Lane, Louisa, later Clarke, c.1812—1883
by Benjamin Colbert
Louisa Lane was born in 1812, the eldest daughter of Ambrose Lane (d. 1857) and Elizabeth Lane, née Le Mesurier (1792-1856). Her family was rooted in the Channel Islands, including a great-grandfather, Peter Le Mesurier, who was Governor of Alderney, and, among her contemporaries, a cousin, Ernest Le Pelly, the ‘Seigneur’ of Sark. Her father owned an estate on Guernsey, Woodlands, where Lane spent much of her childhood.
In her twenties, Lane published two novels and a travel account, Recollections and Legends of Serk (1840), the latter published in Guernsey and comprising her account of a family tour to Sark in 1838 (her late cousin Peter Le Pelly was Lord of Sark at the time), interspersed with local tales and hints for visitors. Lane’s publisher also commissioned her to write a follow-up guidebook to Guernsey, Redstone’s Guernsey Guide; or the Stranger’s Companion (1841).
On 14 September 1841, Lane married the Reverend Thomas Clarke (c.1805-1864), Rector of Woodeaton, Oxfordshire. The wedding took place in Guernsey, but the Clarkes soon relocated to East Bergholt, Suffolk. Louisa Lane Clarke’s first book dated from there, The Country Parson’s Wife (1842), indicated that she took her own parochial duties seriously. In 1843 she published a revised and expanded edition of her Guernsey Guide, but eight years passed before she would continue her promotion of the Channel Islands with The New Parish Church of St. Ann (1850) followed by The Island of Alderney … Being a Companion and Guide for the Traveller (1851).
While travel and guidebook writing forms the bulk of her early output, Louisa Lane Clarke is best known for her later botanical work popularizing microscopy. Her first book of this nature, The Microscope: Being a Popular Description of the Most Instructive and Beautiful Subjects for Exhibition (1858) was published in successive editions into the 1880s. Her The Common Seaweeds of the British Coast and Channel Islands; with Some Insight into the Microscopic Beauties of Their Structure and Fructification (1865), published the year after her husband’s death, plangently invokes the seaside as a place where ‘[we are] soothed if by sorrow or illness we have suffered’ (17).
Common Seaweeds is dated from ‘Cambridge Park, Guernsey, July, 1865’, where Clark and her daughter, Theodora Louisa Lane Clarke, later Teeling (c.1851-1906), took up residence. Her daughter embraced Catholicism at an early age, and eventually Louisa Lane Clarke converted too. Lane Clarke continued to reside in L’Hyvreuse, St. Peter Port, Guernsey, until her death on 8 November 1883.
Clarke, Louisa Lane. The Common Seaweeds of the British Coast and Channel Islands; with Some Insight into the Microscopic Beauties of Their Structure and Fructification. By Louisa Lane Clarke, Author of “Objects for the Microscope”. London: Frederick Warne and Co., 1865. Print.
‘Clarke, Mrs. Louisa Lane (née Lane) (c. 1812-1883)’. Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists Including Plant Collectors, Flower Painters and Garden Designers. Ed. Ray Desmond, with Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Frances and the Natural History Museum, 1994. 150-51. Print.
‘Clergy Deceased’. Gentleman’s Mag. 16 n.s. (May 1864): 668. Print.
Lemprière, Raoul. Customs, Ceremonies and Traditions of the Channel Islands. London: Hale, 1976. Print.
‘Marriages’. The Standard, no. 5373 (Fri., 17 Sept. 1841). Gale Databases: British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900. Web. 11 Oct. 2017.
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