I love doggies. All shapes, sizes, and breeds. No wonder I’ve developed an affinity for the Regency era. Simply Google “Regency era dogs” and your screen will be inundated with pages of images (just a paltry 525,000 results). My fondness for dogs naturally lent itself to a fondness for Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park, my least favorite Austen novel.
To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children… Mansfield Park, Chapter 2
She is a simple woman of a fairly simple mind, but doggedly (sorry, not sorry) devoted to her precious Pug. Not counting Edward and his ambiguous feelings, surely no one paid Fanny so great a compliment as Lady Bertram:
And still pursuing the same cheerful thoughts, she soon afterwards added, “And I will tell you what, Fanny, which is more than I did for Maria: the next time Pug has a litter you shall have a puppy.” Mansfield Park, Chapter 33
The childish name for a dog.
Regency England was mad for dogs. Regency ladies, especially, kept their tiny little canine companions close, if the sheer number of portraits of ladies and their dogs is any indication. I know dog fighting was also a popular “entertainment” of the time, but I shall “let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” I shall dwell on a small selection of doggies, great and small.
According to the Georgian Index, Regency England’s top dogs were English Bulldogs, Collies, Dalmatians, Great Danes, English Foxhounds, Greyhounds, English Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, English Pointers, Pomeranians, Poodles, Pugs, Curly Coated Retrievers, Spaniels, and Terriers.
Jane Austen’s World has a thorough and sometimes difficult-to-read post about Georgian Era dogs, illuminating the wide variety of roles occupied by canines: from faithful companion to hunting champion to paid entertainer to abandoned garbage-scavenger in the slums. I won’t retype her findings here, but it is a must-read for the curious.
Dogs even made their mark in the fashion world.
I’ll close with a few more favorites discovered in my massive Google search.
- Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
- Lady Bertram’s quotes taken from Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.
- “Guilt and misery” quote by Jane Austen. The full quote comes from Chapter 48 of Mansfield Park: “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.”
- List of “Georgian England’s Top Dogs” dog breeds found at Georgian Index. Head over there to find out about each breed.
- Do traipse over to Jane Austen’s World to read The 19th Century Dog: Occupying High and Low and, Yes, Even Cruel Places.