Topsell’s Historie of Foure-footed Beasts was among the most popular books of the seventeenth century and much used by Shakespeare. A Natural History of Selborne has been in print since 1788. On the Origin of Species was sold out on publication day. Tarka the Otter, Watership Down, endless television programmes – the evidence is solid: nature sells.
So when we learn that Redbourne, the narrator of this book, is to make a naturalising expedition to Australia (date not found: circa 1890), our hopes are high. And can we be blamed if the magical memory of Voss drifts towards us?
The story opens firmly: Redbourne, a middle-aged homosexual with a weak jaw line, is knocked about one night by a local gang for having tampered with Daniel, a lad who’s just committed suicide. He decides to absent himself. He’s from a good family but short of money. An uncle gives