Aquarium Colonies and Nineteenth-Century Narratives of Marine Monstrosity
Rebecca Stott

In this essay the author proposes that a detailed study of the context of the production and reception of the spate of best-selling marine natural history books published in the 1850s provides an important and neglected opportunity for understanding Victorian conceptions of evolutionary,and anthropological monstrosity. Whilst the ape has received a good deal of attention as the primary evolutionary icon, through which the Victorians dreamed their nightmares of descent, the marine invertebrate has been much neglected. However, represented by evolutionists as the first life forms on the planet from which all higher life forms had evolved, marine invertebrates were an important alternative evolutionary ancestor, and were used to express ideas about the `nature of class, race and masculinity‘.

Gothic Studies