By Bernard Verdcourt
Charles Alluaud was one of the last gentlemen-naturalist collectors who was not constrained by having to earn a living and could go where he chose. He collected many groups and the results were written up by many of the best workers of his day. He was a good ambassador for France during his travels; a man of artistic tastes but equally a naturalist very interested in biogeography.
He was born in Limoges on 4 May 1861. His great-grandfather, Fr. I. Alluaud, was director of the Manufacture Royale de Porcelaine de Limoges as far back as 1793 and one of the first private factories in the city was founded in 1816 by Charles’ grandfather, François Alluaud, who was also a learned mineralogist. The factory passed to his son Amèdèe, Charles’ father. The family is still honoured for its connection with the porcelain industry, there being a Salle Alluaud in the ‘Musée de la Porcelaine’ at Limoges. Charles started his schooling in Limoges and it was the time he spent in the grounds of his parents’ property, Chateau de Ribagnac, which started his passion for entomology. He had a brother Eugène five years older and a younger sister Camille. The famous painter Camille Corot (1795-1875), that great master of landscape art, was a friend of the family and had a strong influence on the children; Charles had a love of painting all his life and Eugène later became a talented painter.
At 15 Charles was sent to the Collège de la Rue des Postes in Paris, but with his independent character he responded badly to the attempts of the Fathers to discipline him and after several outspoken tirades against authority he was sent back. His parents wanted him to study law but natural history was much more to his taste and fate now took a part with the early death of his father. His considerable inheritance enabled him to be quite independent and follow pursuits which interested him. When he was 20 he married a childhood friend Jeanne Guillemot and soon had a son Jean; they lived in the Avenue Foucaud near the Jardin D’Orsay in Limoges.
Apart from a trip to the Canary Islands in 1883 his travels began in 1886 with an official mission for the Paris Museum (although presumably financed by himself) to Assinie, now Assini, in the Ivory Coast [5°07´N, 3°17´W] near the coast on the western border of Ghana. Gulella adami van Bruggen is based on a specimen collected there by Alluaud on 26 February 1887 (van Bruggen, 1994). He spent seven months in the Canary Islands with his wife and son in 1889–1890 after which he visited the Seychelles in 1892. On his return from Diego Suarez (in Madagascar) in 1893 the family moved to Paris and rented an apartment in Boulevard Saint-Michel. Another premature death intervened. As a result of a frightful accident, their son Jean, now aged 14, killed himself accidentally while playing with a revolver. This sad wasteful loss naturally overshadowed the rest of their lives and from this time on his wife accompanied him on his more lengthy trips and became a valued collaborator in his work.
They visited the Mascarenes (1897), Tunisia and Tripolitania (1898–1899), S. Madagascar (1900–1901) (Dorr, 1997 reports that his first visit to Madagascar was impeded by Anglo-French diplomatic tension and his second was aborted when he contracted malaria) and Kilimanjaro and Victoria Nyanza (1903–4). When they arrived in Mombasa for this trip the British authorities put a saloon-car at their disposal on the Uganda railway which made it possible to be shunted on to a siding at all the stations up to the terminus at Port Florence [= Kisumu] on the lake. The railway was only totally completed in 1903 (although the first locomotive ran into Kisumu on 20 December 1901) thus far and did not reach Kampala until 1931. On their return from the lake they left at Voi and went via Taveta to Kilimanjaro – Jeannel (1952) mentions they transversed ‘Pori de Serengheti’ (Serengeti bushland) but the Serengeti is some 300 km west and possibly the term was less restricted then. The Sudan and Egypt were visited in 1905–1906. In Cairo Alluaud was given permission by the Cairo Museum to make an examination of the mummy of a high priest of Ammon in the XXI Dynasty (around 1000 BC). Various dermestid and clerid beetles discovered in mummies had been described as extinct species but Alluaud (1908) showed that in reality they were no more than the common cosmopolitan Necrobia rufipes (Degeer) and Dermestes frischii (Kugelann) which swarmed in the corpses around Cairo. They made further trips to East Africa in 1908–1909 and 1911–1912, visiting the high mountains Kilimanjaro and Ruwenzori, and to Morocco in 1919–1924.
After their son’s death they had left the apartment in ‘Boul Mich’ and moved to rue du Dragon not far away near St Germain-des-Près which remained their home when not travelling until Jeanne died in 1928. Despite the despair over their son’s death various friendships made much of their life happy. They often visited Charles’ brother and his painter friends. His sister Mme Philipps, the widow of an English officer killed during the Somali Campaign, often joined them. She had two sons both of whom became high ranking officers, one in the army and the other in the navy. Now a widower, Charles started to build in 1929 on land at Crozant (46°24´N, 1°37´E) in the Department of Creuse which he had acquired during the lifetime of his wife and moved into his new house in 1930. At first he was quite happy working, forming a collection of insects from Creuse which he left to the Museum in Guèret the capital of the Department. He also published his own journal Afra [Afra. Cahiers d’Entomologie. Paris 1930–1936]. He made a journey to the Ivory Coast in 1930–1931, to Rif Espagnol in 1932 and to Tunisia in 1935–1936; his final one was to Madeira in 1938. The solitude of the Crozant countryside had begun to depress him long before, and in any case the Second World War was fatal to people of independent means and at last money became a difficulty. He had to sell his property and the money he obtained was soon spent. He lost his sister, then his brother, and survived until 12 December 1949 when he died aged 88 after a short illness during which he was looked after by his niece Mme Clifford.
He became a member of the Societé Entomologique de France in 1885 and was president in 1899 and 1914, secretary in 1902–1903; in 1923 he was made an honorary member. He was also a member of the Societé Zoologique de France and became president in 1909 and honorary president in 1926. He became a correspondent of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris in 1922 and an associate in 1936 and obtained the Croix d’Officier de la Lègion d’Honneur in 1935. The greatest honour of all was to have two of the most interesting plant genera of the extraordinary Madagascan family Didiereaceae named after him, Alluaudia (Drake) Drake and Alluaudiopsis Humbert & Choux. Doubtless numerous insects are also named after him.
Alluaud wrote 165 mostly short papers which are listed by Jeannel (1952); he wrote elegantly and concisely. A man about town with a perfect education, he was a curious mixture of artist and naturalist, a lover of order, a good draughtsman and photographer; he bound his own books.
Dautzenberg (1908) wrote up the molluscs from Charles’ first East African expedition in a paper illustrated by two hand-coloured plates by G. Reignier but by this time Charles was again in East Africa.
I found in the Dautzenberg archives kept in the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels a box labelled ‘Autographes’. This contained notes on some of his correspondents but also preserved in the box is a letter from Alluaud to Dautzenberg from Entebbe in Uganda dated 16 December 1908 [a Wednesday]. This is I think worth publishing as a whole (translated fairly freely).
On debarking here three days ago I found a second copy of your work on my shells. I have been touched by all the precautions you have taken to ensure I should receive a reprint so interesting to me. I have received both copies (from Nairobi I acknowledged receipt of the first). Again thank you.
This morning I had at my disposition a powerful steam-launch. I profited from this by dredging in front of Entebbe at 8 to 10 m depth – unfortunately engine trouble lost me about two hours and I was invited to lunch at his Excellency the Governor General of Uganda!
I have therefore not done anything of much importance. I discovered from the bottom of my dredge that the fauna hardly differs from that of Kavirondo Bay. I saw again with pleasure Unio alluaudi, some valves of Pseudocorbicula alluaudi, Melania tuberculata etc and a gasteropod which I do not recall having encountered in the east (but my memory is very vague concerning those species not figured in your work) [the word gasteropod is marked with an asterisk leading to a drawing and a description stating species with projecting sharp ribs a little larger than the preceding of which I have only found one dead shell – the drawing shows a form of Bellamya trochlearis and a second drawing marked Espèce abondante, obviously ‘the preceding’ in the phrase above, which probably depicts Bellamya jucunda].
The small steamer unfortunately departs tomorrow. I will try to complete my researches on my return from Ruwenzori (I leave next Monday for about three months).
It is probable that a small Government steamer will be put at my disposal on lake Albert-Nyanza which I propose to visit when I have finished my researches on the Ruwenzori Massif.
Sleeping sickness and the rigorous measures taken by the Government on the banks of the great lakes has temporarily suppressed the departures of the big native boats which will hinder my researches considerably. Be that as it may I much hope to bring back interesting material thanks to the precious help of the English authorities. Madame Alluaud and I are in perfect health despite a terrible month of November passed to the north of [Mt] Kenia, on foot with continual rain lost in the fog. I had to give up the ascent of Kenia to my great regret.
Please remember me kindly to Madame Dautzenberg and all of yours and accept all best sentiments, from your devoted colleague.
List of molluscs described from material collected by Charles Alluaud in Kenya and Tanzania
Achatina (Lissachtina) zanzibarica kilimae Dautzenberg.
Edouardia nakuroensis (Dautzenberg.)
Gulella (Plicigulella) landianiensis (Dautzenberg.)
Gulella (Plicigulella) vicina sambourouensis (Dautzenberg.)
Melanoides tuberculata (Müll.) [Pilsbry & Bequaert, 1927, renamed this Melanoides tuberculata var. dautzenbergi since there is an earlier Melania victoriae Dohrn 1865 from the Victoria Falls which is also a Melanoides; there seems no reason to recognise the variety in any case].
Bulinus tropicus (Krauss) [sometimes recognised as a suspecies of tropicus.]
Biomphalaria pfeifferi (Krauss) [some half a dozen subspecies were formally recognised including one based on this but there is no justification for this.]
Sphaerium (Pseudocorbicula) nyansae alluaudi (Dautzenberg.) [following Mandahl-Barth].
‘Succinea’ alluaudi Dautzenberg. [generic position not yet known.]
Caelatura alluaudi (Dautzenberg.)
Vitrina lobeliaecola Dautzenberg. (position awaits a revision) [despite Kilimanjaro not being marked on the itinerary given by Dautzenberg on page 2 of his paper it is clear he visited the mountain.]
One species was based entirely on Daubenberger material:
Conulinus daubenbergeri (Dautzenberg.)