The challenge and inspiration of our animal companions
Dog lovers and literary groupies alike will adore Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Bronte. This intimate glimpse of famous writers reveals brilliant, often reclusive and sometimes unbalanced artists who used beloved pets as confessors, companions, muses and even emotional stand-ins. Elizabeth Barrett Browning's dog Flush was her constant companion when he wasn't being snatched by the dognappers common in 19th-century London. Flush became a literary go-between and romantic rival when the dashing Robert Browning came to call; he bit Browning twice, but they made up while walking the streets of Italy. Emily Bronte, who grew up to write the wild and disturbing Wuthering Heights, displayed disturbing behavior as a young girl by beating the family's mastiff, then nursing its wounds. Edith Wharton posed with two Chihuahuas perched on her shoulders and obsessed over an annoying pack of Pekinese to avoid her husband's infidelities and mental illness. Virginia Woolf described her purebred puppy as an angel of light who made her husband believe in God, perhaps counterbalancing the fact that the dog wet the floor eight times in one day. And Carlo the Newfoundland was the only audience for the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson, who insisted that she was more interested in Carlo's approval than writing to please the public. When the dog died, Dickinson's brief note to a friend was as poignant as any of her poems. Carlo died, she wrote. Would you instruct me now?