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Jumbo The Unauthorised Biography of a Victorian Sensation by John Sutherland
  

Jumbo The Unauthorised Biography of a Victorian Sensation

Biography / Autobiography   Books of the Month   

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February 2014 Non-Fiction Book of the Month.

You only have to read the newspapers to know that elephants are in serious danger; huge numbers being killed for their ivory but from reading John Sutherland’s Jumbo we learn that tragedy and the elephant have long been linked. Jumbo was just one of too many elephants suffering at the hands of man and through Jumbo’s story we learn of other elephants, elephant facts and figures, everything the committed elephant lover will want to read.

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Synopsis

Jumbo The Unauthorised Biography of a Victorian Sensation by John Sutherland

The first comprehensive 'biography' of one of the first celebrity animals who gave us one of our favourite words. Jumbo, Victorian England's favourite elephant, was born in 1861 in French Sudan, imported to a Parisian zoo and later sold on to London, where - for seventeen years - he dutifully gave children rides and ate buns from their hands, all the while being tortured at night to keep him docile. Worldwide fame came when he was bought by the American showman and scam artist P.T. Barnum in 1881, despite letters from 100,000 British schoolchildren who wrote to Queen Victoria begging her to prevent the sale. Barnum went on to transform Jumbo into a lucrative circus act and one of the most loved animals of all time, establishing elephants as a regular feature of funhouses and menageries the world over. Using the heartwrenching story of Jumbo's celebrity life, tragic death in Canada in 1885, and his enduring cultural legacy, Jumbo is personal and fascinating reflection on our cultural elephantiasis by one of our most distinguished literary-critical detectives, which is guaranteed to amuse, stimulate, provoke and delight in equal measure.

Reviews

'Sutherland's fascinating and eclectic book is a fitting tribute to Loxodonta africana and it deftly evokes the manifold and ever more pressing threats to the species.'
Philip Hoare, Samuel Johnson Prize

-winning author of Leviathan, or, The Whale. New Statesman 'Elegant cultural history. Jumbo is a compelling portrait of a wonderful creature and less wonderful human motivation.
Tristan Quinn TLS

'A wonderfully engaging and learned narrator.'
Katie Law Evening Standard

'It is a fantasia . Or rather, an elephantasia . The word sets the tone. The author, a former professor of English at University College London, is out to entertain-punning, digressing, mixing it up, high and low. But, behind the banter, he has a savage story to tell.'
Economist

'It's a fascinating story, told stylishly and wittily.'
Bernard Porter Guardian

'I can think of nobody better to trumpet the elephant than Sutherland. Academic yet conversational, and at times very funny, he is the perfect guide.'
Stephen Griffin Sunday Express

'Hugely entertaining survey of Jumbo's sad life and strange legacy.'
Robert Douglas

-Fairhurst Daily Telegraph 'This book is so wonderful, so charming, I promise it will allow everyone to find the little Jumbo inside themselves.
Helen Rumbelow The Times

'This isn't just a book about killing elephants; it's a book about being horrible to elephants in more general ways. It's very good. It's one of those books that shows you the world through the lens of a small part of it. Sutherland's tone throughout is one of dry wit; the track where Jumbo died, he points out, was known as 'the grand trunk'. Sutherland makes Jumbo his main character, and shows us that by looking at this elephant's life, and the lives of other captive elephants, you can learn a lot about people too. It's a tall tale. And rather superbly put together.'
William Leith Spectator

'A treasure trove of elephant ephemera with eye-popping statistics on trunks, dung, sex and characters from Chunee, Jumbo's popular show animal predecessor in London, to Disney's fictional Dumbo. The best of the details are fascinating.'
Louise Jury Independent

About the Author

John Sutherland has been a professor of literature for a long time and in many places. Currently he teaches at the California Institute of Technology and is the emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor at UCL. He is the author of numerous books, including the puzzle-collection Is Heathcliff a Murderer? (probably, yes) and the encyclopedic Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction. In recent years he has written voluminously on a variety of literary and non-literary topics in, principally, the Guardian and the Financial Times.

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Book Info

Publication date

6th February 2014

Author

John Sutherland

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Publisher

Aurum Press Ltd

Format

Hardback
304 pages

Categories

Biography / Autobiography
Books of the Month

Social & cultural history
Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900
Animals & society
Wildlife: general interest

ISBN

9781781312445

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