From his very earliest days he had the desire to become a painter, and ¡n due course of time he attended a well-known art academy, and subsequently the Royal Academy Antique School ; but his efforts were fitful, and great as was his desire to become an artist he found at times the necessary technical difficulties almost too great to be overcome. Never thoroughly grounded in draughtsmanship, he felt the want of such education to the last, and there are few pictures, indeed, by the great colorist which are free from faults of drawing. As a boy he had a great love for animals, a taste that never left him ; and as the child used to be delighted with a pet dormouse, which he kept in the drawer of a cabinet, so the man was interested through many years in a long succession of pets, ranging from a little downy owl, all head, to woodchucks and wombats and armadilloes.
-- From the New York Times, May 2, 1886, Wednesday, page 11. I'm trying to write a novel in which Rossetti is one of the main three figures, and it always tickles me to hear about his menageries. I'd never run across a contemprary account before.
Wanted to post on dormice but couldn't find anything really engaging yet.