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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