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Charles Waterton Esq. - Illustrated London News (ILN) Article 24 Aug 1844
Charles Waterton, ILN 24/08/1844CHARLES WATERTON, ESQ.

A second volume of "Essays on Natural History" (1), from the pen of this true "field naturalist" has been issued from the press, and presents a favourable opportunity for engraving a "portraiture" of the humane author, from a sketch by a correspondent.

This celebrated naturalist was born at Walton-hall, near Wakefield, in the county of York, about sixty-two years ago. On his father's side he is descended in a direct line (through his grandmother) from Sir Thomas More. On his mother's side he is akin to the Bedingfields of Oxburg, to the Charltons of Hazleside, and to the Swinburnes of Chapheaton.

The Watertons emigrated into Yorkshire, some centuries ago, from their family seat, bearing their own name, in the island of Axeholme, in Lincolnshire. the Watertons fought at cressy and Agincourt, and at Marston Moor. They were preferred, in the Catholic times, to places of great honour and trust; but since the Reformation they have experienced opposite fortune.

Walton-hall was gallantly defended against Oliver Cromwell's troopers. It stands on an island in a lake, and was, at that time, provided with a draw-bridge, the remains of which are standing, mantled with ivy, to this day. The land rises gently from the water on all sides, and is crowned with fine timber; the whole park being enclosed by a formidable stone wall. But, to return to the subject of our sketch.

Charles Waterton received his education at Stonyhurst, the celebrated college of the Jesuits, in Lancashire, where he remained until nearly twenty years of age. Here he became an elegant Latin scholar, and renounced forever the use of wine and spirituous liquors. His love of natural history often led him into playing truant, but eventually his instructors gave him further liberty to pursue his favourite study. Soon after leaving Stoneyhurst, the young 'squire' made a tour into Spain. Here he met with many strange adventures - fever, earthquakes, &c, and was seized with sickness on his return home.

In 1804 he went out to superintend his uncle's estates in Demerara. In 1812, his father and uncle being dead, he delivered up his trust, and all subsequent visits which he paid to South America were undertaken with no other object in mind than the pursuit of natural history. "The Wanderings" bear testimony to the wonderful adventures of Mr. Waterton during these visits. The vivacity with which these narratives abound, render them the most charming productions of the kind in the English language. In 1829 Mr. Waterton married a Miss Edmonstone, but their felicity was of short duration; she died within a year, leaving him a son. He has since made frequent journeys to Belgium and Italy. His "Essays on Natural History" have been collected from "Loudon's Magazine", and edited by himself in a handsome volume, to which is prefixed a most amusing autobiography. This work is as racy as "The Wanderings" and full of interesting and acute observation. We cannot resist closing this brief sketch by quoting Mr. Waterton's portrait of himself:-

"I stand," says he, "six feet high, all but half an inch. On looking at myself in the glass, I can see at once that my face is anything but comely : continued exposure to the sun, and to the rains of the tropics, has furrowed it in places and given it a tint which neither Rowland's Kalydor nor all the cosmetics on Belinda's toilette, would ever be able to remove. My hair, which I wear very short, was once of a shade betwixt brown and black; it has now the appearance as if it had passed the night exposed to a November hoar frost. I cannot boast of any great strength of arm, but my legs - probably by much walking, and by frequently ascending trees - have acquired vast muscular power; so that, on taking a view of me from top to toe, you would say that the upper part of Tithonus has been placed on the lower part of Ajax; or to speak zoologically, were I exhibited for show at a horse fair, some learned jockey would exclaim, 'he is half Rosinante, half Bucephalus.'"

In closing this brief sketch of Mr. Waterton, we must not omit to mention that he is the first bird-stuffer in the world, and one of the most kind-hearted of landlords, and a zealous and conscientious Catholic. A highly recommendatory feature of his writings is that they uniformly enjoin tender treatment of animals, and a generous sympathy with their persecutions.

THE ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS, No. 121, Vol. V. For week ending Saturday 24 August 1844, page 124.
(article and illustration).

The Illustrated London News was founded in 1842 by Herbert Ingram (27 May 1811 – 8 Sep 1860) of Boston, Lincs. He was was a journalist and politician. He is regarded as the father of pictorial journalism through his founding of the paper. He was a Liberal who favoured social reform and he was MP for Boston for four years until his early death in a shipping accident.

■ The statue of Herbert Ingram in the Market Place in front of St. Botolph's Church, Boston. (Visit the Parish of Boston website).


1. Essays on Natural History by Charles Waterton. (Second Series). Walton Hall 29th February 1844. New edition in 1857.

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