Invisible Works - Black Dog Tales
The Black Dog of Peterloo
Guest post from Rosie Garland. Commissioned for Halloween 2015.
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“A Manchester Encounter, or, The Black Dog of Peterloo
From an unpublished and anonymous letter now in the collection of the Portico Library, Manchester. Typography dates it to the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Spelling and punctuation have been adapted for ease of the modern reader.
“How often do we pass through life recalling chance encounters of the briefest duration. Against all reason, we remember a snatched conversation or a face glimpsed in a crowd, rather than those interactions born of long and amiable acquaintance.
There is no man living who does not recall the calamitous events of the 16th of August just gone. It was then I saw him, on Saint Peter’s Fields, amongst our band of comrades crying out for enfranchisement. He was a fellow of swarthy mien, dense of whisker and grim of visage; yet he was my brother and I would have called him such. I had not met him previously: not at any meeting; nor in any one of the multitude of low public houses frequented by men of his sort – or of the sort I took him for; nor did I clap eyes on him afterwards. Yet our meeting, which was no meeting, has remained in my mind with great clarity.
He moved through the company, glancing from side to side as though searching for some person. His gait was unbalanced, as though there was a great pain in his ankles, most dolorous to bear. The shoulders of his jacket were gnawed at the seam and the fabric of his shirt peeped through. I remarked privately upon the whiteness of that shirt, which, set against the slovenliness of his garments otherwise, seemed to my eye most remarkable.
More notable still was the matter of his hair. He was an hairy man: more hirsute than Esau and the most thickly-pelted fellow I ever met. His nose, what I could see of it, was prominent and surrounded by a dense undergrowth of beard and moustaches. I wondered if he tended such a riot of facial hair in an attempt to disguise the vast size of that snout. If he did, it was not a successful stratagem. The tip glistened with unwiped moisture; his lips were so thin as to give his mouth the appearance of a wide rent in a fur muffler, teeth glinting through the gash…”