E. B. White wasn’t the only author to be inspired by the animals in his life: many a successful writer has found either a muse or a companion in the furry creatures they shared their lives with. From dedicating poetry to pets, to simply finding solace in an animal that can’t utter stupid thoughts or opinions, here’s a collection of our favourite authors – and their favourite friends.
1. John Steinbeck and Charley
John Steinbeck and his French poodle, Charley, travelled over 10,000 miles together, around the United States, creating the travelogue, Travels with Charley: In Search of America, which went on to win the Nobel Prize for literature. Charley, born and raised in Paris, only responded to commands in French, according to Steinbeck.
“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”
2. Dorothy Parker and Misty
Owning over twenty dogs during her lifetime, Dorothy Parker’s bond with her canine companions helped shape much of her work, most notably, Verse for a Certain Dog. Parker is pictured with one of her poodles, Misty, who many believe was the inspiration for the poem.
3. Maurice Sendak and Herman
Named after his utmost inspiration, Herman Melville, Maurice Sendak’s German Shepherd has often been named as his closest, and favourite friend. Herman wasn’t Sendak’s first dog, having owned rescue dogs before him, one uncannily coming to him with the name Max. Sendak reportedly told an audience that he hates people – much preferring the company of dogs like Herman.
4. Ernest Hemingway and his cats
Hemingway is possibly the only author to have his name ascribed to an entire strand of cat. Polydactyl cats have an unusually high number of toes on each paw, usually six, but occasionally anything up to eight. Hemingway was given a six-toed cat by a ship’s captain, and the love-affair began. His former home, now a museum dedicated to him, is home to over 40 mainly polydactyl cats, nearly all of which are descendants from his own.
“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”
5. Kurt Vonnegut and Pumpkin
The sight of such a majestic author and his tiny Lhasa Apso, Pumpkin, cuts a strange, yet heart-warming scene. Pumpkin rarely strayed from Vonnegut’s side, an addition at many interviews and dinners.
6. Jacque Derrida and cats
It makes perfect sense to anyone who has read Derrida’s deconstructionism that he would favour a cat: their intelligence and aloofness go hand in hand with the French philosopher.
7. Charles Bukowskiand Factotum
Another author with a penchant for feline friends was novelist and poet Charles Bukowski, who owned many, including the pictured Factotum. With a written career that spanned over 60 novels and countless poems, Bukowski’sMy Cats is well worth reading if you love cats, or have a pet.
“Having a bunch of cats around is good. If you’re feeling bad, you just look at the cats, you’ll feel better, because they know everything is, just as it is. There’s nothing to get excited about. They just know. They’re saviors. The more cats you have, the longer you live. If you have a hundred cats, you’ll live ten times longer than if you have ten. Someday this will be discovered, and people will have a thousand cats and live forever. It’s truly ridiculous.”
8. Charles Dickens and Grip
One of the most influential and well-known authors, Charles Dickens, had a pet that differed from the cats and dogs on this list: a raven, named Grip. Sounding like something from one of his novels, Grip was not Dickens’ first raven, but it was his favourite. After Grip’s sudden death, Dickens had him stuffed and mounted, as well as giving him a role in Barnaby Rudge. Grip was also the inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.
9. E. B. White and Minnie, Fred and Mimi
It’s unsurprising that the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little had such a close bond with animals, befriending them all, from dogs to pigs, and cats to spiders. The ASPCA once accused him of “harbouring” a dog – and received this wonderful reply. A recent collection of White’s writings on dogs has been released, E. B. White on Dogs, featuring essays on dog sled races, posthumous interviews with his own dogs, and photographs of him with his beloved family dogs.
“For a number of years past I have been agreeably encumbered by a very large and dissolute dachshund named Fred. Of all the dogs whom I have served I’ve never known one who understood so much of what I say or held it in such deep contempt. When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes. He even disobeys me when I instruct him in something that he wants to do. And when I answer his peremptory scratch at the door and hold the door open for him to walk through, he stops in the middle and lights a cigarette, just to hold me up.”
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