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Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Emily Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf
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Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Emily Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  170 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
“Move over Marley. Make room for Carlo (Emily Dickinson's giant Newfoundland). Or Flush (Elizabeth Barrett Browning's golden cocker spaniel). Or, maybe, Keeper (Emily Bronte's intimidating mastiff mix). In self-contained chapters of "Shaggy Muses," the work of each author is viewed intimately within the context of the canine companions who provided love, comfort and inspir ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 31st 2007 by Ballantine Books
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The Brontës by Juliet BarkerThe Brontë Myth by Lucasta MillerThe Brontës by Juliet BarkerIn Search of Anne Brontë by Nick HollandThe Brontë Cabinet by Deborah Lutz
Best Brontë Nonfiction
14th out of 21 books — 7 voters
The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonSonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett BrowningBest Poems of the Brontë Sisters by Emily BrontëGoblin Market and Other Poems by Christina RossettiAurora Leigh and Other Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
19th Century Women Poets
44th out of 44 books — 14 voters

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Community Reviews

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Deborah Markus
May 30, 2015 Deborah Markus rated it liked it
The short review: A pleasant overview of several important female writers and their canine companions. If you're not a dog person, you still won't be one after reading this book, but you may understand them a little better, even if you still think they're insane (because they are).

The details: Bear in mind that this was written by a woman whose idea of trauma is being wealthy, happily married, and the mother of two normal, well-adjusted children, and then moving from Kansas City, Missouri to Son
Jun 02, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing
Loved this little book. It has five excellent "condensed biographies," of all women authors who have a "human-dog bond." They relied on their devoted dogs to help them through difficult times and more.

First was Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her dog, Flush (which was the subject for Woolf's book). I haven't read her biography and I was shocked at how limited her life was before she got Flush. That dog made it possible for her to leave her home, marry and have a full life.

Emily Bronte and her d
Jul 05, 2015 Natalie rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most satisfying, fascinating pieces of non-fiction I've read in a while! Well-written and well-researched.
Nov 29, 2012 Caren rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
As a dog lover, I really enjoyed this interesting little book. The author once taught college-level English lit and is now a clinical psychologist, so she provides some very interesting insights into these troubled, but talented, women. Five women writers and their dogs are profiled: Elizabeth Barrett Browning and 'Flush', Emily Bronte and 'Keeper', Emily Dickinson and 'Carlo', Edith Wharton and 'Foxy' and 'Linky', and finally, Virginia Woolf and 'Gurth', 'Grizzle', and 'Pinka'. In an afterword, ...more
Sumangali Morhall
Feb 02, 2013 Sumangali Morhall rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
They say that behind every great man there has to be a great woman, but behind a great woman? They do not mention. Perhaps we should look down toward the hearth. Shaggy Muses, by Maureen Adams, is a heartful tribute to the dogs who unknowingly, and unconditionally inspired five iconic female writers: Emily Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton, Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf.

I suppose there are dog-lovers in all walks of life. So, what makes this connection interesting, or is it
Sep 02, 2014 El rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Janice, Belinda
The author here takes five popular women writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and focuses primarily on their relationships with their dogs. Each woman was emotionally attached to their pet dogs and used them to overcome sickness (physical and psychological) and as muses to their creative works.

I was excited by the concept of the book (especially about the chapter regarding Edith Wharton and her little "gentlemen" - and the photograph of her with her two chihuahuas sitting
Mar 10, 2016 Jan rated it really liked it
What a surprising read, in my case, an audio read by Polly Stone - excellent. While perusing my library I chose this due to my interest of classic authors/literature and love of dogs - I was not disappointed!

Paraphrasing reviewers. 'Creative niche for those who love literature, biography and dogs.' 'Classic women writers of another era whose lives were more difficult than we ever would have imagined.' The author must have spent years researching the lives of authors I've not particularly enjoye
Mar 25, 2011 Lisa rated it really liked it
A lovely book! The author provides interesting accounts of the important supportive roles dogs played in the lives of these authors. I especially liked the chapters on Emily Dickenson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The Bronte chapter was powerful but disturbing, not surprising considering the subject. I love the poem Edith Wharton wrote; it captures so much about our relationships with our dogs with just a few words:

"My little old dog:--
A heart-beat
At my feet."
Lacey Louwagie
This book was comprised of five short biographies of renowned women writers, telling their stories with an emphasis on their relationships with their dogs. This was an interesting angle, which allowed me to see even Emily Dickinson's story in a fresh light (Out of all the profiled authors, she was the one I knew the most about). The writing is also compelling enough that even the stories about the authors who interested me less kept me engaged, although I felt the Edith Wharton section went on a ...more
Jan 22, 2013 Monica rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
It's about what you would guess it's about. Five female writers who lived in different time periods and each had a special dog or dogs who helped them get through life. Shut-ins like Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning who depended on their dogs, housekeeper Emily Bronte and the more cosmopolitan Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf who were inspired by their dogs. A section is devoted to each writer and her life and how her dog(s) were mentioned and influenced her writings. The final sec ...more
Arlene Allen
Jan 13, 2010 Arlene Allen rated it really liked it
I found this to be an interesting study of five classic female authors -- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Bronte, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf - and their relationship with dogs. All 5 women were at one time reclusive, and most had troubled sex lives (if they had any at all). They almost all had absent mothers; if not physically absent they were emotionally unavailable. Their lives were either wholly or partially lived in the Victorian era. They were, to a woman, mentally ...more
Apr 28, 2011 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
This was a little different from what I expected, but it was still enjoyable and informative. I will admit that my knowledge of the literature of these authors is shamefully deficient. I suspect I may have enjoyed the book a little more if I was more familiar with their works.

That being said, the stories of these authors and the dogs which shared their lives was fascinating. Most of the dogs served as emotional surrogates of one type or another. In many cases the authors were able to emotionally
Allison Frederick
Oct 03, 2007 Allison Frederick rated it really liked it
Author Maureen Adams wrote a wonderful overview of these famous women writers in her book Shaggy Muses. She explores each writer's life within the context of their relationship and dependence on their dog(s). If you are a dog lover, you can connect to the strong bonds between the women and their dogs. A dog is always accepting and incredibly tolerant. These dogs were no different and constantly, devotedly listened to their mistresses recite their work without ever appearing critical. They also k ...more
Rebecca Jones
Mar 14, 2014 Rebecca Jones rated it liked it
I am not sure why I picked this book... Maybe homesick for my beloved companion... I do like the author's. It did give the book depth... The odd transference of emotion to be translated through animals when shy emotionally stilted people are expected to transcribe emotion. Any how I did find it enjoyable...
Jacquie R
Dec 02, 2009 Jacquie R rated it liked it
I thought the concept was great and I really enjoyed the first story on Elizabeth Barret Browning but it went downhill from there for me. It seemed like the author was stretching a bit to fit some of the women into the theme - especially with Emily Bronte. She comes across as a horrid person and her cruelty to her supposed "shaggy muse" was unforgivable. I think her story should have been left out of the book. Parts of the introduction of the book took my breath away, like when the author descri ...more
Nov 26, 2014 Tammy rated it really liked it
Stories of how famous female American writers found friendship and comfort from their pet dogs. Stories are collected from diary entries, letters, and how the author or poet refers and treats animals in their writings. Though I love both cats and dogs there is something to be said for the companionship of a dog. They are loyal and loving no matter what you are going through and always willing to be hugged and held.
Cricket Muse
Aug 01, 2016 Cricket Muse rated it really liked it
Truthfully, I only read the Emily Bronte chapter since I wanted to see if there would be any mention of her pet cats. Informative and illuminating, with great connections with dogs in Wuthering Heights. I will revisit the book for the other authors some time.
Aug 01, 2013 Sara rated it liked it
It's such a good idea for a book, and I had no idea these authors all had such close relationships with dogs. There are plenty of interesting tidbits. But unfortunately the author is not a very fine writer herself, and the chapters can read at times like potted quickie biographies frosted and sprinkled with minor dog anecdotes. I've read a lot of in-depth biographies of most of these writers, and that definitely affected my experience of this book, so if you haven't done the same, you may enjoy ...more
Sep 04, 2014 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Nice little book.I like how all the biographies were very shot and sweet and I loved the dog element. It's also interesting to see how these authors' works related to there lives and how they were feeling or their experiences translated through their work. Overall a sweet book for anyone interested in literature and dogs.
May 28, 2016 Christine rated it really liked it
The biographical nature of this book made it fun to read and quite an eye opener. These women were very different than I had pictured them if all the facts within each bio are correct. Fascinating! I did not read the chapter about Ms. Dickinson because of one review that I read right here on Goodreads. The reviewer seemed to know what he or she was talking about and refuted much of what was written about her.
Sep 23, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
I enjoyed finding the realism of the women authors through their interactions with their dogs. Emily Bronte with walking the moors with her Newfoundland keeper. Elizabeth Barrett Brownings dog being kidnapped for ransom three times.
Connie D
Feb 10, 2016 Connie D rated it it was amazing
Lovely, not overly sentimental, well researched biographies of some fascinating female authors. Their stories here are based on their relationships to their dogs and therefore other people. I've read several biographies of these particular authors before, and this one really seems to understand their emotional lives.
Sep 15, 2008 Sandy rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
liking this more than I expected I would based on author's Intro. Her motivation to write this book was way too self absorbed to my taste an occasionally, I find her interjected psychoanalysis of these great women writers intrusive and a bit Psych 101. In spite of that... Yikes, these woman lead incredible lives! EBB left home at 38 to marry a younger man, and her father never spoke to her again! never even read her letters! EB was IN that Jane Eyre convent school and two of her sisters were sen ...more
For natural reasons, I was really excited about this book, as it combined two of my all-time favorite topics: Women writers and dogs. I did learn quite a bit about these five writers' relationships with their pooches, but overall, I found Adams' thesis somewhat murky. She can't be blamed for the stretches in imagination, as not much writing about dogs and women exists for these writers, but it seemed lacking as a whole. Virginia Woolf, my favorite, was a stretch, as she admits herself to not bei ...more
Aug 16, 2014 Dodey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting to learn how canine campanions influenced some our best women authors. Life back then was hard, but dogs really made a huge difference in their lives.
3 1/2 stars, only because the writing is a tad on the dry side. This is a really interesting examination of the role dogs played in the lives of some of the greatest (and most troubled) women authors in English and American Literature. There are some callous and cruel stories here, but for the most part, the devotion shown is quite touching. As a dog owner myself, I enjoyed hearing Adams, a psychologist, extrapolate the contributions the dogs each mad to the creative and emotional lives of their ...more
Aug 13, 2008 Sarah rated it it was ok
Shelves: quit
In the middle of Disc 2, the book started over from the beginning. I didn't care enough to care (although it did make for an interesting few moments of the sassy Bronte apparently having undergone a lobotomy, since the book started with Barrett Browning, for whom the word "weenie" was invented). Also, this smacks of "Hey, people like dogs. I bet I could publish my academically suspect dissertation!" My rule of thumb is that if it's a good, contributive dissertation, then only 7 other people in t ...more
Feb 16, 2015 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a delightful read. I discovered it when doing research on Virginia Woolf, and after reading the portion on Woolf, found myself intrigued and read the rest of the book. Adams provides insight into an aspect of the lives of these five authors which aren't typically covered in biographies - at least to this depth - and I was surprised to learn how each woman's dog(s) influenced her writing. The book contained anecdotes and excerpts from the writers' letters and works and the lives of each ...more
Apr 06, 2011 Danine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really, super liked this book. As a writer and a dog lover I could relate to these women writers and the relationship they had with their dogs.

I generally love my dogs more than people. Would I rather be around someone who is a bully or someone who relishes in being a dramatic artard OR would I rather write on the couch and cuddle with my big mangy dog who loves me without the drama? Yeah. I love my dog more. I love writing with my furry friend near by. Chances are I love my dog more than you
Amber Polo
Jan 22, 2013 Amber Polo rated it really liked it
Shelves: dogs
Adams has done a lovely job of research, bringing together these five authors and their relationship with their dogs.
We know the most about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Cocker Spaniel Flush, who wrote a book about his life with his mistress (authored by Virginia Woolf), but each woman received and gave devotion to her canine companions. Any author with a dog would agree with Emily Dickinson when she wrote “I talk of these things with Carol, and his eyes grow meaning and his shaggy feet keep a s
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