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 venture to think that they would have preferred my original letter even at the cost of an occasional jest!
I do not intend to make this a book of jokes, but I mean to say just what I think and to record a few of the observations I have made on the breeds of dogs which have specially come under my notice.
I trust that no one will take offence at anything I may say about individual dogs. I am writing this book for the good of the breeds and not for the advancement of my own dogs or to disparage others, but I am tired of the milk-and-water criticisms of those who are too timid or too polite to give an outspoken opinion. I shall, therefore, be as frank in my criticism of modern dogs as if they were stuffed specimens in a museum, otherwise no good can be done. What I say cannot be all praise for each individual, and I hope that the owners of dogs criticised by me will take it in good part, as it is not my wish to hurt their feelings.
We are told that one of the greatest secrets of success in disseminating one's opinions is in making other people think they have originated one's ideas. In this I have been so singularly successful that I have seen part of my articles reprinted bodily with other people's names attached, and to these people I can only recommend a study of the fable respecting the jackdaw who put on other people's feathers and got laughed at for his pains. For this and other reasons I have determined to write a book of my own.
I have dealt only with Japanese, Pekingese, Pomeranians, and Toy Spaniels. Of some of the other Toy breeds I know nothing, and of the Toy Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, and Maltese I can only say that they have been "improved" (?) out of all beauty, and there does not appear to be enough of the old material left to make it worth while recapitulating the points which they have long ceased to possess. The Puff dog or Shock dog, as the Maltese was called, has lost his puffed-out coat, high set ears, and short back; the Toy Poodle has lost his pretty face, deep stop, and large black eyes, in common with most other show breeds, and as for the unfortunate show Yorkshire Terrier, with his unnatural existence as a "clothes peg," the less said the better.
My chief study has, of course, been the Toy Spaniel. The difficulty of collecting material has been very great, and I have had some amusing experiences in the course of my researches.
At the start I advertised for some pictures of Toy Spaniels. What got into the wording of my advertisement I do not know. I fancy it must have been the printer's devil again - but by return of post I received a special brand of Borneo cigar, and an anonymous volume entitled "Memoirs of Icthiosauri and Plesiosauri," containing, sure enough, diagrams of the Icthiosaurus Chi-rostrongulostinus and the Plesiosaurus Tessarestarsos-tinus! I do not know if this was a delicate hint that the modern Toy Spaniel is as grotesque as an antediluvian monster, or whether I got a parcel intended for someone else, but the Icthiosaurus Chirostrongulostinus still adorns my library. By a succeeding post I received three crocodile skins, four prints of a rhinoceros, and a new kind of incubator, and when the evening post brought me an almost life-sized engraving of Canterbury Cathedral, the postman began to cry out for mercy.
The best of these odd parcels was a very curious little book full of the strangest pictures of dragons and other animals, which made me congratulate myself that I had never had to exhibit the Manticora, the Arompo, or the Allocamelus, though I must say I regret I am never to see the Strepsiceros in this world or to meet the harmless Potto.
All this, crowned with an able pamphlet on church turrets and Carillon machinery, did not advance my knowledge of Toy Spaniels. I speedily stopped advertising and went to the British Museum. There I spent many months confronted with innumerable books, arranged in countless rows round a room that appears considerably larger than the Albert Hall and Buckingham Palace combined, and had it not been for the kindness and intelligence of the officials I should be there to this day.
A liking for dogs runs in my family. Lord Byron, my great grandfather, wrote verses on his own dog which are too well known to quote, but the epitaph he wrote on a pet dog belonging to Lady Byron is not so well known:
Alas, poor Prim,
I'm sorry for him.
I'd rather by half
It had been Sir Ralph.
Sir Ralph Milbanke being his father-in-law, the verse has the usual caustic Byronic vigour.
Lady Byron had a Black-and-tan Toy Spaniel called Fairy. This dog had a very wavy coat, her eyes were extremely large and her nose short, but not short like the modern dogs. She had a curious temper and liked very few people. The poor thing came to an untimely end, being drowned in a garden tank at Moore place, Esher, in 1846. My father bred Blenheims for many years and owned Bulbul, who was full brother to Oxford Bob, sire of Champion Rollo. My mother also bred Bettina from Bulbul and Juliet, who was got for her by Miss Dillon and was of her strain. All these appear in the pedigrees of our show dogs. Seetsu Prince, Snowshower, Fairy Blossom, Storm King, Red Admiral, Kim, Duke Dorynski, Stuart King and Caris are all dogs directly descended from some of the Crabbet dogs.
I have kept Toy Spaniels from my earliest days, and shall never forget my first sight of a Blenheim Spaniel. I had gone with my mother to visit Miss Dillon in Oxfordshire, and when I awoke on the first morning there suddenly rushed into the room a wonderful thing all fluff and feather. It sprang on to my bed and danced about on my pillow, licking my face and rolling over in an ecstasy of youth and excitement. I thereupon fell head over ears in love with it. It was called Violet, and I could think and talk of nothing else. It nearly broke my heart to go away - in fact, I as good as asked to take it with me - and home was flat and dull after my late revels. Fortunately my nurse had been as much taken with the dog as I, and so we consoled ourselves by talking together of its perfections. Months went by, and then one day a basket arrived addressed to me. I opened it unsuspectingly, and out of it there came a tiny fairy thing that could have stood on a man's hand, a miniature Violet. It was fat, and it was square, and it wagged its little tail and pranced upon its little legs and forthwith tumbled head over heels, as puppies will, and I thought I had never seen anything so lovely.