Victorian Love of Animals

John James Quintain set out for the Yukon determined to make a fortune in the gold rush, but stopped at Skagway where he decided to take gold from those who had mined it rather than laboring for it himself. Skagway was a wide-open town, the despair of the Mounties who kept order in Dawson City just across the border. Quintain opened up a brothel, made some money, then sold out in 1897 for what must have been a healthy sum. He and his travelling companion, a Mrs. Maldyce, then left for London where they opened a new establishment.

Formerly a gentlemen’s club called Groves, the new operation was formally named Quintain’s though most customers referred to it as The Menagerie, for this brothel catered to those who wished to dress up as animals. From the journal of Walkender Smith:

Adjourned to Q’s with M, S, and deF. Ladies in fine form, Sal agreed to be costumed as roe deer and I as a grey wolf who chased and mauled the sweet moppet most vigorously. M opted to be ravaged by a tigress, which we considered v. peculiar of him and laid him open to some witty jibes.

Now people do dress up for the odd encounter and they sometimes dress as animals, as anyone who saw that CSI episode about Furries will recall, but Quintain had a well-developed philosophy about animal totems and so on that incorporated, he said, teachings of a Chilkat shaman that he learned in Alaska. Meanwhile, Mrs. Maldyce was secretly keeping notes on all the posh gentlemen who came to play in The Menagerie with a view to blackmailing them. That didn’t happen. In 1902 Quintain’s was busted and Mrs. Maladyce absconded with its earnings. Quintain was charged but never came to trial because of pressure exerted by influential gentlemen afraid their names would be mentioned in court. Quintain was heart-broken and lived out the remaining twelve years of his life with a spinster aunt in Scotland. 

Love of sex as animals, as opposed to sex with animals, is well-attested in Victorian times. Dr. Kilmarnock has discovered several interesting examples that, strangely, are only documented on his website.

Artur Vonner, a German author and illustrator of children’s books, tired of saccharine talking animals and drew, for his own amusement, scenes of anthropomorphized animals having sex. He showed some of this work to the artist Joshua Handley who, in turn, revealed his own stash of personally produced porn. Handley was into tentacle sex, a concept he had learned in Japan, which crosses the line drawn in the leading sentence of this paragraph, so he will soon be out of this post but not before he helps Vonner make connection with a French publisher who agreed to bring out an animal story for adults.

Miss Fawn Chastised; or, The Misadventures of a Young Deer was quite a success in the world of porn and Vonner soon produced a follow-up, a version of his own children’s book, The Bear and the Wedding Dress, which featured tranvestite animals and corporal punishment. Unfortunately, Vonner did not get around to adapting his classic Miss Flufftail’s Day Out before the police raided his publisher and seized a number of dirty books. Mr. Vonner was well-enough known that his style was recognizable and his career as a children’s book writer was over. Probably Vonner didn’t mind too much — he produced animal porn partly because he was so disgusted with the sentimental twaddle that he was churning out. He moved to Germany and settled into a life of painting portraits.

A glimpse of Hughes' animal Commons which looks remarkably similar to Walter Potter's "Animal School". Hmmm.

Beatrix Potter was not known to make animal porn but her work did inspire some of a very curious (to current thinking) nature. A Victorian vogue for taxidermy meant that animal-stuffers who could produce tableaux became famous. Dr. Peter Hughes of Trinford was perhaps second only to Walter Potter in this field. Hughes created an entire House of Commons scene with more than three hundred Tory kittens and Liberal bunnies that might still be viewed at Trinford as recently as ten years ago. Or so we are told.

But Dr. Hughes also produced sexual tableaux such as scenes from the Marquis De Sade’s Juliette
(Justine’s sister) where the title character, portrayed by a stuffed cat, is tormented by rabbits. This piece was unfortunately destroyed in 1917 by the owner’s widow. Hughes also did a number of Beatrix Potter take-offs which apparently were commissioned by a gentlemen in Iowa. One of these, depicting Jemima Puddleduck in some fashion, was auctioned to an anonymous bidder for $3500 in 2003. Hughes was working on a massive project — a series of twenty-four large tableaux depicting scenes from Sade’s The 120 Days Of Sodom with kittens and squirrels — for the Marquis of Bathgate, a lover of animal erotica. Only seven were complete when Hughes died in 1908 and these disappeared with the breakup of the Marquis’ collection after his death on the Somme.

Jemima Puddleduck meets a gentleman.

I admit to finding the taxidermy business to be creepy. If we think of this anthropomorphic erotica as symbolized or idealized human activity, then here we are too close to costumed necrophilia for my comfort. And Sade is a long way from Chilkat spirituality. Still, I’d like to see Jemima Puddleduck in action and hope that, some day, someone will find a hidden cabinet containing the Lost Works of Beatrix Potter — Peter Rabbit Visits Mrs. Tiggywinkle, for instance, or Misadventures of Squirrel Nutkin.

Note: Most of the information here was found on “Dr. Kilmarnock’s Obscure World of Victorian Erotica” which seems to be moribund. Dr. Kilmarnock was collecting these materials for a book, but, alas, it seems never to have been written. Nor can any other reference to the people mentioned, including Walkender Smith, be discovered. Nor Trinford, England. Of course it may be that Dr. Kilmarnock and his findings are works of the imagination, perhaps brought into existence by a fellow named Dave Grant. If so, they remain remarkable creations and worthwhile objects of interest.

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