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Archive for May, 2016

A local historical society will be hosting a book sale this weekend to raise funds. I am finally ready to part with a substantial number of some of my most beloved books (art, art history, English literature, nature books, etc).

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Waiting to be bagged and donated

The first three Jane Austen novels I purchased sat forgotten on the top shelf – all in paperback form. I had always thought that I first read Pride and Prejudice at 14, but the book’s publication date tells me that I was 13!

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I reread the tale of my beloved Mr. Darcy and his Lizzie Bennet so many times that my parents gave me this Modern Library edition of Jane Austen’s six great novels at Christmas, just before I turned 14. I have cherished it and still cherish it for all the good times I spent reading at night before turning off the light. (This book did not sit forgotten.)

I will keep this edition through all my future moves and until my last breath, since I only need a Jane Austen novel to keep me happy.

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Interestingly, I was 15 when I read my second JA book, Emma, which I purchased to read on vacation. At that tender age, I found the book too talky and not nearly as romantic as P&P. Mr. Knightley seemed so OLD and staid compared to the dangerously handsome Mr. D, and bossy Emma was not the sort of girl I wanted to befriend, whereas Lizzie seemed she could fit right into my group. So, it took decades before my mature self tackled Emma again.

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I read Persuasion at 17, too young to appreciate the fact that Anne Elliot’s bloom had faded from sadness or to truly understand the reason why she listened to Lady Russell’s advice. As a rebellious teen of the 60’s, how could I relate to her decision? I am now somewhat longer in the tooth (ahem) and am able to appreciate this gem of a novel fully, as Jane intended.

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Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra in the 60’s.

Now, let’s discuss the 60’s covers of these paperback editions. Mind you, this was an era when high-waisted empire dresses were popular (see Mia Farrow at right) but the cover artists generally ignored this fact. They preferred to see Lizzie in a dark and heavy Gothic gown, more suited to a Bronte novel than a Regency tale. Note that Emma has a decided Victorian look, as does Anne Elliot. At least the P&P cover included this fairly accurate regency scene of Mr. Darcy listening to Lizzie at the piano.

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One of the reasons I like the Complete Novels is the cover art by Paul Galdone, a popular children’s author of the day. The scene reminds me just a bit of  the classic covers painted by Arthur Barbosa of Georgette Heyer novels in the 40’s and 50’s.

My old Jane Austen paperback covers represent a major characteristic of cover illustrations -they reflect the concept of female beauty of the era. Hence the 60’s birdwing eyebrows, eyeshadow, eye liner, and lipstick on Lizzie, Emma, and Anne. You’ll observe similar treatments of “historic” costumes and makeup in past times in cinema and other forms of popular entertainment throughout the decades. Recall the costumes and makeup of 1940’s Pride and Prejudice or the BBC’s versions of Jane Austen novels in the 1970’s. Ouch!

Regardless of the inaccuracies of their covers, I plan to keep these three books. For sentiment’s sake.

 

 

 

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Recollect that the Almighty, who gave the dog to be companion of our pleasures and our toils, hath invested him with a nature noble and incapable of deceit.”- Sir Walter Scott, 1825

My beloved Cody died in my arms this week.  He was put to sleep to relieve his pain from cancer and pancreatitis. He’s been sickly for a while, but these past weeks have been especially difficult as his gait slowed to a snail’s pace. By mid-week he’d given up “fooling” me with his stoicism. On Wednesday morning he let me know in no uncertain terms that he was ready to leave this earth.

Cody was a mutt (a combination of several terrier breeds) and a sturdy, stubborn little creature who would not give up a hunt or chase, or his intention to dig or enter a culvert. Cody was a vermin chaser and no mole, vole, mouse, chipmunk, squirrel, rabbit, or saddle back cricket was safe when he was lithe and young. I have saved many a wild creature over the years by restraining my determined little man.

Terriers in the Georgian era lived useful and utilitarian lives. Until people discovered their endearing house pet qualities, these dogs worked hard for a living. Work is perhaps not the best term for the actions of a dog that LOVED the chase and knew instinctively how to run down a rat, fox, groundhog, or mouse, or dig towards it and kill it with such efficiency that the prey never knew what struck it. 18th and 19th century farmers would have lost an entire season’s stored crop or chickens over the winter to vermin had it not been for the constant vigilance of their terriers. I have seen these dogs at work in a city alley (on a YouTube video). The alley was sealed on both sides as three domesticated terriers went into action. Instinct took over. Two flushed out a rat from the bottom of a garbage pile, while a third pounced on the fleeing rat on top of the pile where it emerged. The terrier lifted the rat by its neck and broke it in an instant. Terriers working in concert can kill 80 or more rats in one get go and still retain the sweet personality of a loving family pet.

As one modern article states:

Besides being efficient, death-by-dog is more humane for the rat and better for the environment than poison, say ratting proponents. Commonly used anticoagulant poisons thin the blood and cause internal bleeding. Rats die slow deaths, and they pass the poison on to anything that eats them, from wildlife to farm animals.” – Andy Wright, Modern Farmer: When Terriers Attack, 2014

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Cody, watchful and gentle and showing his wheaten colors.

Part of Cody’s mutt terrier mix was soft-coated wheaten terrier. In the 18th century, this breed of terriers was kept by poor Catholic Irish tenant farmers. These all-purpose dogs were bred to hunt, poach, stand guard, catch vermin, and be a companion. This latter trait made it a gentle dog (like my Cody) and much prized when the breed was shown in the show ring. Terriers are not only great companions, they are fearless, athletic and seldom lose sight of their goal. Whenever Cody saw a hole in the ground or an open culvert, he would poke his nose into the opening, regardless of what creature he might encounter.

In this oil painting entitled Terriers Rabbiting, for sale in the Rehs Calleries in NYC and painted by George Armfield (c.1808 – 1893) in 1860, one can see the patient determination of the three terriers as they wait for the rabbit to emerge. Note how their short legs provide them with a low center of gravity (which gives them a tremendous advantage in going to ground, digging, and pulling). They also have thick necks and stocky bodies that provide them with additional muscular strength, much like a stocky boxer.

My very domesticated Cody would patiently sit in front of a hole in my garden waiting for a vole to peek its head out. He would then strike with swift, deadly accuracy and leave me a present.

I would laugh as he chased creepy-looking saddelback crickets in zig zag patterns across my basement floor, eating their bodies but leaving the prickly legs for me to sweep up. With a terrier patrolling the house, one has few mouse, rat, spider, or cricket investations.

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Edward Walter Webb, Terriers Rabbitting, ca. 1840. Click here to enter Richard Gardner Antiques.

In the above painting, for sale at Richard Gardner Antiques, terriers are digging for rabbits, typical behavior for this breed. In Victorian times, terriers are more often depicted as lovable house pet breeds, although the second painting from Antiques Atlas will attest that even a cute fox terrier is an efficient killing machine of an animal its size.

Whenever Cody entered a culvert or dug a hole too deep for me to retrieve him easily, I would grab him by the base of his thick tail and pull him out. The Westie in the short video below was able to back out comfortably from a substantial hole all by itself.

Here’s a link to an image of an owner pulling a terrier by the tail. I’m sure it didn’t mind. My Cody certainly didn’t. Hah!

More on the topic:

The Eighteenth Century Goes to the Dogs, James Breigh, Colonial Williamsburg

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