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At Home and Astray

At Home and Astray: The Domestic Dog in Victorian Britain

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    At Home and Astray
    Book Description:

    Although the British consider themselves a nation of dog lovers, what we have come to know as the modern dog came into existence only after a profound, and relatively recent, transformation in that country's social attitudes and practices. InAt Home and Astray,Philip Howell focuses on Victorian Britain, and especially London, to show how the dog's changing place in society was the subject of intense debate and depended on a fascinating combination of forces even to come about.

    Despite a relationship with humans going back thousands of years, the dog only became fully domesticated and installed at the heart of the middle-class home in the nineteenth century. Dog breeding and showing proliferated at that time, and dog ownership increased considerably. At the same time, the dog was increasingly policed out of public space, the "stray" becoming the unloved counterpart of the household "pet." Howell shows how this redefinition of the dog's place illuminates our understanding of modernity and the city. He also explores the fascinating process whereby the dog's changing role was proposed, challenged, and confronted-and in the end conditionally accepted. With a supporting cast that includes Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Thomas Carlyle, and Charles Darwin, and subjects of inquiry ranging from vivisection and the policing of rabies to pet cemeteries, dog shelters, and the practice of walking the dog,At Home and Astrayis a contribution not only to the history of animals but also to our understanding of the Victorian era and its legacies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3687-1
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION A Public Life for a Private Animal
    (pp. 1-24)

    WHEN DID Britain become, to use the hackneyed phrase, a “nation of animal lovers”? This may be an impossible question as it stands, for historians of animal welfare have the greatest difficulties in narrating any significant amelioration in the treatment of animals in modern Britain, despite the early emergence of an organized animal protection and welfare movement.¹ We might focus instead on theprofessionof a national attachment to animals. A belief that the British were animal lovers par excellence, always to be found in the vanguard of the “humane” movement, had emerged at least by the early twentieth century,...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Dogs in Dickensland At Home and Astray with the Landseer of Fiction
    (pp. 25-49)

    CHARLES DICKENS’S reputation as a lover of dogs was firmly established after his death. John Forster advised an audience apparently insatiable for personal details of the recently departed author that his interest in dogs was “inexhaustible.”¹ In her reminiscences, Mamie Dickens averred that her father loved all animals, but that he reserved his strongest love for dogs.² Curiosity and affection were seen (as with his almost exact contemporary Charles Darwin) as mutually reinforcing: “This power of observation and description extended from human life to that of animals. His habits of life could not but make him the friend of dogs.”³...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Flush and the Banditti Dog Stealing in Victorian London
    (pp. 50-72)

    ON THE first day of September 1846, the poet Elizabeth Barrett, who was at the time making plans for her secret marriage to Robert Browning, stepped out of a shop in Vere Street in the heart of London’s West End, and into her carriage, only to find that her beloved cocker spaniel, Flush (figure 3), had been caught up from under the wheels and spirited away by thieves. For a third and final time, Flush had fallen victim to the dog stealers who made their living from abducting pet dogs and holding them for substantial ransoms. Elizabeth Barrett’s reaction, as...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Finding a Forever Home? The Home for Lost and Starving Dogs
    (pp. 73-101)

    BATTERSEA DOGS’ HOME is the oldest and most famous animal rescue charity in the world. Founded in late 1860 in the mazy north London backstreets of Holloway, by the equally obscure Mary Tealby, the advent of the “Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs” was greeted with derision. TheTimes, commenting acidly on the fashion for providing “homes” for ever-proliferating categories of the “homeless,” still “expected that human benevolence would have its limits, and that those limits would be marked somewhere within the regions of humanity, as far as mere sentimental interference was concerned.” Why should there not be a...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The Descent of the Dog Domesticating and Undomesticating Darwinism
    (pp. 102-124)

    IN THEORY, natural selection changed everything. By demonstrating that humans and animals were kin, that they shared “a common progenitor” with beasts, that their differences were only ones of degree, and that they were subject to the same natural laws, Darwin’s discoveries promised to eliminate “the unbridgeable gulf that divided reasoning human being from irrational brute,” and potentially to expand the space for moral considerations of the claims of animals.¹ In practice, not only did anthropocentric attitudes and practices change remarkably little, the impact of “Darwinism” was surely not to sap but to shore up arguments for human exceptionalism.² Darwin...

  10. CHAPTER 5 A Place for the Animal Dead Animal Souls, Pet Cemeteries, and the Heavenly Home
    (pp. 125-149)

    IN THE previous chapter, I argued that the un-domestication of Darwinism was bound up with an apparent conflict between science and sentiment in the assessment of the claims of nonhuman animals. In truth, too stark a distinction is misleading: animal welfarists could recommend an unsentimental rationalism, while the most anthropocentric of scientists necessarily traded in emotion. As Oscar Wilde put it, in reference to the higher calling that the artistic “vivisection” of human life represented, what was really wonderful was the mixing of “the curious hard logic of passion and the emotional coloured life of the intellect.”¹ Antivivisectionists such as...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Assembling the Dog-Walking City Rabies, Muzzling, and the Freedom to be Led
    (pp. 150-174)

    THE PREVIOUS chapter described the most audacious attempt to provide a home for animal companions—the domestication of the hereafter as a “homely” space to be shared with departed pets. This imaginative, emotional, hope-filled geography had its counterpart, as we have seen, in the material realm. There was, however, another attempt by dog owners and dog lovers to domesticate the city on behalf of animals, and this is the endeavor to defend and also developpublicspaces as places where humans and dogs would be welcomed. These dog owners’ interests resided simply in claiming the rights of responsible human guardians...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 175-184)

    TO SAY that dogs were fully domesticated by the end of our period is to claim far too much, of course. For one thing, dogs were never wholly scoured from the streets, safely privatized and made respectable in the confinements of proper middle-class homes. Only much more recently have stray dogs more or less disappeared from British streets. Nor is it true to say that dogs have ever become universally accepted, in Britain or elsewhere. For large numbers of people, dogs remain merely nuisances and hazards, treated with aversion or outright hostility. For all too many, only when dogs become...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 185-218)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-244)
  15. Index
    (pp. 245-252)