Nathaniel Hawthorne Explores the Liverpool Zoological Gardens

The United States Consulate in Liverpool was America’s first overseas consulate. The author Nathaniel Hawthorne accepted the post of American consul in 1853. It was three years after the publication of The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne spent five years dealing with diplomats, ruined speculators, seamen, and ‘piratical-looking scoundrels,’ in his office on the quayside of the Old Dock. One year after his family’s arrival in England, he visited the Zoological Gardens with his son. 


‘Visiting the Zoological gardens, the other day, with Julian, it occurred to me what a fantastic kind of life a person connected with them might be depicted as leading, –a child, for instance. The grounds are very extensive, and include arrangements for all kinds of exhibitions, calculated to attract the idle people of a great city. In one enclosure a bear, who climbs a pole to get cake and gingerbread from the spectators. Elsewhere, a circular building, with compartments for lions, wolves, tigers, etc. In another part of the garden, a colony of monkeys; the skeleton of an elephant, birds, of all kinds. Swans, and various rare waterfowl, swimming on a piece of water–which was green, by the by; and when the fowls dived, they stirred up black mud. A stork was parading along the margin, with melancholy strides in its long legs, and came slowly towards us, as if for companionship. In one apartment, was an obstreperously noisy society of parrots, macaws, etc. most gorgeous and diversified of hue. These different colonies of birds and beasts were scattered about in various parts of the grounds; so that you came upon them unexpectedly. Also, there was an archery-ground, a shooting ground, a swing, and other such things…

… There was also a daguerreotypist, with his wife and family, carrying on his business in a little shed or shanty, and perhaps having his home in its inner-room. He seemed to be an honest, intelligent, pleasant young man, and his wife a pleasant woman; and I got Julian’s daguerreotype, for three shillings, in a little brass frame. In the description of the garden, the velvet-turf, of a charming verdure, and the shrubbery, and shadowy walks under large trees, and the slopes and inequalities of ground, must not be forgotten. In one place, there was a maze and a labyrinth, where perhaps a person might wander a long while in vain endeavour to get out; although all the time, looking at the exterior garden over the low lodges that border the walks of the maze. And this is like the inappreciable difficulties that often best us in life.’

American Travellers in Liverpool, edited by David Seed, Liverpool University Press, 2008.

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  1. Pingback: Classic Guest Author. Nathaniel Hawthorne | Just Olga

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