Elizabeth Gould

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ELIZABETH GOULD, English (1804-1841)

Elizabeth GouldJohn Gould's name has been noted in history as a preeminent English ornithologist and publisher of 19th illustrated bird books.  When re-counting his accomplishments however credit must be given to the artists who worked with him, especially his wife Elizabeth.  Legend tells of Elizabeth and John meeting in the Aviary of the London Zoo, where she working as a governess was on an outing with her young charge.  However they met, they were married in 1829.  Elizabeth was 24 years old.  Isabella Tree in her biography of John Gould states:

"He discovered the perfect partner to fulfill his publishing ambitions:  Elizabeth was determined, intelligent, educated, practical, obedient, and she possessed the one attribute he most desperately lacked - she could draw."

Elizabeth Gould combined motherhood and career in a way that must have been exhausting.  In twelve years she completed over 600 illustrations and gave birth to eight children, two of whom died.    She contributed work to the following works:

Birds from the Himalaya Mountains
A Century of Birds of the Himalayas
Birds of Europe
Monograph of the Ramphastidae (first edition)
Birds of Australia
Monograph of Macropodidae or Family of Kangaroos
Charles Darwin's, Zoology of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle

Although essentially self taught she worked with and learned from Edward Lear.   In 1838 her husband convinced her reluctantly to leave their children in the care of her mother and travel to Australia to work on a monograph of Australian birds, a corner of the world that held rich possibility in yet undocumented bird species.  They planned to be away for two years. 

In a letter to her friend Mrs. Mitchell Elizabeth writes, "I do hope I may not be obliged ever again to leave them [her children],-it is too much"  The Gould's  arrived back in London in 1840, Elizabeth however died just a year later of puerperal fever after giving birth to her eighth child.

 

-excerpted from Roslyn Russell, "Elizabeth Gould ‘Mother' of Australian Bird Study" National Library Magazine, June 2009.