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'I lay in the garden and red the Browning love letters, and the figure of their dog made me laugh so I couldn't resist making him a Life.' Throughout her career, Woolf invokes the animal world both directly and metaphorically. She started to write a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's spaniel after finishing The Waves, tracing the life of the spaniel from his country origins, his puppyhood spent with the writer Mary Mitford, through his sheltered existence with Elizabeth Barrett in her sick room, and later travels in Florence. But Flush is much more than a playful writer's holiday. As well as offering an exploration of a life of the senses free from the tyranny of words, Flush can be read as an allegorical testimony to the inscrutable, discarded, unrepresentable lives of the Victorian women poets, who were barely discussed or read in the 1930s. From a quite literally low point of view, Woolf explores class and gender in Victorian London, with gently mocking humour. Charming yet also radical, Flush is a work of sensuous imagination, an apparently light text that opens up a range of questions concerning difference which are woven through the whole of Woolf's writing.
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Virginia Woolf's biography of Elizabeth Barrett Brownings spaniel was what she called "a little escapade", begun to "ease my brain" in the wake of The Waves (1931). The intensities of that most demanding fiction were soon supplanted by canine psychology and the art of anthropomorphism.
For all its fun and frivolity, Flush is none the less a work seriously inclined to mock and question the genre of biography, as did Woolf's earlier, more ambitious, and more widely read jeu d'esprit, Orlando (1928), and was written in part as a joke at the expense of the biographer Lytton Strachey. Like Orlando it too bespeaks its author's feminism.
In this new edition, which uses as copy-text the second issue of the first English edition and reproduces the original illustrations, Elizabeth Steele maps the events that inspired the book. She provides a wealth of information about its writing and reception - concerning fact and fiction, and Woolf's views on the art of biography - and details its publication history.From the Inside Flap:
First published in 1933, Flush is the lively story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning?s cocker spaniel, and a glimpse into the life of his owner.
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