Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Virginia Woolf - A Dog's view of London (& Robert Browning of New Cross)

One of Virginia Woolf's lesser known works is Flush (1933), a biography of Eizabeth Barrett's spaniel. It's partly a whimsical parody of Victorian biography, but it does include a dog's eye (or rather dog's nose) perspective of London:

'For the first time he heard his nails click upon the hard paving stones of London. For the first time the whole battery of a London street on a hot summers day assaulted his senses. He smelt the swooning smells that lie in the gutters; the bitter smells that corrode iron railings; the fuming, heady smells that rise from basements - smells more complex, corrupt, violently contrasted and compounded than any he had smelt in the fields near Reading; smells that lay far behind the range of the human nose'.

The dog is stolen and a ransom demanded, leading to a disagreement between Barrett and Robert Browning about how to respond: 'What would Mr Browning had done if the banditti had stolen her: had her in their power; threatened to cut off her ears  and send them by post to New Cross?'

The reference to New Cross comes from the fact that the poet Robert Browning was living in New Cross at the time he and Elizabeth Barrett exchanged romantic letters prior to their marriage and elopement to Italy in 1846. A plaque on Haberdashers' Aske's school at the bottom of Jerningham Road is near to the site of  Browning's 'Telegraph Cottage'.

photo from London Remembers

1 comment:

runner500 said...

That's interesting; I hadn't realised that there was maroon plaque there, it isn't on Lewisham's list