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4 Dreamworlds of the Bourgeois Interior (I) Pets and Private Life
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Dreamworlds of the Bourgeois Interior (I) Pets and Private Life

Dogs formed only a part of nineteenth-century petkeeping culture. Fish, birds, and even plants, as well as cats, the anti-pet par excellence, complement the beings within the fantasy universe of the ordinary bourgeois. The domestic interior reveals itself here as the setting of a vision at once utopian and parodic, a worldview that hovered somewhere between the dreams of Charles Fourier and the later fantasies of the science fiction novel.

What do we make, for example, of Victorian enthusiasm for the épinoche, or stickleback, whose family life highly recommended it for French aquariums? Florent Prévost, whose popular pet-care book was awarded a medal of honor in 1861 by the Parisian animal protection society, instructed home aquarists in the art of stickleback watching. Provide the fish with a tangle of aquatic plants from which a nest can be built, he explained: "We see the male set immediately to work, sorting and making his selection, carrying these bits of plants in his mouth to a place he has chosen, laying them one on top of another, fixing them in place with butts of his head, attending to his work with very great attention."1

When the nest is built, the male looks for a mate: "The male throws himself into the midst of a group of females to attract the attention of any who might he disposed to lay eggs, offering a shelter for her offspring." Stickleback lovemaking takes place privately in the nest. The book invites aquarists to imagine the lovemaking of sticklebacks by following its traces, to note by the female's tail, sole portion of the body visible, "the convulsive movements [that] indicate the efforts she makes to lay her eggs," to witness the male's encouraging behavior toward his


mate, then imagine his own vital activity: "He follows the same path as she, gliding over the eggs while wriggling and depositing the reproductive liquid."2

Domesticity is the male's preserve: "The male is left as the sole guardian of his precious deposit." Not only do females take no part in protecting the eggs, "they become their most dangerous enemy, forming large raiding parties that attempt to invade the nest to satisfy their ferocious appetites." The male's task is difficult, having to guard the nest against "these devastators," then after hatching, "to watch over the education of his large family." Relentlessly devoted, he fulfills his new function with great care, "not permitting any of the newborns to leave the nest; if one of them escapes, he takes him in his mouth and brings him home." In the process "the male" becomes "the father": "At the end often to twelve days, the little ones are hatched, but the father must still protect them for a rather long time since, if he abandoned them, they would soon become the victims of their enemies."3

Grandville's animals lived in the shadow of middle-class propriety.4 So too did plants, such as the Rossolis, whose habits, like the stickleback's, French Victorians assiduously collected. The Rossolis was a carnivorous swamp plant common in outlying areas of Paris, a "very curious aquarium plant," as Prévost described it. Flies attracted by its color would come to rest on its flower: "Woe betide them! The downy hairs of the flower immediately bristle and envelop the fly, entangling it at a thousand points. The leaf itself curls up and the insect, suddenly imprisoned. . . flounders about in a battle that ends only with his death agony."5

This violence came highly recommended to the Parisian bourgeoisie: "It does very well in apartment ponds, and the bodies of the flies that it kills serve as nourishment for little fish."6 In fin-de-siècle Paris, an environment in miniature—manufactured ruins, sunken ships—intensified the statement of domesticated otherness.7

The aquarium—wildly, if briefly, popular on both sides of the Channel between 1850 and 1880—fits with deceptive ease within the conventional framework of Victoriana. Scientific discoveries by the British chemist and philosopher Joseph Priestley and others allowed the development of a sophisticated system of exchange between water flora and fauna that superseded the goldfish bowl of early modern Europe. More prosaically


defined as "a glass container holding a community of animals and plants in such concentrations as to reflect as nearly as possible the conditions in the wild," the home aquarium was popular, standard accounts tell us, because it satisfied the desires of bourgeois pet owners to be instructed while entertained, to be busy while at leisure.8 This conventional point of view intersects contemporary commentary only superficially—the surface story is the same but the underlying meaning is not.

Predictably, French and British vied for the honor of the aquarium's discovery. According to H. Bout in his 1886 work, "Notes pour servir I'histoire de l'aquarium," which was summarized in the supremely positivist Grande Encyclopédie, the aquarium was invented by a Frenchman, Charles Desmoulins, a professor from Bordeaux. As early as 1830, Bout carefully explained, Desmoulins "proposed that in receptacles in which one wished to conserve living freshwater fish one would place aquatic plants, of either floating or submerged varieties, in order that the vegetation would ingest the carbon dioxide that was the end product of the respiration of animals while emitting oxygen that those [animals] needed for survival."9

Despite French claims to precedence, however, British enthusiasts undeniably established the aquarium as a fashionable diversion of middle-class life. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, a Whitechapel surgeon who, according to David Elliston Allen, was "the true inventor of the aquarium," had discovered in 1829 (or early 1830) that enclosing plants in bottles created a self-sustaining universe—an invention that triggered a craze for collecting and displaying ferns, plumed "emerald green pets glistening with health and beadings of warm dew," as one smitten contemporary explained. In 1837 Ward suggested to the British Association for the Advancement of Science that principles he had previously developed for plantkeeping be applied to animal life.10

But it was Robert Warington, a chemist, who first publicized the principles of the aquarium and probably, as Lynn Barber suggests, warrants credit as the inventor of the aquarium. In 1850 he presented a paper on the principles of the freshwater aquarium to the Chemical Society, and in 1852 a description of the saltwater system was publicized in the Annals of Natural History. At the same time in Devonshire Philip Henry Gosse was conducting essentially the same experiments. Gosse,


already a best-selling author, "with a faithful public behind him," as Barber notes, "precipitated the huge popular craze for the invention" by describing his experiments first in 1853 in his still fascinating work, A Naturalist's Rambles on the Devonshire Coast, and a year later in The Aquarium, a handbook that, La Grande Encyclopédie also explains, had an enormous popular success.11

In 1861 Florent Prévost could note that "Paris and London now stock their apartments with these miniature fish ponds with transparent walls, mounted on pedestals." Aquariums, "instruments of progress (appareilsde progrès )," as La Grande Encyclopédie described them, were status symbols.12 They were commercialized and in an apparently trickle-down movement were available to enthusiasts at many levels of society. "Aquariums have become fashionable, and the industry that admirably exploits this new taste has made aquariums into elegant household furniture from which simplified versions, more or less rich, are adapted to the taste of children, of workers, of the garret and the salon." A simple glass globe, Prévost observed: voilà l'aquaire de l'amateur (the enthusiast's aquarium). La Grande Encyclopédie reproduced one of these pretty globes of glass on sale at all the crystal shops, for instance, those of M. Boutigny, Palais-Royal, 22, galerie Montpensier, who, Prévost noted, "has a wide variety of models for the salon, globes and small aquariums of all sizes that are very elegant."13

In England, one contemporary observed, "it has now become one trade to supply tanks and vases for aquaria, and another to collect and supply plants and animals for stocking." Lynn Barber credits "the efficiency of the railways [that] made it possible to transmit live specimens from the seaside into London within one day." And while Gosse in The Aquarium optimistically claimed that "in London sea-water may be easily obtained by giving a trifling fee to the master or steward of the steamers that ply beyond the mouth of the Thames, charging him to dip it in the clear open sea, beyond the reach of the rivers," Prévost recommended to his French readers the use of salt water made from a formula.14

The London Zoological Society opened the first public aquarium in 1853, attaching Gosse's private collection of sea life to its London zoo. The French followed suit and the Société zoologique du jardin d'ac-climatation added an aquarium to its holdings in the Bois de Boulogne.


In the 1870s more spectacular aquariums were built, like the underground sea palace at the Trocadéro whose eerie deep spaciousness—3,200 square meters underground—was described in its illustration.15 The Brighton Aquarium, "the largest and most beautiful building devoted to piscatorial science in the world," as its promoters believed, opened in 1872, and Southport's and Manchester's exhibitions each opened two years later. New York and Berlin built aquariums that same decade and Britain built another in Sydenham, site of the Crystal Palace.16

From 1850 until around 1880 "the infatuation of the public for aquariums was considerable, as much in England as on the continent." Yet La Grande Encyclopédie wrote shortly thereafter, "now that infatuation has somewhat abated." Aquariums continued to be built at Le Havre, Ros-coif, Vimereux, Concarneau, Arcachon, and Banyuls-sur-Mer, but for exclusively scientific purposes.17 The Reverend J. G. Wood, a credible observer of natural history, fads (his 1858 work, Common Objects of the Country, sold 100 ,000 copies its first week of publication), marked the abatement of "aquarium fever" as he called it, as early as 1867. He recalled the recent past: "The fashionable lady had magnificent plate-glass aquaria in her drawing-room and the schoolboy managed to keep an aquarium of lesser pretensions in his study. The odd corners of newspapers were filled with notes on aquaria, and a multitude of shops were opened for the simple purpose of supplying aquaria and the contents. The feeling, however," he continued, and his metaphor is apt, unwittingly, "was like a hothouse plant, very luxuriant under artificial conditions, but failing when deprived of external assistance."18

Although the introduction of tropical fish into fin-de-siècle Europe and America permanently reinvigorated interest in aquarium keeping—the aquarium still has a place in Western culture—its precipitous decline by around 1880 elicited significant comment. In France, La Grande Encyclopédie explained in 1 886, medical warnings about pernicious miasmas accounted for this decline. It was "above all after the doctors had suggested that effluvia released by evaporation could well produce intermittent fevers" that aquarium keeping fell into disfavor.19 British explanations were less theoretical, as the Reverend Wood's musing suggests. "Perhaps," he wrote, "the beautiful plate-glass aquarium fell to pieces, discharged the several gallons of sea-water over the fashionable


furniture with sea-anemones, crabs, prawns and other inhabitants of the waters." Or, perhaps, he continued, "some of the inmates died, and the owner was too careless to remove them." The water became fetid, and in either case the room where the aquarium was kept became uninhabitable.20

What these contemporary explanations strikingly share is the locus of interrogation, the home, a consideration absent in histories of aquarium keeping that place their subject within the context of Victorian interest in natural history. Lynn Barber suggests that when professional scientists established marine zoological stations, "not open to the public or to interested amateurs," parlor enthusiasm died: "For when the lay public could no longer hope to understand, let alone contribute to, the latest development in marine zoology, they naturally lost all interest in the subject."21 David Elliston glen in his social history of British naturalists explains the "national craze" for aquariums during the 1850s in social and economic terms, gong with Barber, he notes that removal in 1845 of the glass tax helped cause the craze. But there was also a social reason: "A whole new stratum, the 'middle' middle class, had surfaced and exposed itself to cropping. . .. What had been small and rather dilettante coteries became engulfed by huge crowds of zealots. What had been mildly eccentric pastimes ballooned into pursuits of fashionableness and respectability."22 For the coincident craze in France, no studies exist; the subject seems completely neglected by historians.

A cultural reading of nineteenth-century petkeeping, however, avoids the limitations of those based on social history alone. As glen points out, contemporary evidence is meager: "As so often with major social changes of this type, it is difficult to find allusions to it in the writings of contemporaries."23 Yet contemporary explanations of aquarium keeping abound and if we read them along with other aspects of petkeeping culture, they yield important insights into the nature of the bourgeois world.

Consider first the apology of the British naturalist George Sowerby, whose 1857 Popular History of the Aquarium was recommended to French enthusiasts:

In tide-pools of the shore we see the most picturesque miniatures of oceanlife. Surrounded by a reef of small rocks, fringed with overhanging


seaweeds and branching corallines, these little nooks afford grotto-like dwellings for animated beings.
Crabs. . . shrimps. . . sea-flowers. . . seaworms,. . . barnacles. . . and small fishes glitter in the brine as they seek to elude the stranger's sight. Could we but transport this little picture to our dwelling—could we place it in our gardens—could we examine the contents at leisure—could we watch the habits of these living creatures in their native element but far from their native retreats, what an endless source of amusement would it be!

Sowerby asked, "Can we do it? Can we raise the grotto, and carry it home, water, rocks, plants, animals and all?" Of course not, "but we can realize the idea, by collecting the materials and imitating the arrangement, and this will be a 'marine aquarium.'" The same impulse accounted for fresh-water tanks: "Imagine again a section of a river, pond or lake, with its weeds and rushes flourishing, water-snails creeping on the leaves, and fishes gliding among the stems: suppose this section enclosed within glass walls, and placed in your parlour or conservatory and you have a 'fresh-water vivarium.'" The fresh-water aquarium was an "imitation. . . tide pool or pond"; unabashedly Sowerby stressed its


Figure 4. Aquariums with plants. From Florent Prévost, Des animaux d'appartement et de jardin:
Oiseaux, poissons, chiens, chats
(Paris, 1861) (by permission of the Harvard College Library).

artificiality.24 In salt systems, another enthusiast said, the sea anemone, "at once pet, ornament, and subject for dissection" lived on "mimic rocks amid mimic forests of algae in mimic oceans."25 In French homes, the aquarium was an imitation window onto an imitation world:

In the wall separating the aquarium from the salon or room, a piece of glass, simulating a window, in which the ledge would be at the same level as the base of the aquarium, is placed, through which across the peaceful water and aquatic greenery shines into the salon, as into a dark chamber, a halcyon day, serene and calm. And so, without leaving the salon one may study the most curious phenomena.26

The home aquarium had a deliberately private function. Unlike the huge aquariums at the Collège de France, for instance, which offered scientists a look at "a countless number of plants and animals belonging to the most curious and lesser known species that live in the sea," the domestic aquarium "is set out in the actual conditions of pleasure, of ornamentation, between the greenhouse and its flowers, the aviary and its birds."27 Prévost's illustrations are a representation of this promiscuity as the French envisaged it (figure 4).


The nineteenth-century aquarium was a dreamworld. Like the panorama that petkeeping made private, the aquarium was a mixture of real space and fantasy.28 Exotica, role-reversal, ruins, imitation—an interrogation of aquarium keeping tells us less about natural history than about the imaginative context of bourgeois life. Much the same is true of birds. Caged, even elaborately at times, their appeal to the haute bourgeoisie was somewhat limited. Prévost complained that in Paris where greenhouses filled with exotic flowers were fashionable, few aviaries were to be found.29 Flaubert may have better captured the appeal of birds in his projection of parrot-loving sentimentality onto a lower-class woman in A Simple Heart.30

We can pursue this imaginative panorama more vigorously in the parallel case of dogs—obviously, more emotive and plastic than fish but calling up rhymes for the same metaphor of otherness. Nineteenth-century breeds, new or newly defined as we will see, were a narrative, a characteristic story, interchangeable among individuals. The King Charles spaniel, for instance, wept always and everywhere as Charles I was beheaded, while the Saint Bernard dog saved snowbound travelers—even as it slept on drawing-room floors. Transporting their owners into classless time and space as puppets or dolls do, dogs were the instruments of fantasy. The confusion of real and imagined animals points up an enchantment of the home, a fairy-tale-like quality underlined in contemporary manuals of dog care. This reading of petkeeping culture invokes a denatured world, a controlled, contained, imagined world, a corrigible universe of little worlds whose intersection is the bourgeois interior.

The history of dog breeding hints at the impact of petkeeping on everyday life. Though the fact is little known, canine types such as collies and retrievers—contemporary, standard, reproducible types—are inventions of the Victorian age.31 Familiar breeds took definite shape only in the last century anti first acquired consistency in the imagination of the age. In 1788 the influential naturalist Buffon described fourteen varieties of dogs. Some thirty years later Delabere Pritchett Blaine, a dog breeder and canine pathologist, counted at least twenty-four.32 Pierre Larousse, adopting Frederic Cuvier's grouping of three major categories of dogs ("distinguished by the shape of the skull"), described well over fifty types


of dogs in his 1869 essay on dogs33 Thirty years later again, in a three-volume work on French dog breeds, Les Races de chiens, Pierre Mégnin held the line at two hundred. In amazement, Mégnin noted that his listing hardly represented the activity of the century. Like compound interest perhaps: "The number of varieties that have disappeared and of new varieties is such that, in order to conserve the memory of them, we would need to classify them every twenty years."34

How should we understand the proliferation of nineteenth-century breeds? One line of thought runs in the direction of natural history. An eager cataloging of plants and animals into separate species, subspecies, and types quite naturally included canines and measured human beings as well. The new discipline of anthropology was the application to humans of the methods of natural history, as Sigismond Zaborowski-Moindron explained in his Grande Encyclopédie essay on the subject. Anthropology, "one of the most fertile areas in the philosophic movement of our day, has envisaged man. . . as a being who must be studied according to the same methods and classed according to the same principles, that is to say, according to the determination of the same characteristics [as other species]."35 Joseph Boyer's 1876 work, Recherches sur les races humaines de l'Auvergne, more wide-ranging in argument than its title might suggest, is a good example of the application of these principles. It described the French "races" of humans in terms similar to those that distinguished types of dogs, in appearance and disposition, and ranked humans on a scale of superiority. And Boyer's discussion of dégradation perceived the same danger in a mélange of races that structured pet owners' attitudes toward breeding, as we will see in the next chapter36 The relation of the Société d'anthropologie (founded in 1859 by Paul Broca) to the Société impériale d'acclimatation bears investigation.

Competing systems of classification also account for Rabelaisian divisions of canines. Buffon claimed one ancestor for all types of dogs, an archetypal chien de berger, and his ranking of canines was based on resemblances to this race primitive, as Larousse explained.37 Frédéric Cuvier grouped dogs in three major divisions, or categories of types, while Pierre Mégnin in the 1890s remained idiosyncratic in the face of British acceptance of one single species for Canis familiaris. The familiar categorization (family Canidae, genus Canis, species familiaris ) was re-


jected by Mégnin in favor of three species of domestic dog: "Thus, we have at least three types of dogs in Europe that are relatively fixed and whose origin is lost in the night of time: we are, consequently, right to consider them as species in the zoological sense of the word."38

A compulsive cataloging of the natural world accounts for the appearance on various nineteenth-century naturalists' lists of exotic dogs, the Eskimo and the dingo. But, as Harriet Ritvo's recent work on Victorian animals reveals, of still greater interest was the construction of new breeds. Even breeds with time-honored British pasts, the bulldog and the collie, were reinvented, "newly imagined," Ritvo explains, along arbitrary lines, vigilantly maintained through class-bound institutions such as the dog show and the kennel club. Indeed, Ritvo places dog breeding in the context of class anxieties. "The structures evolved in the third quarter of the nineteenth century to regulate the breeding and the showing of pedigreed dogs," Ritvo argues, "figuratively expressed the desire of predominately middle-class fanciers for a relatively prestigious and readily identifiable position within a stable, hierarchical society."39

The institutions of middle-class petkeeping were modeled after aristocratic pursuits, especially high stock breeding. But this formal conservatism was undermined by the business of dog breeding itself. "The prizewinning pedigreed dogs of the late nineteenth century seemed to symbolize simply the power to manipulate and the power to purchase—they were ultimately destabilizing emblems of status and rank as pure commodities." The Victorian dog fancy, Rita concludes, was insistently self-referential. An expression of the middle classes, "its goal was to celebrate their desire and ability to manipulate, rather than to produce animals that could be measured by such extrinsic standards as utility, beauty and vigor." Therefore, "it was an index of their paradoxical willingness aggressively to reconceive and refashion the social order in which they coveted a stable place."40

With dog breeding as with aquarium keeping, however, neither amateur interest in natural history nor sociological explanations of pet-keeping fully describe the meaning of race and pedigree within ordinary experience in Paris. France's institutions of dog breeding, first of all, were embarrassingly secondary to Britain's. Consider the history of the dog show. The first French dog show, the Exposition universal Des races


canines, was held in 1863 under the auspices of the Société impériale zoologique d'acclimatation at the society's Jardin zoologique d'acclimatation (15 hectares of land carved out of the Bois de Boulogne in x 857 for the influential society, leased from the city for the nominal sum of one thousand francs per year).41 The organizing committee included Baron James de Rothschild, the eminent anthropologist Jean Louis Armand de Quatrefages, Albert Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, various viscounts, and a prince. Such Parisian canophiles as Baron Couteulx de Cantelou and the painter Théodore Rousseau also participated in the show.42

Despite the backing of prominent scientists, French dog shows never came to represent success in animal husbandry. The business of breeding was not taken very seriously and unlike in Britain not linked to microdivisions within the social scale. French attitudes toward the physical characteristics of breeds were cavalier and, to the British mind, frivolous. Particularly revealing were the difficulties encountered by Pierre La-rousse, the sponsor of a half-shepherd, possibly half-wolf dog, Moustache, at the 1863 show (the name also of Napoleon Bonaparte's dog, Moustache was a popular name for canines throughout the century). The dog was excluded and Larousse, disappointed. At the dog show Moustache appeared with the following pedigree:






8 months




Grignon Imperial Farm



Yet despite what Larousse assumed were suitable credentials and amid the admiration of all viewers, as his owner proudly recounted, Moustache was placed "hors de concours, under the pretext that he came from an establishment of the state."43

Larousse had a casual attitude toward the official business of dog shows.44 So too did the judges, at least with respect to the provenance of dogs shown. Standing in significant contrast to British regulation were the relaxed pose of most French participants in dog breeding and the misfounded optimism of Quatrefages, whose speech at the exposition of 1865 claimed for French dog breeding what only the British actually and


metaphorically achieved: "To form breeds, that is almost to create new species."45

Surprisingly, the French rarely succeeded in promoting and developing French breeds, despite the patient urging of influential canophiles. "A good many years," le baron de Vaux lamented in 1897 in this regard, "are needed to repair faults caused by our carelessness and thoughtlessness."46 Twelve years later Paul Mégnin echoed the complaint: "So many breeds created, so many have disappeared, either because of mistakes made by fanciers or because the fashion for them has passed. One is content to say and say again that our neighbors the English are the premier sportsmen in the world and masters in matters of breeding."47

In an age when Desmoulins asked in the title of his famous book, A quoi tient la supériorité des Anglo-Saxons? British models set the tone, in part, for French dog envy. For every club intended to promote a French breed, for every réunion des amateurs de chiens d'arrêt français or dub du basset français, there was a pointer club, a Gordon setter club, a spaniel club, a fox terrier club, and a club du setter anglais.48

But the French interest in breeding operated on a more flamboyant register than the British. Most French dog shows were held in the capital—beginning in 1865, on the Cours-la-Reine, Champs-Elysées—and favored society canophilia, unlike in Britain, where, though high society, was also involved in dog showing, the many shows were in good part "small-town or regional affairs, offering local fanciers the chance to show off their pets and perhaps prepare for the big time."49 The more central location of the 1865 show signaled a decisive turn toward high fashion that French dog shows were to take in the 1880s, when the newly constituted Société centrale pour l'amélioration des races de chiens en France—always called the Centrale—took over the organization of expositions canines, holding them first at the Cours-la-Reine, then in the Tuileries, on the terrasse de l'Orangerie.50

The majority of Centrale members were fashionably titled. A survey of the society's monthly bulletin for February 1888 indicates that out of one hundred seventy or so membres fondateurs and membres souscripteurs, there were thirty-eight counts, seventeen viscounts, nine marquesses, and twenty-one barons. Two others were princes and three were dukes. Twenty-one simply carried the particle de.51 The Centrale membership set the tone for the expositions, and participants seem in good part only


slightly less secure. We meet, for example, in the liste des exposants at the ninth canine exposition in 1890, Mme Levavasseur with the fashionable address of 73, rue Saint-Honoré, whose white poodle was named Léa; and a Mme Renouard, 2, place Vendôme, with a remarkable eight entries: Miss, a toy terrier; Tobie, a terrier-griffon; Charley and Darling, Yorkshire terriers; Mouche, a young greyhound; Prince, a King Charles spaniel; Daisy, a Blenheim; with last, and perhaps least, Coquette, a Maltese.52

A distinctively French interest in dog breeds emerged in a comparison of French and British attitudes, one that blended fashion and fantasy to express interpretations of modernity. Consider the review of the 1880 Parisian dog show that appeared in a short-lived but ambitious society journal, La Vie élégante. The story of progress, a Promethean triumph over nature that French scientists looked for, was overlapped by a postscript, a postromantic disenchantment of humanity or eulogy, a "reenchantment" of subdued nature. After the beautiful dogs, the pampered and coiffured dogs, came packs of hunting dogs:

They were superb. . .. I noticed, however, between these hunting dogs and the other dogs an absolute difference. There was between them the same difference that exists between civilized man and primitive man. I found on the hunting dog the same heavy features, the same bestiality, that look devoid of subtlety, thus of incomplete intelligence, that one finds on the savage. In the great forests, in the profound echo of their victorious fanfare, they present a triumphant image of the first instinct that was born in the heart of man, combat! of his first virtue, bravery! of his first joy, triumph!53

The construction of French breeds took place, first of all, however, not in the kennel, or the show ring, but in the provincial and, especially, the Parisian home through amateur reading about dogs. The dog-care book gave readers easy access to categories of fictive imagery. Unlike its prototype across the Channel, the French dog-care book defined a breed completely, with reference not merely to its appearance or even its disposition, but to its character and habits. A difficult task, as Florent Prévost complained in 1861: "To distinguish a good dog from a bad dog and to appreciate, even after a detailed study, the qualities or faults of an individual is not as easy as some may believe."54 The French invention of breeds was epistemologically idealist. The "moral" qualities of a breed


were often described in a sketch or story, a fictive signature that fixed the type as distinctly as did body size, color, or shape of ears and tail. These narrations, though sometimes couched in the past tense, actually functioned in the present, as literary critics often argue that the novel does. Peter Brooks explains (though he adopts a rival point of view) that "the preterite tense used classically in the novel is decoded by the reader as a kind of present, that of an action and a significance being forged before his eyes, in his hands, so to speak."55 Dog ownership quite literally articulated this process since the actual manipulation of character traits was realized by the dog-owning reader of dog-care books. In the confusion of fact and fiction that was an inescapable part of all thinking about nineteenth-century breeds, individual merged with type.

Canophile literature followed the conventions of the dog show, categorizing breeds into three major groups for discussion and examination: working dogs, hunting dogs, and pets. Jean Robert observed that this classification was not entirely accurate, since all dogs were useful dogs, but he himself adopted this taxonomy that was in common use. In Nos Chiens: Races, dressage, élevage, hygiène, maladies Paul Mégnin did so too, for similar reasons.56 But it was the idea of the breed, not its supposed use, that mattered.

Consider the first of the major categories of dogs defined by dog shows and in dog-care books, "chiens de garde et d'utilité," which included guard dogs, sheep dogs, and other working dogs; these were chiens de trait, bred for a specific character. All these breeds, formally, were exotic in Paris, though Parisians proudly owned them. At the Exposition internationale de chiens held in Paris in 1885, all four dogues de Bordeaux (the French equivalent of the mastiff) that were shown belonged to Parisians: Lion and Lionne belonged to M. Eugene François who lived at 71, boulevard de Vaugirard; Turco belonged to M. Pouy who lived at 90, boulevard Mortier; and Jean-Bart's owner, M. Iffernet, lived at 35, rue de Fontarabie. Three out of four Great Danes shown were Parisian: Luxor belonged to M. Boyer, 140, boulevard de la Villette; Sultan to M. le comte Durand de Beauregard, 56, boulevard Haussmann; and Bravo lived with M. Franz-Case at 87, rue Vieille-du-Temple.

Similarly, mountain dogs (chiens de montagne ) lived in Paris: Turc, a Saint Bernard belonging to M. E. Lamané, lived on the rue Chabrol. Tom, a Pyrenean mountain dog belonging to M. Charles Rochard, lived


on the rue du Pont Neuf; Fiddle, another Pyrenean, lived on the boulevard Exelmans with M. Maury; Vermouth, belonging to M. Jean-Marie Garlon, lived on the boulevard de Belleville; another Turc belonged to M. Alexandre Bourceret, who lived on the rue de Sèze. Sultan lived on rue Chénier with M. Labbé; yet another Turc lived on the rue de Lyon with M. F. G. Cauchois; and Porthos, belonging to a Mine Ciceri, lived on the rue Montmartre. Other lists to the same end could be made for other types of rugged dogs, Newfoundlands, for example, and varieties of sheepdogs.57

In the imagination of owners not particularly interested in breeding, what did a mountain dog or a sheepdog represent? Florent Prévost's descriptions of breeds suggests the configuration of that thinking. The various mountain dogs, for instance, are very intelligent, we learn, and excellent guard dogs: "the Pyrenean mountain dog, notably, is thought highly of, it is used to guard houses and flocks." The Saint Bernard was a cliché already in 1861: "The whole world knows the services that these dogs render, trained by the monks of mont Saint-Bernard to go in search of travelers lost in the mountains." The sheepdog, also quite bright, "is very serious and attached to his master." What does a sheepdog do? Of course, "it is used above all to guard flocks."58 Fifty years later the point was more poetically made. Writing about the sheepdog from Langue-doc, one of the many French breeds of sheepdogs, Paul Mégnin described a pastoral world of beauty:

It is he who guards the flocks that spend the winter in lower Provence or lower Languedoc and he who when spring begins drives them to the plains of Camargue or Crau.
In general, a dog and a man drive four hundred to five hundred sheep; and nothing is more picturesque than to see the summer's or winter's migration of flocks from several villages reunited: ten thousand to twenty thousand sheep covering the pastures,59

The story of the Saint Bernard (figure 5) developed in no less elaborate fashion. "It would take a poet to suitably sing the praises of these heroes who spend their lives saving people," suggested Jean Robert in 1888:

Carrying suspended around his neck a little keg filled with eau-de-v ie designed to restore the strength of those unfortunate people who have been vanquished by cold and fatigue, the Saint Bernard takes off through


Figure 5. Typical illustration of a Saint Bernard rescuing a traveler. From Alfred Barbou,
Le Chien: Son histoire, ses exploits, ses aventures (Paris, 1883), 105 (by permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University).


snow, ice, and precipices in search of travelers in distress. These he revives, finning their faces, giving them air, encouraging them with his caresses, pulling them by their clothing, he leads them toward the hospice, sometimes even carrying them.60

An Alpine past was invented for the chien du Leonberg. A cross between the Saint Bernard, the Newfoundland, and, possibly, later, the Pyrenean mountain dog, the breed was created by the so-called baron Essig (to capitalize, critics in the 1870s claimed, on the "rage for big dogs that has long existed"). Vero Shaw, one of Britain's most respected dog writers whose work appeared in translation in France, declared that "the breed, as a pure one, is apocryphal."61 Yet by the end of the century the Leonberg formed a separate class at French (and European) dog shows and was associated with deep time. "The Leonberg," Paul Mégnin explained in 1909, "has existed, some people would have it, from time immemorial in the Alps."62

In faraway Kamchatka life for "the four-footed guide," as Alphonse Toussenel imagined it for the benefit of many readers and popularizers of his Esprit des bêtes: Zoologie passionnelle, was more profoundly difficult. Toussenel, an anti-Semitic Fourierist whose only objection to Fourier seems to have been the social theorist's baffling dislike of dogs, described a day in the life of a snow dog. After safely guiding visitors through the snowy steppes the pack headed toward home:

Good-byes exchanged and task completed, the pack again takes up the path toward home. . .. On their return, one scratches lightly on their master's door, not to demand a place by the hearth, not to demand a share of the feast. . .; he scratches quite simply to make their presence known. . . 'Don't disturb yourself, it's us; everything went well.' Then, unharnessed and in a circle, each beds down in a hole hollowed out in the snow, with an empty stomach but a clear conscience.[63]

Little dogs by contrast were associated with the historically exotic, with the Renaissance, for example, in the case of the Blenheim, a toy spaniel that, the French understood, "takes its name from a chateau located in the neighborhood of Woodstock, in Oxfordshire, where Queen Elizabeth was imprisoned for a time during the reign of Mary," and more directly with the English Civil War.[64] The King Charles spaniel or, rather, its prototype became popular on the continent during


the exile of Charles II and his dogs. French Victorians, curiously, added a more poignant feature: King Charles I's spaniels had cried, they said, as the king was beheaded.[65]

The image of the greyhound also had a particular resonance, an association with the medieval past that we glimpsed in chapter two, even if, as Jean Robert explained, given the law of 3 May 1844 that prohibited hunting with greyhounds, this popular breed was now a mere chien de fantaisie.[66] French hunting dogs—les chiens de Gascogne, les chiens de Saintonge, les griffons de Vendée, and even more spurious types, les chiens du haut Poitou and les chiens d'Artois— were similar products of an impulse to recapture the past. A lineage was claimed for them that led back to the four types of royal and aristocratic hounds (chiens courants ) mentioned in medieval texts, the white, the gray, the fawn, and the black.[67]

Despite the propagandizing efforts of Count Couteulx and other breeders of ersatz medieval beasts, the more likely inhabitants of bourgeois salons were English breeds of hunting dogs, Gordon setters notably, reference points to other worlds as well as to days gone by. On a more minute level, the residents of apartment-house life included even the Pomeranian (Spitz dog), "formerly called the loulou de Poméranie —the good old loulou of the stagecoach" as well as the Dalmatian, "the horse's friend [who in England] . . . often guards stables and accompanies coaches on the major routes."[68]

Quite obviously, the particular story of any breed is of little significance in itself. What matters is that the identification of owner with pet was a function of image that the pet acquired, however arbitrarily that meaning came about. We note, therefore, that Fé1ix Faure, the French president at the end of the century, owned a Gordon setter, while composer Camille Saint-Saëns was fond of a griffon, whom he named Lisette. And that Emile Zola owned a little black Pomeranian named Pinpin. As Zola explained in a letter to the veterinarian and canine publicist Lucien Richard, the dog was a loulou Pomeranian, formally called le chevalier Hector Pinpin de Coq-Hardi but in private life known as Monsieur Pin.[69]

Various breeds were in vogue at different times during the century. Beginning in the First Empire, the trajectory of demand for little dogs went from pugs (carlins ) to miniature spaniels, greyhounds, and terriers


until the Belle Epoque, when pugs came into fashion again. Saint Bernards began to be popular at midcentury while collies in fin-de-siècle France were almost as popular as they were in Victoria's England. The Third Republic's favorite breed was the poodle (caniche ), a sophisticated version of the barbet.[70] But what seems most consistent about each vogue is its ephemerality, its detachment from fixed points of reference.[71]

The construction of breeds in nineteenth-century Paris represents an "escape from narrative," or to borrow from Walter Benjamin, dialectics at a standstill.[72] Like the aquarium, it describes a metaphoric space outside of conventional time, which we should associate with other collections of exotica. The vocabulary of the bourgeois interior uses not the idiom of nature but of fantasy. Petkeeping relates to the syntax of the home, to the omnipresent arrangement of the imaginary in ordinary life. Animals as objects reveal a denial of nature and a vigilant system of self-referential control. It is to the recovery of this system that we now turn.


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