A Nineteenth-Century Beaver in London

Stoa-reader JW tells me to look in the 31 August 1861 edition of the British Medical Journal, p. 241:

THE REGENT’S PARK BEAVER. This beaver seems perpetually happy. He has constructed his own abode with materials thrown over into his enclosure, and goes on thus reconstructing and altering it for ever. The superintendent communicates it to first gentleman, who retails it to second, and so on, that this beaver is so fond of his house, that though he managed on one occasion to get out of his enclosure and down to the banks of the neighbouring canal in the dead of the night, he was yet found next morning back in his legitimate domain, and working away at his “improvements” as hard as ever. He is a lively chap at night, and was not the least disconcerted by the presence of the party gathered round him; but was, on the contrary, so tremendously busy in doing nothing, and then undoing it again, still keeping his eye upon the four gentlemen who had come to see him, that third gentleman was heard at last to remark to fourth gentleman that he “looked upon this animal as an impostor, and believed he was doing it all for effect.” (Dickens’s All the Year Round.)

Two Things About Beavers

Thing #1: “But he did not take into account that the best of men, free from all wickedness, would join together the better to accomplish their goal, just as birds flock together the better to travel in company. Or as beavers congregate by the hundreds to construct great dams, which could not be achieved by a small number of them… That is the foundation of society amongst social animals, and not fear of their kind, which hardly occurs among the beasts.” Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, New Essays, III, 1. (He clearly forgot to add the words, “visible from outer space” after the hyperlink.)

Thing #2: Even more exciting than Leibniz’s thoughts about beavers, the first beaver kits (=baby beavers) for a very, very long time indeed have been born in the wild in Britain! Over here; with slideshow pics here.