Great Books of the World – Part 11

“The love of all living creatures
is the most noble attribute of man.”

Charles Darwin

Courtesy of Eredus:

 

“After you have exhausted what there is
in business, politics, conviviality, and so on –
have found that none of these finally satisfy,
or permanently wear – what remains?
Nature remains.”

Walt Whitman

Courtesy of BBC Earth:

 

Courtesy of Sustainable Human:

 

HUGH  LOFTING
1886  –  1947

Doctor Dolittle, one of the best-loved characters in children’s literature, was born in the mud and blood of the Flanders trenches in World War I. His creator, Hugh Lofting, was appalled by the casual cruelties inflicted on the horses that worked and died so bravely in the front lines. Despairing of man’s inhumanity, Lofting imagined a world in which he could talk to the animals and ask them about their joys and sorrows.

“Imagine” by John Lennon, performed by Emeli Sandé:

 

In his weekly letters home to his two small children, he invented a doctor who lived in the peaceful English village of Puddleby-on-the-Mash. He called him Dolittle – the nickname he’d given his son Colin. Doctor Dolittle lost his patients because he kept so many pets. So, instead, he cared for the animals, who taught him their language.

“Talk To The Animals” (courtesy of NewportTheatreGuild):

 

Second Lieutenant Lofting read parts of these stories by candlelight to his fellow soldiers in the trenches. One told Colin years later that they had saved his sanity. Around the edges of the letters, Lofting sketched his unassuming hero – a portly, rather unkempt figure in a frock coat and top hat.

This endearing figure – thoughtful, scholarly, and impractical – could have been created by a rural vicar. But Lofting, a dark, brooding man of Irish stock, had a more colourful life. He was born in Maidenhead in 1886, the youngest of six children. His father, a clerk of works, made it clear to the young boy that writing was not a man’s career.

So Lofting left home, qualifying as a civil engineer in Boston and London and spending the next five years prospecting in Canada and building railways in West Africa and Havana. He returned to the US where he married an American debutante, Flora Small, and settled in New York City to turn his hand to writing stories. It was a gamble. Their first child, Elizabeth, was born in 1913. The short stories he wrote were published in magazines but barely paid the bills.

Then came World War I. After working for the British Ministry of Information in New York, Lofting was commissioned into the Irish Guards. In 1918, wounded and sent home, he found that Flora had kept his letters. Back in New York, he decided to turn them into a book. If there was one thing Lofting had in common with Dr Dolittle, it was his deep love of animals. As a boy in Maidenhead, he had maintained a small zoo and a natural history museum in the back of a linen cupboard until his mother found it after following a trail of white mice.

Lofting’s youngest, Christopher, recalled taking home baby birds that had fallen out of their nests.  With anybody else, they would have died within hours. But his father would put the bird under a lamp, feed it with a pipette or a matchstick, and six weeks later he would open a window and the bird would fly out.

Courtesy of Kinder World:

 

The Story of Doctor Dolittle

In the Dolittle books, Lofting imbued that love of the animals in millions of his young readers by the brilliantly simple stratagem of creating the one man who was allowed to learn their language. The first, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, was published on both sides of the Atlantic to huge and immediate success.

The glorious opening sequence from the 1967 film “Doctor Dolittle” (courtesy of Jacob Coronado):

 

In this and the subsequent Dolittle adventures, he created a delightful menagerie of animal characters: Polynesia, the short-tempered parrot, the double-headed Pushmi-Pullyu, Dab-Dab, the duck, and Gub-Gub, the pig, and the caterpillar as long as a village street, with gout in a dozen of its feet, Jip, the dog, and the owl, Too-Too. In many books, the narrator is young Tommy Stubbins, the Doctor’s apprentice and wide-eyed admirer.

“The Carnival of the Animals: X. Aviary” by Camille Saint-Saëns (courtesy of Arpege’s Music):

 

Lofting won prestigious literary awards during his lifetime, but Dr Dolittle became a millstone around his neck. He had drunk quite heavily since being invalidated out of the army in 1918. This turned towards alcoholism as his wife Flora succumbed to mental illness. She died in 1927, and the following year he married New Yorker, Katherine Peters. Two weeks after their wedding, she died from pneumonia contracted on their honeymoon.

“The Last Rose of Summer” (Irish Traditional), performed by Barry Douglas, piano, and Eimear McGeown, Irish flute:

 

Doctor Dolittle on the Moon

A few months later he published a Doctor Dolittle novel that stranded him on the Moon – his effort to dispose of his hero. Alcoholism and grief pitched him into manic depression. But public pressure was such that in 1933 he was forced to bring Dolittle back. In the last four books, the gentle Doctor becomes Lofting’s mouthpiece to express his discontent with the modern world, its materialism, and heedlessness.

In 1935 he married for the third time, to a young nurse half his age. They moved to California, where he found happiness. But the outbreak of World War II redoubled his pessimism. Turned down by the Irish Guards when he attempted to re-enlist, he started drinking again and eventually died of liver failure in 1947, aged 61.

“Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-Flat Major”, H. 27: II. by John Field, performed by Míċeál O’Rourke and London Mozart Players:

 

Lofting bequeathed to the world one of the imperishable characters of children’s fiction – the subject of three Hollywood films, one starring Rex Harrison and another, Eddie Murphy, and a stage musical. Doctor Dolittle’s books are as enthralling as ever.

“Books teach you to conquer the world with your love!”
Dr Manoj Bhambu

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle is the second book in Hugh Lofting’s beloved series about a very kind doctor who can talk to animals and the one that most happily conveys the richness of the author’s invention. If the doctor’s linguistic wizardry weren’t entertaining enough, he also has a habit of falling into fanciful adventures in the company of his pets, whom I have mentioned previously.

Courtesy of TED-Ed:

The narrator, the young boy Tommy Stubbins gives the account of what is going on in Dolittle’s household and on the epic journey from their home base in the village of Puddle-by-on-Marsh to the floating atoll called Spidermonkey Island, where they hope to examine the rare Jabizri beetle. In the course of their travels, Dolittle and company brave a shipwreck, encounter the Great Glass Sea Snail, and solve the mystery of the disappearance of the great naturalist known as Long Arrow.

Throughout, Lofting’s wit and warmth, and the beautifully realised characters, human and animal, provide a happy counterpoint to the compelling story of their perilous escapades, making The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle a perfect vehicle in which to explore the pleasure and promise of wonderful storytelling.

An extract from The Story of Doctor Dolittle:

“Once upon a time, many years ago – when our grandfathers were little children – there was a doctor and his name was Dolittle – John Dolittle, M.D. It means that he was a proper doctor and knew a whole lot. He lived in a little town called Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. All the folks, young and old, knew him well by sight. And whenever he walked down the street in his high hat everyone would say, ‘There goes the Doctor! He’s a clever man.’

And the dogs and the children would all run up and follow behind him; and even the crows that lived in the church tower would caw and nod their heads. The house he lived in, on the edge of the town, was quite small, but his garden was very large and had a wide lawn and stone seats and weeping willows hanging over. His sister, Sarah Dolittle, was the housekeeper for him, but the Doctor looked after the garden himself.

He was very fond of animals and kept many kinds of pets. Besides the goldfish in the pond at the bottom of his garden, he had rabbits in the pantry, white mice in his piano, a squirrel in the linen closet, and a hedgehog in the cellar. He had a cow with a calf too, and an old lame horse – twenty-five years of age – and chickens and pigeons and two lambs and many other animals. But his favourite pets were Dab-Dab, the duck; Jip, the dog; Gub-Gub, the baby pig; Polynesia, the parrot; and the owl, Too-Too.

His sister used to grumble about all these animals and said they made the house untidy. And one day when an old lady with rheumatism came to see the Doctor, she sat on the hedgehog, who was sleeping on the sofa, and never came to see him more, but drove every Saturday all the way to Oxenthorpe, another town ten miles off, to see a different doctor.

‘Surely, Dab-Dab,’ said he, ‘we have some cockroaches!’

Then his sister, Sarah Dolittle, came to him and said,

‘John, how can you expect sick people to come and see you when you keep all these animals in the house? It’s a fine doctor would have his parlour full of hedgehogs and mice! That is the fourth personage these animals have driven away. Squire Jenkins and the Parson say they wouldn’t come near your house again – no matter how ill they are. We are getting poorer every day. If you go on like this, none of the best people will have you for a doctor.’

‘But I like the animals better than the ‘best people,’ said the Doctor.

‘You are ridiculous,’ said his sister and walked out of the room.

Courtesy of Christopher Szafran-Luce:

 

 

 

 

54 thoughts on “Great Books of the World – Part 11

  1. Delightful background of the beloved Dr. Dolittle. Nice!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent read. Have a great weekend J🌿✨

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for your kind comment, Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Much informative. I am learning while reading your blog pages. Amazing moments. Thank you 💯🌹

    Like

  5. Thank you, Pat, for your lovely comment!

    Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for your time and appreciation!

    Joanna

    Like

  7. Very interesting Joanna! Horse is my favourite animal and both my children love animals. I’ll share your article with them. Enjoy your weekend! 💛

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your wonderful story about Dr. Dolittle and his animals brought back childhood memories of trips to the zoo and Castle Combe, when life was so much simpler and children could be children. They were happy days, and I find it hard to believe that Hugh Lofting didn’t live in the make-believe world of his books. I saw the film but didn’t read any of his books, but as you know Joanna, I don’t miss a single one of your posts which are just as magical as any of the Dr Dolittle stories.

    Like

  9. Thank you, Malc, I will come back as I am feeding my wildlife – it is cold!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You are very welcome. Joanna. Great job!

    Like

  11. Thank you, Malc, for your wonderful comments! You made my day! A Big Thank You!!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you, Joanna, for sharing the story of Hugh Lofting and his creation of classic and immortal character of Dr John Dolittle, who loved animals more than his patients, as he started speaking the language of animals.

    Though Hugh’s personal life was sad from being invalidated to alcoholism, grief, pessimism, depression and finally to cirrhosis of liver, his writing career was illustrious. Despite his father’s retort that writing was not a man’s career, he chose to write, and wrote so well. His writing illustrated letters to his kids reminds me of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, who wrote letters from Ahmednagar jail to entertain and teach his only daughter (later Mrs Indira Gandhi, who became PM) about Indian history, culture, politics, philosophy etc. These letters took the shape of “Discovery of India.”

    Though Lofting was a civil engineer, his decision to write reminds me of a live example. The son of one of my colleagues graduated as engineer from IIT and was offered handsome packages by companies, but he didn’t accept any of them and travelled across India before writing books. Finally he co-founded and became CEO of YourQuote app, a platform for sharing quotes, poems etc.

    Thank you again, Joanna for sharing one more interesting and enthralling post with amazing photos, audios and videos. Have a great weekend!

    Like

  13. Thank you, Kaushal, for your excellent and interesting comments! I quoted once from Nehru’s writing and there is so much to be expected from traveling across India and gaining inspiration for writing. I am glad you have enjoyed the post and let’s look forward to the next one. Great weekend to you too.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you, Filipa, all the best to you too.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wonderful. Doctor Doolittle was one of my favourites though I think I only ever had two of the books. I did not know the sad story of Hugh Lofting. The videos are lovely and indeed they do lift the spirit. Anna Breytenbach is an amazing woman. I totally accept all she says. Thank you for posting about her as well. And for boosting my mood!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. That last video is so funny. Have seen bits before but it always makes me laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. A fabulous post about the wonderful Dr. Dolittle, Joanna. Although he died young, my current age, so that’s very sad. I see a pattern of depression that leads to addiction in some manner in many authors, not to mention, in celebrities in any form of art. It’s tragic, to say the least. We observe and enjoy their talents, skills, and creations but have no idea as to what their personal lives entail. On a more joyful note, I remember Rex Harrison, a classic performance. I love animals as well, so this post was fascinating.
    Thank you and have a lovely weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thank you, Lauren, for your kind comments! I think his grief about the loss of his family and the horror of war affected him deeply, perhaps beyond endurance of most people. I am glad that you enjoyed the post. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  19. You’re welcome, always!

    Like

  20. Loved this , Thanks for this lovely post❤️🌟

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you for your lovely comments! Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I love it too!

    Joanna

    nna

    Like

  23. Thank you, Carolyn, for your lovely comments. It is good news today about the cheetah going back to India. Thank you again.

    Joanna

    Like

  24. Thank you for all this fabulous information Joanna. Very interesting indeed. You put funny animal and bird videos and that was deadly for me! I couldn’t resist going from one to another. However, it gave me many laughs so it was well worth it! Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Thank you, Peter, for your lovely comments! We do need some relief in such a sad days.

    Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Wow…. What a post!🙏😍💕🥰
    Great collection of videos
    Loved the song.. had goosebumps when I heard the voice of Emeli Sande.
    Yes.. nature makes us feel better… I am lover of nature, of all its creatures, of all living and non living things..
    Didn’t know about Hugh Lofting… It’s because of you I came to know about such great people..
    I am a lover of music. So loved the piano music pieces…
    Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful post..💕

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Thank you, Iswar, for your beautiful comments! It is a great pleasure to read your words! Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  28. You’re welcome Joanna 🙏💕☺️

    Like

  29. Hi Joanna,

    I see this post as a writer’s journey.

    Hugh Lofting went through numerous changes in his life, clearly influencing the creation of his stories.

    Both world wars are the huge losses of life, material, and humanity.

    The positive outcomes are the evergreen lovely cartoon characters we got from the creators like Lofting and Walt Disney.

    Dr Dolittle balanced the positive and negatives of temporary life, encouraging people to love animals.

    The black and white pictures drawn by Lofting, reminds me of my imperfect illustrations, which I’m currently drawing for my stories.

    I need to improve them!

    Above, KK has outlined a good summary of this post. I might not be able to do the same.

    Instead, I shared what I feel for Hugh Lofting and this post.

    Thank you for sharing this post.
    It tells the backstory of the stories we watch, listen and enjoy today.

    P.S.: Those pet animals includes mices & hedgehogs. Gaby has been an important part of your posts for so long.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Thank you, Lokesh, for your excellent comments and for mentioning my great friend, Gaby, who influenced my decision to start this blog. Every word you wrote is memorable.
    Thank you again, Lokesh. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Hi, Joanna, I can really feel the warmth of your words in this post. I enjoyed all the clips & photos. I love the story of Dr. Doolittle. I saw the movie with Eddie Murphy. Too bad Lofting spent so much time in misery. We are fortunate for his legacy. Thank you for sharing his story. 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Thanks for sharing this.

    Like

  33. Thank you for your kind comment. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  34. Almost every significant happening had an exhausting past. Even after knowing something about doctor dolittle, i knew nothng and now when this post has enlightened us of his stretch, his imagination and his desire to write and how it is very inspiring. More so when you can teach your kids in a manner which almost none might have thought till then. And writing letters is one thing but to compose them in such a way that must have made a world of difference to their lives. But at the same time a talented writer might not balance his emotions inside. I felt sorry for his alcoholism . It certainly took many hours of his life that might have given us more ways to love one and all.

    I also find it utterly humorous as well metaphorical that he gave his character the name- dolittle which symbolises to his own life of wanderings and thoughts of doing little and as much as writing. I really enjoyed his his extract and found myself giving a similar answer to anyone who would have questioned.

    Thank you Joanna, doctor dolittle became a person as real as all the animals lofting lived. I loved him and loved this post.

    Like

  35. Thank you, Narayan, for your wonderful comments!

    I will write more about the effect of the writing you describe so eloquently later because at the moment I am dealing with important legal issues. I will let you know later in a private email about the outcome.

    Joanna

    Like

  36. Thank you, Narayan, again for your observations. Lofting’s alcoholism stems from grief after he lost two wives and from his war experience. Indeed, I often wonder what the writers affected by tragedies would have achieved if they lead happy lives. Tomorrow more of the nature tales!

    Joanna

    Like

  37. Loved Emeli Sandé singing “Imagine” by John Lennon. Lovely post as always!

    Like

  38. Thank you, Sharon, for your kind comment! Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  39. You are very welcome Joanna! All the very best!

    Like

  40. love your songs and stories and sharing the gifts of Dr. Doolittle Joana! 💗💗

    Like

  41. Thank you so much, Cindy!

    Liked by 1 person

  42. You are so welcome 🙏

    Like

  43. Thank you Joanna, such a lovely read about Dr Dolittle.

    Like

  44. Very nice post🙂. Quite informative

    Like

  45. Thank you, Iswar, for your kind comment. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  46. Wow that was wonderful! Doctor Doolittle and all the wonderful related videos on animals and Nature were just the things I needed on this rainy rainy morning! Thank you Joanna for compiling this very entertaining post!

    Like

  47. Thank you, Karima, for your wonderful comments!

    I am so glad that you liked the post and all the music. Greatly appreciated!

    Joanna

    Like

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