The painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti kept a pet wombat – though sadly, not for very long. The poor creature died after a few months, in November 1867, and he marked its passing in verse:
I never reared a young wombat
To glad me with his pin-hole eye,
But when he most was sweet and fat
And tailless, he was sure to die!
Apparently Rossetti included Top, the wombat, in his dinner parties, and there is some suggestion that he was the model for the dormouse in the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland – although the difference in size makes this unlikely. Rossetti kept a whole menagerie of exotic pets at his home in Chelsea, including peacocks, owls, various dogs and rabbits, and more exotic creatures such as armadillos, a raccoon, a woodchuck and a small Brahmin bull. He drew the line at a young elephant, not because of lack of room, but because of the high price – £400. Continue reading