March 7th, 2008

hound of heaven

Snitter, Rowf, and Sassafras -- good dogs, all

Planning my trip to England and Scotland had me conning over the illustrations (especially the maps) in Richard Adams's The Plague Dogs.

When I first read The Plague Dogs, I had no first-hand acquaintance with the geography of Britain. My imperfect recall of the maps had placed them in Yorkshire. But no, it's the Lake District. Looking over the book, I realized that I had been in a couple of those places, at least on the edges. The action of the book takes place south of the areas we drove through in 2005, but Hard Knott Pass is there, connecting Langdale and Eskdale. We drove over the pass in mist and fog.

My imperfect memory was made the more imperfect by the fact that I have never re-read The Plague Dogs. This is unusual for me. I do a lot of re-reading. But The Plague Dogs was both a very painful and very beautiful book for me, and I guess I've been reluctant to go through the emotional wrench of reading it again -- though it's well worth the effort, and I really should, soon.

The Plague Dogs is not the only literary allusion I've been mulling over today in connection with the Lake District. Wasdale is the valley that lies below Scafell Pike. It is headed by the lake called Wast Water. How many can guess what novel begins with this passage?
There was a man named Lessingham dwelt in an old low house in Wastdale, set in a gray old garden where yew-trees flourished that had seen Vikings in Copeland in their seedling time.