Vestiges of Creation
Poetry, Drollery; Illustration, Satire
Evolution, Human Species, Animal Behaviour, Gender, Analogy
A response to Samuel M Peto's remark (quoted after the title of this article) that 'The Serpentine, and the whole of Belgravia, were formerly a lagoon of the Thames'), this article adopts the title of Robert Chambers's Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation and argues that the 'ancient life' that once inhabited these metropolitan districts is still present though 'changed in outward form'. It plays on the fact that the naming of certain animal species (reptiles, tadpoles, ducks, serpents, and beasts) also refer to human characters associated with Belgravia. For example, 'The slimy reptile here, no doubt / Wriggled and crawled in greed or malice: / Now see the Courtier creep about— / Near as he dares yonder Palace'. Again, 'With cackling ducks the old lagoon / At times, perchance, alive was seen: / Our Ducks [fashionable ladies] come out each afternoon, / And chatter in their Crinoline'. Similarly, identifies 'the 'Gigantic cranes' in William Cubitt's 'yard' as the latter-day 'Mega-Theria'. Concludes by denying that the inhabitants of Belgravia have lost connections with 'that old marsh's family'. The illustration depicts several fashionable women, two of whom have duck's heads, conversing near the Serpentine.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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