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The Pug Who Bit Napoleon (Paperback)

Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries

Napoleonic Social History Animals

By Mimi Matthews
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 180
ISBN: 9781526705006
Published: 11th December 2017

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  • Check out this interview with Mimi Matthews in USA Today

 

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From elaborate Victorian cat funerals to a Regency era pony who took a ride in a hot air balloon, Mimi Matthews shares some of the quirkiest—and most poignant—animal tales of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Meet Fortune, the Pug who bit Napoleon on his wedding night, and Looty, the Pekingese sleeve dog who was presented to Queen Victoria after the 1860 sacking of the Summer Palace in Peking. The four-legged friends of Lord Byron, Emily Brontë, and Prince Albert also make an appearance, as do the treasured pets of Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, and Charles Dickens.

Less famous, but no less fascinating, are the animals that were the subject of historical lawsuits, scandals, and public curiosity. There’s Tuppy, the purloined pet donkey; Biddy, the regimental chicken; and Barnaby and Burgho, the bloodhounds hired to hunt Jack the Ripper. Wild animals also get a mention in tales that encompass everything from field mice and foxes to alligators and sharks lurking in the Thames.

Using research from eighteenth and nineteenth century books, letters, and newspapers, Mimi Matthews brings each animal’s unique history to vivid life. The details are sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, but the stories are never anything less than fascinating reading for animal lovers of all ages.

Matthews looks at history’s pet lovers, some of whom were powerful and creative people. For example,
Napoleon’s Josephine had an ill-tempered pug who bit the emperor, while Alexander Pope’s great dane
once saved his life. Pope memorialized that dog in poetry; Lord Byron did the same for his beloved dog.
One literary critic once surmised that Emily Brontë could not have written Wuthering Heights and that her
bulldog must have channeled the novel. Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, doted on their
respective dogs, and bloodhounds were trained to hunt Jack the Ripper. Cats also receive attention here,
though in a more generic way; famous people seem not to leave as much documentary evidence about their
felines. Many other creatures find their ways into these pages. A favorite donkey remembered his master
years after the donkey was stolen. Sharks and alligators found their ways into the Thames River from time
to time. Reproductions of animal paintings show how various dog breeds have evolved over time. Wellresearched
and heavily illustrated.

American Library Association

The stories themselves were generally interesting, more so when the owner was somebody well-known.

NetGalley, reviewed by Nathan Peysakhovich

There are many other heartwarming or quirky stories in this wide-ranging book, and every reader is sure to find some surprises here. They will also find the author's own sympathetic and sometimes humorous reflections — and, once they have finished the last chapter, endnotes and a bibliography to help them follow up their particular interests. The Pug Who Bit Napoleon is due to be published at the end of November this year (2017). But beware: those who buy it as a Christmas gift may feel quite unable to part with it!

Read the complete review here.

The Victorian Web

I enjoyed this book a lot and found the author's informal style both accessible and fun to read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Annie Buchanan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Presents history in a lighthearted and interesting way. The author, Mimi Matthews, takes the reader on a historical tour of famous people who owned dogs, cats, birds and other assorted pets.

Recommend.

NetGalley, reviewed by Mary Ash

The book is a quick, fun read. I'd recommend this enjoyable book to fans of animal stories.

NetGalley, reviewed by Deborah White

Author interview as featured in

USA Today

A rather unique look at an area of history I like to read about.

NetGalley, reviewed by Sara Garry

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is so wonderful and a must-read for any pet and history lovers! Honestly this book had me at first glance - my favorite historical figure AND my favorite dog breed, how could this possibly go wrong? And each of the entries and profiles was more charming than the last. The Homeric dedication of Lord Byron to his dearly departed Boatswain and the rumors of Emily Brontë's bulldog being her witch familiar & being the first in line in her funeral procession were my two favorite anecdotes, but truly the entire work is a gift.

NetGalley, reviewed by Mariah Brown

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One of the most delightful historical books I've read in awhile. As an animal lover and a history buff, this book was quite fun to read. I read it in one sitting and I feel that many will do that. The pace is perfect and it's just really full of fascinating facts.

NetGalley, reviewed by Kellie Haulotte

About Mimi Matthews

Mimi Matthews researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history. Her articles have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at Bust Magazine, New York. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney with both a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She resides in California with her family – which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

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