Katherine Rundell

Katherine Rundell is editor of The Book of Hopes, an anthology of stories and pictures for children. Her own books for children include, most recently, The Good Thieves. She began her series of animal studies for the LRB in 2018. They have now been published as a book, The Golden Mole and Other Living Treasure, with illustrations by Talya Baldwin.

Consider the Hummingbird

Katherine Rundell, 3 November 2022

Queen Victoria​ was not readily amused. She referred to her own children as ‘nasty’ and ‘frog-like’. In portraits her face has the expression of one who has seen a great deal and would prefer to burn most of it. There was an exception, though, and it was the hummingbird. At the Great Exhibition in 1851, the ornithologist John Gould mounted a display of 1500...

Consider the Stork

Katherine Rundell, 1 April 2021

It was wartime​, and propaganda fell from the sky like dishonest rain. Nazi planes dropped leaflets over British lines in Europe telling them that their wives were in bed with American soldiers, complete with drawings of said wives undressed. The Allied forces flew hydrogen balloons over Axis troops to scatter images of fields lined with German graves. But the scope of both planes and...

Consider the Giraffe

Katherine Rundell, 19 November 2020

Horace​ was stridently anti-giraffe. The animal was, he believed, conceptually untidy: ‘If a painter had chosen to set a human head on a horse’s neck [or] if a lovely woman ended repulsively in the tail of a black fish, could you stifle laughter, friends?’ His account of the giraffe in Ars Poetica (c.8 bc) ends on a plea: ‘Let the work be what you like, but let it be...

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell, 2 July 2020

Hares​ have always been thought magical. In their long-limbed quivering beauty, they were believed to be walking, breathing love potions. Philostratus warned his third-century readers that there were unscrupulous men out there who had found in the hare ‘a certain power to produce love and try to secure the objects of their affection by the compulsion of magic art’. Pliny...

Consider the Greenland Shark

Katherine Rundell, 7 May 2020

In​ 1606 a devastating pestilence swept through London; the dying were boarded up in their homes with their families, and a decree went out that the theatres, the bear-baiting yards and the brothels be closed. It was then that Shakespeare wrote one of his very few references to the plague, catching at our precarity: ‘The dead man’s knell/Is there scarce asked for who, and good...

Batter My Heart: Who was John Donne?

Catherine Nicholson, 19 January 2023

The realisation that one might be show-offy in a good way is among Donne’s chief bequests to English literature, a salutary corrective to the 16th-century cult of Sidneian sprezzatura. The embrace of...

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