Comic Annual, 2nd ser. 1 (1842), 121–30.

An Open Question

[Thomas Hood]


Poetry, Satire, Drollery; Afterword, Drollery

Relevant illustrations:

wdct. [3]


J LeechT H, pseud.  [Thomas Hood]


Amusement, Zoological Gardens, Religion, Temperance, Piety, Animal Behaviour, Natural History, Morality, Anthropomorphism, Class, Fieldwork, Geology

People mentioned:

Andrew Agnew

    The poem addresses the proposal that the Zoological Society Gardens should be closed on Sundays. Each verse ends with an appeal to the fictional embodiment of canting propriety: 'But what is your opinion, Mrs. Grundy?'. Hood points out that the gardens are not sites of carousing like tea gardens or public houses. He asks: 'What is the brute profanity that shocks / The super-sensitively serious feeling', and makes some droll suggestions, such as pelicans 'presenting bills on Sunday' (122). Various other comic speculations are made concerning possible behavioural misdemeanours of the animals. Hood thinks Sabbatarians resemble zoo-keepers, in wishing to cage up people like beasts. He cannot think Sunday would be 'a bit diviner' for stopping happy children from thronging 'to the gates of Eden Minor'; nor can he understand why natural history should be considered 'Unnatural because it's Sunday' (125). He asks rhetorically how the beasts are to feed 'sinful fantasy' in view of the moral example which they set, and their status as 'Creatures of the Great Creator's hand'. 'Better it were if, in his best of suits, / The artisan, who goes to work on Monday, / Should spend a leisure hour amongst the brutes, / Than make a beast of his own self on Sunday' (126). Hood enquires: 'what raised so Protestant a fuss / [...] But that the Papists, like some Fellows, thus / Had somehow mixed up Dens with their Theology?' (127). The illustration captioned 'Dens' Theology' (facing 128) depicts a crocodile in formal dress offering a lion in a cage a joint of meat in one hand and a pamphlet in the other, the only legible words on which are 'Tract' and 'Flesh'. The illustration 'A Screw Loose' (126) depicts a terrified man with his hair standing on end recoiling from a snake, which has reared up into a corkscrew shape, and which has evidently escaped from some cages in the background. Hood concludes that if the 'Saints Zoological' are allowed their canting with respect to lions, then 'sure as fate they will deny us next / To see the Dandelions on Sunday' (128). The 'Note' following discusses the claim of Sabbatarians that all kinds of breaking (including house-breaking and the breaking of heads) result from Sabbath-breaking. It begins with an anecdote about a Scottish professor who, caught hammering at a geological specimen on a Sunday walk, was gravely accosted by a peasant who said: 'Eh! Sir, you think you are only breaking a stone, but you are breaking the Sabbath' (128). The illustration captioned 'Holding Forth' (130) depicts a man in sober attire feeding a bear from the wall of an enclosure by holding out a bun on a long stick.

© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020

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