Shaggy Muses by Maureen Adams offers a new twist in understanding the writing and lives of five famous women authors.
This book is about the dogs who inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Brontë.
In this book, you will understand the role that Flush a golden Cocker Spaniel, who kept Elizabeth Barrett Browning company, had on her life and writing. Her life was isolated and frequented by ill health. That is, of course, until Robert Browning enters the scene. When Elizabeth marries Robert in a secret ceremony and leaves her family home without her father’s permission, she makes sure Flush goes too.
Virginia Woolf also had a Cocker Spaniel, named Pinka.
Emily Dickinson found solace with Carlo, a Newfoundland. Edith Wharton’s comparatively long life was filled with the companionship of a series of Pekingese.
I was, however, unprepared for the story of Emily Brontë and her Mastiff, Keeper. One day, after finding Keeper resting on a bed inside the house, Emily beats the dog bloody with her bare hands. The author relates the story in terms of ‘typical’ domestic violence behavior and the apparent struggle of wills between Keeper and Emily. Keeper, in truly dog style, remained loyal to her until the end, accepting her ministrations to his swollen face and eyes. (I’m afraid, however, that this story has put me off reading any more of Brontë‘s work, most likely for life).
If you like literature and dogs, this book is for you. I liked the historical context as the author relates the stories of each woman in chronological order. It puts into perspective the influences on each woman’s life and also how society was changing (Virginia Woolf, for example, had a notable lesbian love affair with fellow author Vita Sackville-West).
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand