A confession: I really like paintings of anthropomorphized animals, especially dogs. The one above was painted by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, who is most famous for his widely popular paintings of dogs playing poker. (And for all you art snobs out there who might be sniffing haughtily: In 2005, two of his original paintings [yes, dogs playing poker] sold for almost $600,000).
I thought of those paintings recently when I read about one of the most famous English eccentrics, Francis Henry Egerton, the eighth Earl of Bridgewater. Even though he was a distinguished scholar, a patron of the arts and a member of the Royal Society, who donated his important and extensive manuscripts to the British Museum, many remember him best for his, umm… idiosyncrasies.
He loved to give dinner parties for dogs, who were expected to dress in the latest fashions, including little fancy shoes on their paws. And, speaking of shoes, the Earl himself wore a brand new pair every day, which he would then add to the lengthy rows of his previously worn shoes. It was his way of measuring the passage of time! When he borrowed a book, he would return it on a pillow in an ornate carriage attended by four liveried footmen.
He was known to be an animal lover, yet he kept pigeons and partridges with clipped wings on his estate. He did that to make them easier to hunt and shoot, as his eyesight was failing.
Not surprisingly, he never married. No doubt, any women invited to his dinner parties must have been appalled by the manners of the other guests—that is, the canine ones. Not only, I’m sure, did a great deal of pawing and licking occur, but the table manners of the hounds in attendance must have been quite rude and shocking. Doggedly so, I’d say.
Uncouth curs they were, no doubt, with no proper breeding. Beastly party animals!