The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton, and Emily Brontë
By Maureen Adams
(Ballantine Books, Hardcover, 9780345484062, 320pp.)
Publication Date: July 31, 2007
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“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.”
“These concise biographies are affecting and engaging.”
“Written with lively, accessible prose, this absorbing, wholly unique book is a must-read for literature- and dog-lovers alike.”
“Lovers of both dogs and classic writers will identify with this sweet, quirky book.”
“An intimate look into the lives of famous women authors whose lives were more 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 human/animal 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 Poet
"Adams, 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-Picayune
"Adams, 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, exquisite as the 19th century miniature of Barrett Browning and her lapdog Flush included in the text." - The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"These 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 more memorable by Adams' lively writing." - The Providence Journal
"Shaggy Muses' is readable and interesting. . .full of facts and insights. Adams goes beyond the superficial and provides real information." - The Oregonian
"Adams writes these concise biographies with intelligence, verve and tenderness, and her background in literature and psychology makes her uniquely qualified. 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 equally 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 together.
Based 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.
Maureen Adams is a licensed clinical psychologist. Before teaching psychology at the University of San Francisco, she taught English at the University of Missouri. She and her husband live in Sonoma, California. This is her first book.