The NSLM Library holds more than a few game books and hunt diaries. Game books typically tally up the bag for a given day’s hunting while hunt diaries give more detailed information about the participants, the weather, and any interesting events that took place during the hunt. I recently discovered that the Library also holds a copy of the charming fishing diary of a woman named Muriel Foster.
The diary records over 30 years of Muriel’s fishing activities, and as one might expect, details when and where she fished, her catch, and the flies she used. What makes the diary unique are the lavish illustrations that she added to embellish it. The diary would become a family heirloom and it is her great-niece that decided to have it published in 1980.
Muriel was born in in 1884 in Surrey, England. She was a tomboy and enjoyed many of the activities her brothers participated in, including fencing and fishing. Demonstrating artistic ability, she was enrolled in the Slade School of Art, where she studied under Henry Tonks. While Muriel did well and even exhibited a drawing at the Royal Academy, she was not destined to become a professional artist. Unmarried in her mid-forties she established her own household in a home called Ivy Cottage, in Wiltshire. Here she spent the rest of her life pursuing her interests in drawing, painting, gardening, and fishing, and here she welcomed her many nieces and nephews.
The illustrations on the pages of her fishing diary pull the viewer into Muriel’s experience. She shows us not only the fish and the flies she used to catch them…
but also the other animals she encountered while fishing…
the landscapes that surrounded her as she fished…
and the people that sometimes joined her on her outings.
Her drawings evoke the full experience of fishing, not simply the challenge of hauling in a trout or salmon, but also the enjoyment of spending time out of doors and a love of the countryside. I imagine her spending cold winter nights illustrating the diary with the same calm and patience required for fishing. Her paintings and drawings allowing her to relive the days on the river or loch until her next outing.
Perhaps some of the fishers reading this will be inspired to create a similar record of their adventures. I’ve only included a few photos of the diary here. If you’d like to get a closer look just let us know you’re coming and we’ll be happy to get it out for you.
Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail