Project Gutenberg Find of the Week - 3/22/2006 


A Somewhat Weekly Compendium of Lapsed-Copyright Genius

The Boston Terrier and All About It

by Edward A. Axtell  

 Copyright 1910, by Dogdom Publishing Co. - Battle Creek, Michigan 

Read the book here 


<--Our intrepid author                         The  Boston Terrier-->

 

This volume includes some amusing text, but its lavish photographic accompaniment is the real star of the show. Rather than engage in any sort of thorough review, I'll simply post pictures interspersed with notable (if unrelated) quotations.

 

Who and what is this little dog that has forced his way by leaps and bounds from Boston town to the uttermost parts of this grand country, from the broad Atlantic to the Golden Gate, and from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico? Nay, not content with this, but has overrun the imaginary borders north and south until he is fast becoming as great a favorite on the other side as here, and who promises in the near future, unless all signs fail, to cross all oceans, and extend his conquests wherever man is found that can appreciate beauty and fidelity in man’s best friend.

 

This is E.S. Pollard. According to Axtell's caption, he was a "large and successful breeder." Yikes.

 

 Mrs. William Kuback, with Ch. Lady Sensation

 

To my mind the ideal dog is one weighing from 15 pounds for my lady’s parlor, to 20 or 25 pounds for the dog intended as a man’s companion, suitable to tackle any kind of vermin, and to be an ideal watch dog in the house should any knights of the dark lantern make their nocturnal calls.

Allow me to follow up, such as I can, on this "knights of the dark lantern" phrase. Only one other Project Gutenberg E-book contains it--out of more than 17,000 antiquated texts wherein such strokes of inspiration abound.  In case you're wondering, it's The Penance of Magdalena, And Other Tales of the California Missions by the sonorously named J. Smeaton Chase. I repeat: J. Smeaton Chase.  A Google search returned five instances of the phrase on the internet, four of which come from the text of J. Smeaton Chase's most lasting literary accomplishment. The other instance came from the website of Union College, an historic institution (historic enough to be "an" historic institution rather than merely "a" historic one) of Shenectady, New York. According to the web-published Union Tidbits, which in its turn were excerpted from the Encyclopedia of Union History:

The latter part of the nineteenth century saw a host of facetious student societies, such as "The Mystic Order of the Green Table," "Knights of the Dark Lantern," "Agnostic Choir," and "Society for the Advancement of Social Feeling."

I attempted to discern whether Edward A. Axtell attended Union College, but alas, the internet has all but forgotten this titan of a dog breeder. I did find out, however, that the surname Axtell is partially derived from an Old Norse describing a "kettle or sacrificial cauldron." The question remains: did "knights of the dark lantern" once brighten the common parlance, or were Axtell and Chase no more than cheeky alumni who each decided to throw an inside joke into their books? 

Another enticingly ambiguous bit of data turned up in the course of my investigation. It transpires that an Edward Axtell perished in World War I. I would have thought nothing of it (after all, Edward A. Axtell was far too old in 1910 to have put a dent in the Central Powers later that decade) had I not encountered the following photograph and caption in The Boston Terrier and All About It:

 Edward Axtell, Jr.,
and One of His Boston Terriers

The author had a son, a mighty young creature just blossoming into fighting age! Was this dynamo, this boy who clearly had everything, cut down before his time by cold and systematic Prussian mortar fire? Was it a sniper in the opposite trench, taking advantage of Edward Axtell, Jr.'s indomitable curiosity? The hideous mole on his forehead would have presented a perfect target. Did the tragedy of a lost son befall Edward A. Axtell only seven or eight years after his singular publishing triumph? 

Alas, these romantic tales most likely bear little relation to the truth. According to military-genealogy.com, Edward Axtell was born in West Turville, Buckinghamshire, and he fought in the British Army. The terrier-breeding scribbler who started this wild goose chase seems to have been a confirmed American, but he does mention having visited England several times, so it's not completely out of the question that his son happened to be born there, and felt enough pride in the nation of his birth that he volunteered for the British Army before the United States involved itself in 1917. I realize that it's a stretch, but it's the type of story that should be true. I could find out for sure, if I spent £285.00 on the more comprehensive data of the "Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919" interactive CD-rom.


I Will Now Return to the Book About Dogs. Thank You for Humoring that Meandering Interlude. 

"Pop" Benson with Bunny II

I remember the first time Brownie was bred to that king of sires, “Buster,” owned by Alex Goode (than whom a more loyal Boston terrier man never lived), and I was rather anxious to see the litter when it arrived, as from the mating I expected crackerjacks.  
Here's a photograph of Buster:

 

I would expect crackerjacks as well! But I'm not sure that I'd watch the mating itself with rapt interest.

 

 

A note of melancholy: "Always remember that the perfect Boston terrier dies young!" 

Yes, Edward A. Axtell actually wrote that sentence.

Don't die! Please don't die!

 
I have found it pays best to give the bitch in whelp a generous feed of raw meat daily. It often effectually prevents the puppy-eating habit.
Well, I think we've discovered why perfect Boston Terriers always die young.

Tony Ringmaster 

It'll be hard to follow up Tony Ringmaster, but I implore you to browse around in this miraculous book. I reproduce in full the bittersweet Conclusion:

I was sitting by an open fire the other evening, and there passed through my mind a review of the breed since I saw a great many years ago, when the world, to me, was young, a handsome little lad leading down Beacon street, Boston, two dogs, of a different type than I had ever seen before, that seemed to have stamped upon them an individual personality and style. They were not bulldogs, neither were they bull terriers; breeds with which I had been familiar all my life; but appeared to be a happy combination of both. I need hardly say that one was Barnard’s Tom, and the other his litter brother, Atkinson’s Toby. Tom was the one destined to make Boston terrier history, as he was the sire of Barnard’s Mike.

Mr. J. P. Barnard has rightly been called the “Father of the Boston terrier,” and he still lives, hale and hearty. May his last days be his best, and full of good cheer!

I am now rapidly approaching the allotted time for man, but I venture the assertion that were I to visit any city or even small town of the United States or Canada, I could see some handsome little lad or lassie leading one of Barnard’s Mike’s sons or daughters. Small wonder he is called the American dog.

The celebrated Dr. Johnson once remarked that few children live to fulfil the promise of their youth. Our little aristocrat of the dog world has more than done so. May his shadow never grow less!

I feel convinced that I ought to take this opportunity to record my kindly appreciation of the generous expressions of thanks for my efforts on behalf of the dog. They have come from all parts of the country, and from all classes of people. Were it in my power I would gladly reply to each individual writer. This is impossible. I can only say, “I thank you! May God bless us, one and all!”

 

 J. P. Barnard
The Father of the Boston Terrier