The editor of the magazine in the 1930s and 40s was Margery Graves Elwin. The magazine covered the whole of aquatic and some terrestrial life. It was not confined to keeping fish, reptiles and amphibians but included ponds and pond life, aquatic plants, invertebrates, birds and mammals. It provided accurate information on this wide range of topics and the fact that I concentrate on articles on amphibians and reptiles and those of general interest does not mean to say that its role in the other areas of natural history should be ignored. In short, Margery Elwin did an excellent job and I am full of admiration that she managed to get an issue out each week.
Margery Graves Elwin was born in Southwark, London, on 5 August 1908 to George Richard Elwin, a medical practitioner, and Eliza Beatrice, née Graves. At the 1911 Census, the family was living at 82 Black Friars Road, Southwark. There was a Dispenser boarding with them, which would suggest George Elwin was a general practitioner, and they employed a housekeeper.
She graduated from the University of London, BSc (Special Honours) in 1932. The records show University College and Birkbeck College, the latter and her age (24) suggesting that for part the degree course she was a part-time student. She was married in 1936 to Louis Caustin Mandeville. They had a son on 5 April 1939 and the following announcement appeared in Water Life:
By then she had given a talk on a BBC London Regional Programme, ‘The Care of Pets’ on 9 July 1938 at 12.45 under the title, ‘Fish and Aquaria’*. She also described the then new species, Corydoras arcuatus now called the Skunk Catfish, in a paper in Journal of Natural History in 1939.
During this time, the Water Life series of booklets was launched, the first of which she wrote. The booklets were written by contributors to Water Life.
Louis Mandeville was a major contributor to Water Life and, later, to The Aquarist until the 1960s at least; he was also a lecturer to fishkeeping societies. By profession he was a dentist (L.D.S. R.C.S.). He was born on 27 October 1910, the son of Joseph Louis, a motor cab driver, and Ethel Amy. At the 1911 Census they were living at 1 Millais Buildings, Westminster. He was commissioned in the Army Dental Corps as a Lieutenant on 27 May 1940 but left the army, as Captain, on 13 October 1945 ‘on account of disability’. I then found records that showed he became Principal School Dental Officer for Ealing in London, and retired in 1970/71.
The Mandevilles, before Water Life was launched, wrote joint articles, in 1935 for example, on fish keeping for The Aquarist and Pondkeeper which was then published every two months.
In the 1930s, the Mandevilles lived at 6 Thornberry Court, Isleworth but then moved to 79 Eastcote Road, Ruislip.
Louis died in Bristol in 1983, Margery also in Bristol in 2005, aged 96.
But the story does not end there because of the involvement of J.B.S. Haldane—yes, the ‘inordinate fondness for beetles’ Haldane. His letters are available online and those to, from and about Margery and Louis Mandeville will be the subject of my next post.
* According to the issue 0f 26 July 1938, the talk was to appear in The Listener magazine of 28 July. The magazine has been digitised but infuriatingly it is behind a bulk-buy for libraries paywall.