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Washington, United States
loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

some strange pets, 1905

I have such a beguiling article today that I couldn't decide which bit of it to post, so it's all here below. It's about the exotic pets of the upper classes as recorded in a chat rag of 1905. This periodical, The Summary, was the world's first prison newspaper, an eight-page weekly digest of world and local news. Producing this paper gave inmates at the Elmira NY reformatory a groundbreaking chance to learn a good skill during their incarceration. The story of the Elmira reformatory is interesting, too. *** The prevailing craze for unusual pets was exemplified at the opera at Covent Garden the other nignt when a well-known lady brought with her a chameleon with a delicate chain round its neck which enabled it to run up and down the curtains of the box. This love of animals of an eccentric description is by no means a modern innovation; it may be traced back as far as the time of the Pharaohs. Quaint interest doubtless attaches to the juxtaposition of a beautiful woman and a wild beast. Mme. Bernhardt and her tame leopard were the sensation a couple of decades ago. Mrs. Arthur Cadogan, Lord Cadogan's sister-in-law, had a fancy for poisonous snakes. One small snake she frequently wore on her arm as a bracelet, but to the relief of her friends these strange pets died off one by one, and have not been replaced. More pleasure as a companion was the tame otter which used to follow Lord Linlithgow's sisters, Lady Dorothea and Lady Estella Hope, like a dog; this was a really intelligent and lovable creature, which has since been replaced by a tame hare whose family name is "Mr. Juggins." This interesting little animal is much in request at country house parties, to which it is often taken by its mistresses, for whom it has a great affection. A mongoose or a monkey is quite an ordinary domestic animal just now, and of the latter a pretty specimen is often to be seen coiled round the neck of its owner. A well-known West End tradesman received a terrible shock one morning when this lady extended her patronage to his shop. While settling for her purchases, something like a fur boa suddenly snatched up the change and examined it with two bright little eyes, chattering volubly the while. The poor man was heard appealing to the assistants as to whether it was real. A specimen of the green Egyptian beetle, which really seemed to know its owner, and never took flight when let loose to crawl about her hand, was selected as a pet by another well known lady. The history of the creature reached the Court, and an appointment was made for the beetle and its owner to have audience of the Queen, but a brutal friend, ignorant or thoughtless, flicked the poor beastie off its mistress's hand, where it was taking a quiet walk, and thereby administered a death blow alike to the beetle and the high hopes of the lady. Lady Anglesey possesses a marmoset no bigger than a mouse, which she used to carry about with her, but it has not been seen of late, so some evil has doubtless befallen it. Lady Constance Stuart-Richardson has given up her snakes. Another lady kept a hedgehog, which followed her about with great intelligence, but it had its drawbacks as a companion. The Rothschild goat was part of the decoration of Piccadilly at one time, but has never been replaced: more's the pity, as such touches add to the gayety of our London streets. The African meercat came much into favor during the war, and the little creatures are even now sometimes to be encountered in the park, led about like a dog by a string. They are pretty, intelligent little beasts, and very affectionate. It seems hard to get up a friendly interest in a lizard or chameleon, but each has its lover in the London world. Gen. St. Leger's daughter, Mrs. Holland, has several chameleons which spring about like crickets, and know her voice quite well, coming at her call. A tame green lizard, tied up with bright-hued ribbons, loves to creep to its mistress's shoulder where it clings for hours in perfect contentment. -- Some Strange Pets, by "Critic," in The Summary, Volume 33 No. 23, June 6 1905, p. 6.


Winnie said...

That's an amazing article!! Imagine all those people keeping those sorts of animals as pets! The park must have been a tempting place for hounds like me. I'd have been flying after some of those furries like a fury!.

It sounds funny but I bet some of those wild animals weren't really very happy as pets.

Thanks for finding it for us.

Love and licks, Winnie the greyhound

Celia said...

My great, great aunt had a tame otter, too :)

curator said...

Hi Winnie, it's always nice to hear from you!
Celia - I wish I had an otter (sometimes). Have you been to http://www.iamotter.co.uk/index.html ? It's so adorable.

DamnCuteBunny said...

Interesting source, topic and venue! It seems the fascination people have for exotic animals will never cease.

parlance said...

Your posts are always interesting, but this one is especially good!