Flush: A Biography Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 29 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Flush.
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Flush: A Biography Summary & Study Guide Description

Flush: A Biography Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf.

"Flush" by Virginia Woolf, is the biography of a red cocker spaniel that was owned by English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Woolf's inspiration was her own cocker spaniel, Pinka. Woolf had read the letters and poems that Browning had written about her dog, Flush. Woolf decided that he would be an interesting subject for a biography and although it is narrated in the third person, the book is written mainly from the perspective of the dog. As Virginia Woolf implied to a friend, "Flush" was really her dog, "Pinka," who she used as a model for the red cocker.

The book begins with a brief history of the cocker spaniel. The breed originated from Spain years before it was imported to England. The breed was named "spaniel" because it chased the many hares that the Carthaginians discovered on the land that would become Spain. The Carthaginian word for hare was "Span." It is obvious that the country Spain got its name from "Span" and the dogs that evolved to chase the robust hare population on the newly discovered land were called "spaniels." When the spaniels were imported to England, they became a favorite of royalty and were considered an aristocratic dog. There were organizations that allowed the breeding of only those spaniels that had the desired characteristics so that undesirable traits would not be passed along.

Flush began his life on a country farm called "Three Mile Cross." He loved to run free in the fields and chase rabbits and birds. But this all changed when his mistress gave him to an invalid friend of hers, the famous poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. After he moved to the posh neighborhood on Wimpole Street in London, Flush's life was confined to Barrett's dark bedroom. When he was taken out, he had to be on a leash and a chain. No longer could he run free.

But since Flush was an aristocrat, he came to accept his position as a companion for the quite gentle lady who suffered from ill-health. He learned to lay at the carpet in front of the couch where she spent most of her days. He bonded with Miss Barrett and even thought that he somewhat resembled the woman, he knew that she was a human and he was a dog. Although they had much in common, there were things that they could never understand about each other. He had no idea why on earth she spent her days passing a black stick over a white paper. For her part, she didn't understand that his nervous tick resulted from a cat having just passed by their closed door.

There were ups and downs in their relationship. When a gentleman by the name of Mr. Browning began to call on Miss Barrett, Flush felt threatened and jealous. Miss Barrett paid less attention to him and it seemed she was thrilled when this interloper came to visit. Flush became so enraged that he even bit Browning in the leg several times. He was beaten by Miss Barrett's maid for his bad behavior. But the worst punishment was how Miss Barrett totally ignored him. But Miss Barrett genuinely loved Flush, which she proved when Flush was kidnapped and she paid a ransom to get him back.

Miss Barrett and Mr. Browning married secretly and they, along with Flush, were soon off on a trip to Italy. At first he didn't know what to expect in his new home but he soon grew to love life in Florence. He was able to run free and could leave the house whenever he wanted. He loved to run in the streets and take in the large variety of scents wafting in the air. He became quite a lover and mated with as many female dogs as he cared to. But life was not without its obstacles. He picked up bad traits like jealousy and anger from his human consorts and the robust fleas who lived in Italy invaded his beautiful coat to the point that it had to be clipped off. He learned in Italy that there were no classes of dogs. Instead, they were all mongrels. He also learned that having a curly topknot was not the end of the world.

Flush grew old and his wayward days began to wind down. He sought the shade more than the sun. He preferred to watch the younger dogs play and fight than to join them. But he stayed close to Mrs. Browning and instinctively went home one day so he could be with the one person who loved him the most on the day he died.

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