Martini Maccomo, the African Lion King

Of all the different circus disciplines, the one that appears to have been seen as the most ‘exotic’ was that of the lion-tamer. This was man triumphing over nature, and travelling menageries, in which these lion-tamers initially worked, were an embodiment of British imperialism, showing how Britain had dominion over its empire and all that was in it. Big cat shows were also intended to thrill and excite, as the lion-tamer faced nature red in tooth and claw. It fed

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Spotting Wildlife in Arts and Crafts Textiles: The Red Squirrels of Morris & Co.

Red squirrels had reason to be wary of the Victorians. Nineteenth-century culture popularised the animals – they were even kept as pets – but the Victorians also unwittingly caused the decline of the red squirrel population by introducing the rival species, the grey squirrel, to Britain.[1] Today, sciurus vulgaris stands at the centre of an emotionally charged debate about the conservation of native habitats. The red squirrel’s persistent appeal most likely has to do with its endearing looks. But in

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Jumbo the Elephant: a very Victorian institution

When I was a toddler, like many other children I hauled around a stuffed toy with me wherever I went. While many had the ubiquitous Teddy Bear, and some had a rabbit, I had a battered and well-worn stuffed elephant. It was grey and threadbare and its name was … Jumbo. Now, I never questioned why it was so called. I just assumed that all elephants were known as Jumbo. But Jumbo the Elephant was a particularly Victorian creation. Jumbo

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Credit to any Country: E. H. Bostock and Scotland’s first Zoo & Variety Circus

If one thinks of Scotland and zoos, the Edinburgh Zoo automatically springs to mind. This zoological park opened in 1913 and is world-famous for its captive breeding programme and conservation work. However, it was certainly not the first zoo in Scotland. This credit must go to the Scottish Zoo and Variety Circus, established in Glasgow in 1897 by Edward Henry Bostock. Born in 1858 in Buckinghamshire, Bostock came from a family of menagerie owners. Collections of wild and exotic animals

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Victorian Horse Shows: Spectacle, Leisure, Commodity

Horse shows, stalwarts of summer rural life, began as a Victorian phenomenon. Materialising in both London and Dublin in 1864 as responses to a sharp decline in the equine population, they coincided with the increasing promotion of leisure as an antidote to the pressures of modern work.[1]  Leisure pursuits were allied to ‘the quickening pulse of commercial enterprise which did much to enlarge and glamourize leisure,’ and horse shows quickly became busy marketplaces catering to pleasure and social ambition.[2] Previously

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Anna West, Thomas Hardy’s Sheep

Anna West is an early career researcher in English literature. She recently completed her doctorate at the University of St Andrews, where she was a recipient of a Macpherson scholarship and the Rutherford prize. Her first monograph, Thomas Hardy and Animals, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press in 2017. Follow her on twitter: @a_west19. This post accompanies her JVC article ‘“Rot the Genuine”: Moral Responsibility and Far from the Madding Crowd’s Cancelled Fragment’, which can be downloaded here.      

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Merrick Burrow, ‘The Imperial Souvenir: Things and Masculinities in H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines & Allan Quatermain’

By Merrick Burrow (University of Huddersfield) This post accompanies Merrick Burrow’s Journal of Victorian Culture article published (2013). It can be read in full here. H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines ends with a letter in which Sir Henry Curtis, one of the main protagonists, highlights the significance of hunting and battle trophies brought back from the ‘lost world’ of Kukuanaland for his renewed sense of his own hegemonic masculinity: The tusks of the great bull that killed poor Khiva

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