His sympathetic characters Oliver Twist and David Copperfield may be more well-known, but no more three-dimensional than their stories’ fictional dogs, Bulls-Eye and Jip, that Dickens sketched with pathos and personality. Dickens’ canine characters were based on the rich material he gathered from observing his own menagerie which included among others, a Pomeranian, Havanese Spaniel, Mastiff, St. Bernard, Newfoundland, St. Bernard x Bloodhound hybrid and two St. Bernard x Newfoundland hybrids.
|Dickens took long walks in the afternoon, |
ten miles or more, with the dogs as his sole companions.
Illustration from Princes, Authors, and Statesmen of Our Time,
Henry Bill Publishing Co., 1885
The following letter was written by Dickens on May 25, 1868, to the wife of his publisher Thomas Fields, describing his return home after an extended visit to America:
Mr. Dear Mrs. Fields,
As you ask me about the dogs, I begin with them. When I came down first, I came to Gravesend, five miles off. The two Newfoundland dogs [Newfoundland x St. Bernard hybrids], coming to meet me with the usual carriage and the usual driver, and beholding me coming in my usual dress out at the usual door, it struck me that their recollection of my having been absent for any unusual time was at once cancelled. They behaved (they are both young dogs) exactly in their usual manner; coming behind the basket phaeton as we trotted along, and lifting their heads to have their ears pulled – a special attention which they receive from no one else. But when I drove into the stable-yard, Linda [St. Bernard] was greatly excited; weeping profusely, and throwing herself on her back that she might caress my foot with her great fore-paws. Mamie’s little dog, too, Mrs. Bouncer [Pomeranian], barked in the greatest agitation on being called down and asked by Mamie, “Who is this?” and tore round and round me…"
Today is the 201st anniversary of Dickens' birth. Click here to read an article I wrote about Dickens' Dogs.