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A DOG'S VIEW OF THINGS

In painting, notably in the work of Sir Edwin Landseer and his followers, animals are almost invariably endowed with human characteristics and attributes; in literature, embracing all the folk-lore concerning animals from Aesop's Fables to Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus, and Kipling's Jungle Books, this is also true. Indeed, until the appearance of flamed there has been no literature from the point of view of animals. It is the distinction of flamed that this canine narrative carries conviction with it as being decidedly the dog's view of things. Dunned, in short, is a unique achievement in the realism of animal literature.

Hunting and travelling in reminiscence with men and dogs of all sorts and conditions, " Di" ranges the country from New York to Texas, from Florida to Minnesota, making philosophical reflec-tions and comparisons, finding the best and healthiest in every one and in every-thing with the same infallible instinct that guided him in finding birds.

Diomed is a setter of the old Virginia stock, proud of his pedigree and of his master's family, with an aristocrat's indulgent contempt for the parvenus who come from nowhere or anywhere, and are anybody or nobody, but who just happen somehow to get hold of or live upon a James River plantation, and before five years have gone by begin posing and talking about the olden times and the genuine representatives of the old Virginia stock. "James River water," he reflects, "must put such notions in men and dogs."

On the other hand, in the chapter called " High-Toned Shooting," Di expresses his opinion of one Dash, a huge, heavy-looking liver-and-white setter, which an English gentleman brings with him on a memorable hunt. Dash is undoubtedly of the highest breeding ; but Diomed is more impressed by his appetite for Devonshire hams than by the report of his work in " the turnips." Indeed, what " the turnips" are Di does not even know until Dash—whom the hams have made thirsty—exhausts his capacity as a reservoir and comes lumbering up, looking over the beautiful brown stubble, which to an energetic American dog promises unlimited sport, and says: "Where are the turnip fields?" " The what ?" says Di. " The turnip fields, where the birds are," says Dash. " See here, Dash," Di remonstrates, " you cannot expect ham and turnips both. What do you want—the earth ?" " Well, you know," the English dog protests as they gallop along, " one can't be expected to scour a beastly wilderness like this for birds. How shall we ever think where to look for them, seeing there are no turnip fields?"

With its quietly sustained humour the narrative rambles along over a half score years or more—the long life of a dog who knows, sees, and feels no more than we have known a dog to do if he has come into our life and shared our good and ill fortune in comradeship. Mr. Wise, in his preface, holds himself responsible for Diomed, however, and invites the reader to put down to the author 's score whatever Di thinks or says that he believes a dog could not think or say. But there is nothing un-dog like in the pure fun Di has with all the world. The narrative is told in retrospect, and once in a while a rheumatic twinge arrests the old dog's thoughts, causing him to reflect sadly on the vanities of life. The sincerity, the optimism, the keen yet kindly analysis of life under many aspects, among men who are known in the world and men who are known in the army, in the rugged distances of Texas, or the decay of Williamsburg, that " Diogenes of corporations which, having nothing, wants nothing, asks nothing save that the sun-light, in which its burghers bask in idleness, be not obstructed by intruders"—these, with its wealth of cheer and un-failing humour, are the characteristics which will distinguish flamed from all other books of the day, and which will place what purports to be the autobiography of a dog beside the great human autobiographies and similar literary achievements that reach out beyond their special audience to one of universal interest.

The author thoughtfully suggests in his preface that " it is all so arranged that it may be taken in broken doses. Every chapter is independent of the other save that all are bound together by the thread of a dog's life—and who minds clipping that?"

But we do mind ; and as we lay down the story of Diomed we place it beside those few fortunate books that are not of fad or day, but which are read and re-read even as Di and his master return again and again to the scenes that they cherish. We are richer for the memory, which this book has brought us, of some true friends.

Marguerite Traey
Book Review date: 
Wednesday, September 1, 1897 to Tuesday, February 1, 1898
Book Types: 

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