"The Turks greatly admire Cats; to them, their alluring Figure appears preferable to the Docility, Instinct, and Fidelity of the Dog. Mahomet was very partial to Cats. It is related, that being called up on some urgent Business, he preferred cutting off the Sleeve of his Robe, to waking the Cat, that lay upon it asleep. Nothing more was necessary, to bring these Animals into high Request. A Cat may even enter a Mosque; it is caressed there, as the Favourite Animal of the Prophet; while the Dog, that should dare appear in the Temples, would pollute them with his Presence, and would be punished with instant Death."[H]
I am indebted to the Rev. T. G. Gardner, of St. Paul's Cray, for the following from the French:
"A recluse, in the time of Gregory the Great, had it revealed to him in a vision that in the world to come he should have equal share of beatitude with that Pontiff; but this scarcely contented him, and he thought some compensation was his due, inasmuch as the Pope enjoyed immense wealth in this present life, and he himself had nothing he could call his own save one pet cat. But in another vision he was censured; his worldly detachment was not so entire as he imagined, and that Gregory would with far greater equanimity part with his vast treasures than he could part with his beloved puss."
Cats Endowed by La Belle Stewart.—One of the chief ornaments of the Court of St. James', in the reign of Charles II., was "La Belle Stewart," afterwards the Duchess of Richmond, to whom Pope alluded as the "Duchess of R." in the well-known line:
The endowment satirised by Pope has been favourably explained by Warton. She left annuities to several female friends, with the burden of maintaining some of her cats—a delicate way of providing for poor and probably proud gentlewomen, without making them feel that they owed their livelihood to her mere liberality. But possibly there may have been a kindliness of thought for both, deeming that those who were dear friends would be most likely to attend to her wishes.
Mr. Samuel Pepys had at least a gentle nature as regards animals, if he was not a lover of cats, for in his Diary occurs this note as to the Fire of London, 1666:
"September 5th.—Thence homeward having passed through
Cheapside and Newgate Market, all burned; and seen Antony Joyce's
house on fire. And took up (which I keep by me) a piece of glass
of Mercer's chapel in the street, where much more was, so melted
and buckled with the heat of the fire like parchment. I did also
see a poor cat taken out of a hole in a chimney, joining the wall
of the Exchange, with the hair all burned off its body and yet
Dr. Jortin wrote a Latin epitaph on a favourite cat:[I]
"Worn out with age and dire disease, a cat, Friendly to all, save wicked mouse and rat, I'm sent at last to ford the Stygian lake, And to the infernal coast a voyage make. Me Proserpine receiv'd, and smiling said, 'Be bless'd within these mansions of the dead. Enjoy among thy velvet-footed loves, Elysian's sunny banks and shady groves.' 'But if I've well deserv'd (O gracious queen), If patient under sufferings I have been, Grant me at least one night to visit home again, Once more to see my home and mistress dear, And purr these grateful accents in her ear: "Thy faithful cat, thy poor departed slave, Still loves her mistress, e'en beyond the grave."'"
"Dr. Barker kept a Seraglio and Colony of Cats. It happened, that at the Coronation of George I. the Chair of State fell to his Share of the Spoil (as Prebendary of Westminster) which he sold to some Foreigner; when they packed it up, one of his favourite Cats was inclosed along with it; but the Doctor pursued his treasure in a boat to Gravesend and recovered her safe. When the Doctor was disgusted with the Ministry, he gave his Female Cats, the Names of the Chief Ladies about the Court; and the Male-ones, those of the Men in Power, adorning them with the Blue, Red, or Green Insignia of Ribbons, which the Persons they represented, wore."[J]
Daniel, in his "Rural Sports," 1813, mentions the fact that, "In one of the Ships of the Fleet, that sailed lately from Falmouth, for the West Indies, went as Passengers a Lady and her seven Lap-dogs, for the Passage of each of which, she paid Thirty Pounds, on the express Condition, that they were to dine at the Cabin-table, and lap their Wine afterwards. Yet these happy dogs do not engross the whole of their good Lady's Affection; she has also, in Jamaica, Forty Cats, and a Husband."
"The Partiality to the domestic Cat, has been thus established. Some Years since, a Lady of the name of Greggs, died at an advanced Age, in Southampton Row, London. Her fortune was Thirty Thousand Pounds, at the Time of her Decease. Credite Posteri! her Executors found in her House Eighty-six living, and Twenty-eight dead Cats. Her Mode of Interring them, was, as they died, to place them in different Boxes, which were heaped on one another in Closets, as the Dead are described by Pennant, to be in the Church of St. Giles. She had a black Female Servant—to Her she left One hundred and fifty pounds per annum to keep the Favourites, whom she left alive."[K]
The Chantrel family of Rottingdean seem also to be possessed with a similar kind of feeling towards cats, exhibiting no fewer than twenty-one specimens at one Cat Show, which at the time were said to represent only a small portion of their stock; these ultimately became almost too numerous, getting beyond control.
Signor Foli is a lover of cats, and has exhibited at the Crystal Palace Cat Show.
Petrarch loved his cat almost as much as he loved Laura, and when it died he had it embalmed.
Tasso addressed one of his best sonnets to his female cat.
Cardinal Wolsey had his cat placed near him on a chair while acting in his judicial capacity.
Sir I. Newton was also a lover of cats, and there is a good story told of the philosopher having two holes made in a door for his cat and her kitten to enter by—a large one for the cat, and a small one for the kitten.
Peg Woffington came to London at twenty-two years of age. After calling many times unsuccessfully at the house of John Rich, the manager of Covent Garden, she at last sent up her name. She was admitted, and found him lolling on a sofa, surrounded by twenty-seven cats of all ages.
The following is from the Echo, respecting a lady well known in her profession: "Miss Ellen Terry has a passionate fondness for cats. She will frolic for hours with her feline pets, never tiring of studying their graceful gambols. An author friend of mine told me of once reading a play to her. During the reading she posed on an immense tiger-skin, surrounded by a small army of cats. At first the playful capers of the mistress and her pets were toned down to suit the quiet situations of the play; but as the reading progressed, and the plot approached a climax, the antics of the group became so vigorous and drolly excited that my poor friend closed the MS. in despair, and abandoned himself to the unrestrained expression of his mirth, declaring that if he could write a play to equal the fun of Miss Terry and her cats, his fortune would be made."
Cowper loved his pet hares, spaniel, and cat, and wrote the well-known "Cat retired from business."
Gray wrote a poem on a cat drowned in a vase which contained gold-fish.
Cardinal Richelieu was a lover of the cat.
Montaigne had a favourite cat.
Among painters, Gottfried Mind was not only fond of cats, but was one of, if not the best at portraying them in action; and in England no one has surpassed Couldery in delineation, nor Miss Chaplin in perfection of modelling. I am the fortunate possessor of several of her models in terra cotta, which, though small, are beautiful in finish. Of one, Miss Chaplin informed me, the details were scratched in with a pin, for want of better and proper tools.