Tag Archives: Human-Canine Relationship

A Glimpse of Nineteenth Century Life Through the Eyes of a Cocker Spaniel: Flush by Virginia Woolf

While I find beauty and wonder in all creatures both great and small, I must admit to a particular fondness for the canine. In fact, I will often introduce my own dog, a wire fox terrier named Thatcher, as my first child. There seems to be a particular connection, an unspoken bond, between the human and the dog seldom found with other animals.

Additionally and in regards to literature, I count Virginia Woolf as one of my favorite writers. Ms. Woolf, in my mind, penned some of the loveliest and most sophisticated novels to be found in the literary firmament. With her use of various experimental styles, most prominently stream of consciousness, she creates such wondrous scenes with her prose that one feels as if one has actually entered a painting in the impressionist style, where characters and setting do not possess definite lines or boundaries and both are viewed through an enchanting haze of color and light.

flush

How are these two interests connected, you may ask. The answer: Ms. Woolf published a short book entitled Flush: A Biography in 1933 concerning a cocker spaniel of the same name and his experiences, as told from his perspective, with his mistress in nineteenth century London and Italy. Certain historical items are learned, which would, I imagine, otherwise escape the reader. For instance, dognapping for the criminal purpose of demanding a ransom was common at the time, with owners sometimes paying large sums; in fact, in this story Flush finds himself the victim of such an abduction, and his narration of this is quite moving and harrowing.

In addition to the unconventional stylistic approach of relating a story through the internal musings and observations of a dog, Ms. Woolf further employed this book as a means of providing the reader with a fictionalized look in to the life of one of the most popular and respected poets of the Victorian era, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who did indeed own a cocker spaniel to whom she dedicated some lovely poetic lines. Imagine your biography written by a close household pet; what an interesting story that would be.

Flush is a highly readable and entertaining tale that I would recommend to anyone, really, but most especially to the fellow lover of the dog and of the incomparable Virginia Woolf.

In closing, I will cite one stanza from Ms. Browning’s poem To Flush, My Dog:

Loving friend, the gift of one
Who her own true faith hath run
Through thy lower nature,
Be my benediction said
With my hand upon thy head,
Gentle fellow-creature !

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill