Rossetti’s Wombat tells the story of Top, a wombat who belonged to the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti for a few months in 1869. The book also describes the strange history of the European fascination with the wildlife of Australia, from the late 18th century onwards. By 1860, most well-to-do people could buy a pet kangaroo from a London pet shop – and many of them did. Wombats were rarer and more expensive but the tradition of wombat owning was well established by the turn of the 19th century. Napoleon had a pet wombat, as did the Duke of Edinburgh. Rossetti’s Wombat is a light-hearted account of an improbable side of Victorian England. It examines the way a wombat participated in the delicate relationships between the men and women in the Pre-Raphaelite circle – particularly Rossetti’s emotional affair with Jane Morris, wife of his friend and colleague William Morris. Fully illustrated with drawings and etchings of the period, Rossetti’s Wombat will appeal to those with an interest in Victorian England and the Pre-Raphaelites – and to wombat lovers everywhere.
John Simons is Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty of Media, Humanities and Technology at the University of Lincoln. He has published widely on subjects ranging from medieval chivalric romance to Andy Warhol, and from editions of medieval and early modern texts to a history of Hampshire cricket.
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