A Dog-Write-Dog World   Leave a comment


In a twist on the what-did-you-bring-me refrain from my kids’ childhood reactions to out-of-town trips, my oldest son brought me a book. I appreciate that it made him think of me. Shaggy Muses by Maureen Adams examines the relationships between five female writers and their dogs. I’ve had several dogs in my life and all hold special places in my heart. My dog Jackson and I have a strong bond; although I’m not sure I consider him my muse, he might prove me wrong.


Adams’s book is subtitled The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Bronte. It’s part academic, largely anecdotal, and for dog lovers who happen to enjoy literature it’s particularly enjoyable. The book started as a series in scholarly journals on the bond between dogs and their humans.

The relationships between these writers and their dogs were strong to the point of distraction. In fact, the dogs served as buffers making it possible to limit expressing real emotion. Adams writes, “Elizabeth and Robert [Browning] used Flush as a symbolic go-between to help them express their feelings in conversations and letters.” The other women did the same.

Some of the writers had numerous dogs, other just a single source of inspiration. One narrative involving Bronte and Keeper, her large, intimidating part-Mastiff, is exceptionally disturbing. Bronte beat her dog, and then comforted him, which suggests the love-hate relationship often evident in abusive relationships. Fortunately, the other stories Adams provides are more endearing.

Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Bronte
Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
The University of Chicago Press, 2007
299 pages, with notes and index

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