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We’ve all been there. Bored in class, we tune out the teacher’s lecture and doodle mindless scribbles off the edge of our paper. It comes with being a teenager, and pages unearthed and shared on Twitter by the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) show that this trend did not start recently. Pictures of 230-year-old doodles from an 18th-century teenager’s math homework show us that teens never really change.
Richard Beale was the 13-year-old artist behind several idle doodles shared over the weekend by Adam Koszary, MERL’s program manager. The discovery began with a box of what looked like 18th-century diaries from Kent. Only one of them wasn’t a diary, it was Richard Beale’s mathematics book.
“Every generation of the Beale family had a Richard, and we think the one who owned this book was 13-years-old in 1784,” MERL’s Twitter page wrote.
A lot of our offices are like this.— The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL) October 6, 2018
The usual depressing office furniture, the utilitarian bookshelves, the archive trolleys which we *definitely* don’t ride down the corridors and… pic.twitter.com/qTApFQDDn7
Except this isn’t your normal farm diary.— The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL) October 6, 2018
It's not even a diary.
It’s a Mathematics book owned by someone called Richard Beale, from a farm in Biddenden, Kent. pic.twitter.com/mHRQihidOB
Every generation of the Beale family had a Richard, and we think the one who owned this book was 13 years old in 1784.— The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL) October 6, 2018
He used the book for writing out mathematical equations and problems. pic.twitter.com/a3RicOM0gr
“If Richard was indeed the 13-year-old,” the posts continue, “he had a beautiful hand. His mathematics are laid out like a dream. But, like every teenager, mathematics couldn’t fill the void of Richard’s heart.
Richard doodled. pic.twitter.com/jRKPzVSZKk— The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL) October 6, 2018
Here it is possessed. pic.twitter.com/IgD3KXVJl5— The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL) October 6, 2018
The museum’s official Twitter page shared several of Richard’s doodles, most of his dog. It all culminated in one truly beautiful doodle of a chicken in trousers.
This dog has seen some shit. pic.twitter.com/9bhpIY3baH— The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL) October 6, 2018
Richard put an 18th century chicken in some trousers. pic.twitter.com/L57TGCSU16— The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL) October 6, 2018
It turns out that Richard may even have had inspiration for his dapper fowl, and no, it wasn’t a live chicken wearing pants. Probably.
It was the crest of a town in the Netherlands called “Hensbroek,” which literally means “Hen pants.” The coat of arms sports, you guessed it, a hen in lovely yellow slacks.
There are many reasons to think we're living in the darkest timeline but the fact a 13 year old's doodles of his dog can be featured in a national news site is like a tiny ray of light.— The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL) October 9, 2018
The online response was prompt and overwhelming. People love a good chicken in pants, apparently.
This entire account is just egg-cellent.— Amanda (@aopal18) October 9, 2018
No need to be fowl, just take the cluckin' compliment 🐔❤️— Amanda (@aopal18) October 9, 2018
The thread even reached J.K. Rowling, who was so tickled she joked about writing her next series about a chicken who wears trousers.
“This thread is truly wonderful,” the bestselling author wrote. When asked by @TheMERL to make her next series “track the adventures of a chicken who wears trousers,” she responded with, “Way ahead of you. He’s best friends with a duck in a balaclava.”
Can you please make your next series of novels track the adventures of a chicken who wears trousers— The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL) October 7, 2018
We can’t wait, and we especially can’t wait for @WBStudioUK to build a new Studio Tour for it in Reading so we can finally stand as tall as the tourist powerhouse of Watford— The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL) October 7, 2018
Koszary, who runs the Twitter page, told the Guardian that the archives are full of items like this and that he hoped the tweets would “get people to come and use them.”
“When you see a 13-year-old from the 18th century doing the kind of doodles that kids are doing today, it is so relatable—there’s an instant connection,” he said. “Also, there’s the fact it’s just so stupid.”
Its hard to say where Richard found the inspiration for his timeless doodles, but one thing we know for sure? This museum’s Twitter game is on point.
Nahila Bonfiglio reports on geek culture and gaming. Her work has also appeared on KUT's Texas Standard (Austin), KPAC-FM (San Antonio), and the Daily Texan.