Wombats and Woodchucks

The drawing depicts Dante Gabriel Rossetti lamenting the death of his second wombat. Mary Hibbs (pen names: Mary Hammond and Sandra Mann) made me aware of the image and of the possibility that the Beaver in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark could have been a reference to Rossetti’s wombat.

The fame of Rossetti’s Wombat is lasting much longer than that poor animal itself, after having been transported for its short life from Australia to Chelsea. But there also was a “Canadian marmot or woodchuck” in Rosetti’s estate in Chelsea, where he moved into the Tudor House in 1862. Actually, Rosetty had two wombats. We also learned from Angus Trumble (Rossetti’s Wombat: A Pre-Raphaelite Obsession in Victorian England, 2003-04-16) that Rosetti had a little zoo in his garden aas well as friends living in his big house like the “deeply unattractive poet and semi-professional sadomasochist Algernon Charles Swinburne — who liked to slide naked down the banisters giest”. I guess that Rosetti’s mini-zoo was kept not even semi-professionally, but together with his friends and his dormouse, Rosetti surely was well prepared for mad tea parties. (See also: G.A.H.! (Gardner’s Annotations Hyperlinked) – The Dormouse and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Wombat, LCNSA.)

In The Hunting of the Snark, the Beaver was the Bellman‘s pet and became the Butcher‘s friend. Can anything from the real world be associated with that Beaver-Bellman-Butcher triple? This might expand the Snark matrix, a matrix with elements from The Hunting of the Snark in its rows and elements from the real world in its columns.