Description

The existence of a menagerie on the rickety second floor of an arcade on the Strand was perhaps one of the stranger features of late Georgian London. A rival to the long-established animal collection at the Tower, it was a privately-operated enterprise, both a shop and a popular tourist attraction. The cruelty of the enterprise was remarked on by contemporary visitors including Lord Byron who wrote in his journal in 1814, ‘the poor antelopes were dead, I should hate to see one here.’

This King’s Library plate of the interior shows the exotically painted walls lined with dens for a discontented lion, tiger, jaguar Brazilian tapir, and other animals, monkeys in the cages above, exotic birds in the cages by the windows, and, behind the bars at the end of the room, the unfortunate elephant Chunee, finally killed in 1826 after being driven mad by a fatal mixture of boredom and sexual frustration (or musth). In fact, Chunee was kept in an adjoining room but is included here by artistic licence. 

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