Tom Fort

Fish out of Water

The Man Who Ate the Zoo: Frank Buckland, Forgotten Hero of Natural History


Chatto & Windus 392pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

At the age of two years and eleven months, Frank Buckland encountered a live crocodile – or possibly two crocodiles – obtained by his father, the eminent divine Dr William Buckland. When he was not yet four, he identified some fossils shown to his father as ‘the vertebrae of an ichthyosaurus’. Aged seven, he was placed on the back of a turtle released into the ornamental pool at Christ Church, Oxford, where his father was a canon of the cathedral.

Darwin observed of Dr Buckland that he was ‘incited by a craving for notoriety’. With such a father and such an upbringing, it is hardly surprising that Frank – the only son to survive into adulthood – should have developed into a prime example of the type so beloved by Victorians: the showman.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • With our February issue about to go to press, enjoy a slice of LR history - Hilary Mantel on Joan Haslip's biograph… ,
    • What did London look like in the 6th Century? Rory Naismith's 'Citadel of the Saxons' tries to answer that questi… ,
    • Start your week with a dose of Russian Revolutionary zeal. Donald Rayfield reviews Tobie Mathew's 'Greetings From t… ,
    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,