This section is from the book "Toy Dogs And Their Ancestors", by Neville Lytton. Also available from Amazon: Toy Dogs And Their Ancestors: Including The History And Management Of Toy Spaniels, Pekingese, Japanese, And Pomeranians.
Stonehenge, in "British Rural Sports," 1876, says: "About the year 1841 perhaps but two or three good specimens existed in the neighbourhood of Blenheim - and only one of surpassing excellence - a bitch named Rose, belonging to Mr. A. K. Kingle, of Oxford - she weighed four and a half or five pounds. Her head, exquisitely modelled and full of character and intelligence, was in exact proportion to her size. Her coat was soft, silky, shiny and of transparent whiteness except where it was stained with the genuine rich 'Blenheim Orange.' "
The price of a Blenheim in 1860 was about £15.
The "Penny Encyclopaedia" of 1841 states that Dr. Caius's Comforter, or Spaniel Gentle, was a Maltese, and stood alone as the lady's lap dog of his time. Not being at all a good Latin scholar myself I deputed a com-petent person to verify this and Dr. Caius's original writings.
I give here a literal translation of Dr. Caius's much misquoted words on Toy dogs. Dr. Caius was physician to Queen Elizabeth. The original text is in Latin 1570:1
Reading "Apud": "There are also among us, among the kind of high-bred dogs, but outside the common run of these dogs, those . . ."
1 Early natural history writers often wrote " dog Latin " in more senses than one.
Reading "aliud": " There is also among us another kind of highbred dogs, but outside the common run of these dogs (namely), those which Callimachus calls Melitei from the Island of Melita in the Sicilian strait, whence that kind chiefly had its origin also. That kind is very small indeed and chiefly sought after for the amusement and pleasure of women. The smaller the kind the more pleasing it is, so that they may carry them in their bosoms, in their beds; and in their arms in their carriages. That kind of dog are altogether useless for any purposes, except that they ease pain of the stomach, being often appplied to it, or frequently borne in the bosom- of the diseased person (easing pain), by their moderate warmth 1 (lit.: by the moderation of their vital heat). Moreover it is believed from their sickness and (2) frequently their death that diseases even are transferred to them, as if the evil passed over to them owing to the intermingling3 (lit.: likeness) of vital heat."
In his table Dr. Caius gives the Maltese dog under Canes Delicati as the Comforter, or Spaniel Gentle, but Fleming explains that the Melitaeus supplanted the Comforter, and gives all Chamber Companions "pleasant play-fellows" under Spaniels Gentle. In my opinion Caius was referring to more than one variety of Toy dog in his book. Most people seem to have understood him to refer only to one breed, but it seems curious that he should have overlooked the Holland Spaniel in describing the Melitei only. The opening sentence seems to show that he merely classed the Melitei as Chamber Companions under the head "Spaniel Gentle," and described them as outside the common run of these dogs.
1 The pet dogs of Mexico are still used for this purpose.
2 Plerumque. If the comma at intelligitur is correct, then it must be taken with morte, if there is no comma it might be translated with intelligitur - " It is often or generally believed."
3Similitudine is a curious word here: it would seem to imply some special likeness between the "vital heat" of these dogs and that of human beings.
Fleming, writing six years after Caius, in 1576, translates him as follows: "Of the delicate, neat and pretty kind of dogs called the Spaniel Gentle, or Comforter, in Latine Melitaeus, or Fotor , . . There is besides another sort of gentle dogges in this our English soyle but exempted from the order of the residue, the dogges of this kind doth Callimachus call Melitaeus of the Island Melita in the sea of Sicily (which at this day is named Malta an island indeede). These dogges are little pretty proper and fyne and sought to satisfie the delicatenesse of daintie dames and wanton womens wills instruments of folly for them to play and dallie withall to tryfle away the treasure of time to withdraw their mindes from more commendable exercions . . . with vaine distractions."
Fleming adds an explanatory description of his own, which decides the identity of this particular Melitaeus. "Iseland dogges curled and rough all over which by reason of the length of their haire make showe neither of face nor of body yet these curs forsooth because they are so strange are greatly set by, esteemed, taken up and made of many times in the roome of the Spaniel Gentle or Comforter"
It is quite evident from this that the "Iseland" dogges were not the true Spaniel Gentle but his sup-planter, the Maltese, whose personal appearance is accurately described and shows him to be the type that is still known as the Maltese.
This description absolutely and finally disposes of the time honoured fallacy by which Toy Spaniel historians have claimed Fleming's Melitei as being Toy Spaniels as we know them.
From being called Melitei or Island dogs subsequent writers got to calling them Iceland dogs, and Captain Brown calls the Spaniel Gentle the Spanish Gentle, and the Maltese being subsequently called the Shock dog, the name of Comforter eventually returned to the Holland Spaniel
In 1607, E. Topsell says: "In England there are the Mimicke or Gentulian dog and the Melitein dogs." He quotes Strabo, but adds much of his own.
"There is a towne in Pachynus, a promontory of Sicily called Melita, from whence are transported many fine little dogs called Melitei canes, they were accounted the jewels of women but now the said towne is possessed by fishermen and there is no such tender reckoning made of these tender little dogs, for these are not bigger than common ferrets."
The Mimicke or Gentulian dog, of which there is a picture, does not concern us, as he was a monstrosity, enormously high on his legs with a hump back and no neck.