To his grandson William (1795)

Gilpin, William
Sawrey Gilpin - Lioness and Cubs, England


"I admire wild-beasts as much as you do: but I should wish to see them at liberty rather than shut up in cages."

From the Reverend William Gilpin to William 

Vicar's Hill. November 11, 1795

I received your letter, my dear little William, about the wild beasts in the tower,  and was much pleased with it; because it shewed you took notice of what you saw, which is the only way of making your eyes useful to you. I admire wild-beasts as much as you do: but I should wish to see them at liberty rather than shut up in cages. If I was a great man in Asia or Africa, where these wild-beasts live, instead of a park for deer, I believe I should make one for lions and tigers. I should chuse such a piece of ground, as they liked, containing about 6 or 7 miles, well fenced. There should be high ground in it and low ground, and wood, and plain; and a river running through it. I would have 2 or 3 pleasant little houses built in different parts of it, on the higher grounds, with safe roads to them, either in the form of bridges, or under ground, as it may happen. I would make also proper places to feed the creatures. I would then put in a few lions and tigers, and other beautiful beasts. But I would have no curious animals, as black leopards; nor any ugly <25v> creatures, such as elephants, and hyenas: and I should take great amusement in seeing them bound, and gambol about my park. But the best of all, will be to spend a night in one of my houses. You may ask Tid if she will go with us. If not, you and I will go alone and it will be very nice to hear them roar at night. Sometimes we heard a tremendous roar just under our windows; and sometimes at distance, and you were so well acquainted with wild-beasts, that you could tell me, which was the lions' roar, and which was the tigers'. Do you remember, one night, as you and I were listening to this grand music, a royal tiger crawled upon the iron bars (I cannot conceive how he did it), clapped his head close to the window, without breaking the glass. It was quite dark behind him; and a candle standing on a table close to the window, threw its light upon his terrible head, which just filled one large pane. I thought you were little a frightened. But I assured you, he could get no nearer: so we both stood looking at his monstruous fangs – his whiskers – and his terrible rolling eyes. If I remember right, he did not stay longer than ten minutes. — But I will say no more upon wild-beasts, as I have not much paper left...


Bodleian Library Manuscripit MS Eng Misc d. 575, "Correspondence between William Gilpin and his grand-son," fol. 25-26, published in William Gilpin, William writes to William, ed. Alain Kerhervé (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, CSP, 2014), p. 83-84.