by John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
In “The Dog Hervey” the real dog of a woman is the phantom dog of a man, and for a long time we regard it as a real dog and not as a shadow cast by the mind, we are too little attuned to the solution to accept it without cavil. We ask how the dog came to pass from the world of matter to the world of mind…In his Chapter XIX Charles Carrington looks at this and other “difficult” stories, observing on page 469:
The cryptic and the obscure styles are combined in several stories and are carried to their greatest length in “The Dog Hervey” which presents more puzzles, the more it is examined; it abounds in literary, masonic, psychological, and canine clues which lead nowhere. Like "Mrs. Bathurst" (Traffics and Discoveries) (it) seems to have been made incomprehensible by ruthless cutting. Perhaps the themes of both are too complex for treatment within the confines of a short story.Angus Wilson (p. 80) seeing portraits of some of some of Kipling’s friends in this and other stories, agrees with Carrington. He calls this one:
so confused that it might well have been better as a novel.Seymour-Smith (p. 340) examines this tale at some length, maintaining that Moira Sichliffe is a witch, and claiming that she represents Kipling’s wife - an extraordinary and monstrous suggestion.
... with the possible exception of "Mrs Bathurst" Kipling invariably took care to insert so many clues that the full meaning can always be understood if the reader is patient enough to notice them all...He takes the view (p. 97n.) that the miserable squinting dog in the story is not primarily a symbol:
It is part of the first level of the story, which is a piece of witchcraft. Miss Sichliffe projects her love for Shend— one of the lame ducks that her father turned into alcoholics, and the only person who ever showed her kindness and respect, into the animal, and by some process that remains obscure makes Shend see it in hallucinations, until in the end it leads him back to her and everything is well.He claims (p. 123) that:
...in "The Dog Hervey" there are about thirty clues to the witchcraft theme.The difficulty is that most of Kipling's clues are so inconspicuous, being disguised as descriptive details, or bits of quite natural conversation.Philip Mason in KJ 257 agrees that witchcraft plays a key part in the story:
Moira was indeed a kind of witch, reciting no spells by moonlight, but half-consciously directing her purpose to an end. Harvey was her familiar: the witches of the Middle Ages usually had a cat or a toad as a familiar. She must have talked to him about Shend, and put on him a load too heavy to bear. Her directed intensity of purpose made him go to the room where Shend had lived, and made him stare at the Narrator. She perhaps had some degree of second sight, and knew that the Narrator would play some part in her life: that is why she talked to him as though he were going to send her a parcel, and why Harvey stared at him.And J M S Tompkins (p. 162) agrees:
Nor have I any doubt that she wanted his friendship. She wove him, in a lesser role, into her unconscious, or only half conscious, spell. And that is why she expected him to recognise her unspoken quotation from Boswell. But I do not think she knew that Shend's yacht would be in harbour in Madeira when the Narrator was there. That was what is called 'chance', though I do not think Kipling believed in 'chance' any more than I do.
The desolate longing of a woman makes a vehicle for itself out of the little sickly dog she cherishes, and projects its wraith into the hallucinations of the drunkard, who years before was kind to her. This then is a tale of sorcery, of such a 'sending' as we might read of in a Northern folk-tale, or find paralleled in the beliefs of a savage people.Edwin Houlton, in a most interesting article in KJ 202, 'Who was the Dog Hervey', after reading Tompkins, comments:
Love in Kipling is literally "glamour"—sorcery, primitive and alarming. It can work fearfully with "ordinary", plain, middle-aged people —Shend and Moira, though rich and at the end happy, are in the same boat as Vickery, Mrs. Ashcroft, and Sergeant Godsoe. It is "Woman-work"—Shend runs away, Moira moves Heaven and Earth, and other Places, to clutch him back; there is another of her sort in "On The Gate," the old lady with a mottle-nosed Major in her grip, bullying St. Peter to let him in. Moira will make a man out of Shend.This Editor believes that, as in many of Kipling’s works, those who do not perceive any particular message can usually enjoy them as interesting stories and verse, though they may miss much fascinating material. See the remainder of Bodelsen’s Chapter VI “Kipling’s Late Manner”.