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Letter upon which the account is based.
 


Sara[h] Orne Jewett's Dog

Gertrude Van R. Wickham

     "Roger" is a large Irish Setter, of wide and varied information, and great dignity of character.

     He has a handsome set of fringes to his paws, a fine, glossy coat, and eyes that ask many questions, and make many requests. It is nearly impossible for his mistress to refuse him anything, so that he was in danger of being quite spoiled, or rather he would have been, if less sensible.

     Once, when he lay stretched out on a soft rug before the library fire, the Rev. J. G. Wood, who understands dog-life as well as anybody in the world, asked Miss Jewett, reproachfully, whether Roger ever had to do anything he didn't like; and for some time afterward she doubted whether she had given proper attention to the dog's moral education!

     Roger spends his winters in Boston, where luckily he has a very large garden on the shore of the Charles River, in which to run about. But he much prefers a long walk, and always follows his mistress very carefully and politely.

     When they go into the business or manufacturing part of the city, it is sometimes touching to see sad faces light up as he goes by with tail wagging, and to notice how many tired hands reach out to pat him. At such times, Miss Jewett will often forget her errand in stopping to talk with others about him.

     But any account of the dog would be incomplete without a word about his best friend, Patrick Lynch. All Roger's truest loyalty and affection show themselves at the sound of Patrick's step, for it means - all outdoors, and the market, and long scurries about town, and splashes in the frog-pond.

     All day Roger is expecting some sort of surprise or pleasure from this most congenial of friends; but every evening he condescends to spend quietly with the rest of the family, and comes tick-toeing along the hall floor and upstairs to the library, as if he were well aware that his presence confers a pleasure. Alas! he sometimes meets bonnets outward bound, and this is a cause of much disappointment when he finds, as often happens, that he must stay at home.

     But if he be invited to come, what barking and whining in many keys! What dashing along the snowy streets! - what treeing of unlucky pussies, and scattering of wayfarers terrified by his size and apparent fierceness.

     But the best place to see this dog is by the sea-shore in the summer, where he runs about with his beautiful red coat shining like copper in the sunshine. He is then always begging somebody for a walk, or barking even at the top of an inoffensive ledge for the sake of being occupied in some way. Mrs. James T. Fields is at such times his best friend, for she oftenest invites him to walk along the beach and chase sandpipers. Strange to say, his interest in this pursuit never fails, though the sandpipers always fly seaward, and so disappoint their eager hunter.

     We who have thus been introduced to Roger and become, as it were, almost intimate with him, will regret that he must some day grow old and sedate. Yet in that respect we shall always have the advantage of his closest friends, for with us he will have perpetual youth. In our thoughts he ever will be scurrying through the streets of Boston, stopping only to receive with majestic complaisance the petting of strange hands; or at the sea-shore, exercising his scale of dog-notes, or scattering the timid sandpipers - a joke of which he seems never to tire.


Notes

"Sara[h] Orne Jewett's Dog" is selected from "Dogs of Noted Americans" by Gertrude Van R. Wickham, which appeared in St. Nicholas, XVI (May 1889): 544-5, from which this text is taken. Jewett's first name is spelled "Sara" in the original text.   If you find errors or items needing annotations, please contact the site manager.
    The artist who provided the sketch of Roger is unnamed. Richard Cary in Sarah Orne Jewett Letters p. 55 explains that Wickham wrote a series of three articles on dogs of noted Americans. Wickham then solicited material from Jewett, and Jewett responded with the letter that is quoted below, after the notes.  Since no mention is made of a sketch in the letter, it is likely that the sketch is not "from life."
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Rev. J. G. Wood: Richard Cary (Sarah Orne Jewett Letters p. 55) identifies John George Wood (1827-1889) as the author of "some thirty books on botany, zoology, natural history, and Biblical animals, in which he studied minutely common objects of the country and seashore. In Man and Beast: Here and Hereafter (1874), Reverend Wood combined his vocation and avocation."
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Charles River: The Charles divides Boston, Massachusetts from Cambridge to the west and Charleston to the north.
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Patrick Lynch: An employee of Annie Fields.
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Mrs. James T. Fields: Annie Adams Fields (1834-1915) was the second wife of publisher James T. Fields. Following his death in 1881, Annie Fields and Sarah Orne Jewett formed a "Boston Marriage" that lasted until Jewett's death in 1909.
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sandpipers: A sandpiper is a bird of the snipe family, found along the seacoast.
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Letter from Sarah Orne Jewett to Mrs. Wickham, dated August 29, 1886, quoted from Richard Cary, Sarah Orne Jewett Letters, pp. 54-5.
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My Dear Mrs. Wickham:

     Indeed I have a dog, and a very dear one of much and varied information and great dignity of character. His name is Roger and he is a large Irish setter with a splendid set of fringes to his paws and tail, and two eyes that ask more questions and make more requests than dogs I know. And it is nearly impossible to refuse his requests that he is quite in danger of being spoiled or would be if he were not so sensible. Once the Reverend J. G. Wood, who understands dog life as well as anybody in the world, asked us reproachfully while Roger lay before the library fire on a very soft rug, if he ever had to do anything he didn't like. And I felt for a long time afterward that I might be neglecting the dear dog's moral education.

     Roger spends his winters in Boston, where luckily he has a good-sized garden to run about in on the shore of the Charles River, but he likes to be taken out for a long walk and follows me so carefully and politely that I feel very much honoured and obliged. It is such a delight and such a touching thing to see what pleasure he gives the people in the shops, and I quite forget my errands sometimes in talking about him. Roger himself cannot help feeling how tired faces light up when he comes by on his four paws with wagging tail, and I am sure that he is very grateful to the tired hands that pat him - and knows that he rouses a too uncommon feeling of common humanity and sympathy.

     But any mention of Roger without a word of his best friend, Patrick Lynch, would be incomplete. All his best loyalty and affection show themselves at the sound of Patrick's step - for this means all outdoors, and the market, and long scurries about town and splashes in the frog-pond, and, more than that, it means one person that understands what Roger wants and why he wants it. Whether Patrick has learned dog-language or Roger knows how to whine English I really cannot tell, but it must be one or the other. All day Roger is expecting some sort of surprise and pleasure with this most congenial of his friends, but every evening he condescends to spend quietly with the rest of the family and comes tick-toeing along the hall floor and upstairs to the library, as if he were well aware that he conferred a real benefaction. Alas, there are sometimes bonnets outward bound which give him a great sorrow if he finds that, as often happens, he must stay at home. But if he is invited to go, what leaping and whining in noisy keys! What rushing along snowy streets! What treeing of unlucky pussies and scattering of wayfarers on account of his size and apparent fierceness!

     But the best place to see this dog is in the summer by the sea, where he runs about in the sunshine shining like copper, and always begging somebody for a walk or barking at the top of a ledge for the sake of being occupied in some way! Mrs. Fields is more than ever his best mistress there, for she oftenest invites him to walk along the beach and chase sand peeps. Strange to say, this amusement never fails though the sand peeps always fly to seaward and disappoint their eager hunter.

     I hope that I have not said too much. I think your plan a charming one, and wish you great success.


Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College.


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