A recent project to repair dust jackets has been the opportunity for dipping randomly into the novels (naturally) and I’ve noticed just how many animals there are in Barsetshire. Putting the Keiths’ cook’s approach to cat population control to one side (or not, as it was probably widely accepted at the time; E M Delafield’s Provincial Lady (1930) is a fellow conspirator to felicide) AT was a largely sympathetic observer of pet/human dynamics even if not, herself, a devoted pet owner.
My own favourites are Gunnar, the Tebbens’ tabby. Adored and cosseted by Mr and Mrs Tebben, Gunnar has scant respect for the family, and isn’t above sharpening his claws on Mrs Palmer’s skirt or stealing and then bragging about it. (August Folly)
Mr Middleton’s spaniel, Flora, who knows precisely how disobedient she can be without recriminations from the doting and deluded “Master”. (Before Lunch)
Hacker’s chameleon Greta Garbo/Philip Gibbon (or “Mr Percy’s rat” as Nanny Twicker called him/her) may not be the cuddliest pet, but Hacker loves it and makes strenuous (if disastrous) efforts to accommodate it at all times. Gibbon enjoys the honour of having the last word in Summer Half, with his change into mourning black for Mr Lorimer. Not quite the cliff-hanger of Cheerfulness Breaks In, but memorable nonetheless.
Any favourites anyone? Please let us know, using the comment box below.
I opened up my recently-acquired first edition of Pomfret Towers and behold, on page 25 there is Penny. Sally Wicklow drags him (which was a surprise as I thought Penny tended to be a feminine name) from under the chair and he proves to be ‘an old Scotch terrier with a face as large as an elephant’s.’ The dog-besotted Sally says “Isn’t he a clever dog to know his Aunt Sally is here? And weren’t Aunt Sally’s dogs clever children to smell Penny?” Mrs Barton who rather cold-bloodedly says that he needs to be destroyed makes Horton, the butler, take him away along with Sally’s dogs. Any self-respecting dog-lover will, of course, be on Penny’s side. Hilary Temple