is usually a bore. There was a delightful all-day
excurtion planned also, due to return at 7:30. I knew well that meant later & Fritz would be late for the dinner. The guide however assured us we could come back at
“any time.” We therefore joyously joined the excursion, which was by steam launch,
up Southampton Water. It was a beautiful day, the water dancing & sparkling in the sunshine & the bay,
alive with all sorts of water-craft. Scarely had we started, however, before the leaders
decided it would be too bad to return a bit earlier than absolutely necessary & so
got out maps & time tables



Sept 10

to figure out a way for the dinner guests to return on time. Fritz was half-inclined to back out of the dinner & send his excuses later. I persuaded
him, however, that courtesy usually demanded the sacrifice of one’s own selfish desires.
So, at last, we & Professor Linderman, who was also invited to the dinner were put at on shore at a landing spot, after two hours of sailing, hired a cart & drove three
miles to a railway station to take the train. What was our surprise on entering a
compartment to find Mr. Druce of our party! He was on his way home to Oxford! We found some compenstions for our loss of the trip in getting in at a reasonable
hour (the others turned up for dinner at 9:00! but reported a “glorious day.”) and
Fritz was most agreeably disappointed in the banquet, where he had the opportunity of seeing
English “pomp & circumstance” & of hearing good music. Mrs. Cowles was quite “miffed” because her husband had not been invited.

Wednesday would up our stay at Portsmouth with a genuine treat in the shape of a luncheon at the beautiful home of an English
country gentlemen, interested in science & a friend of Mr. Towsleys. This was only for “our party.” Fritz & I walked to the station by way of the town to get some post-cards of the naval
display & to mail a most important letter to Sara, asking her to be sure



to order an abundance of cream! In consequence of this last, & also because every
clock we saw told a different story as to the time, we reached the station, just as
the train pulled out! We were at the central station & the party was to board the
train at a suburban station nearer the hotel! The distressing part of it was that
we did not know where the party was going! We are so used to having absolutely no
cares about tickets or trains or stations, that we have become quite irresponsible.
Fritz had a tiny clue, however, let drop purely by accident by Dr. Drude, as he was getting off for Dresden. By following this up & gaining further information from the local secretary, we
found we could take a train an hour later to Rowlands Castle, a station near the estate. There we would hire a rig & drive to the house where
we would knew we were to lunch. The plan for the party had been to drive & walk over the downs
from this station & then end up with lunch. It all turned out for us with our usual
good luck. We reached Rowlands Castle all right & were looking about for a cart, when Fritz espied Mrs. Towleyscoat & bag in an auto waiting there, apparently for someone off the train. We exclaimed
in surprise & the chauffeur then asked if we were the people he was expecting! Mr. Towley had sent us a telegram telling us to take the train we had & arranging for the auto
to meet us! We had not



Sept 10

received the telegram, but fortunately had done the proper thing without it! It was
just like a fairy story. We joyously got into the “golden coach” & were whizzed along
the road, through the park gates, up the private avenue, with the where the workmen respectfully touched their caps, as we passed, & up to the door
of a beautiful ivy-covered mansion, set on high ground amid beautiful lawns & trees
& overlooking miles of rolling, tree-clad chalk downs. Here, we explained our predicament,
& were charmingly received by our hostess & several of her house guests. One of these,
a handsome woman with white hair, wife of a famous “weather-man,” took me in charge;
insisted on having a paresol fetched & then piloted me off for a walk thru the woods
& the blackberries. These were ripe & we ate a lot. Fritz stayed & chatted with the
weather-man & a Baron & Baroness, who were guests. We had a very pleasant hour or
two thus, much pleasanter, I am sure than the hot walk over the sunny downs, which
the others had. It was an exceedingly warm day, very hazy. The beautiful lawns around
the house were burnt brown by the drouth & heat. English houses have no need for artificial
watering of their lawns & so no provision for it when the rare need arises, as it
did this summer. One of the sons of the house, a mere lad, told



me there was but an inch of water in the tank & they would have to move when that
gave out! Our party reach the house about one & were full of interest & questions,
at finding us in the drawing room to receive them! We had a most delicious luncheon
— twenty-four of us. I sat at the right hand of our host, a very pleasant, nice-faced
man of about forty. Our hostess, not knowing us, has settled the important (?) matter
of precedence by having her husband & the Baron draw cuts for the two American ladies.
Mrs. Cowles is awfully jealous about small matters of this sort & she gives other credit for
possessing the same pushing tactic she has. After lunch, our host asked me to take
the front seat, next to him in the leading automobile, for a trip over the estate.
Mrs. Cowles quite “riled” me later by insinuating that I had had the cheek to pick this place
of my own accord! She’s awfully good medicine for me, but I can only stand small doses.
It pleases me immensely when she tries Fritz almost to the breaking point, because he is apt to give me fatherly advice when I

ge express my opinions of her. He has also come around to the same opinion I formed
the second time I had met her, but is has taken him a long time. However, it is not
likely I will see much if anything of her again until the