Mathematics couldn't fill the void of Richard's heart
October 7, 2018 12:45 PM   Subscribe

The Museum of English Rural Life shares an 18th century teenager's homework . Spoiler: Teenagers don't need social media to goof off when they're supposed to be studying. Also, a good dog and amazing handwriting. More about the MERL here.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure (23 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
I love this.

One thing I wondered, though, was a) why Richard couldn't get the dog's markings right (they are never the same twice) and b) why in each case, the dog has at least one solid leg right down to the toes and numerous pattern features that are not usually found on spotted dogs (the solid leg is a huge one; so is the dark belly spot in two of the three drawings and the small lip and facial spots in the drawings.)

Maybe the dog is what we would today call a harlequin, which is a pattern mostly seen today in Great Danes. Amusingly, harlequin is a genetic variant of a much more common dog color... called, of course, merle.
posted by sciatrix at 1:05 PM on October 7, 2018 [7 favorites]

So every generation of Beale's had a boy named Dick and a boy named Seaman? That's impressive dedication to a joke that's middling at best.
posted by Kattullus at 1:18 PM on October 7, 2018 [23 favorites]

This reminds me of the (much less accomplished, but then he was a lot younger) art of Onfim, a medieval Russian kid who liked to decorate his homework with pictures of himself slaying mythical beasts.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:19 PM on October 7, 2018 [18 favorites]

So it seems there's a place in the Netherlands whose coat of arms *is* a chicken with pants
posted by infini at 1:28 PM on October 7, 2018 [8 favorites]

Don't worry, my comment will make sense once you read the thread
posted by infini at 1:29 PM on October 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

Maybe this wasn't Richard's dog, and he just liked dogs.

What a great find!
posted by Anonymous at 1:39 PM on October 7, 2018

MetaFilter: This dog has seen some shit.
posted by chavenet at 1:41 PM on October 7, 2018 [8 favorites]

Maybe the Beales had more than one dog, with similar but distinctively different markings? This looks remarkably like the English Pointer we had when I was a kid, she had one black leg and apparently that was common in her family lines - they different on which leg was black, and whether one or both ear was black. Our Annie was rejected from breeding & training and sent to a rescue group because she had one white-blue eye and was assumed to have bad vision.
posted by buildmyworld at 1:46 PM on October 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

. .it’s connected to some of our farm diaries, which are a lot like normal diaries but with more cows.
I have my great-grandmother's farm diary, and this is an awesome description. It's like a combination account book, business record, and personal diary. The entry that always jumps out at me reads, "24 eggs. Will died today."

Will was her ex-husband, my great-grandfather, whom she took in during his final illness (esophageal cancer). Her feelings about this must have been incredibly complicated. The farm diary holds everything.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:49 PM on October 7, 2018 [33 favorites]

Maybe the dog was actually several dogs from the same family, or even the same litter. We had a litter of bicolor kittens when I was in high school, and I remember making more than one diagram of their seemingly random markings.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:57 PM on October 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wait, these journals are available to the public? God, I would love to go read old journals at the English Museum of Rural Life. I’ll start applying to UK grad schools haha.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:37 PM on October 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

they also had a boy named Seaman in every generation, which is just unfortunate, and a story for another time)

Hoo boy. That's a rough one to live with.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 2:51 PM on October 7, 2018

One of the math doodles is a picture of a lighthouse, the light being provided by a huge open fire, which is super cool. I didn't realize lighthouses extended to pre-modern times!
posted by Ausamor at 3:21 PM on October 7, 2018

Oh, they definitely do.
posted by quaking fajita at 4:41 PM on October 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

I wanted to find out more about Richard Beale and stumbled upon this family history (a "tale of 'from riches to rags'”), in which dog doodling Richard features as Rich Richard.
posted by erdferkel at 12:26 AM on October 8, 2018 [8 favorites]

I am so happy to see (my local) MERL getting so much social media attention these days. And really, they are killing it.

A chicken in trousers!
posted by Gordafarin at 1:31 AM on October 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Your local and my university! This is awesome.
posted by ellieBOA at 2:59 AM on October 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

I dunno, both Richard's and Onfim's aesthetics are incomplete. Their work should have been thrown out, not studied by archivists and scholars hundreds of years later.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 7:35 AM on October 8, 2018

In terms of museums, MERL is an absolute unit.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:02 AM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Richard Beale was my great great great grandfather, and I wrote the blog erdferkel linked above (thanks :) ) It's been very weird to see my ancestor's doodles going viral, and the book is absolutely fabulous - I'm so glad it survived. I'm afraid I can't answer the question of why the dog is inconsistently spotted, though, but I suspect buildmyworld is right in saying they had more than one dog (in fact, one of the pictures is of two dogs chasing a rabbit). They had a lot of money and a very big country house and farm, so room for plenty of dogs.

I think what I like best is that it reminds me of my own school maths book, except my handwriting was rubbish and the doodles were of my scruffy Jack Russell rather than sporty rabbit chasing dogs. I might dig it out and give to the MERL as an example of genetic predisposition for dog doodling.

Oh, by the way - Seaman was the surname of Richard's great great great grandmother and that's why the unfortunate name passed down the generations!
posted by intensitymultiply at 12:22 PM on October 9, 2018 [75 favorites]

*head asplodes at Metafilter wonderfulness*
posted by infini at 12:39 PM on October 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

I saw a few pictures of the chicken during ambient websurfing recently, but I didn't know the provenance and I had NO idea that the MERL* is like 100 yards off the route to one of my workplaces. I thought it was up north somewhere but no! Local! Delightful! I will definitely be visiting. Thanks for posting!

(*Of Absolute Unit fame)
posted by Ilira at 6:06 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Shoutout to the bookseller who researched, catalogued and sold the manuscript, Laura Massey of Alembic Rare Books.
posted by verstegan at 3:31 PM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

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