Revisions in Action, Part 4: Beware of the Zebra!


I was mad enough to include a throw-away line about a zebra in SPRINGTIME PLEASURES: basically, Charlie asks another character whether that person has ever seen a zebra. It only occurred to me later that Charlie could have well seen a zebra herself in one of the menageries in London. So I’ve been leafing through my research books and flicking through early-nineteenth-century guidebooks on Google Books on the hunt for the dratted elusive zebra.

In the early 19th century, there were at least two menageries in London, namely the Royal Menagerie in the Tower and Pidcock’s Museum. The Zoological Gardens were opened in 1828, but apparently, they weren’t open to the public at first. But SPRINGTIME PLEASURES is set in 1817 anyway, so no London Zoo for Charlie.

About Pidcock’s Museum I’ve so far found only the following:

Over Exeter Change, in the Strand, has a collection of divers beasts and birds, not exceeded in rarity even by the royal menagerie in the Tower. These occupy three apartments, which may be seen for half-a.crown, or two of them for two shillings.

(from: John Wallis, LONDON: BEING A COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE BRITISH CAPITAL, 4th ed., 1814)

No list of animals, alas.

I’ve been luckier in regard to the Royal Menagerie and found the following list in THE PICTURE OF LONDON OF 1805:

As you can see, still no mention of a zebra. So, sorry, Charlie, it looks as if there is no zebra for you.