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The Friend of the Lions

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Author Charles Dickens
Genre Prose: Essay i
Subjects Animals; Domestic Animals; Pets; Working Animals; Birds; Insects
Popular Culture; Amusements
Other Details
Printed : 2/2/1856
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume XIII
Magazine : No. 306
Office Book Notes
Views : 928

The great animal painter and later sculptor of the lions in Trafalgar Square, Sir Edwin Landseer, with whom Dickens had been on very friendly terms since about 1840, had evidently urged Dickens to draw attention to the inadequacy of the living space provided for the lion and lioness from Mozambique and South Africa that were among the animals at this time housed in the Carnivore Terrace (built 1843 and surmounted by a walkway) at Regent's Park.

'The Royal Couple shall have my best attention', Dickens promised Landseer in a  letter of 10 January; 'I will try to express you in the plainest manner, and to allow none of the interest of your argument—a most excellent one—to escape' (Pilgrim, Vol. VIII, p. 18). It was not, however, until 1876 that the big cats were moved from what Wilfrid Blunt calls (The Ark in the Park [1976], p. 208) 'their squalid dens under the terrace walk' to the new Lion House.

Literary allusions

  • 'whom Mr Rogers used to call "our poor relations"': presumably a reference to the poet Samuel Rogers, but I have not been able to trace it.


Berg collection, New York Public Library. This shows a few minor variants from the printed HW text.

Author: Michael Slater; © J. M. Dent/Orion Publishing Group, Dickens' Journalism Volume III: 'Gone Astray' and Other Papers from Household Words, 1851-1859, 1998.

DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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