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Archive for the ‘dog’ Category

It’s National Dog Day. And of course there are ties-in to Virginia Woolf.

Number one: She had dogs. Number two: She wrote a book about a dog — Flush (1933), told from the perspective of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel.

As children, Virginia and the other Stephen siblings had a gray shaggy terrier named Shag, which was sent by train to Talland House, their summer home in St. Ives, Cornwall to help catch rats.

A new puppy, Jerry, was later added to the family mix. Still later, a sheep-dog pup without a tail named Gurth, after a character in Ivanhoe. Woolf grew attached to Gurth, even though he was her sister Vanessa’s dog, and remained attached to him, even after she and her siblings moved to 46 Gordon Square.

After Vanessa married Clive Bell and moved nearby, Virginia and brother Adiran felt the need to have their own dog. So they visited Battersea Lost Dogs Home and adopted a Boxer named Hans, who Virginia taught to put out matches after she used them to light her cigarettes, a trick she taught all her dogs after Hans.

At the onset of World War I and after Virginia married Leonard Woolf (1912), the couple offered to keep a friend’s Clumber Spaniel named Tinker when he left to serve in the war. Tinker, though, escaped from their garden and was lost. He was not found, despite the Woolfs’ fervent efforts to locate.

In 1919, they added a mixed breed terrier named Grizzle to their home in Rodmell, Monk’s House, and the canine accompanied Virginia on her walks over the Sussex downs.

Perhaps the most famous of Virginia Woolf’s dogs is Pinka, the purebred black Cocker Spaniel from a litter born to Pippin, Vita Sackville-West’s Cocker Spaniel. Pinka was a gift to the Woolfs from Vita.

For an entire chapter on the Woolfs and their dogs, take a look at Shaggy Muses by Maureen Adams.

You’ll call this sentimental—perhaps—but then a dog somehow represents the private side of life, the play side. – Virginia Woolf

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Vanessa Bell, Horatio Brown, Julia Duckworth Stephen, Thoby Stephen, Virginia Woolf, George Duckworth, Adrian Stephen, Gerald Duckworth and the family dog Shag in 1892.

Pinka

Virginia Woolf and Pinka

Flush

The cover of Virginia Woolf’s 1933 novel “Flush: A Biography,” which included original drawings by Vanessa Bell.

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Some people don’t like stories written from a dog’s point of view, but I tend to enjoy their whimsical approach to life.

Take Virginia Woolf’s Flush, for example. It’s more than a dog’s story. It’s a literary love story. And it’s a study of a complicated father-daughter relationship somewhat like Woolf’s own.

In it, Woolf also includes allusions to John Ruskin‘s descriptions of Italy, all told from the perspective of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel named Flush.

A couple of years ago, J.F. Englert, author of a series of charming mystery books ostensibly written by a Labrador retriever named Randolph, sent me two, A Dog About Town and A Dog Among Diplomats, in the hopes that I would blog about them. Hoping that I could find a connection between his books and Woolf’s Flush, I thought I would too.

But I haven’t until now. Somehow I needed a third canine narrator to flesh out my little post. I found the missing link when The Guardian wrote a review of a The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of his Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O’Hagan.

Not only does O’Hagan’s book feature a doggie narrator. It also starts out at Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex. There, the narrator, while still a pup, discusses his life with Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. And that little tidbit gave me the hook I needed to write this.

It stretches the imagination to visualize a dog moving from a life with Vanessa and Duncan to a life with Marilyn Monroe, but what the heck. Is that any more of a stretch than a dog who narrates novels?

Such books are a fun read. But for now I think I’ll stick to Randolph, who has a new book out. This one is called A Dog at Sea. Sounds like a perfect summer read.

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This just in from the VW Listserv: A restaurant in Cincinnati, the Vineyard Cafe, packages diners’ leftovers in a handy little box with a Virginia Woolf quote on the front.
 
The quote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” has seen other commercial uses. It appeared on white ceramic serving pieces sold a couple of years ago by Pottery Barn. Sadly, the pieces are no longer available, but I recall them creating quite a stir (no pun intended) when they first came out.
 
The news of the Woolf-related doggie box came from Drew Patrick Shannon, whom I met last June at the Woolf conference. It was my first such conference, and Drew became my first Woolfian friend as I stood in awe among the renowned Woolf scholars whose work I had read and re-read.

Drew is now an assistant professor of English in the Humanities Department of the College of Mount St. Joseph, where he is working on expanding his dissertation, The Deep Old Desk: The Diary of Virginia Woolf, into a book. Check out his bio on this page.

 
For last year’s installment on Woolf going to the dogs, click here.

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Shaggy MusesRecent news about Virginia Woolf connects her to the animal companion she held most dear — the dog.

First, there’s a book. Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Bronte features a photo of Woolf and one of her beloved cocker spaniels on the cover.

In the book, Adams, a psychologist and former English professor, tells the story of five exceptional women writers — including Woolf — who obtained emotional support from their canine pets. In Woolf’s case, Adams suggests that her depiction of a dog’s trauma in her biography Flush dealt with her own childhood molestation.

Adams’s argument may be skewed by its limited focus. But the tome, which Publisher’s Weekly calls a “sweet, quirky book” is still worth a look. Read a review.

Woof sighting
Then there’s a doggie daycare. Helen SouthworthHelen Southworth  shared her latest find, a Web site advertising Virginia Woof Dog Daycare, with the Virginia Woolf Listserv.

A quote posted at the top of the Portland, Oregon, doggie daycare’s Web site leaves us no doubt about the Woof establishment’s intentional connection to Woolf. The quote from the author reads: “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

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