Day 1299: Flush: A Biography

Cover for FlushI admit to feeling rather perplexed by Flush, which seems to be a light-hearted biography of Elizabeth Barrett’s pet dog. It was clear to me that a lot more was going on than a story about a dog. The introduction to my Persephone edition by Sally Beauman draws parallels between Flush’s life and Barrett’s—and Virginia Woolf’s own life.

Flush is a cocker spaniel, a hunting dog, given to Elizabeth Barrett as a gift. Woolf is clear about how Flush’s life on Wimpole Street becomes one of constraint and even neuroticism as the lap dog of a constrained, restricted, and hypochondriacal Elizabeth Barrett.

The slant the novel puts on the famous romance between Barrett and Robert Browning is also very interesting. Flush is immediately jealous of Browning and tries to bite him twice. From being loved and terrifically spoiled by Barrett, he learns he has to take second place.

Now to get to the source of my perplexity. Just in terms of mistreatment of dogs, this novel was not, to me, the one fondly referred to by others over the years. Woolf’s doggy hero is restricted by Elizabeth just as she was by her father. To add interest, though, there are sly digs at social strata and Victorian life throughout.

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9 thoughts on “Day 1299: Flush: A Biography

    1. It wasn’t a bad book. I was just perplexed about the nostalgia for that book that I have encountered. Maybe someone can explain it to me. It certainly wouldn’t have been a favorite childhood book for me.

  1. This is interesting because I really enjoyed Flush and found it very funny! I took the mistreatment of dogs as just how it was at the time. Although it is very sad, this trapped women with her spoiled dog, but she does escape with Robert, it”s all quite eccentric – I think she had a few dogs all called Flush.

      1. Yes I do see your point, I think VW must mean us to because the book opens with that wonderful description of Flush tearing about the wild as she was born to do. . .

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