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I was meaning to research this myself, but I completely forgot. Thanks for reminding me.
I looked it up comes from a little story called "An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog." http://www.childrensbooksonline.org/Elegy_on_the_Death_of_a_Mad_Dog/pages/1_Elegy_on_the_Death_of_a_Mad_Dog.htm
Here's how I interpret it in the context of the Painted Veil.
Fane was known as a good man in China. He nurtured the infants in the orphanage and he worked tirelessly to find a cure for the cholera.
But there was a "mad dog" in him too. We know this because he took his unfaithful wife with him to China during a cholera epidemic. He may have wanted to kill her and/or himself.
However, over time the Fanes reconcile. When Fane dies he is a good man again and he's telling Kitty that the "mad dog" has died. So even though Fane dies, he's letting her know that that madness in him is no longer there.
At least that's my take.
Last Edited on: 2/24/10 2:43 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
I agree with your interpretation of it Tome. It was clear from the start that to take her with him into the heart of an epidemic, would have required some degree of mental illness...or at best we could call it poor judgement. I loved the book, and thought the recent movie pretty good too. Thanks for the link to the poem.
The Painted Veil was part of the Classic Lit challenge in the new-to-me-author category.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how contemporary Maugham's writing is. I too loved this story of revenge and reconciliation, and Edward Norton is hot.
Anyway, I am looking forward to reading more Maugham. I think if have Of Human Bondage in my TBR.