Guest contributor Bill Atkinson shares a tale penned by an Edwardian lady about a little dog. It suggests that 100 years ago they had rather different ideas about what was deemed suitable for children’s entertainment…
Sandy was the favorite pet of Edith Monro Armstrong (b.
1874, d 1960), an Edwardian lady, Doctor’s wife, chatelaine, accomplished harpist, capable carriage driver and world traveller. Sandy was the first American Staffordshire Terrier brought into Canada.
Sandy’s sad story, told from his canine point of view, was published as a children’s book in 1914 and as a serial in the Boy’s Journal, a penny-dreadful re-named The Dreadnought with the onset of bellicosities later that year. It featured Hentyesque yarns of forthright public school lads defeating moustachioed Huns, swarthy Iberians and bull-necked Slavs.
The original, Story Of My Life: The Trials and Triumphs of Sandy the Scrapper was revised thirty-five years later in 1949 and circulated in manuscript form to friends and relatives. This excerpt from the original gives us some of the flavour of a hundred years past.
Just a few days after my accident I was running along on three legs, accompanying my mistress down the street when I noticed a slight disturbance of the ivy growing on the wall of a neighbors house. I spied what seemed to be a large rat right behind the ivy. As the gate was open I proceeded to investigate.
Just then my mistress called me and I intended to obey, but on closer scrutiny I discovered it was a kitten. I have come to the conclusion that for generations my ancestors must have been professional cat-slayers, because the very sight of one stirs up such emotions in me that kill it I must. This murderous instinct becomes uppermost in my mind. A devil seems to possess me, and for the time being I am a raving maniac, possessed by a demon that seems part and parcel of some old infuriated ancestor. It does seem strange that I should become so friendly with all my neighbors dogs and so antagonistic to all their cats.
A few slight, quick manoeuvres on my part secured my favorite hold, and I had my two eye-teeth embedded deep in the pit of its little stomach, and the kitten was no more. I admit it sounds like Jack the Ripper, that awful Whitechapel murderer, but it only goes to show what heredity will do- “ ‘ Tis true ’tis pity and ’tis pity ’tis true.” But I had cause that fight to rue. A series of reminders from the toe of my mistress’ heavy walking boots followed in quick succession. Then crossing my two front paws and gripping them tightly, she literally dragged me home, compelling me to walk nearly a block on my two hind legs. As soon as she reached our own gate she stooped and picked up a broken lath and gave me a whipping such as I’ll never forget to my dying day. Each time she brought the lath down in the very same spot until she had me dancing jigs, polkas, two-steps, tangos, turkey-trots, and all the fancy side-steps in the catalogue.
“The quality of mercy” was strained and despite my entreaties, down came that old lath over and over again, never by any chance varying its course, but always in the same place to a fraction of an inch. As all things some time come to an end, so did the whipping. Not until she became weary in well-doing did she “cease her unhallowed tumult.” Then I was muzzled and she absolutely refused to allow me to accompany her to town.