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    Barry Watts peeps into Norman's studio ...

NORMAN LINDSAY

Shakespeare's Dog
and Other Lindsay Tales


Norman Lindsay may be considered to favor cats as pets in preference to dogs. His very popular posthumous book ' Norman Lindsay's Cats ' contributes strongly to that view, but there was a time, up until the end of the First World War, when dogs were the number one domestic animals at Springwood.

Once, when Norman wanted a male fox terrier as a pet, his friend Julian Ashton selected a pup and delivered it to the Lindsay household. Originally named Peter, Rose Lindsay, tells us in her book, Model Wife , how it later gave birth to three highly excitable puppies!

The dog never left Norman's side, spending hours in the studio while he painted. It was infinitely patient and attentive, knowing, according to Norman, by the music that he played in the studio, how well or how poorly his work was progressing.

When the dog did what it was told, Lindsay would say to it "Good dog, I'll send you up to see Bill Shakespeare," at which the dog would leap around in animated delight. When it had to be reprimanded, Norman would remonstrate with "Bad dog, I won't let you see Bill Shakespeare". At this the dog would roll over on its back with limp paws in the air, feigning exaggerated distress.

Hugh McCrae once witnessed this ritual in total disbelief. "McCrae laughed himself silly," Norman recalled, "after that he always referred to it as 'Shakespeare's Dog'."

Some forty years later, in a letter to his biographer John Hetherington, Norman wrote about a 'studio dog' which had been hospitalised:

'It got a wound above the eye which refused to heal. The vet diagnosed as a tubercular running sore, so I had to have her destroyed. After that I never had another studio dog. Sentiment or not, I missed that little dog greatly.'

© BARRY JOHN WATTS 2002

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