The Unlucky Dog

A starving Dog took a piece of meat. The owner called “mad dog” after it and the crowds killed it out of ignorance.

Make the punishment fit the crime.


JN Fable 075

Sketch: James Northcote; Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: M.U. Sears (1828)

A poor starveling dog wandered by ill chance into the habitation of a pretender to great sanctity, and seeing a piece of meat within his reach, took immediate possession of it. The pious hypocrite, seeing the dog skulking away with the meat in his mouth: said, “Well, well, I will not kill thee myself, I will not foul my hands in such an act of cruelty, I will only give thee a bad name,” and immediately shouted out to his neighbours, a mad dog, a mad dog, when instantly the unfortunate starving animal was pursued by the multitude with all the fury that can be prompted by ignorance, fear, revenge and rage, and was soon overtaken and killed.


Very many amongst the human race fatally deceive themselves by giving way to their vanity, and blinded by partiality, can view even their very vices as virtues. For when we are absorbed by self-love, we are in danger of running into the worst of errors; and at the time we are flattering ourselves on being mild, merciful, compassionate, and free from envy, make no scruple to propagate scandalous and malicious reports, many of which are doubtful, and many false, deceiving ourselves by thinking that it proceeds from our hatred to vice, when in fact it is only feeding our pride, by exulting in our supposed superior excellence, and with affected pity endeavouring to impress a notion of our clemency, at the moment we are inflicting on our neighbour a much greater calamity than even death itself, by the ruin of his character, silencing our conscience mean while by supposing that at worst we have only been guilty of indiscreet or idle talk, whilst doing the most deadly injuries; and enjoying in secret triumph, the mischief we have done, with the hope of wholly escaping shame, by making the world the executioners of our malice. J. N.

JN Fable 075a

Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: J. Wright (1828)