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Washington, United States
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 !

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

wilkie collins finds a roman cat, 1866

R.C. Lehmann (1856-1929) was a member of the House of Commons, a longtime contributor to the periodical Punch, and a founding editor of Granta.  Why do I always seem to find these kinds of polymaths are British?  In 1913 he wrote a tender, short book about animals he had known, in which he includes the following vignette from another writer's travels:
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. . .  Evidently Sir Frederick (Pollock) is a "catanthropist"—the word was invented by Wilkie Collins, I find it used by him in a letter written to my mother in 1866:
"Oh, I wanted you so at Rome—in the Protestant Cemetery—don't start! No ghosts.—only a cat. I went to show my friend Pigott the grave of the illustrious Shelley. Approaching the resting-place of the divine poet in a bright sunlight, the finest black Tom you ever saw discovered at an incredible distance that a catanthropist had entered the cemetery—rushed up at a gallop with his tail at right-angles to his spine—turned over on his back with his four paws in the air, and said in the language of cats: 'Shelley be hanged! Come and tickle me!' I stooped and tickled him. We were both profoundly affected."
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Why would Wilkie Collins be writing his mother?  No surprise there: his mother, Nina, and his father Augustus were part of a circle that included Dickens, Browning, and George Eliot.

-- Lehmann, R. C. 1856-1929. (1913). A spark divine: a book for animal-lovers. New York: E. P. Dutton & Company. 43-4.

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