A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Mad Dog." by Charlotte M. Yonge (1823-1901)
From: A Book of Golden Deeds. (1864) by Charlotte M. Yonge. London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., n.d.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom



Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton was well known in the early part of the nineteenth century as one of the most earnest assistants of William Wilberforce in freeing England from the crimes inseparable from slave-holding. It is not, however, of his public career, nor of his deep piety, that we are about to speak, but of one incident in his life, which shows how a really religious and intrepid man will face a sudden and frightful peril for the sake of others. The event took place in the summer of 1816, when he was thirty years old, a capital sportsman and a man of remarkable personal strength and great height (six foot four). He was not as yet a baronet, and was at the time living at Hampstead, and daily riding into Spitalfields to attend to the affairs of a brewery in which he was a partner. During a visit that his wife and children were making at a distance, he had been staying with his brother-in-law, Mr. Hoare, not far from his home. When his servant brought his horse to him there, it was with the intelligence that his dog, Prince, was in a strange state, had killed the cat, almost killed another dog, and had tried to bite some of the servants. Mr. Buxton desired that the creature should be tied up and taken care of, and then rode off to his business in the town; but as he returned he saw Prince, evidently mad, covered with mud, running furiously and biting at everything.

Mr. Buxton tried to ride him down or drive him into some outhouse, but in vain; and he bit at least a dozen dogs, two boys, and a man, springing at a boy and seizing him by the breast, but this time his master was near enough to knock him down with his whip. He then changed his course, setting off for London, and Mr. Buxton rode by his side, waiting for some opportunity of stopping him, and constantly calling to him; but the poor animal was past attending to the well-known voice, whether coaxing or scolding. He was getting near more closely inhabited places, and considering the fearful damage he might effect, Mr. Buxton thought, "if ever there was an occasion that justified a risk of life, this was it", and determined to catch him himself. Prince ran to a garden-door, and Mr. Buxton, leaping from his horse, grasped him by the neck. His struggles were so desperate, that it seemed at first almost impossible–even for so powerful a man–to hold him (he was evidently a large dog); but lifting him up from the ground, he was more easily managed, and Mr. Buxton contrived to ring the bell; but for a long time no one came to his help, and being afraid lest the foam which was pouring from the poor beast's jaws might get into some scratch on his fingers, and be as dangerous as an actual bite, he with great difficulty held Prince with one hand while he worked the other into the glove in his pocket, then changed hands, and thus put on the other glove. At last the gardener opened the door, and asked what he wanted. "I've brought you a mad dog," was the answer; and desiring him to get a strong chain, Mr. Buxton walked into the yard carrying Prince by the neck. He was determined not to kill the dog at once, thinking that if it should prove not to be a case of hydrophobia, it would be a great relief to the persons who had been bitten, and this could only be determined by letting the disease take its course. The gardener was in great terror, but had sense enough to obey directions, and was able to secure the collar round the dog's neck, and fasten the other end of the chain to a tree. Mr. Buxton then walked to the utmost bound of the chain, and with all his force, "which," he says, "was nearly exhausted" by the dog's "frantic struggles", threw the creature as far away from him as he could, and sprang back in time to avoid poor Prince's desperate bound after him, which was followed by "the most fearful yell he ever heard".

All day the unhappy creature, in the misery of that horrible disease to which our faithful companions are sometimes subject, rushed round and round the tree, champing the foam that gushed from his jaws, and when food was thrown to him, snatched at it with fury, but could not eat it. The next day, Mr. Buxton thought the chain in danger of giving way, so, renewing his act of bravery, he obtained a stronger chain, and a pitchfork. Between the prongs of this he contrived to get the dog's body, without piercing it, and thus held him pinned to the ground, while fastening a much larger chain round his neck. On the pitchfork being removed, the dog sprang up and dashed after his master with such violence that the old chain snapped in two. However, the frenzy soon spent his strength, and he died only forty-eight hours after the first symptoms of madness had appeared. All the dogs and cats he had bitten were killed by Mr. Buxton himself, knowing that for such a painful business it was wiser to trust to no one's resolution and humanity but his own. The man and boys had the bitten parts cut out and the wounds burnt, and it was hoped that the horrid consequences might be averted from them. He himself expressed great thankfulness both for his own escape and his children's absence from home, and thus wrote to his wife a day or two after:–"What a terrible business it was. You must not scold me for the risk I ran. What I did I did from a conviction that it was my duty, and I never can think that an over-cautious care of self in circumstances where your risk may preserve others, is so great a virtue as you seem to think it. I do believe that if I had shrunk from the danger, and others had suffered in consequence, I should have felt more pain than I should have done had I received a bite."

The perfect coolness and presence of mind shown in the whole adventure are, perhaps, some of its most remarkable features–all being done from no sudden impulse, no daring temper, but from the grave, considerate conviction of the duty of encountering the peril on the part of the person most likely to be able to secure others; and no one who has shuddered at the accounts of the agonies of hydrophobia can fail to own how deadly that peril was.

As a pendant to our countryman's battle with a mad dog, let us see a combat between one of these frenzied creatures and a French weaver, named Simon Albony, a poor man of the town of Rhodes, who was the bread-winner for his aged father. Coming home from his work, in the summer of the year 1830, at about seven o'clock in the evening, he encountered a mad dog, who had already greatly injured several of the townspeople. The creature was advancing slowly, but suddenly turned upon him. Setting his back against a wall, he courageously waited for it, and laid hold of it, though not without being severely bitten. He kept it with a firm hand, shouting that he would not let it go to do further mischief, but that someone must bring him an axe, and break its back.

Monsieur Portat, a mounted gendarme, heard him, and, hastening to his help, found him struggling with this large hound, holding him by the neck and ears, and constantly asking for an axe to kill him with. The gendarme struck the dog with his stick, but it was not strong enough to kill it; and another person came up with a heavier club, and gave it a finishing stroke. Albony had received fourteen wounds on the body, thighs, and hands; but they were immediately operated upon, and at the time his name was brought forward, seven months afterwards, to receive a prize from the Monthyon fund for his heroism, it was hoped that the danger of any bad effects had passed away.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Mary Mark Ockerbloom.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom