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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

thomas bewick notes a sagacious dog

see below for attribution
Thomas Bewick (English, 1753-1828) was a naturalist and wood-engraver whose studies and work gained him an excellent reputation as an artist and scholar.  Here's an excerpt from his letters in whch an ancient sheepdog brings him - eventually - just the right model:

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I shall, however, notice an instance, as it happened to occur between my two friends, Mr. Smith, of Woodhall, and Mr. Bailey. The latter, in connection with his report on Cheviot sheep, had given a bad figure of a ram of that breed. This was construed into a design to lessen the character of Mr. Smith's Cheviot sheep, on which, in April, 1798, the latter sent for me to draw and engrave a figure of one of his rams, by way of contrasting it with the figure Mr. Bailey had given. The colour Mr. Smith gave to the business was, not to find fault with Mr. Bailey's figure, but to show hew much he (Mr. Smith) had improved the breed since Mr. Bailey had written his report. Whilst I was at Woodhall, I was struck with the sagacity of a dog belonging to Mr. Smith. The character for sagacity of the Shepherd's Dog was well-known to me, but this instance of it was exemplified before my own eyes. Mr. Smith wished to have a particular ram brought out from amongst the flock, for the purpose of my seeing it. Before we set out, he observed to the shepherd, that he thought the old dog (he was grey-headed and almost blind) would do well enough for what he wanted with him. Before we reached the down, where the flock was feeding, I observed that Mr. Smith was talking to the dog before he ordered him off on his errand; and, while we were conversing on some indifferent subject, the dog brought a ram before us. Mr. Smith found a deal of fault with the dog, saying, Did I not order you so and so? and he scolded him for bringing a wrong sheep, and then, after fresh directions, set him off again to bring the one he wished me to see. We then returned home, and shortly after our arrival there, the dog brought the very ram wanted, along with a few other sheep, into the fold, where I took a drawing of him.
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From Bewick, Thomas, 1753-1828. A Memoir of Thomas Bewick. Newcastle-on-Tyne: Printed by Robert Ward for Jane Bewick , 1862. 182-3.

The illustration: By Thomas Bewick - http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/345995This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons by as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60859319

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