CHARLES LAMB TO P.G. PATMORE
Mrs. Leishman’s, Chace, Enfield,
Dear Patmore—Excuse my anxiety—but how is Dash? (I should have asked if Mrs. Patmore kept her rules, and was improving—but Dash came uppermost. The order of our thoughts should be the order of our writing.) Goes he muzzled, or aperto ore? Are his intellects sound, or does he wander a little in his conversation? You cannot be too careful to watch the first symptoms of incoherence. The first illogical snarl he makes, to St. Luke’s with him! All the dogs here are going mad, if you believe the overseers; but I protest they seem to me very rational and collected. But nothing is so deceitful as mad people to those who are not used to them. Try him with hot water. If he won’t lick it up, it is a sign he does not like it. Does his tail wag horizontally or perpendicularly? That has decided the fate of many dogs in Enfield. Is his general deportment cheerful? I mean when he is pleased—for otherwise there is no judging. You can’t be too careful. Has he bit any of the children yet? If he has, have them shot, and keep him for curiosity, to see if it was the hydrophobia. They say all our army in India had it at one time—but that was in Hyder-Ally’s time. Do you get paunch for him? Take care the sheep was sane. You might pull out his teeth (if he would let you), and then you need not mind if he were as mad as a Bedlamite. It would be rather fun to see his odd ways. It might amuse Mrs. Patmore and the children. They’d have more sense than he! He’d be like a Fool kept in the family, to keep the household in good humour with their own understanding. You might teach him the mad dance set to the mad howl. Madge Owl-et would be nothing to him. “My, how he capers!” [In the margin is written:] One of the children speaks this.
[Three lines here are erased.] What I scratch out is a German quotation from Lessing on the bite of rabid animals; but, I remember, you don’t read German. But Mrs. Patmore may, so I wish I had let it stand. The meaning in English is—“Avoid to approach an animal suspected of madness, as you would avoid fire or a precipice:—” which I think is a sensible observation. The Germans are certainly profounder than we.
If the slightest suspicion arises in your breast, that all is not right with him (Dash), muzzle him, and lead him in a string (common pack-thread will do; he don’t care for twist) to Hood’s, his quondam master, and he’ll take him in at any time. You may mention your suspicion or not, as you like, or as you think it may wound or not Mr. H.’s feelings. Hood, I know, will wink at a few follies in Dash, in consideration of his former sense. Besides, Hood is deaf, and if you hinted anything, ten to one he would not hear you. Besides, you will have discharged your conscience, and laid the child at the right door, as they say.