Monday, August 17, 2015


the dog days

Here we are already - shadows lengthening, crickets singing, summer on the wane.  I am doing end-of-season chores such as having the furnace cleaned, attempting to get on the chimney sweep's fall list, and ordering extra firewood.  A lot of what I wanted to do this summer remains undone, and the mere thought undoes me even a little more.  However, at least I do not have a beloved dog who is mortally ill.  As does Horace Walpole (Letters Volume VI, p.490):

"...I must quit my joys for my sorrows.  My poor Rosette is dying.... I have been out of bed twenty times every night, have had no sleep, and sat up with her till three this morning; but I am only making you laugh at me; I cannot help it - I think of nothing else.  Without weaknesses I should not be I, and I may as well tell them as have them tell themselves."

Dear Rosette.  They went everywhere together, for years.  As he says in an earlier letter, about preparing to bring her to a princess's country house party (p.244):

"...Rosette is fast asleep in your chair, or I am sure she would write a postscript.  I cannot say she is either commanded or invited to be of this royal party; but have me, have my dog."

She even saved his life one night, as chronicled in another letter (p.232):

"You know I always have some favourite, some successor of Patapan.  The present is a tanned black spaniel, called Rosette.  She saved my life last Saturday night, so I am sure you will love her too."

She barked and barked at the roar of a chimney fire, and wouldn't let up until Walpole discovered what the trouble was, summoned aid, and kept the house from burning down (note to self - contact chimney sweep again).

I haven't even gotten yet to the part in the Letters when his French correspondent Madame du Deffand dies, and leaves him (along with her papers) her dog, Tonton.  Oh Patapan, Rosette, Tonton (the last immortalized on a snuffbox, even).  The pathos!  These, added to the descriptions of the deaths of many of Walpole's long-time human friends, bring tears to my eyes as I read.  It's tragic stuff, truly, as Walpole's heart gets broken again and again, it seems.  But love and loss are inseparable, and besides:

"...the evils of life are not good subjects for letters - why afflict one's friends? why make common-place reflections?"  (p.440)

We shall instead smile again as we look forward to the coming weeks, since:

"...September is a quiet month; visits to make or receive are over, and the troublesome go to shoot partridges." (p.393)

While not planning on hunting game birds any time soon myself, I am still in the thick of art exhibits, prime painting weather, and other sundry activities, and hope to return more regularly here soon.  With more words of my own, not Walpole's?  Well, I'm halfway in to Volume VII, with still a few more volumes to go in this set, so I'm sure his name will crop up again.  Until then, please:

"...don't think I write merely to tell you that I have nothing to tell you." (p.252)      

It's no wonder you're saddened to see summer going especially after last winter, but I can't wait for our rains and soft light to come back - this summer I feel like I've spent three months in a heat-induced stupor. Such a relief when it poured last Friday and our Emerald City got a little of its emerald back.

How Walpole brings those around him to life! I truly envy his facility with words and if ever I have a dog it will be named Patapan - that even sounds like a puppy trotting across floorboards.
Yes - "...his facility with words..." - he is a beautiful writer, his style is so smooth and comes across as effortless conversation. I just love it, and cannot resist quoting him at any available opportunity. Such as this:

"My personal history is very short. I have had an assembly and the rheumatism - and am buying a house - and it rains - and I shall plant the roses against my treillage to-morrow. Thus you know what I have done, suffered, am doing, and shall do. Let me know as much of you, in quantity, not in quality." (Volume VII, p.143)

Best wishes to you as summer winds down. I'm glad to hear your "greenth" is returning, as Walpole would say (I must write a blog post sometime soon on that word and the many others he invented).
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