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they have so much difficulty in getting home against the wind. The men sell quantities of fish in the streets, I never saw such a mixture, all sorts of colours. My chairman told me he had caught conger eels 20 feet long, which made me laugh, for they are savage!
He said they were so difficult to kill they have to put a string through the gills & tie them to the boat to prevent them from jumping out again, which I can quite believe. He says all the herrings & mackerel here are very small because the water is shallow & the old big fish all go off round Dungeness into the North Sea, where it is deep.
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