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July 31, 2011 / Wendy Joan

A Tiny Taste of (Sort of) Vegetarian History (Part 1)

I recently finished Gertrude Bell’s Arabian Diaries (1913-1914), which should be another post entirely (she’s pretty much the greatest explorer you’ve never heard of).

In early February 1914, Bell visited an Arabian desert camp, and the esteemed, aristocratic lady was presented with a little black and white lamb as a gift. Bell became such “intimate friends” with the lamb, writing “I can scarcely bear the thought of sacrificing it, yet I cannot well carry it with me like Byron’s goose.”

Byron’s goose? I wondered, and investigated. Yes, that Byron, Lord Byron the great Romantic poet of Don Juan fame. According to Edward Blunden, who wrote Shelley:

For Michaelmas Day Byron regularly resolved to have a roast goose, and bought one; but by the time he had fattened it for a month the goose and he were such friends that the bird did not come to the table, and another was bought. At last he possessed four pet geese which travelled in cages under his carriage …

Shelley later wrote of “Byron’s zoo,” which, “besides servants,” included ten horses, eight “enormous” dogs, five cats, five peacocks, three monkeys, two guinea hens, an Egyptian crane, a crow and falcon.

[Lord Byron portrait by Thomas Phillips.]

More on Gertrude Bell:

Gertrude Bell, a Masterful Spy and Diplomat (NPR)

The Woman Who Made Iraq (The Atlantic)

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