Cat versus The Black Dog

cat sleeping Cornelis Visscher (1629 – 1658) etcher

Cat Sleeping, Cornelis Visscher (1629 – 1658)

…. Nor  would it be just, under this head, to omit the fondness which he showed for  animals which he had taken under his protection. I never shall forget the  indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go  out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike  to the poor creature. I recollect him one  day scrambling up Dr. Johnson’s breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while  my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by  the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying, ‘Why yes, Sir, but I  have had cats whom I liked better than this;’ and then as if perceiving Hodge to  be out of countenance, adding, ‘but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat  indeed.’

This  reminds me of the ludicrous account which he gave Mr. Langton,  of the despicable state of a young Gentleman of good family. ‘Sir, when I heard  of him last, he was running about town shooting cats.’ And then in a sort of  kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favourite cat, and said, ‘But  Hodge shan’t be shot; no, no, Hodge shall not be shot.’ 

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1791)

[Boswell also noted that Johnson went out to purchase valerian to ease Hodge’s suffering as death approached.]

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a fine picture of a cat sleeping so intensely. Very fine indeed.

    • They do everything intensely, don’t they. That must be why they make such a striking impression.

  2. You have the best cats! LOVE all your images.

    • Thank you, thank you.
      Coming from you that means —possibly even more than it should.
      It’s surprising, really, how few wonderful cat images there are — considering the popularity of cats.
      And the number of cat images around.
      Sometimes those created by real artists, from less sentimental times, are vivid to the point of being a little alarming.
      You can see within them the origins of the cat as an otherworldly, possibly treacherous, at least capricious creature.
      The rigorous observation, integrity of reason, and the rare goodness of Christopher Smart & Samuel Johnson seem even more remarkable–and significant– by contrast.

    • Oh –You might have been including non-cat images too! In which case my happiness is multiplied!
      (The black dog has been in the doorway, lately, keeping it in a starveling condition)
      I’ve actually been trying to figure out how I might make a book of creatures from the Secret Gardener for children—or something along those lines. But I hardly know how to begin.


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