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loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Sunday, December 06, 2015

buttery dick of magdalen

This tale of a fine tawny tabby with tenure comes from a book of stories about animal residents at Oxford University.  (The term "buttery" here is used in an older sense, in which it refers to a liquor storeroom or a college's small provision shop.)
The generation of Magdalen men that remember Buttery Dick is vanishing even from the ranks of Dons. Dons are so young now, that even the most magnificent Tabby Senior Fellow gets quickly forgotten.(* Dick was a fine rich tawny tabby, inclining to apricot colour underneath.) One might call Buttery Dick the 'last English college cat' (in the sense in which Dean Burgon called Edward Hawkins the 'last Provost of Oriel.') There are college cats still, it is true, but the immense tendency is for all cats, college or other, to get a little Persian ('Semi-Persian' is, we believe, the correct phrase) in them. But Dick, from the uttermost whisker to the uttermost tail tip, was pure English . . .
Of his kittenhood nothing is known, but if the kitten is father to the cat, it must have been a remarkable one. I have often thought (from the point of view of an animal painter) of such subjects as 'Dick's First Mouse,' or 'Dick's reception of the new Vice-President.' He was as great physically as he was mentally and morally. When shewn at the Crystal Palace, at the age of two, he weighed 18 lbs. and obtained a second prize. (That he did not obtain the first prize and the goldest medal that was ever given, simply shews the utter ineptitude and incompetence of the judges).
Dick had been Senior Fellow for several years before the date of my own matriculation, so that I never saw him in any stage before his prime; but I think he knew a lover of cats when he saw one, for we became fast friends in the late seventies, and, though it was no doubt great condescension on his part (and he showed that he knew it), he used often to come up to my room to pass a quiet hour after his brother Fellows had left Common Room. I used to go out into the cloisters at about 9 o'clock and miaow for him, and then, after a good deal of judicious stroking from head to tip of tail, I used to give the knowing twist of the hand over the end of the tail and he would walk along beside me to my rooms in Chaplain's Quadrangle—where he knew there was a good saucer of cream by the fire (I spent a fortune in cream for Dick one time and another). It must be admitted that he was fond of his table-comforts, but this was probably because he regarded it as essential to the honour of the college that he should be fat and well liking: he would listen for the college dinner bell, even in his sleep, and walk straight to the High Table in front of the next Senior Fellow, beside whose chair he was fed. . .

Wallace, M. (1900). Memories of some Oxford pets by their friends. Oxford: B. H. Blackwell. 86-7.

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