Clara's Grand Tour: Travels with a Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century Europe Paperback – 14 Jul 2005
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"'The enchanting story of a rhinoceros taken on a tour of eighteenth-century Europe... Entertaining.' John Mullan, Guardian 'A jewel of a story' New Scientist; 'Wonderful' Conde Nast Traveller; 'Clara's Grand Tour is a little book with big ideas. A beautifully produced volume... Glynis Ridley approaches her whimsical subject matter with wit, affection and enjoyment, but this is also a serious work that sheds interesting light on a number of cultural and historical ideas.' Samuel Blake, Times Literary Supplement; 'Glynis Ridley's perfectly turned-out book... doesn't deal in questions, offering only an open invitation to watch, wonder and admire... No so much a biography as a jewel box of glimpses into the eighteenth-century mindset...Beautifully told.' Scotsman"
About the Author
GLYNIS RIDLEY was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, studied in Edinburgh and Oxford, and has worked for the Open University, the University of Huddersfield, and Queen's University, Belfast. She now teaches eighteenth century studies in the departments of English and Humanities at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. Clara's Grand Tour is her first book and was shortlisted for the Longman-History Today Award and the Duff Cooper Prize and is the winner of the Institute of Historical Research Prize.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
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Clara's mother was shot when Clara was but a few months old in India, and the sea captain Van der Meer purchased her, thinking that she would make his fortune. He sailed with her back to his home in Holland, and with Clara safely transported, he left the Dutch East India Company to get on with what would be his real career. He was an ingenious showman, who used many techniques that would be familiar in modern spectacles. He had posters printed up beforehand to announce Clara's arrival, and would sell copies of the poster to anyone who paid to see her. There were also more elaborate or detailed pictures for the better-off to buy, ranging from woodcuts to engravings to commemorative medals in tin or silver. Clara seems to have been cared for with genuine affection. She lived on hay and grass (150 pounds a day), with bread and beer being special treats. She was attracted to the smell of tobacco, and could be easily led by the temptation of an orange.
Clara toured throughout Europe starting in 1741, with various home visits to Leiden, and died on tour in London in 1758. At her death, she probably became the subject of anatomists, and Van der Meer went back home. Significantly, there are no written records of him after Clara's death. It is to be assumed that he retired on his profits. He and Clara had accomplished a good deal more than just making money, however, as this happy and enthralling narrative make clear. They were making an appeal to popular curiosity, which is an amiable enough trait, and they satisfied it, but they also satisfied the artists and naturalists who came to check her out. They had expanded human knowledge, making the rhinoceros so well known that Boswell could report in agreement that someone had said that Dr. Johnson "laughs like a rhinoceros," and could count on people being amused at the simile. Ridley's book happily lets us rejoin in the enlightenment which Clara brought.
This might have been a good story for Smithsonian magazine if it had been seriously edited. It's 200 small pages, with wide margins and few lines per page. I was bored and felt gypped.
The book moved a bit slowly in places since the author described the entire tour in a fair amount of detail. However, in the end I appreciated the thoroughness of the description.
The only real weak point was that it left me wishing that there had been more photographs of the playbills, medallions, and etchings which are mentioned in the text. But other than that, it is definitely worth reading.
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