In 1741, a young Indian Rhinoceros was captured in Assam and was transported by ship to Europe where she was displayed before everyone from peasants to princes. In an age before railways and modern roads, the three-ton Clara, as she became known, had to travel in an enormous coach drawn by eight horses. For seventeen years she journeyed across mainland Europe and to Britain: she became a favourite of heads of state, including Frederick the Great and Louis XV; she modelled for scientific portraits and etchings; and she inspired poems, songs, fashions and trinkets. Glynis Ridley has brought Clara's tragicomic story vividly to life. Her book is also a portrait of an era that saw the rhinoceros as an object of marvel and a challenge to fundamental philosophical and theological beliefs.
Glynis Ridley was a lecturer in eighteenth- century studies at Queen's University, Belfast. She now lives in Kentucky.