BOOKS: The Master’s Cat & The Ugly Dachshund

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1998:

The Master’s Cat:
The Story of Charles Dickens
as told by his Cat
by Eleanor Poe Barlow
132 pages. $24.00 hardcover.

The Ugly Dachshund
by G.B. Stern
Illustrated by K.F. Barker
192 pages. $15.00, paperback.
Both from J.N. Townsend Publishing
(12 Greenleaf Drive, Exeter, NH 03833), 1998.

Charles Dickens spent the last 14 years of his life
with a small white cat as his constant companion. The cat
was reputedly deaf. At least in Eleanor Poe Barlow view of
Dickens’ later years, as allegedly written from the cat’s perspective,
this did not preclude her from hearing human
speech. Purported dialogue appears on almost every page,
including improbably long soliloquies.

Unconvincing as a cat, Barlow is meticulous as a
scholar. Included are notes on the lives and deaths of the
Dickens family dogs––one of whom, Sultan, was eventually
shot on Dickens’ orders for savaging a small girl.
Flak sheets mention that The Ugly Dachshund,
originally published in 1938, was “made into a forgetable
Disney movie in the sixties.” That stretches the imagination,
since author G.B. Stern, a Jane Austen scholar, seems to
have written it chiefly to parody Austen’s favorite characters
as––in so many words––a pack of silly bitches. Hero of the
travesty is Voltaire, a Great Dane.
Those with a Ph.D. in English literature may
appreciate this stuff. Our own Voltaire, though, is a great
white cat, not deaf but almost blind. He sniffed to see if
there were any recognizable animals in either volume, then
pushed both books off the shelf and flopped down to sleep.

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