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.
I have made up my mind to write a book on Toy Dogs, because no one seems to know much about them or their history, and even their points are a constant subject of speculation.
Historians have been contented to repeat the errors of their predecessors until these have become established, while, unfortunately, in modern criticism the fear of offending is so great that most articles on the subject are noncommittal, and practically all reports are masterpieces of damning with faint praise. Unfavourable criticism has come to be almost synonymous with what is called a "spit of hate "; and it is generally correctly considered a sign that the critic and the dog-owner have quarrelled. Not long ago a critic voiced the whole modern attitude by saying that he should endeavour to "wreathe the rod of criticism with roses."
I have no belief in this rose-wreath theory. A critic's work is to criticise and compare, not to make elegant phrases; and, to carry on the metaphor, the wreathing of rods in this manner often ends in the critic running the thorns into his own fingers.
If critics are really competent, there is no need for them to wrap their words in insincere flattery, and a strong judge who knows his business should not condescend to shield himself behind what is merely a device for concealing personal weakness. In my own experience I find that people seldom seriously resent just criticism, however frank, so long as the critic can point out the cause of his disapproval in detail. Too often, however, the critic does not know his subject, and tries to avoid laying himself open to inconvenient cross-questioning.
One of these drawing-room critics tells me that "comparisons are odious," but competition is essentially comparison, and dog shows in this respect are inconceivably odious. If a reporter is conscientious and writes sensible reports without regard to the advertisers of his employer, the editors are so busy with their blue pencils that the reports again become too insipid to be of the slightest use to anybody. Editorial offices are generally hotbeds of suppression. However, this is not always the case, and there are a few intrepid exceptions. Of course, there is no need to go out of our way to insult a dog's owner unnecessarily, but bad defects should not be suppressed so that the report is misleading.
The fear of giving offence from which editors suffer led once to an amusing incident. I wrote a comparative criticism for one of the newspapers. The editor had previously undertaken to publish my report in full without alteration, that being the condition on which I wrote it. I compared two dogs carefully, one to the disadvantage of the other. This criticism was omitted from the report in spite of the editor's undertaking, and some stereotyped journalistic praise substituted (all over my name), and I received a reproving letter from the editor saying that these comparisons were considered in bad taste and very likely to give unnecessary offence, that they showed personal animosity to the owner, etc., etc.
This lecture on good manners would have been more impressive, doubtless, but for the fact that the dog so severely criticised was my own, and that the "personal animosity" was therefore directed against myself! I really had not the heart to enlighten the editor, but it was exceedingly entertaining to me when the fanciers who read the substituted article said it was scandalous that an owner should praise her own dogs!
I do not complain of the inevitable printer's errors, though these are often a source of embarrassment to the writer, who sees his carefully composed sentences turned by the printer's devil into mere twaddle. There was once an old general who saw himself referred to in a New York paper as "the battle-scared veteran." He marched round to the editor in a state of unexampled fury and was received with effusive apologies. "Unfortunate printer's error - so sorry - a thousand apologies - no reflection whatever intended on the gallant officer - error should be instantly corrected." Somewhat pacified, the general returned home, only to read of himself next day as "the bottle-scarred veteran." What he said to the editor this time is not on record, but the following morning a panegyric was at last safely printed, and he went forth to the world as "the battle-scarred veteran," which the editor protested was what he had always meant him to be.
Editors are, alas, a lawless lot! They promise one proofs which they do not send. They make hay of one's grammar and mince pies of one's paragraphs - but they are nothing to editresses! An editress who did not agree with me once published a letter of mine after having suppressed the negatives all the way through it, making me thus appear to say the contrary of what I had actually said - to the consternation of my readers, who to this day do not understand what happened.
I also sent an article to a paper edited by a woman. It was never acknowledged, but five months later a large portion of it was published as an editorial article!
This kind of literary highway robbery appears to be common with editresses, and the mention of highwaymen reminds me of a pirate who took the photograph of my dog Champion Windfall and published it in an American paper under another name as the said pirate's own dog. I had to write to the English Embassy before I could get an apology published. On another occasion I wrote an article for a lady's journal and got an enthusiastic letter from the editress, saying she had been much interested and quite agreed with every word I said; but that as unfortunately humour was not a strong point with ladies, would I be kind enough to delete everything that could possibly be interpreted as a joke, play upon words, or witticism of any description. This I obediently did (under protest), stipulating, however, that the word "fiascos" should not be journaleesed into "fiasci," and sent in the amended version. In a week's time I got another letter from the editress full of apologies. She said she had never realised till it was in "cold print" what a very serious article it was, and she had therefore taken the liberty of cutting out everything serious and had published "the rest" I leave my readers to imagine what sort of literary composition it was when it appeared minus both blade and handle, so to speak, and I am willing for the honour of my sex to believe that this amiable editress judged her readers by a standard of limitations which they would repudiate with scorn.