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August 13.

St. Hippolytas, A. D. 252. St. Cassian. St. Radegundes, queen of France, A. D 587. St. Wigbert, Abbot, A. D. 747.


Once upon a time—on or about the 13th of August, 1819; it might have been a few or many days before or after that day, or a month or so before or after that month—the day or month is of less consequence to the reader, than to the editor, who desires to "bring in" an interesting anecdote or two on the 13th day of August. Once upon a time, a cat—it is a fact—for it is in The Scotsman newspaper of the 23d of October, 1819— once upon a time, a cat, belonging to a shipmaster, was left on shore, by accident, when his vessel sailed from the harbour of Aberdour, Fifeshire, which lies about half a mile from the village. The vessel was absent about a month, and, on her return, to the astonishment of the shipmaster, puss came on board with a fine stout kitten in her mouth, apparently about three weeks old, and went directly down to the cabin. Two others of her young were afterwards caught, quite wild, in a neighbouring wood, where she must have remained with them till the return of the vessel. The shipmaster did not allow her again to go on shore, otherwise it is probable she would have brought the whole litter on board. What is more remarkable, vessels were daily entering and leaving harbour, none of which she ever thought of visiting till the one she had left returned.* [1] This extraordinary instance of feline sagacity, on the day before mentioned or imagined, is paralleled by another:—

A lady lately living at Potsdam, when a child of six years, ran a splinter into her foot, sat down upon the floor, and cried most violently. At first her cries were not regarded, as they were considered to be more the effect of a pettish and obstinate temper, than of any great pain which the accident could have occasioned her. At length the elder sister of the child, who had been lying asleep in bed, was roused by her cries, and as she was just about to get out of bed, in order to quiet her sister, she observed a cat, who was a favourite playmate of the children, and otherwise of a very gentle disposition, leave her seat under the stove, go to the crying girl, and having given her with one of her paws so smart a blow upon the cheek as to draw blood, walk back again with the utmost gravity to her place under the stove. As this cat was by no means of a malicious disposition, for she had grown up together with the younger children of the family, and never designedly scratched any of them it seems that her intention upon this occasion was to chastise the pettish girl, and put an end to her troublesome cries, in order that she might herself be able to finish her morning nap without further interruption.* [2]

In the "Orleans Collection" of pictures there was a fine painting of a "Concert of Cats," by F. Breughel, from whence there is a print, among the engravings of that gallery, sufficiently meritorious and whimsical to deserve a place here; and therefore it is represented in the sketch on the present page. In justice, to the justice done to it, Mr. Samuel Williams must be mentioned as the artist who both drew and engraved it. The fixed attention of the feline performers is exceedingly amusing, and by no means unnatural; for it appears by the notes that mice is their theme, and they seem engaged in a catch.

"Breughel's Concert of Cats."

Ye rats, in triumph elevate your ears!
Exult, ye mice! for fate's abhorred shears
Of Dick's nine lives have slit the cat-guts nine;
Henceforth he mews midst choirs of cats divine!

So sings Mr. Huddesford, in a "Monody on the Death of Dick, an Academical Cat," with this motto,—

"MI-CAT inter omnes."
        Hor. Carm. Lib. i. Ode 12.

He brings his cat Dick from the Flood, and consequently through Rutterkin, a cat who was "cater-cousin to the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother of Grimalkin, and first cat in the caterie of an old woman, who was tried for bewitching a daughter of the countess of Rutland in the beginning of the sixteenth century." The monodist connects him with cats of great renown in the annals of witchcraft; a science whereto they have been allied as closely as poor old women, one of whom, it appears, on the authority of an old pamphlet entitled "Newes from Scotland," &c. printed in the year 1591, "confessed that she took a cat and christened it, &c. and that in the night following, the said cat was conveyed into the middest of the sea by all these witches sayling in their RIDDLES, or CIVES, and so left the said cat right before the towne of Leith in Scotland. This done, there did arise such a tempest at sea as a greater hath not been seen, &c. Againe it is confessed, that the said christened cat was the cause of the kinges majestie's shippe, at his coming forthe of Denmarke, had a contrarie winde to the rest of the shippes then being in his companie, which thing was most straunge and true, as the kinges majestie acknowledgeth, for when the rest of the shippes had a fair and good winde, then was the winde contrarie, and altogether against his majestie," &c.

All sorts of cats, according to Huddesford, lamented the death of his favourite, whom he calls "premier cat upon the catalogue," and who, preferring sprats to all other fish,—

"Had swallow'd down a score without remorse,
And three fat mice slew for a second course,
But, while the third his grinders dyed with gore
Sudden those grinders clos'd—to grind no more!
And, dire to tell! commission'd by Old Nick,
A catalepsy made an end of DICK.

"Calumnious cats who circulate faux pas,
And reputations maul with murd'rous claws;
Shrill cats whom fierce domestic brawls delight,
Cross cats who nothing want but teeth to bite,
Starch cats of puritanic aspect sad,
And learned cats who talk their husbands mad;
Confounded cots who cough, and croak, and cry,
And maudlin cats who drink eternally;
Fastidious cats who pine for costly cates,
And jealous cats who catechise their mates;
Cat-prudes who, when they're ask'd the question,
And ne'er give answer categorical;
Uncleanly cats, who never pare their nails,
Cat-gossips full of Canterbury tales,
Cat-grandams vex'd with asthmas and catarrhs,
And superstitious cats who curse their stars;
Cats of each class, craft, calling, and degree
Mourn DICK's calamitious catastrophe!

"Yet, while I chant the cause of RICHARD'S end,
Ye sympathizing cats, your tears suspend!
Then shed enough to float a dozen whales,
And use, for pocket-handkerchiefs, your tails!—

"Ah! tho' thy bust adorn no sculptur'd shrine,
No vase thy relics rare to fame consign,
No rev'rend characters thy rank express,
Nor hail thee, DICK! D. D. nor F.R.S.
Tho' no funereal cypress shade thy tomb
For thee the wreaths of Paradise shall bloom.
There, while GRIMALKIN'S mew her RICHARD greets,
A thousand cats shall purr on purple seats:
E'en now I see, descending from his throne,
Thy venerable cat. O Whittington!
The kindred excellence of RICHARD hail,
And wave with joy his gratulating tail!
There shall the worthies of the whisker'd race
Elysian mice o'er floors of sapphire chase,
Midst beds of aromatic marum stray,
Or raptur'd rove beside the Milky Way.
Kittens, than eastern houris fairer seen,
Whose bright eyes glisten with immortal green,
Shall smooth tabby swains their yielding fur,
And to their amorous mews assenting purr.—
There, like Alcmena's, shall GRIMALKIN'S SON
In bliss repose,—his mousing labours done,
Fate, envy, curs, time, tide, and traps defy,
And caterwaul to all eternity."


Cats neither like to be put out of their way, nor to be kept out of their food:—

In cloisters, wherein people are immured in Roman catholic countries, to keep or make them of that religion, it is customary to announce the hours of meals by ringing a bell. In a cloister in France, a cat that was kept there was used never to receive any victuals till the bell rung, and she therefore never failed to be within hearing of it. One day, however, she happened to be shut up in a solitary apartment, and the bell rang in vain, as far as regarded her. Being some hours after liberated from her confinement, she ran, half famished, to the place where a plate of victuals used generally to be set for her, but found none this time. In the afternoon the bell was heard ringing at an unusual hour, and when the people of the cloister came to see what was the cause of it, they found the cat hanging upon the bell-rope, and setting it in motion as well as she was able, in order that she might have her dinner served up to her.* [3]

There is a surprising instance of the sensibility of cats to approaching danger:—

In the year 1783, two cats, belonging to a merchant at Messina, in Sicily, announced to him the approach of an earthquake. Before the first shock was felt, these two animals seemed anxiously to endeavour to work their way through the floor of the room in which they were. Ther master observing their fruitless efforts, opened the door for them. At a second and third door, which they likewise found shut, they repeated their efforts, and on being set completely at liberty, they ran straight through the street, and out of the gate of the town. The merchant, whose curiosity was excited by this strange conduct of the cats, followed them into the fields, where he again saw them scratching and burrowing in the earth. Soon after there was a violent shock of an earthquake, and many of the houses in the city fell down, of which the merchant's was one, so that he was indebted for his life to the singular forebodings of his cats.* [4]

Few who possess the faculty of hearing, and have heard the music of cats, would desire the continuance of their "sweet voices," yet a concert was exhibited at Paris, wherein cats were the performers. They were placed in rows, and a monkey beat time to them. According as he beat the time, so the cats mewed; and the historian of the fact relates, that the diversity of the tones which they emitted produced a very ludicrous effect. This exhibition was announced to the Parisian public by the title of Concert Miaulant.[5]

Cats werre highly esteemed by the Egyptians, who under the form of a cat symbolized the moon, or Isis, and placed it upon their systrum, an instrument of religious worship and divination. Count Caylus engraved a cat with two kittens, which, while he supposes one of the kittens to be black and the other white, he presumes to have represented the phases of the moon.

Cats are supposed to have been brought into England from the island of Cyprus, by some foreign merchants who came hither for tin. In the old Welsh laws, a kitten from its birth till it could see was valued at a penny; when it began to mouse at twopence; and after it had killed mice at fourpence, which was the price of a calf. Wild cats were kept by our ancient kings for hunting. The officers who had the charge of these cats seem to have had appointments of equal consequence with the masters of the king's hounds; they were called catatores.

Gray's elegy on a cat drowned in a globe of water with gold fishes is well-known. Dr. Jortin wrote a Latin epitaph on a favourite cat.


Imitated in English

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,
Elysium'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 ev'n beyond the grave."* [6]


Marsh Grounsel. Senecio paludotus.
Dedicated to St. Radigundes.


Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:

1. Zoological Anecdotes. [return]

2. Zoological Anecdotes. [return]

3. Zoological Anecdotes. [return]

4. Zoological Anecdotes. [return]

5. Ibid. [return]

6. Star, Nov. 3, 1735 [return]