As a respite from our topic of work, I've had a bit too much of the real thing this past week, I thought we might focus on a couple more of the dogs found in our era. I thought I would start with the Newfoundland, primarily because Lord Byron had one called Boatswain. Byron wrote a poem in the dog's honor when it died.
Looking at the picture of Lord Byron’s “Boatswain,” there appears to be some Husky ancestry in the breed. One of the websites I’ve looked at states that Boatswain was not a purebred, but had Husky blood in him. However, people at the time didn’t have the same concept of keeping a breed pure that we do today, and often mixed the breeds but kept thename.
Whatever their ancestry, Newfoundlands became known for the waterproof nature of their coats, their webbed feet and strong swimming skills, and their equally strong water rescue instincts. Before other retriever breeds were developed, they were used as water retrievers. They were also used in helping fishermen with their nets, carrying lines between ships, and also, in their native country, as carting or pack dogs.
Newfoundlands were imported into England probably by late in the 17th century, where their breed qualities and appearance were further developed. They were popular, no doubt helped along by their romantic image as heroes of countless rescues, of sailors, children, and passengers on shipwrecks.
Here is Byron's tribute etched on the monument he raised to his dog.
Near this spot
Are deposited the Remains
Who possessed Beauty
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man
Without his Vices.
The Price, which would be unmeaning flattery
If inscribed over Human Ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the Memory of
“Boatswain,” a Dog
Who was born at Newfoundland,
And died in Newstead Abbey,
Nov. 18, 1808.
When some proud son of man returns to earth,
Unknown by glory, but upheld by birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And stories urns record that rests below.
When all is done, upon the tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his master’s own,
Who labors, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonored falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.
Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy smiles hypocrisy, thy words deceit!
By nature vile, ennoble but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn,
Pass on – it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one – and here he lies.
And because he is such an interesting man, here is the poet, Lord Byron.
Well looking at that is better than talking about work, though no doubt we'll come back to it in the future. Next week I thought I might take a look at some of the colors that were popular in the Regency and not well known today.
By the way, my 2nd newsletter came out this week, with some news about my forthcoming novels, and a short story. So if you want to sign up, use the form on the sidebar and I will send you a copy.
Until next time, Happy Rambles.