Mary Ansell, from “Dogs and Men”

250px-PorthosIn my research into the life of author J.M. Barrie, I came across this quote from his wife, Mary Ansell. One of her dogs, Porthos, is pictured at left. Pretty sure some of us can relate:

I have never really been happy with people. Some constraint tightens me up when I am with them. They seem so inside themselves, so unwilling to reveal their real selves. I am always asking for something they won’t give me; I try to pierce into their reserves; sometimes I feel I am succeeding, but they close in again and I am left outside.

But with animals it is different. An animal is so helplessly itself. I become one with them. I, too, become helplessly myself. They never withhold themselves from me as men withheld themselves. When the dogs loved me, they did it without forethought or afterthought, because they couldn’t help it. But men didn’t love me unless they wanted to; unless I fitted in with their idea of me. The dogs didn’t have an idea of me. They just loved me – me – me – me – with passion and warmth, without thinking about it.

I only loved clever men. And clever men, it seems to me, are made up of reserves. It is out of their reserves that they bring their clever things.

You think they will one day open their reserves, and that you will be the favored one who is admitted to the cupboards where they keep their cleverness. But that is an illusion. The reserves of men are as helpless as a dog’s lack of reserve is helpless. A man had to be clever, really clever, to please me. And I loved my dogs so passionately because they could never, never be clever in that way. They could never be as complicated as the men were complicated.


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