Squirrels, stupefied by opium

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“Very often those sold as tame, especially by men in the street, are simply stupefied by opium or some other drug.” Cassell’s Book of Sports and Pastimes (1896) on the buying of pet squirrels.

In a section regarding “Home Pets”, the writer (“LEWIS WRIGHT, AUTHOR OF THE ILLUSTRATED BOOK OF POULTRY”) sings the praises of squirrels as pets, and in passing makes the mind-blowing comment about casual trafficking in drugged squirrels; a comment that opens up a whole new vista of Victorian weirdness. There were men standing around on street corners, selling doped-up squirrels to passing boys? The mind boggles. In the next Victorian drama I see, in the street scenes I’d like there to be authentic shady sellers of totally monged squirrels. The squirrel pictured is of course a native British red squirrel; a century or so on from the publication of Cassell’s Book of Sports and Pastimes red…

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