Goldfish in the Parlour: The Victorian craze for marine life

John Simons

“For the first time, fish became our companions and a corner of many a Victorian parlour was given over to housing tiny fragments of their world enclosed in glass.”

The experience of seeing a fish swimming in a glass tank is one we take for granted now but in Victorian England this was a remarkable sight. People had simply not been able to see fish as they now could with the invention of the aquarium and everything that went with it.

Goldfish in the Parlour looks at the boom in the building of public aquariums, as well as the craze for home aquariums and visiting the seaside, during the reign of Queen Victoria. Furthermore, this book considers how people see and meet animals and, importantly, in what institutions and in what contexts these encounters happen.

John Simons uncovers the sweeping consequences of the Victorian obsession with marine animals by looking at naturalist Frank Buckland’s Museum of Economic Fish Culture and the role of fish in the Victorian economy, the development of angling as a sport divided along class lines, the seeding of Empire with British fish and comparisons with aquarium building in Europe, USA and Australia.

Goldfish in the Parlour interrogates the craze that took over Victorian England when aquariums “introduced” fish to parks, zoos and parlours.

Simons vividly captures the thrill and the cost of squeezing the ocean into a glass tank

- Sydney Morning Herald/Spectrum

Paperback & ebook

John Simons

John Simons is a British Australian writer and academic who currently lives in Tasmania. He is an Emeritus Professor of Macquarie University and has published on a wide variety of topics from medieval romance to the history of cricket and specialises in the history of animals.

Sydney University Press

Sydney University Press is a not-for-profit, scholarly publisher of research-based books that engage, inspire and stimulate debate. We believe in the value of research, and the power of books to change the world. Our mission is to enable, support and facilitate the sharing of outstanding research.

Goldfish in the Parlour: The Victorian craze for marine life
World ex ANZ
Susan Murray