Shaggy Muses The Dogs Who Inspired Emily Brontë Elizabeth



10 thoughts on “Shaggy Muses The Dogs Who Inspired Emily Brontë Elizabeth Barrett Browning Emily Dickinson Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf

  1. says:

    The short review A pleasant overview of several important female writers and their canine companions If you're not a dog person you still won't be one after reading this book but you may understand them a little better even if you still think they're insane because they areThe details Bear in mind that this was written by a woman whose idea of trauma is being wealthy happily married and the mother of two normal well adjusted children and then moving from Kansas City Missouri to Sonoma California I am not wealthy and am stuck in a city I can't stand and can't afford to leave so I'm in no position to sympathize with this kind of problem Specifically my response to the autobiographical introduction to this book was to feel pretty sure that I'd read incorrectly and that Maureen Adams had actually been traumatized by having to move from the beautiful wine country of California to no offense freakin' Missouri Which I'm sure is absolutely lovely but I'm also pretty sure there's a reason you can still buy a huge house there for well under six digits whereas just visiting Sonoma can set you back sevenAnyway Once the reader gets past the terrifying tale of being forced to move to a place so beautiful people are willing to pay big bucks to take even a brief vacation there the book is an enjoyable enough read I admire all the writers Maureen Adams discusses – in fact they're all authors I singled out for study at some point in my reading career It was great fun revisiting Emily Brontë's relationship with her huge dog Keeper and learning additional details of the London dognappers who did such a brisk trade in ransoming the pets of the wealthy during Elizabeth Barrett Browning's life there with her beloved Cocker Spaniel FlushI have to ding this book a couple of stars though because Adams gets a lot wrong when it comes to Emily Dickinson When I saw Dickinson included on the list of women who according to Adams were inspired by their pet dogs I thought Wow That's strange All the biographies I've read so far have hardly said a thing about Dickinson's dogIt turns out there's a reason for that Dickinson's relationship with her dog just wasn't all that intense especially compared with the bonds between the other writers and their canine companions She loved Carlo and she mentioned him in her letters and dogs certainly pop up in a few of her poems; but she loved almost all animals saving cats and she wrote far poems about birds than dogs Heck she talks about mice in several of her poems and you don't see anyone writing a book called Mouse as Muse Vermin in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson Which is a shame I would read that so hardAnyway Adams flubs a lot of facts in the section of this book devoted to Dickinson which really makes me wonder what I didn't catch in the other chapters Some of these mistakes are fairly inconseuential It doesn't matter much that the book Emily and her brother Austin hid from their father in the piano not the bench Ms Adams wasn't Ik Marvel's Reveries of a Bachelor but Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's novel Kavanagh Then again maybe it matters a little Kavanagh is the story of a friendship between two women so intense that some reviewers have insisted their love was an erotic one I read it I yawned But I digress Many writers have speculated about whether or not Dickinson was erotically attracted to women based on letters she wrote that sound an awful lot like the conversations between the young women in KavanaghThere are larger mistakes than this however Adams describes Dickinson moving with her family to a house they called the Homestead She claims this was a traumatic move from her first home Actually the Homestead was Dickinson's first home She was born there She lived there with her family for about a decade Then she and her family moved down the street; and then about a decade later her father was able to purchase the house that not only had once belonged to Emily's grandfather but that had been built by him Yes the move back to this home was undoubtedly an unsettling one to Dickinson; but any move is unsettling and describing this as the first move of her life to a house she'd never known is incorrect and highly misleadingEually misleading is Adams' assertion that Dickinson used the death of her dog Carlo as an excuse not to take a trip to see a friend In response to some uestion from Thomas Wentworth Higginson perhaps his oft repeated urging You must come down to Boston sometimes? All ladies do Emily reminded Higginson that she was still mourning her dog Thank you I wish for CarloFirst of all the standard collection of Dickinson's letters leaves no doubt that Higginson was indeed inviting her to come to see him in Boston so it's odd that Adams would present this as a perhaps Second Dickinson made no such reply She did say Thank you I wish for Carlo in the letter in uestion; but only after her real refusal to visit Boston which was phrased thus I must omit Boston Father prefers so He likes me to travel with him but objects that I visitThe fact that Adams twists the facts to fit her own ideas makes this book a lightweight and not entirely reliable overview rather than the insightful study it might have been The end of the chapter about Dickinson is awkwardly abrupt because it has to be to suit Adams' purposes Carlo died twenty years before Dickinson did and Adams needs Carlo to be significant than he really was so she closes by suggesting The last twenty years of Emily's life were uietExcuse me but they weren't Not any uiet than the rest of her life had been anyway Those last two decades included the one confirmed romance of Dickinson's life a relationship so tender and passionate that her sister in law didn't want to cross the street to pay a visit in case she caught Emily on the sofa in the arms of her suitor AGAIN The man in uestion's niece later accused Dickinson of being a hussy and chasing all the men I love that so much Those years also included her brother engaging in an extramarital affair that would directly impact how and when Dickinson's poetry was posthumously published More about that in another review That affair was conducted in Emily Dickinson's very own flippin' house during the day Hey her brother couldn't go to his own house – his wife was there And he couldn't have liaisons with his lover at night how would it look? So he met his mistress several times a month at the Homestead and um visited with her while Dickinson sat upstairs trying to write poetry or possibly plugging her ears and saying LALALALALA Maybe both at the same time which would explain why she wrote so comparatively few poems in those last few yearsI'm not saying any of this belongs in an essay about Dickinson and her dog I'm saying stop implying for authorial convenience that Dickinson's life was boring and uneventful after her dog diedI did enjoy the chapters about the other writers especially Emily Brontë and Edith Wharton But the afterword The Dogs is intensely annoying in part because once again Adams makes up facts Like this one Unlike other domesticated animals – such as cows sheep or horses – dogs made the first move toward living with people This occurred when a wolf ancestor a bit less wary than other wolves discovered it was easier to survive on food discarded by humans than to huntI don't remember there being a consensus on that And Adams doesn't cite a source So I call shenanigans That might be what happened but it might not Putting a hypothesis forward as a fact is not coolI do think this is a valuable book because the short biographies of each writer include a lot of engaging uotes that are sure to piue the reader's interest in learning about that author's life and work Full points to Maureen Adams for that But – maybe try a little harder to get the facts right next time please?


  2. says:

    Loved this little book It has five excellent condensed biographies of all women authors who have a human dog bond They relied on their devoted dogs to help them through difficult times and First was Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her dog Flush which was the subject for Woolf's book I haven't read her biography and I was shocked at how limited her life was before she got Flush That dog made it possible for her to leave her home marry and have a full life Emily Bronte and her dog Keeper was an interesting relationship Emily saw Keeper as a reflection of her own nature Both refused to be dominated or to accommodate others expectations In the end Emily taught Keeper who was dominate and he was faithful even after her death Emily Dickinson suffered greatly from anxiety Her father decided that she needed a big dog to make her feel safe And he purchased a Newfoundland dog and she named him Carlo In her 20s Emily had terrible pain in her eyes rheumatic iritis which made her intolerant to light but she had Carlo by her side She even put Carlo in her Master LettersEdith Wharton had a lonely life and a distant loveless mother As a young girl she survived typhoid fever which shows how strong she was Later she married a man who did not love her But late in life finally had a loving relationship But after that relationship ended Edith found that she was very lonely She loved dogs and they became her constant companions especially Foxy Linky and all the dogs inbetweenLast Virginia Woolf was also one who needed many dogs over the years to help her with her mental illness The author retraced Woolf's walks over the Sussex downs Both she and her husband Leonard knew the how important it was for her to have a dog Virginia relied on Gurth Grizzle and Pink


  3. says:

    This was one of the most satisfying fascinating pieces of non fiction I've read in a while Well written and well researched


  4. says:

    Not a big I would have normally picked up but a decently interesting read I am not too familiar with a lot of these poetAuthor's work but I have at least heard of them and now know a lot about them at least some of their work and their personal lives It really gave some of their work meaning and I enjoyed that I like dogs but I am of a cat person so I wasn't as awed as some people may have been Interesting read


  5. says:

    The author here takes five popular women writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and focuses primarily on their relationships with their dogs Each woman was emotionally attached to their pet dogs and used them to overcome sickness physical and psychological and as muses to their creative worksI was excited by the concept of the book especially about the chapter regarding Edith Wharton and her little gentlemen and the photograph of her with her two chihuahuas sitting on her shoulders is included and was mostly not disappointed The book was just additional mini biographies about the women with occasional paragraphs regarding their animals I expected or perhaps I expected less of their personal lives I feel I know enough already about Edith's extracurricular relationships and the fact that Emily Dickinson preferred to wear white All in all however the information was relayed well and was interesting throughout I did discover that Elizabeth Barrett Browning lived in Florence after disobeying her father and marrying Robert Browning and had her precious cocker spaniel Flush buried there The chapter about Emily Dickinson was surprisingly short to me; I would have liked to have learned about her Newfoundland CarloFor those of us obsessed with our dogs and for those of us who talk about our dogs as if they are real people this is worth a read and uite a comfort to know that this is a natural and normal behavior


  6. says:

    They say that behind every great man there has to be a great woman but behind a great woman? They do not mention Perhaps we should look down toward the hearth Shaggy Muses by Maureen Adams is a heartful tribute to the dogs who unknowingly and unconditionally inspired five iconic female writers Emily Brontë Elizabeth Barrett Browning Edith Wharton Emily Dickinson and Virginia WoolfI suppose there are dog lovers in all walks of life So what makes this connection interesting or is it just a coincidence? Having read to the end I see that the dogs—differing vastly in breed breeding size and temperament—played differing roles in the lives of each woman but there are themes in these interspecies bonds too strikingly similar to be coincidental That makes for a fascinating read but the dogs themselves make it heart wrenchingly un put downable for this dog lover at leastSadly all women had one clear thing in common traumatic lives That is a well trod path for writers in general; not so much in terms of life’s challenging events per se but the heightened sensitivity and emotionality of creative people leaves them ill euipped for bereavements illnesses emotional or physical abuse the sheer overwhelming nature of creative output itself and in many cases everyday life in general In each of these five cases the dog or dogs had a soothing and joyful influence keeping the writer grounded as well as offering empathy employing that other worldly sixth sensitivity which is the hallmark of their species


  7. says:

    Too full of remote speculative psychoanalysis especially built upon premises that were unsafe in the first place One key example is the alleged beating given to her dog Keeper by Emily Bronte a luridly told story from the Gaskell biography of Charlotte Bronte which is known to be somewhat exaggerated and unreliable for many reasons It leads the author a psychologist to then imply Bronte APPROVED of violence and looked down on certain animals and that this informs her writing in Wuthering Heights Thankfully other carefully reading scholars have been able to show how Bronte used the animal and other violence in Wuthering Heights to CRITICISE violence for example Judith E Pike's 2009 paper 'My name was Isabella Hinton' In addition predictably and depressingly the author as has been woeful common practice for many years now in biographyhistory writing also gives psychogenic explanations to virtually all the physical illnesses suffered by these women authors She ends up psychobabbling interminably possibly to flesh out the relative paucity of known facts about the authors under study and their relationships with their dogs A few people not just women perhaps and less psychobabble might have meant a measured sober understanding of the relationships these authors had with their dogs


  8. says:

    A lovely book The author provides interesting accounts of the important supportive roles dogs played in the lives of these authors I especially liked the chapters on Emily Dickenson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning The Bronte chapter was powerful but disturbing not surprising considering the subject I love the poem Edith Wharton wrote; it captures so much about our relationships with our dogs with just a few wordsMy little old dog A heart beatAt my feet


  9. says:

    This book is both interesting and troubling On the one hand there is a great deal of interest in pet parenting in contemporary times and the author certainly has a likely market to appeal to in women who want to read about other women who were very fond of dogs who in part inspired and shaped their lives and writing On the other hand there are at least some obvious limitations with a work like this that the perceptive reader will be able to pick up on For one the author is only interested in writing about women who were inspired by the dogs in their lives There is for example no story of Jack London's love of dogs or that of a male author This is strictly about women writers and the dogs in their lives This leads to an additional problem in that the personal lives of these female authors were not very good or worth emulating and their fondness of dogs in part relates to their inability to deal well with people and in the main these lives are pretty miserable filled with all kinds of frustrated longings and loneliness and only one of the female authors even had any children showing a major failure on their partsThis book is a bit than 250 pages long and it consists of lengthy chapters in which the author talks about the role of pets in the lives and writings of various women whose lives she talks about in sometimes gossipy detail dishing on their frustrated sexual longings their uirks their bad mental health and their freuent early and miserable deaths The book begins with a preface and an author's note After that the author talks about the love of Elizabeth Barrett Browning for her dog Flush This leads to a discussion of Emily Bronte's troubled relationship with her dog Keeper with whom she had uite an abusive relationship After that comes a look at Emily Dickenson's relationship with her dog Carlo a rare case of intimacy in a generally secluded life After that there is a look at Edith Wharton's relationship with a wide variety of dogs This is followed by a discussion of the relationship between Virginia Woolf and a variety of dogs who may have but were ultimately unable to help the famously troubled writer with her terrible mood swings The book concludes with a discussion of the dogs acknowledgements notes illustration and text credits and an indexIn the main what do these shaggy muses say about the author and about the authors the author is writing about? The author of course finds it necessary to draw some feminist themes about the way that women were viewed as being similar to dogs in being ornamental but not particularly useful or well respected At times it is likely that various authors included here were able to use discussion about their dogs as codes or as windows into their thoughts about intimacy and relationships and love and the like as it provided a safe subject By and large though the lives of these women authors was pretty wretched and a significant part of that wretchedness appears to spring from dysfunctional family backgrounds All too often it appears that the cultivation of the artistic tendencies that lead someone to be a successful andor prolific writer also tend to cultivate the uirks and eccentricities that make it hard to relate to others in love and marriage and other relationships or even to cope successfully with the demands of society It is a shame that the author thinks of this as only a problem for women though


  10. says:

    Perceptive accounts of the relationship between dogs and the women authors Elizabeth Barrett Browning Emily Bronte Emily Dickinson Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf Adams capsulizes the writing careers of these women and notes their devotion to various dogs in their lives as well as the many references in their writings I liked the chapters on Bronte and Dickinson the most Dickinson in particular relied on her Newfoundland Carlo who accompanied her for 16 years She was devastated by his death and never owned another dog Anyone interested in literature and dogs would appreciate this book


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shaggy Muses The Dogs Who Inspired Emily Brontë Elizabeth Barrett Browning Emily Dickinson Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf “Move over Marley Make room for Carlo Emily Dickinson's giant Newfoundland Or Flush Elizabeth Barrett Browning's golden cocker spaniel Or maybe Keeper Emily Bronte's intimidating mastiff mix In self contained chapters of Shaggy Muses the work of each author is viewed intimately within the context of the canine companions who provided love comfort and inspiration Elizabeth Taylor Literary Editor The Chicago Tribune “With this book Adams has created a niche that will thrill those who love literature biography and dogs” Bark Magazine “Dog lovers and literary groupies alike will adore SHAGGY MUSES” Bookpage “These concise biographies are affecting and engaging” Kirkus Reviews“Written with lively accessible prose this absorbing wholly uniue book is a must read for literature and dog lovers alike” Booklist“Lovers of both dogs and classic writers will identify with this sweet uirky book” Publishers Weekly “An intimate look into the lives of famous women authors whose lives were difficult than we would ever have imagined Their dogs helped them to survive and create their great works of classic English literature Lovers of literature and all of those interested in the humananimal bond should read this fascinating book” — Temple Grandin author of Animals in Translation “I so enjoyed SHAGGY MUSES It manages very successfully to bring into focus exactly why these dogs were important to these writers—an intriguing mixture of providing some with confidence some with love some with protection and all of them with a curious sense of identification with another spirit which sometimes fuelled their writing No mean feat” — Margaret Forster author of Elizabeth Barrett Browning The Life and Loves of a PoetAdams a clinical psychologist explores the many roles companions objects of affection witnesses protectors guides these dogs played in their owners' lives and their appearances in their work How charming to visualize delicate Emily Dickinson with amiable Carlo her Newfoundland living their lives in Amherst or Edith Wharton traveling through Europe with her Pekes The Times PicayuneAdams an English professor turned clinical psychologist shows verve and just the right amount of playfulness Deftly she places these furry inspirations into the environments that nurtured and restricted their 19th and 20th century mistresses The result are five entertaining and insightful minibiographies exuisite as the 19th century miniature of Barrett Browning and her lapdog Flush included in the text The Cleveland Plain DealerThese stories based on diaries letters and contemporary accounts with several photographs many told here for the first time reveal intimate details and new perspectives on these giants of English and American literature made even memorable by Adams' lively writing The Providence JournalShaggy Muses' is readable and interestingfull of facts and insights Adams goes beyond the superficial and provides real information The OregonianAdams writes these concise biographies with intelligence verve and tenderness and her background in literature and psychology makes her uniuely ualified She does not avert her gaze from each of her subject's troubles but rather shows how each became a greater writer partially through unconditional canine friendship and devotion Times Dispatch“You’ll call this sentimental–perhaps–but then a dog somehow represents the private side of life the play side” Virginia Woolf confessed to a friend And it is this private playful side the richness and power of the bond between five great women writers and their dogs that Maureen Adams celebrates in this deeply engaging book In Shaggy Muses we visit Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Flush the golden Cocker Spaniel who danced the poet away from death back to life and human love We roam the wild Yorkshire moors with Emily Brontë whose fierce Mastiff mix Keeper provided a safe and loving outlet for the writer’s eually fierce spirit We enter the creative sanctum of Emily Dickinson which she shared only with Carlo the gentle giant Newfoundland who soothed her emotional terrors We mingle with Edith Wharton whose ever faithful Pekes warmed her lonely heart during her restless travels among Europe and America’s social and intellectual elite We are privileged guests in the fragile universe of Virginia Woolf who depended for emotional support and sanity not only on her human loved ones but also on her dogs especially Pinka–a gift from her lover Vita Sackville West–a black Cocker Spaniel who became a strong bright thread in the fabric of Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s life togetherBased on diaries letters and other contemporary accounts–and featuring many illustrations of the writers and their dogs–these five miniature biographies allow us unparalleled intimacy with women of genius in their hours of domestic ease and inner vulnerability Shaggy Muses also enchants us with a pack of new friends Flush Keeper Carlo Foxy Linky Grizzle Pinka and all the other devoted canines who loved and served these great writers