books, non-fiction, review

Review: the Pug who bit Napoleon animal tales of the 18th & 19th centuries by Mimi Matthews

How can you read this title and NOT want to read this book? I love most animals, I’m also afraid of a lot, but who doesn’t like a good animal story!

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, journals, 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.

This is a really, really fun read! I finished it in about 2 settings, which really says something. The stories are divided by animal species. The stories are really short, but interesting and are accompanied by paintings from the same era, which gives a really nice touch. Some of the paintings were too big to put on a page, so the horizontal artwork has been cropped to fit the page, instead of turning it on it’s side to cover the whole page so we can actually see it. A slight shame!

My only downside to this book is that there were a lot of dog stories and they were almost all individual dog stories. I’m not a dog person, but all the other stories didn’t have that, they were more collective stories instead of individual stories, which I felt like it was a real shame.

A slight warning though: Some of the stories are really sad!! So if you just lost a beloved pet, I wouldn’t read this, I even cried at the dog section and, again, I’m not even a dog person!

This is a great, fun little book which I highly recommend if you are an animal person or if you are interesting in 18th and 19th century history. Definitely a book that shouldn’t be missed on your bookshelves!

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