EB White explains his dachshund's license status


Letters of Note (whose book was spectacular) publishes this arch, sarcastic letter from EB "Charlotte's Web" White to the ASPCA about whether his dachshund, Minnie, is duly licensed.

Extra points for critiquing his letter with reference to Elements of Style.

In spite of what your inspector reported, she has a license. She is licensed in the State of Maine as an unspayed bitch, or what is more commonly called an "unspaded" bitch. She wears her metal license tag but I must say I don't particularly care for it, as it is in the shape of a hydrant, which seems to me a feeble gag, besides being pointless in the case of a female. It is hard to believe that any state in the Union would circulate a gag like that and make people pay money for it, but Maine is always thinking of something. Maine puts up roadside crosses along the highways to mark the spots where people have lost their lives in motor accidents, so the highways are beginning to take on the appearance of a cemetery, and motoring in Maine has become a solemn experience, when one thinks mostly about death. I was driving along a road near Kittery the other day thinking about death and all of a sudden I heard the spring peepers. That changed me right away and I suddenly thought about life. It was the nicest feeling.

You asked about Minnie's name, sex, breed, and phone number. She doesn't answer the phone. She is a dachshund and can't reach it, but she wouldn't answer it even if she could, as she has no interest in outside calls. I did have a dachshund once, a male, who was interested in the telephone, and who got a great many calls, but Fred was an exceptional dog (his name was Fred) and I can't think of anything offhand that he wasn't interested in. The telephone was only one of a thousand things. He loved life — that is, he loved life if by "life" you mean "trouble," and of course the phone is almost synonymous with trouble. Minnie loves life, too, but her idea of life is a warm bed, preferably with an electric pad, and a friend in bed with her, and plenty of shut-eye, night and days. She's almost twelve. I guess I've already mentioned that. I got her from Dr. Clarence Little in 1939. He was using dachshunds in his cancer-research experiments (that was before Winchell was running the thing) and he had a couple of extra puppies, so I wheedled Minnie out of him. She later had puppies by her own father, at Dr. Little's request. What do you think about that for a scandal? I know what Fred thought about it. He was some put out.

She doesn't answer the phone [Letters of Note]

(Thanks, Mister Eppy!)

Notable Replies

  1. That was lovely.

  2. Agreed. Doesn't seem very sarcastic at all. If that's considered sarcastic, I can see why USA folk have a reputation for not getting irony. They're all getting the wrong examples.

  3. I'd also like a license for my pet fish Eric. He's an halibut.

  4. To operate the telephone.

  5. It never ceases to amaze me what a funny guy E.B. White was. As great as this letter was I still think his best is when he responds to critics who thought there was too much emphasis on death in Charlotte's Web

    I am working on a new book about a boa constrictor and a litter of hyenas. The boa constrictor swallows the babies one by one, and the mother hyena dies laughing.

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