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There are a number of chairs always waiting opposite the hotel, the men pounce upon any one who comes out, but I insist upon having one with 2 wheels in front. The man this afternoon was very talkative about ships & fishing.
We see numbers of ships, quite a procession, always a long way off & keeping along the same track. They come round Dungeness & then keep straight across outside a lightship called the Royal Sovereign. The lightship is 11 miles off but we can see the revolving light on clear nights.
The man told me it broke loose in a storm one winter, breaking two cables, but a tug boat caught it & took it back as near the right place as it could, it is called the Diamond Sands. After the ships pass that they go outside the Isle of Wight. We saw a very large one, North German Lloyd, on Sunday; we could see the passengers walking about on the docks through our big telescope.
He also told me about the Hastings fishing boats. They are very pretty, painted bright colours & have all got brown sails. They are smaller than usual & do not go very far out, 20 miles, because
Here is another account of a seaside holiday, somewhat more sophisticated in style and content because Noel was six years older at that time. Potter knew how to calibrate her prose for an intended age group, an essential skill for an author of children's books. In this case, she understood that a boy at his age might like to learn about ocean liners and the technicalities of recovering a lightship cast adrift. She apologized for her pictures, but they were no longer quite so necessary for reading comprehension, and they include two comic sketches perfectly suited for his sense of humor. No doubt he relished the idea of a man-eating, twenty-foot conger eel, but that is a fish story. Even the most formidable specimens do not grow larger than ten feet long.
Beatrix Potter (1866–1943)
Autograph letter signed, St. Leonards on Sea, to Noel Moore, December 23, 1898
Gift of Colonel David McC. McKell, 1959; MA 2009.11