In my ignorance, I’d always thought that Winston Churchill’s ‘black dog’ was a metaphor that he’d invented. Turns out that it was Samuel Johnson (prompting me to order a copy of Boswell’s biography of the man!) to plug yet another gap in my knowledge.
“The black dog I hope always to resist, and in time to drive, though I am deprived of almost all those that used to help me…When I rise my breakfast is solitary, the black dog waits to share it, from breakfast to dinner he continues barking, except that Dr Brocklesby for a little keeps him at a distance…Night comes at last, and some hours of restlessness and confusion bring me again to a day of solitude. What shall exclude the black dog from a habitation like this?”
It’s interesting that his voice carries forward such resonance over the centuries.
I’ve found that it’s often the case that when someone suffers from an ailment, they’ll become an expert, seeking out any and all mentions of their affliction until they know as much as their doctor. I’ve done a similar thing, but I don’t really care about the clinical efficacy of SSRIs so much as wanting to read what others have written about their experience. Turns out that there’s a whole tradition and wealth of literature out there that owes its existence to the quiet desperation of those stricken with melancholy humor.
On a personal level, I’ve been ‘dog-sitting’ since before Christmas. This was prompted by an awakened memory of something that I had written about from my past. Only, the dark hound hasn’t been following me around benignly begging for attention so much as it has been snapping at my heels and threatening to take a rabid, slathering bite out of me. But yes, it’s definitely fueled the creative engines; I’ve not stopped writing and taking notes since the latest episode started.
I just need the ‘tabby cat of genius’ to crawl in through an open window, and the latest rewrite should be a piece of cake…