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Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton, and Emily Brontë Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 31, 2007


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1ST edition (July 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345484061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345484062
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,082,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Coaxed through a depression by her golden retriever, Adams, a psychologist and former English professor, was drawn to five exceptional women writers who relied on their loyal dogs for emotional support. Flush distracted Elizabeth Barrett after her favorite brother's death, and the poet wrote about the unsettling similarity between lapdogs and women in Victorian England: both powerless and needing to please others. Formidable, eccentric Emily Brontë, who once savagely beat her fierce mastiff, Keeper, for sleeping on her bed, refused to sentimentalize the human-dog bond in Wuthering Heights, which depicts innocent pets being hung. Carlo, a Newfoundland, comforted Emily Dickinson in a dark time—when she may have been in love with a married man—and Edith Wharton mourned the death of one of her pooches more than the death of her mother. And Adams suggests that Virginia Woolf, depicting a dog's trauma in her biography of Flush, who was dognapped for ransom, dealt with her own childhood molestation (a picture of Woolf's dog, Pinka, appeared on the cover of Flush's biography). Although Adams's knowledgeable minibiographies are necessarily skewed toward a specialized subject matter, lovers of both dogs and classic writers will identify with this sweet, quirky book. Illus. (July 31)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Adams takes a fascinating look at the private lives of five women writers through their relationships with their dogs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was in deep mourning for the death of her brother when a friend sent her Flush, a lively little cocker spaniel that brightened her days and drew her out of her isolation. Emily Brontë scorned lapdogs but would roam the moors of Haworth with her ferocious mastiff, Keeper. Emily Dickinson shared her poems and her thoughts with Carlo, her Newfoundland, while Edith Wharton had a succession of small dogs, such as Chihuahuas and Pekingese, throughout her life, and they became her constant companions in old age. Virginia Woolf and her husband, Leonard, both loved dogs, and Virginia even penned a novel about Elizabeth Barrett Browning's dog, Flush, who was abducted several times by nefarious dognappers. Adams elucidates each woman's emotional connection to the dogs in her life and also shows how each canine made it into a great authoress' writing. Written in lively, accessible prose, this absorbing, wholly unique book is a must-read for literature- and dog-lovers alike. Huntley, Kristine

More About the Author

Maureen Adams is a licensed clinical psychologist in Sonoma CA and an adjunct faculty professor at the University of San Francisco. A former professor of English, Dr. Adams combines her knowledge of psychology and literature with her lifelong love of dogs in Shaggy Muses.

Customer Reviews

Highly recommended for lovers of dogs and of literature.
RJB516
Aside from their attachments to their dogs, I loved learning more about their lives.
Susan Y. Cook
I was surprised by how much information there was on each writer.
T. R. Evans

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on August 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The five writers who are the subject of Shaggy Muses-Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Bronte-are so well-known and well-studied one might think it difficult to approach their biographies freshly. But Maureen Adams, a clinical psychologist interested in the human/animal bond and ex-professor of English, has found a new entry point into their lives: their relationships with their family dogs.

These relationships are not always sentimental, and Adams' approach is not to idealize the role of dogs in human lives, but instead to explore, through letters, journals and accounts by the writers' friends and family members, how these dogs influenced the lives and writing of these famous authors. Adams explores the vast difficulties of the lives of these women, including the famous cloistered existence of Emily Dickinson and the well-known poor health of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for example. But she also shows these five writers, whose lives were harder than we can imagine, enjoying life and managing to pursue their writing, sometimes because of the protection and loyalty of their companion dogs.

The influence that these dogs had on their literary owners varied-while Edith Wharton surrounded herself with Pekinese but never seemed to write directly about them, Emily Bronte's dog Keeper finds an almost exact parallel in her famous novel Wuthering Heights. Virginia Woolf was almost never without a pet dog, they appeared often throughout her diaries, and she even wrote an entire novel, Flush: A Biography, imagining the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's beloved dog. Emily Dickinson's dogs appear in several of her poems and in her letters, just as Elizabeth Barrett Browning's dog Flush appeared in many of her letters to friends.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By K. Hadd on October 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book even though I wasn't familar with all of the authors listed. I loved it! Each chapter is its own fascinating story detailing a different author and how her dog inspired her. I didn't expect the book to be such a page turner and so enjoyable! This book would also make a great gift or bookclub selection.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By RJB516 on November 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I was drawn to this book because I'm a dog lover and the idea of examining the relationship between dogs and humans has always interested me. I have read the works of only a couple of the authors covered in "Shaggy Muses" and thought that might limit the appeal the book would have for me, but quite the opposite.

All five of the biographies are extremely well written and illuminative. Authtor Maureen Adams shows how the relationship between the authors and their dogs influenced their lives and work. These relationships were different for each of the writers. I think the best definition of Keeper's role with Emily Bronte is a protector, while Flush helped Elizabeth Barrett Browning emerge from grief and isolation after the death of her brother.

Highly recommended for lovers of dogs and of literature.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Wild Irish Rose on October 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of literature written by women, I approached this book mostly with the desire to find out more about these women writers from what I hoped would be a new angle. And author Maureen Adams provided that fresh vantage point by looking at the women through the dogs that were so important in their lives. I admit I am not a dog person at all, but I was taken with how the pets affected the daily lives and also the creative endeavors of these famous women. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, at first a bedridden hermit, found new energy and purpose in Flush, her Cocker Spaniel. Emily Dickinson, perhaps as famous for her shy nature and homebound life as for her poetry, found the courage to venture further from home with the companionship of her Newfoundland dog, Carlo. Adams helped me appreciate such bonds. I would recommend this book to all lovers of literature, as well as dog enthusiasts.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By T. R. Evans on October 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is terrific. It traces the influence of dogs on the lives of famous women writers. I was surprised by how much information there was on each writer. In 37 pages I gained a huge appreciation for Emily Dickinson, more perhaps than I could in a 300 page biography.
Ms. Adams has an uncanny knack for taking the reader into the culkture she is writing about. With her attention to detail and the social culture of the author, I felt I was walking the streets of Amherst, Massachusetts 150 years ago with Emily's dog Carlo at my side. Many of these authors found great consolation in their dogs, often talking to them, reading to them, allowing them to fill emotional vacuums in their lives. I came away with an enlarged understanding and respect for the healing influence of dogs as beloved pets.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Kittleson on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Maureen Adams provides thoughtful insight into the very private lives of these five troubled women authors by exposing and exploring their relationships with their beloved dogs. Through Adams' well researched narrative, we learn about how and why these dogs were so important to each of these women, giving some confidence, others companionship and all of them love. Adams' background in psychology and literature allow her to weave these topics together in an unlikely subject matter to great effect. This is an illuminating and enjoyable read!
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