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“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.