Friday, October 12, 2007

A Charles Dickens-era Dog Show

Believe it or not, Charles Dickens was editor of a magazine that wrote one of the first descriptions of a dog show back in 1844.

The squib below appeared in Bentley's Miscellany. Bentley's was a literary magazine started by Richard Bentley, and it was published between 1836 and 1868. Charles Dickens was its first editor. The author of this particular contribution was a fellow by the name of John Fisher Murray in a section he called The Physiology of London Life.

As you can tell from the description, dog shows were a very novel idea at the time. In fact, the first formal dog show was not held until 1859. My guess is that this dog show was a tented side-line to a larger generalized stock show.

Apparently the push was already on to create freakishly odd dogs -- in this case a miniature or "tea cup" breed.

A friend of our's is a dog fancier and we accompanied him one evening to of all things in the world a DOG SHOW We had heard of agricultural shows horticultural shows tulip shows dahlia shows and fifty other shows but we never dreamt of a dog show However there it was on a printed paper pulled by our friend out of his waistcoat pocket in black and white with a long list of presidents vice presidents secretaiies treasurer committee men judges conditions prizes and so forth On entering the show room whose proximity was audibly made known to us by the reiterated barking of the competitors and the howling which followed the application of the whips of their owners we could hardly avoid laughing not less at the assembled bipeds who crowded the room than at their quadrupedal friends upon the table One old gentleman with a white waistcoat and black silk smalls relieved by a huge bunch of gold seals depending from the most prominent part of his person held a pug under each arm while he criticized the points of a remarkably beautiful little terrier then upon the table A tall thin sickly looking man who as I was informed was a peer of the realm was busily engaged in discussing the comparative beauties of a black and tan and a red and white spaniel of the King Charles breed who to do them no less than justice appeared to enter completely into the spirit of the thing and growled and barked and flashed fire at each other from their large round antelope eyes with all the apparent jealousy of two contending beauties at an assize ball Running about our feet were all sorts and sizes of the canine race bloodhounds Irish greyhounds terriers wiry and short haired silky legged spaniels but not a cur of low degree all had their pedigrees and well attested certificates approved their honourable birth Notwithstanding the ludicrous nature to us at least of the exhi
hitlon not a muscle either of the dogs or their generous protectors was discomposed all was conducted in a business like English manner with true John Bullish gravity and decorum nor when a very fat man with a red carbunculated nose uncovering a quart pot which he had hitherto concealed with a silk handkerchief placed it on the table with a little stunted dog peering out was there a single countenance in the room irresistibly disposed to laughter save our own The little stunted dog himself to all appearance a puppy of three weeks old but who was in fact arrived at the respectable age of two years having recovered his liberty scrambled over the edge of the quart pot and with great gravity waddled round the table paying his respects as he went to other little stunted dogs who ho ever not being quite so stunted as himself appeared to regard hi with no great cordiality
Bentley's Miscellany By Charles Dickens, William Harrison Ainsworth, Albert Smith


gabboon said...

found this in your recycling bin?

PBurns said...

Actually, just getting to my inbox. Some great stuff from Mark Twain came this morning :)