Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

The Tiger That Swallowed the Boy: Exotic Animals in Victorian England

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

The Tiger That Swallowed the Boy: Exotic Animals in Victorian England

Article excerpt

The Tiger That Swallowed The Boy: Exotic Animals In Victorian England. By John Simons. Libri, 208pp, Pounds 12.00. ISBN 9781907471711. Published 4 November 2012

People from outside these islands have often been puzzled by the strength of Britons' feeling for animals, as illustrated by a letter published in 1881 in the Liverpool Mercury on the lack of regard for children equivalent to that afforded to animals: "Whilst we have a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, can we not do something to prevent cruelty to children?" Today, fewer than 40 wild animals are part of British circus performance and recent legislation will stop that for ever. But our love affair with exotic animals continues, with Edinburgh Zoo's recent spike in visitors following the arrival of two giant pandas testament to a vogue that dates back to the Victorian era.

Here, John Simons attempts to shed light on this 19th-century craze for exotic animals, and presents many interesting stories to testify to that obsession while covering menageries, the growth of the zoo and the onset of the circus, some of the main arenas in which a Victorian spectator would encounter the full range of the animal kingdom. Exotic animals were a feature of fairs and travelling exhibitions from the late 18th century, with perhaps the most famous and long-lived being George Wombwell's, which last appeared at Hull Fair in 1933. By the mid-1850s, every major fashionable and aspiring city had a public collection of exotic animals, starting with Regent's Park in London in 1828 and Belle Vue Zoological Gardens in Manchester in 1836, as cities throughout Europe vied to open their own. Private individuals and members of the aristocracy were also dedicated collectors, among them Lord Edward Smith Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby, whose interest lived on in the 18th Earl, who established Knowsley Safari Park on the family estate near Liverpool in 1971.

Drawing in part on a "spoil heap of material" from his 2008 book Rossetti's Wombat: Pre-Raphaelites and Australian Animals in Victorian London, which told the story of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's menagerie, Simons offers engaging and entertaining tales of how a tapir terrorised the people of Rochdale, the growth of Belle Vue and other zoological gardens and, of course, an account of the titular tiger that swallowed the boy. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.