Of Letters and Lists

E.B. White & Minnie (late 1940s)
E.B. White & Minnie (late 1940s)
E.B. White & Minnie (late 1940s)

The stars aligned today to bring together the dual inspirations of my blogging life (dogs and E.B. White) when I discovered a post about E.B. White’s dog on a delightful blog called Letters of Note. Serendipity or synchronicity? Who can say that Facebook is a waste of time when it regularly conjures this sort of magic?

Here’s my path down this particular rabbit hole: Juliet, a dear old friend from when we both lived in Paris with whom I stay in touch on Facebook, shared as a Facebook status update a link to a list of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Things to Worry About.” An inveterate worrier, I followed the link and found myself on a charmingly eclectic blog called (what else?) Lists of Note. (How Juliet got there is anyone’s guess; perhaps she will explain in a comment here.)

I noticed that the list blogger, a British writer named Shaun Usher, also curates a blog called Letters of Note. Knowing E.B. White to be a prolific and engaging correspondent, I searched Letters of Note for his name and, lo and behold, found this wry missive from White to the ASPCA on the question of whether his dachshund Minnie was properly licensed. White’s letter, dated April 12, 1951, begins:

Dear Sirs:

I have your letter, undated, saying that I am harboring an unlicensed dog in violation of the law. If by “harboring” you mean getting up two or three times every night to pull Minnie’s blanket up over her, I am harboring a dog all right….

To appreciate White’s deft touch as a humorist, his impatience with petty bureaucracy and his deep affection for dogs, I encourage you to read the remainder of the letter on Usher’s blog. The post is titled “She doesn’t answer the phone” — “she,” of course, is Minnie the dachshund.

E.B. White and dog
E.B. White and dog

Circling back to Lists of Note, I hoped I might be able to find a list by E.B. White, but alas the blog lacks a search option. I’ve just emailed Usher to inquire. Perhaps he will close the circle by replying in comment here.

In the meantime, I leave you with an excerpt from a letter that White’s dog Daisy “wrote” to his wife Katharine when she was expecting their child:

Dear Mrs. White,

…White has been stewing around for two days now, a little bit worried because he is not sure that he has made you realize how glad he is that there is to be what the column writer in the Mirror calls a blessed event … I know White so well that I always know what is the matter with him, and it always comes to the same thing—he gets thinking that nothing that he writes or says ever quite expresses his feeling, and he worries about his inarticulateness just the same as he does about his bowels, except it is worse, and it makes him either mad, or sick, or with a prickly sensation in the head …Of course he is also very worried for fear you will get the idea that he is regarding you merely as a future mother and not as a present person, or that he wants a child merely as a vindication of his vanity. I doubt if those things are true; White enjoys animal husbandry of all kinds including his own; and as for his regard for you, he has told me that, quite apart from this fertility, he admires you in all kinds of situations or dilemmas, some of which he says have been quite dirty.

Well, Mrs. White, I expect I am tiring you with this long letter, but as you often say yourself, a husband and wife should tell each other about the things that are on their mind, otherwise you get nowhere, and White didn’t seem able to tell you about his happiness, so I thought I would attempt to put in a word.

White is getting me a new blanket, as the cushion in the bathroom is soiled.




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