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.
To return to Dr. Caius. Ten years after Fleming, Harrison, 1588, has still further confused us by adding some more to Caius's supposed words, and quoting Fleming with embellishments. In fact, these writers remind one forcibly of the game of Russian scandal - each quotes the other with alterations of his own. He says: "Of the delicate, weak, and pretty kind of dogges called the Spaniel Gentle, or the Comforter . . . the 3rd sort of dog of the gentle kind is the Spaniel Gentle, or Comforter, or as the common term is the ? hound, and these are called Melitei of the Island Malta from where they were brought hither.1 These are little, pretty, proper and fine and sought out far and near to satisfie the nice, delicacie of daintie dames and wanton womens wills, instruments of follie to plaie and dallie withall in trifling away the treasure of time ... a sillie poore shift to shun their irksome idleness. These sybar-itical puppies the smaller they be and thereto if they have a hole in the forepart of their heads the better they are accepted, and the more pleasure they provoke as meet plaie fellows for mincing mistresses to beare in their bosoms to keep companie withall in their chambers, to succor with sleepe in bed and nourish with meat at bord, to lie in their laps and licke their lips as they lie like young Dianaes in their wagons and coches: - and good reason it should be so for coarseness with finenesse hath no fellowship but featnesse with neatnesse hath neighbourhood enough." He continues his diatribe in very strong language and ends:1 "It is thought by some that it is verie wholesome for a weak stomach to be beare such a dog in the bosom," and Caius adds - (he says) " and though some suppose that such dogges are fyt for no service, I daresay by their leaves they be in a wrong boxe."
1" Whence that kind of dog chiefly had its origin also." - Caius.
This reference to a hole in the forepart of the forehead, attributed to Dr. Caius, but really interpolated much later by Harrison, has been often quoted as conclusive evidence of the identity of the Toy Spaniel with Dr. Caius's Meliteus, but Fleming's description applies only to the orthodox Maltese. It is clear that the hole in the forehead could not apply to the Toy Spaniel of Queen Mary's time, which had no stop whatever, and we find in the "Book of the Dog" (p. 448), a reference to early writers as saying that "it was customary to press the nasal bone of the Maltese puppies so that they might seem more elegant in the sight of man." Combined with Fleming, this tends to show that there were two or more kinds of Meliteus and probably did apply to Toy Spaniels, as I feel sure that Toy Spaniels existed in Malta two centuries later, but there is no evidence of any importation in Harrison's time, though it is possible that importations may have taken place then. Against this, however, there is the fact that not a vestige of the Italian Toy Spaniel with the stop, can be found in England between 1586 and 1660, so that the dogs, if imported at all, must have died out immediately, only to be re-imported about 1660.
1The expressions omitted here are unnecessarily coarse.
A study of Callimachus, so often quoted, gives no result, and I cannot find that he mentions the Melitei at all in any work now available.
Strabo has been extensively quoted by subsequent writers as saying many things about the dogs, but, search as I will, I can find nothing but the following, which consists of eleven words in Greek and seven in Latin, so any further details must have been added by the translators: "Opposite Pachynus lie two islands. Malta, whence come the small species of dog which takes its name from the place, and Gaudus." 1
Buffon gives the Maltese (or Shock) dog as a cross between the black-and-white Toy Spaniel and the tricolour petit Barbet, which was in itself a cross between the black-and-white Toy Spaniel and the red-and-white Barbet. The Maltese was therefore considered a variety of Toy Spaniel, but I have proved that it was a very ancient breed which I have traced back to 200 B.C.
Linnaeus, 1792, says that the Melitaeus is about the size of a squirrel.
The poem quoted by Mrs. Jenkins, written by Swift on a lady's Spaniel, was supposed to have been composed in ridicule of Philips' poem on Miss Carteret, and was written, it has been said, to affront the lady of Arch. Boulter. (See Jesse, 1865.)
Rees's "Cyclopaedia," 1819, says: "The Comforter is another small dog allied to the Maltese and is a general attendant on the ladies at the toilet or in the drawing-room, but it is of a snappish, ill-tempered disposition and very noisy."
1 Translated from Strabo's "Geography," Book VI, Chapter II (Toy Dog Origin And History), par. II, in Greek and Latin, edited by C. Muller and F. Dubner, Paris, 1853.
The next mention of the Comforter is by Bewick, in 1824, and by that time, the Maltese having become very scarce, the name was applied by Bewick to the fashionable cushion dog and ladies' pet of his time, which was the descendant of the Holland Spaniel.
The liver-and-white Holland Toy Spaniel existed in Dr. Caius's time, but he makes no reference to it, and Harrison clearly referred to the imported Melitei, as the Holland Spaniel of that period, being quite destitute of stop, could not, as I have already said, have been spoken of as having "a hole in the forepart of the forehead;" moreover, I have already shown that this was a peculiarity prized in some kinds of Maltese dogs of Caius's time.