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Richardson, in his excellent work, states that Maida's sire was one of the noble shepherds' dogs of the Pyrenees, and his dam of the Highland deerhound race. Moreover, that he certainly was one of the finest dogs ever seen of his kind, not only on account of his symmetry of form and dignified aspect, but also from his extraordinary size and strength. He had the greatest pleasure in accompanying the common greyhounds; and although, from his great size and massive power, he was not to appearance at all adapted for coursing, yet he not unfrequently turned and even ran down hares.
Scott, writing in his Diary of the irksomeness of sitting for his portrait, said, “I am as tired of the operation as old Maida, who had been so often sketched that he got up and walked off with signs of loathing whenever he saw an artist unfurl his paper, and handle his brushes.”
Miss Edgeworth, in 1826, not knowing that Maida had been replaced, offered him an Irish staghound, which was declined, Sir Walter having two gigantic wolf-hounds (as he considered them), Nimrod and Bran, one presented by Glengarry, the other by MacPherson, of Cluny.
Maida, in the vigour of youth, and decrepitude of age, is thus described in Woodstock :
“At this moment another auxiliary rushed out of the thicket to the knight's assistance: it was a large wolf-dog, in strength a mastiff, in form, and almost in fleetness, a greyhound. Bevis was the noblest of the kind whicli ever pulled down a stag; tawny coloured like a lion, with a black muzzle and black feet, just edged with a line of white round the toes. He was as tractable as he was strong and bold.
“We must not omit one other remarkable figure in the group-a gigantic dog, which bore the signs of being at the extremity of canine life, being perhaps fifteen or sixteen years old. But though exhibiting the ruin only of his former appearance, his eyes dim, his joints stiff, his head slouched down, and his gallant carriage and graceful motions exchanged for a stiff, rheumatic, hobbling gait, the noble hound had lost none of his instinctive fondness for his master. To lie by Sir Henry's feet in the summer or by the fire in winter, to raise his head to look on him, to lick his withered hand or his shrivelled cheek from time to time, seemed now all that Bevis lived for. His faithful dog did not survive him many days."
Maida was painted by the most illustrious of all painters of the dog, and the picture, afterwards engraved, is, or was, at Blair-Adam.
Scott observes of the dog :
“The Almighty, who gave the dog to be the companion of our pleasures and our toils, hath invested him with a nature noble and incapable of deceit. He forgets neither friend nor foe; remembers, and with accuracy, both benefit and injury. He hath a share of man’s intelligence, but no share of man's falsehood. You may bribe an assassin to slay a man, or a witness to take his life by false accusation, but you cannot make a dog tear his benefactor. He is the friend of man, save when man justly incurs his enmity.”
The dogs of Scott must occur to every reader: little Wasp, on the moors of Cumberland, scampering and racing in a thousand wheels upon the heath, and returning to jump on his master-attacking the heels of the ruffians who assault him-licking his hand to ask leave to sleep at his feet-and pattering up the stair in the gloomy jail, rushing into his cheerless room to devour him with caresses.
The superb deerhound in the ‘Abbot,'Wolf; little Elphin in ‘Old Mortality,' in the touching scene of the return of Morton to his home; Fangs, in ‘Ivanhoe,' the friend of the Saxon serf; all rise at once before us. No man ever so individualised them as the great Wizard of the North, who declared he could believe anything of a dog.
Neither must Lufra be forgotten. The restrained wrath of the dreaded baron culminating at the insult to his canine companion, is true to nature; and a similar incident is well told in the enthralling romance of ‘Nick of the Woods, the best novel of Indian life after the Last of the Mohicans.'
“ The Monarch saw the gambols flag,
The Douglas had endured, that morn,
Then clamoured loud the royal train,
Lady of the Lake.
Within the precincts of the ancient abbey of Newstead, and amidst its ivy-mantled ruins, in the burial-place of the monks, is the handsome marble monument lovingly erected by Byron, in affectionate remembrance of his favourite dog Boatswain. This noble animal, after long and faithful service, was seized with madness, and in its agonising paroxysms, his master's ministering hand, with devoted tenderness, more than once wiped away the foam that gathered on his lips. Writing to his friend Hodgson, he thus spoke of him: “Boatswain is dead! He expired in a state of madness on the 18th, after suffering much, yet retaining all the gentleness of his nature to the last, never attempting to do the least injury to anyone near him. I have now lost everything except old Murray.”
By a will which Lord Byron executed in 1811, he directed that his own body should be buried in a vault which he had made for that purpose near his loyal dog. The sale of Newstead put an end to this idea, for in 1813 he writes, “I had built myself a bath and a vault, and now I shan't even be buried in it. It is odd that we can't even be certain of a grave; at least a particular one.”
The following is the world-wide inscription and epitaph inscribed on the tomb:
" Near this spot
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
If inscribed over human ashes,
BOATSWAIN, a Dog,
Unknown to glory, but upheld by birth,