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Lost dogs in 18th-century London

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  May 7, 2013 10:12 AM

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You might think that cosseted house pets are a modern phenomenon. It takes a certain level of affluence and leisure time to devote as much attention to them as we do, but a fun post on the history blog Wonders & Marvels reveals that even in grimier times, people were still preoccupied with their canine companions.

The post excerpts some of the nearly 500 advertisements for lost dogs that appeared in Central London newspapers between 1700 and 1800. Here’s a short one from the Public Advertiser, 1768:

Lost on Saturday last, between Whitehall and Privy Garden, a small Red Dog of the Spaniel Kind, with four white Feet., a White Snip on his Nose, a few white Hairs on the outside of his Neck, and answers to the Name of MUFF. Whoever, brings him to the Right Hon. the Earl of Waldegrave’s, at Whitehall, shall receive Half a Guinea Reward.

The notices followed a standard form: An explanation of where and when the dog was lost; a detailed physical description, along with the dog’s name, sometimes accompanied by a few notes about his personality; and finally a line about where the dog should be returned and what the returner could expect for his trouble. The half-guinea reward offered for “Muff” was a little on the stingy side. Fifteen years earlier, for example, Mr. Humphrey Wynne of Shawberry had offered five guineas for the return of a female dog “of the Setting Breed, with a red Spot on her Forehead, answers to the Name of Phillis.”

You can read more dog notices here.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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