Rossetti's wombat: in the March 1965 issue, Michael Archer wrote about the menagerie that Dante Gabriel Rossetti kept at his house in Chyene Walk. It included a wombat, which inspired numerous stories.
Since the wombat had in fact died in quite different circumstances, Whistler's story was obviously invented. Indeed a box of cigars would have needed to have been astonishingly outsize to have engulfed a whole wombat. What is more likely is that one evening the creature had misbehaved to the extent of nibbling a guests's cigar, much as a few weeks earlier it had chewed at William Michael Rossetti's trousers: but such a dramatic aftermath is out of the question.
Yet the cigar legend persisted and even Ford Madox Brown alleged that a whole box of cigars had been eaten, though with what effects he did not explain. It would be tempting to believe him were it not for another story which must also be apocryphal. He is said to have stated that the placing of the wombat in the epergne inspired the 'dormouse in the tea-pot' incident in Alice in Wonderland, and supports this by saying that Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) was a frequent visitor at Cheyne Walk when he was writing Alice. Gratifying though it would be to believe this story, it cannot be true because Dodgson was visiting Rossetti (and taking a marvellous set of photographs of him) in 1863, at the end of which year he was writing the chapters 'A Mad Tea-party' and 'Who stole the tarts?' We can only assume that, as this was long before the arrival of the wombat, Madox Brown was either thinking of another pet or had merely 'concertina-ed' the two events in his mind.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2006|
|Previous Article:||Dulce et decorum: the monument to Edward Horner in the parish church at Mells, Somerset, is an affecting tribute to the losses suffered in World War...|
|Next Article:||So where is the Holy Grail?|