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Stories Before 1850. 0162: Eliza Fenwick., The Life of the Famous Dog Carlo

Author: Fenwick, Eliza
Title: The life of the famous Dog Carlo. With his portrait, And other copper plates
Cat. Number: 0162
Date: 1809
1st Edition: 1804?
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: Tabart and Co. at the Juvenile Library and School Library, No.157, New Bond-Street; and to be had of all booksellers
Price: 1s
Pages: 1 vol., 68pp. plus four page book-list
Size: 13.5 x 18.5 cm
Illustrations: Frontispiece plus two further full-page engravings dated 1804 (one missing)
Note: Page 10 and one engraving missing. Inscription reads 'W. A. Cotton'

Images of all pages of this book

Page 003 of item 0162

Introductory essay

The title-page of Visits to a Juvenile Library (1805), also published by Tabart, reveals the authorship of The Life of Carlo. 'By E. F.', it reads, 'Author of The Life of Carlo'. 'E.F.' was Eliza Fenwick. She moved in radical circles in 1790s London, and was a friend and colleague of William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays, Elizabeth Inchbald and others. Her husband, John Fenwick, wrote several radical pamphlets and edited the radical newspaper Albion. Eliza Fenwick herself wrote the novel Secresy [sic] in 1795 which took children's education as its central theme and subjected Rousseau's ideas on education to close scrutiny. Fenwick announced her separation from her husband in 1800 and was forced to find employment. She kept a school, worked as a governess, coloured prints, translated, and wrote. Her Visits to a Juvenile Library, an extended and blatant panegyric on Tabart's 'Juvenile Library', though cast in the form of a narrative, was presumably simply another attempt to keep the wolf from the door. Fenwick later became manager of the Godwins' juvenile library, but she emigrated to the West Indies soon after, following her daughter who had found work as an actor there. She ended her days in America. (Tomalin 1977: vii-xi)

The Life of Carlo was probably first published in 1804. In some ways it should best be considered as hack-writing, for Fenwick was doubtless principally motivated to write by the need for money and because the work was a spin-off from the theatre. As the title-page is happy to admit, the book is based on the play The Caravan; or, the Driver and his Dog. A Grand Serio Comic Romance in Two Acts which had been a success on the London stage in 1803. The play was by Frederic (or Frederick) Reynolds (1764-1841), author of almost one hundred comedies and tragedies in his long career. The Caravan was celebrated for the appearance of a live dog which was trained to jump into real water 'to save from death the lovely child of the Marquis of Calatrava', as the preface to the 1806 edition of Fenwick's books (in the British Library) puts it. So successful was the play that Richard Brinsley Sheridan called the dog 'the author and preserver of Drury Lane Theatre' (D.N.B.: Reynolds). 'Who has not heard of Carlo, the renowned Dog of Drury-Lane Theatre?' asks Fenwick's preface (which does not appear in the Hockliffe edition):

As often as the play-bills have announced The Caravan; or, the Driver and his Dog, how many hundreds of young gentlemen and young ladies have entreated their papas and mammas to take them to see the wonderful performance of Carlo; and of all the applauses with which the theatre has resounded ... none ever bestowed on Carlo so delightful a reward as the rapturous exclamations of the children that have filled the front rows of the boxes. (pp.iii-iv)

It is to add to the pleasures of those who have seen Carlo on the stage, the preface concludes, that this book has been written. One might suspect, however, that it was to capitalise on the play's success that Tabart, or Fenwick, conceived of the idea of combining the theatrical hit of the season with the burgeoning tradition of the animal story.

In fact, Benjamin Tabart had a history of adapting theatrical hits for his children's books. The series of fairy tales which was probably his most significant achievement, for fairy tales were not regarded as proper fare for children when he began publication, were often published as 'spin-offs' from London theatrical productions. An example is The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood ... performing at this time with great Applause, at the Theatre-Royal, Drury Lane which is advertised at the back of The Life of Carlo (p.69). For a discussion of Tabart's fairy tales and his publishing strategy see the essay accompanying 0043.

The Life of Carlo is in fact a life of the dog which acted in the play, rather than of the dog whose part it plays. The play was set in and around Barcelona, and had various pirates and Spanish aristocrats for its dramatis personae. The novel, narrated by Carlo himself, begins with him as a puppy. His first owners had attempted to drown him and his siblings, but Edward revives him and looks after him. Carlo is even taught to read using an old school-book. Various adventures ensue and Carlo changes masters several times. On at least two occasions he effects the rescue of a child from water, which is what qualifies him, eventually, to be selected to play the part in The Caravan. His master had happened to hear the play being read out, and volunteered Carlo for the starring role. So successful was the play that all Carlo's old masters saw it, and he was thereby reunited with them all.

For another Newfoundland dog's brave rescue of a drowning human see 0767. For other animal tales in the Hockliffe Collection see:
1. Dorothy Kilner, The Life and Perambulation of a Mouse (1784: 0159)
2. Anon., Memoirs of Dick the Poney (c.1799: 0178)-0179A)
3. Anon., (No date, The Dog of Knowledge; or, Memoirs of Bob the Spotted Terrier (0179B) 4. Mary Pilkington, Marvellous Adventures; or, the Vicissitudes of a Cat (1802: 0197)
5. Elizabeth Sandham's The Adventures of Poor Puss (1809: 0204)
6. Anon., Cato, or Interesting Adventures of A Dog of Sentiment (1816: 0082)
7. Mary Martha Sherwood, The Little Woodman, and his Dog Cæsar (1818: 0214).
8. E. Smyth, History of Tabby, a favourite cat (1809: 0218)

Mary and her Cat (1804), also written by Fenwick for Tabart, features a cat too, but only really as an adjunct to the story of Mary. See 0172-0173 in the Hockliffe Collection.

Fenwick, Eliza, Visits to the Juvenile Library, with a 'Preface' by Claire Tomalin, New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc., 1977

Lee, Stephen (ed.), Dictionary of National Biography, London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1892 and after