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Re: Dickensian dinosaur

>In the opening paragraph of "Bleak House,"
>Charles Dickens wrote:
>       "As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but 
>        newly retired from the face of the earth, and it
>        would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus,
>        forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine
>        lizard up Holborn Hill."
>Is there really a Megalosaurus?

Yes, Virginia (or Ellin), there is a Megalosaurus.  It was one of the first
dinosaurs ever described 
(by William Buckland in 1824), and would have been one of the very few to
have been named at the time Bleak House was written.  In fact it was very
much in the news at the time the book was appearing.  The Great Exhibition
at the Crystal Palace, London, in 1850-51, featured life-size
reconstructions of Megalosaurus and others created by Waterhouse Hawkins, as
Richard Owen imagined it to look (a sort of cross between a toad and an
iguana). These still exist.  I suspect they created as much of an awareness
of Megalosaurus in the early 1850's as Jurassic Park did for Tyrannosaurus
rex in the 1990's.

The material of Megalosaurus is, apparently, pretty fragmentary, and today
it seems to be regarded as an apparent carnosaur of uncertain relationships.
As far better-known dinos have emerged since Dickens' day, Megalosaurus has
faded into the background - except for those Hawkins monuments and, I
suppose, Bleak House.
Ronald I. Orenstein                           Phone: (905) 820-7886 (home)
International Wildlife Coalition              Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116 (home)
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