Sir Kenneth Clark, the art historian, was director of Britain's National Gallery, and the funny little man in brown suits you see on PBS reruns of "Civilisation".
I could talk about Sir Kenneth all day. The warmth and human wisdom of his scholarship made me fall in love with civilization, particularly art history, at a young age. To this day when I seek comfort I can always find it in one of his books. He's no longer in intellectual fashion, and we're poorer and crueller for it.
But I want to give you a taste of that scholarship, and so here's Sir Kenneth Clark musing about the world and the dog in it:
It is sometimes said that the love of dogs is more intense in England than
anywhere else; but this is an illusion. There are many passages in
Turgenev's Sportsman's Sketches which go at least as far as
anything to be found in English literature in their love of dogs and
horses. Nevertheless there are countries where, for no clear reason, dogs
are despised. . . even in Catholic countries they come in for harsh
treatment from simple people who have been told that they are without
souls. As the Neapolitan says when reproved for beating his donkey,
"Perche no? Non e christiano."* I have also known some very intelligent
Englishmen who rebel against the Anglo-Saxon obsession with dogs. They
would be shocked by that remarkably intelligent and unsentimental woman, Edith
Wharton. Asked to draw up a list of the seven 'ruling passions' in her
life, she put second, after 'Justice and Order', 'Dogs'. 'Books' came
third. But in a diary entry she wrote a beautiful modification of her
feelings: "I am secretly afraid of animals -- of all animals except dogs,
and even of some dogs. I think it is because of the us-ness in
their eyes, with the underlying not-usness which belies it, and is so
tragic a reminder of the lost age when we human beings branced off and left
them: left them to eternal inarticulateness and slavery. Why? Their
eyes seem to ask us."
-- Clark, Kenneth. Animals and Men (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1977), p. 51.
* Italian: Why not? He's not a Christian.