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Washington, United States
loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Thursday, May 19, 2016

the lapdogs of paris

thanks karenswhimsy.com (pd)
From an 1817 book on Paris that covers pretty near everything (a few chapter headings:  "The Garret," "Household Furniture," "Prostitutes," and "Dunghills"), here is an essay on lapdogs and their ladies.



The folly of women in this particular is carried to excess, they become governantes to shock dogs, and bestow on them infinite pains; tread on a lap-dog's paw, you are irretrievably lost in the good graces of its mistress, she may dissemble but she will never forgive, you have wounded her maniton.*
The most exquisite dishes are lavished on these favourites, whilst even a bason of broth is withheld from the sick sufferer languishing in the garret; but there is one extravagance peculiar to Paris, where' arc great blockheads, who, with the view of paying court to the ladies, bear their dogs, publicly under their arms in the promenades and streets, which gives them an air so completely silly and stupid, that one is tempted to laugh in their face, in order to remind them they are men; when I see a beauty profane her lips with the kisses of a dog, not unfrequently ugly and hideous, and who were he even handsome has no claims to such lively affections, I find her eyes less brilliant; by receiving this animal the gracefulness of her arms is diminished; I attach less value to her caresses, and in my eyes she loses the better part of her beauty and attractions. When the death of her spaniel plunges her in despair, when she exacts commiseration for the terrible calamity, till time has softened it into oblivion, this absurdity annihilates the remnant of her charms, and divests her of all pretensions to empire. Never will a woman be a Cartesian,** never will she submit to believe that her lap-dog, when caressing her, is neither a sensible nor a rational being; she would scratch Descartes' face, were he living, for the ungenerous assertion; the fidelity of her dog alone, is in her estimation worth more than the united reason of all mankind.
I have known a pretty woman so seriously displeased as to close her doors on a man who had adopted this preposterous and impertinent opinion—How can sensibility be denied to animals? Admitting however that they are very sensible, and far from vindicating the barbarity they experience from men, let us injure them as little as possible; but whilst we receive nourishment from oxen, sheep, and turkey-cocks, let us beware how we load with senseless caresses, a lap-dog that forms no part of our food. A physician's wife, whose dog was sick, received from her husband the consoling assurance of his recovery; but he either did nothing, or nothing that produced effect! In extreme impatience, she sent for the famous Lyonese,*** whose success was complete. What is your charge? said the grave doctor of the faculty to the preserver of the canine species. "Oh sir, between brethren there is no taking of fees."

*maniton:  the only definition I have found for this is an Iroquois protective spirit.  Which does make some sense here.
**Cartesian:  believing that the mind and its rational powers are wholly separate from the body.  
***Lyonese: a celebrated dog doctor of the time.

from Mercier, L. (1817). Paris: including a description of the principal edifices and curiosities of that metropolis. London: C. Taylor. 259-61.

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