Royal Armouries

Dr William King’s ‘Monsieur Sorbeir’ prefers the Menagerie to the Tower Armouries, 1698

Images

LOK menagerie lions den

Engraving by George Cruikshank showing the Tower Menagerie. From The Tower of London / by W.H. Ainsworth (1845)

  • LOK menagerie lions den

    Engraving by George Cruikshank showing the Tower Menagerie. From The Tower of London / by W.H. Ainsworth (1845)

  • lion and two tigers

    Print entitled 'The extraordinary and fatal combat in the Tower of London on Friday, Decr. 3rd, 1830' showing a lion and two tigers fighting in the Tower Menagerie. British, mid-19th century (I.216)

  • lion and tiger

    Engraving showing Hector the Lion and Harry the Tiger in the Tower Menagerie.

  • marco lion

    Engraving showing Marco the Lion from the Tower Menagerie. From Dr. Williams' Tower of London scrapbook. (I.287)

  • LOK menagerie animals

    Engravings showing the animals from the Tower Menagerie. From the Childrens' guide to the Tower / by T. Boreman (1741)

Dr William King’s ‘Monsieur Sorbeir’ prefers the Menagerie to the Tower Armouries, 1698

Description

Since the 1660s books had been written in which French visitors supposedly commented on life in England, or vice versa. In a similar vein, Journey to London, which was published in London in 1698, purported to have been written by a ‘Monsieur Sobeir’. He was named after the author of a 1664 volume – which did not comment on the Tower – who was the French physician and philosopher Samuel de Sorbière).

Journey to London later appears in collections of the writings of Dr William King (1663-1712), a poet and wit. This spoof account refers to the new Grand Storehouse which had been completed in the 1690s, and in expressing reservations about ‘dominion’ and visiting the arms and armour on display at the Tower it shares some similarities with both Ned Ward’s The London Spy and the letters of Samuel Molyneux.

‘I was commended by a Friend to Mr Brownsworth, a Person that belongs to the Tower of London. He is a Civil Gentleman, but his genius lead him more to Politicks than Curiosity. He proffer’d to shew me the new Armory, in which are Arms, as he told me, for above a Hundred Thousand Men, all dispos’d in a manner, most surprizing and magnificent; as likewise another Armory, where are Arms for Twenty Thousand Men more. He would likewise have shew’d me the Horse Armory, a Royal Train of Artillery, and Several Cannon taken out of the Trident Prize. He would likewise have carried me to see the Crown Imperial, and other Jewels belonging to it. I humbly thank’d him, and told him, that my Curiosity led me otherwise, and that my Observations inclin’d rather to Nature than Dominion. Upon which smiling he said, he hoped he should gratifie me, and immediately led me to a place where we saw Lyons, Tygers, and two very remarkable Catamountains. I took particular Notice of two Owls, of an immense greatness, but by their being without horns, I take ‘em not to be a distinct Species from the European’.

Related Objects

‘Jacky Curious’ explores the Tower Armouries Click on the title link above to find out more.

Samuel Richardson describes a young woman’s first visit to the Tower of London Click on the title link above to find out more.

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