Woolf: Flush’s Coat

He carried his pedigree on his back. His coat meant to him what a gold watch inscribed with the family arms means to an impoverished squire whose broad acres have shrunk to that single circle. It was the coat that Mr Browning now proposed to sacrifice. He called Flush to him and, ‘taking a pair of scissors, clipped him all over into the likeness of a lion’.

… Certainly he was no longer a cocker spaniel. But as he gazed, his ears bald now, and uncurled, seemed to twitch. It was as if the potent spirits of truth and laughter were whispering in them. To be nothing—is that not, after all, the most satisfactory state in the whole world? … Anyhow, settle the matter as he might, there could be no doubt that he was free from fleas. He shook his ruff. He danced on his nude, attenuated legs. His spirits rose. So might a great beauty, rising from a bed of sickness and finding her face eternally disfigured, make a bonfire of clothes and cosmetics, and laugh with joy to think that she need never look in the glass again or dread a lover’s coolness or a rival’s beauty. … So Flush scampered off clipped all over in the likeness of a liion, but free from fleas. ‘Flush’, Mrs Browning wrote to her sister, ‘is wise.’ She was thinking perhaps of the Greek saying that happiness is only to be reached through suffering. The true philosopher is he who has lost his coat but is free from fleas.

—Virginia Woolf, Flush: A Biography

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