Literature. It is going to the dogs.

I told the Junior Paper Shredder yesterday that her Column (as she calls this blog) was starting to attract literary attention. Not just Family Business. Literature. Interestingliterature ( ) and E-Tinkerbell’s Blog ( ) are both followers now.

“What’s Literature?” she asked. “Something I ought to be getting my teeth into?”

I told her she should be proud to be a Dandie Dinmont. The only breed of dog, so far as she or I know, to be invented by one of the great classic authors. The name, at least.

reading guy mannering

Sir Walter Scott (like Dandie Dinmonts and small family businesses) is underrated today. He was a great story teller who created some marvellous characters. Ivanhoe (in a Victorian children’s version) was the first classic to hold me spellbound. I listened riveted as my mother read it to my two older brothers. Years later, working on Louis XI for A-level History, I found the whole period vividly brought to life (how accurately historically I still have no idea) by Quentin Durward. The original Dandie Dinmont was a character in Guy Mannering renowned for his ownership of Pepper and Mustard terriers. They were just becoming established as a breed when the book was published in 1805. Hence the name of the breed.

Scott later wrote “The race of Pepper and Mustard are in the highest estimation at this day, not only for vermin-killing but for intelligence and fidelity. Those who, like the author, possess a brace of them, consider them as very desirable companions.”

I took Guy Mannering down from the shelf and showed it to the JPS.

“I’ll chew it over this evening,” she promised.

Snaffles rug Guy Mannering


6 thoughts on “Literature. It is going to the dogs.

  1. The role of historical fiction in assisting many of us to pass history is sadly underrated – although I venture to say that in the modern Australian curriculum history is so elected that most students have no knowledge of much that happened prior to 2000. Without “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and “The Tale of Two Cities” the French Revolution would have been a mystery. Josephine Tey’s “Daughter of Time” alerted me to the fact that history is in the hands of the winners, and Mary Renault’s books about ancient Greece were far more interesting than the dry, factual textbooks. Unfortunately none of them had any references to that toughest of all terriers – the smooth haired fox terrier, making them unreliable in the opinion of one reader in our house!

    • Good to know that at the opposite end of the globe the same books have inspired us both with a love of history. I reread Daughter of Time recently with our local Leicester discovery bringing Richard III to the front of my mind. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone and Katherine by Anya Seton were two other favourites of mine. The JPS is only sorry that a whole world separates her from a smooth haired fox terrier who clearly has so many interests in common.

  2. Perhaps the JPS could expand their column to give advice on recycling the mass of unwanted junk mail that we all arrive home to – I am sure you return to it having already been sorted!

    • You must remember that she is only a Junior Paper Shredder. For accurate recycling we might need to employ a Senior Mail Sorter. This is not a position to which the JPS aspires and so far Hugh and Rob have declined to advertise this vacancy. The JPS herself is much more interested in building up a collection with a view to starting a museum. Maybe one day I will allow her sufficient control of the blog to tell you about her collection so far.

  3. I’d forgotten Anya Seton and Irving Stone! More recently I have discovered the meticulously researched books of Sharon Penman (Plantagenet dynasty) and Elizabeth Chadwick (The Good Knight et al). Still not a fox terrier on sight though!

    • These are new to me – I am clearly getting out of date.
      Not a fox terrier but a cocker spaniel, but how do you like Virginia Woolf’s Flush? I keep wondering whether the JPS would find it too frightening…

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