One of the things I love about the internet is the strange combinations you can find. Who knew the Pre-Raphaelites were obsessed with wombats?
It’s a long story with lots of wonderful illustrations. Here are some highlights:
Only one of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood actually visited Australia — the sculptor Thomas Woolner who, after failing to earn a proper living with his art, emigrated there to seek his fortune on the goldfields. The Pre-Raphaelites and their friends met regularly to read aloud from the letter–journals that Woolner sent home. He had no luck at all, and did not like the Australian landscape. He confided to his diary that he thought it topsy-turvy. The seasons were the wrong way around, as were the times of day. The birds, he claimed, did not sing, cherries grew with their stones on the outside of the fruit, the trees shed their bark, not their leaves, and so on. On one occasion he was shocked to encounter the fragrance of lilac because he had made his mind up that Australia was scentless, barren, “a land without fruit or vegetable”. Although wombats don’t get a specific mention in the surviving letters, it is quite possible he brought word of the exotic marsupial home with him when he moved back to England just a year later.
In the 1860s, Rossetti often took his friends to visit the wombats at the zoo, sometimes for hours on end. On one occasion Rossetti wrote to Ford Madox Brown: “Dear Brown: Lizzie and I propose to meet Georgie and Ned [the Burne-Jones] at 2 pm tomorrow at the Zoological Gardens—place of meeting, the Wombat’s Lair.” In this period a number of new wombats arrived at the Regent’s Park Zoo: a rare, hairy-nosed wombat on July 24, 1862, and two common wombats despatched from the Melbourne Zoo on March 18, 1863. Rossetti also made regular visits with his brother, William Michael, to the Acclimatisation Society in London and its counterpart in Paris, to keep an eye on the hairy-nosed wombats residing in both places. This was no passing fancy.
From the beginning, William Michael had sensed that something was wrong: “I went round to see the beast, which is the most lumpish and incapable of wombats, with an air of baby objectlessness — not much more than half-grown probably. He is much addicted to following one about the room, and nestling up against one, and nibbling one’s calves or trousers.” Top the wombat also got on well with the other animals, particularly the rabbits.
Soon, however, Top was ailing. William Michael wrote: “The wombat shows symptoms of some malady of the mange-kind, and he is attended by a dog doctor.” The next day: “Saw the wombat again at Chelsea. I much fear he shows already decided symptoms of loss of sight which effects so many wombats.” At length, on November 6, the wombat died. Rossetti had him stuffed and afterwards displayed in the front hall.
What strange combinations have you seen lately? Open thread!