The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

October 26, 2016

October 26, 1943

Aurel Stein (November 26. 1862 to October 26, 1943) was an explorer of central Asia.
Although born in Budapest, his loyalty became allied with Great Britain. His many books record his adventures (a partial list):

Zoroastrian Deities on Indo-Scythian Coins (1887)

Chronicle of Kings of Kashmir (3 vols) (1892)

Sand-buried ruins of Khotan: personal narrative of a journal of archaeological and geographical exploration in Chinese Turkestan

Ancient Khotan
(2 vols) (1907)

Ruins of Desert Cathay (2 vols) (1912) 

Serindia (5 vols) (1921) 

The Thousand Buddhas (1921)

Memoir on maps of Chinese Turkestan and Kansu from the surveys made during Aurel Steins's explorations 1900-1, 1906-8, 1913-15 

Innermost Asia: its geography as a factor in history (4 vols) (1925-1928) 

On Alexander’s Track to the Indus, (1929) 

A Catalogue of Paintings Recovered from Tun-Huang (1931) 

An Archæological Tour in Gedrosia, (1931) 

On Ancient Central-Asian Tracks, (1933) 

Archæological Reconnaisances in SE Iran (1937) 

On Old Routes of Western Iran (1940)

Our focus  is on Stein's Sand-buried Ruins of Khotan. Now, the people we call Uigars live in Khotan. As our excerpt opens we are at a mountain pass in the Pamir mountains. It is 1900 or 1901. Our story takes place while Stein is carrying out "archæological explorations for [the] Indian Government in Chinese Turkestan." The weather is bitterly cold.

...the rain stopped a little, and soon it was noticeable that this bleak upland was not altogether untenanted. The shrill, whistling voices of the Himalayan marmots were heard all round, and more than half-a-dozen of these brown guardians of the passes, so well known to me from beyond Kashmir, could be seen sitting, with seeming unconcern,on the little mounds over their holes.

At 11.30 a.m. I reached the pass, which seems to be only a slight depression in a broad transverse ridge connecting the Muztagh-Ata massive with the so-called Sarikoli range, the eastern brim of the Russian Pamirs. The pass, a little over 14,000 feet above the sea, is marked by a stone heap, the traditional resting-place of some saint...Heavy mist on right and left prevented a view of the higher ranges, but just in front to the North I could look down into the open, flat valley which descends to Subashi...

I ... deemed it best to push on to Subashi (“ Head of the Waters”), the Chinese post in the valley, where ...shelter and supplies could be expected. In the drizzling rain I passed some half-decayed Kirghiz graveyards and ... the remains of some older structure. At last, by 2 p.m., the Chinese post came in view, and with heartfelt gratitude I greeted its shelter. Inside a neglected stone enclosure I found, besides a number of tumbledown buildings, a row of mud-built huts, representing the quarters of the garrison. The latter soon emerged in its full strength of eight men, and their commandant, a sort of corporal, hospitably invited me to his state-room. It was, in truth, a poor enough hovel, lighted by a hole in the roof which, closed on account of the rain, admitted only a dim twilight. However, it was dry and warm and it felt cheerful amid the felts and quaint articles of equipment which covered the raised sleeping platform and the walls. A fire was lit under the hole already mentioned, but its smoke drove me into the interior apartment adjoining, long before the tea was ready ... 

Perhaps my little terrier felt happiest, who, shivering with cold and wet, could scarcely wait for the host’s good-natured invitation to bury himself in the bundle of quilts marking the bed in one corner of the platform. That he met there a little pet cat without picking a quarrel with it was the surest proof of his usual temper having softened under the influence of exposure.

Some things change and thankfully some do not. It was over a century ago that
Aurel Stein was knighted by the King of Great Britain (1912).

October 25, 2016

October 25, 1800

After her father lost his living, and her mother died in 1819, Maria Jane Jewsbury (October 25, 1800 to October 4, 1833) had the care of the household and her five younger siblings. She made time to pursue her literary ambitions.  She published poetry (Lays of Leisure Hours, 1829). Her Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article mentions her work for the Athenaeum magazine, and quotes one article:

.... declaring that women's lives are so much governed by men's expectations and assumptions, that girls are cultivated 'to the highest pitch that can make them fascinating, with a careful abstinence from that which would make them wise'

Below we quote from her short piece 'The History of an Enthusiast',  about one who "achieves celebrity but comes to feel enervated, as well as distraught at failing to gain the man she loves." The ODNB suggests she felt guilt about pursuing an intellectual career, and appalled at the prospect of loneliness  as a spinster

Here is an excerpt included in The Three Histories (1830). Cecil and Julia meet again some period apart.

"And do you remember when we met first, how
you eulogised simplicity?"

"Really, one forgets one's early follies."

"And your passion for flowers and poetry"

"O no! I really could not do without either,
even now; flowers are the poetry of a fete, and
poetry is the fete of life; but come, let us converse
on your own affairs—where are you going ?—for
how long ?—what for? Can I or any of my friends
serve you? And all important things in one, will
you come to my soiree to night? I will find you
some one to converse with, as great a lover of sim-
plicity as yourself; and for auld lang syne, you
shall find fault with every one, commencing with
myself, and no one shall laugh at you—there is

"Thank you, my gay lady," replied Cecil, with
his composed smile, "but I do not want a partner,
and I do not mind being laughed at."

"Well, then, bring your partner with you—he,
she, or it, is, I doubt not, a producible person or
thing. Come, I will give you grand names, endow
you with befitting accomplishments, and you shall
be lion and lioness, or lion and lionet of the even-

"But I should not like a lioness for a wife, Miss
Osborne ; and such my partner happens to be."


"Thank heaven for that, Julia! I began to fear
that what I heard was true, that you were spoiled;
but that word, that tone, proves that you are safe in
the citadel: dear friend, don't let the world warp
such a noble creature as you were made to be.
You see I presume on our old friendship, and on
my projected departure for ever."

"No, not for ever!"

"Why, perhaps it is foolish to say for ever; but
India and forever are strangely associated in my
straight-forward, matter-of-fact mind; you and
your genius would disunite them, and picture a
bright return, and I know not what. I envy you
your mind after all, more than your distinction."

"I do entreat you, Cecil, I do entreat you very
earnestly, to forbear speaking thus of my mind—it
has worked me no good—it has been, on the con-
trary, what a belief in astrology was in the olden
times, a source of evil, and blight, and sorrow."

"Do not speak thus of a gift bestowed by the
Giver of good," said Cecil gently, "consider, too,
how much good you can effect, ....

When a clergyman, Rev. Fletcher, proposed marriage she accepted over her fathers objections. The chance of visiting a distant land, India, was perhaps one reason for accepting, Fletcher being an East India chaplain. There, within months, she died of cholera.

Her husband then refused to communicate with her family in England and would not share the writings of hers in his possession. The widower died in 1867.

October 24, 2016

October 24, 1915

Marghanita Laski (October 24, 1915 to February 6, 1988) was a British novelist and critic. Her father was a solicitor (QC). Her uncle was Harold Laski, the politician and theorist. Marghanita Laski was educated at Somerville College, Oxford. Her husband was the publisher, John Eldred Howard, whom she married in 1937. As is typical in a vibrant intellectual culture, Laski was a public figure, appearing on the radio and television, besides writing.

The fiction she wrote or edited includes:

Love on the Supertax  (1944)
The Patchwork Book (anthology) (1946)
To Bed with Grand Music (pseudonymous novel) (1946)
(ed) Stories of Adventure, (1947)
(ed) Victorian Tales, (1948)
Tory Heaven  (1948)
Little Boy Lost (1949)
The Village  (1952)
The Victorian Chaise-Longue (1953)
The Offshore Island
(play) 1959.

The nonfiction of Marghanita Laski includes:

Mrs Ewing, Mrs Molesworth, Mrs Hodgson Burnett (criticism) (1950)
Ecstasy: A study of some secular and religious experiences (1961)
Domestic Life in Edwardian England (1964)
(ed, with E.G. Battiscombe) A Chaplet for Charlotte Yonge (1965)
The Secular Responsibility (Conway Memorial Lecture) (1967)
Jane Austen and her World (1969)
George Eliot and her World (1973)
Kipling’s English History (1974) (radio programmes on Kipling, 1973, 1983)
Everyday Ecstasy (1980).

From Palm to Pine: Rudyard Kipling Abroad and at Home (1987) was one of several posthumous publications.

Marghanita Laski then did not write for children but once. Here is the cover for
Ferry the Jerusalem Cat (1983):

Image result for "Marghanita Laski" cat

October 23, 2016

October 23, 1811

His blurb at Goodreads reminds us that Theophile Gautier (August 30, 1811 to October 23, 1872)

.. was a French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, and literary critic. In the 1830 Revolution, he chose to stay with friends in the Doyenné district of Paris, living a rather pleasant bohemian life. He began writing poetry as early as 1826 but the majority of his life was spent as a contributor to various journals, mainly for La Presse, which also gave him the opportunity for foreign travel and meeting many influential contacts in high society and in the world of the arts, which inspired many of his writings including Voyage en Espagne (1843), Trésors d'Art de la Russie (1858), and Voyage en Russie (1867). He was a celebrated abandonnée of the Romantic Ballet, writing several scenarios, the most famous of which is Giselle. His prestige was confirmed by his role as director of Revue de Paris from 1851-1856. During this time, he became a journalist for Le Moniteur universel, then the editorship of influential review L'Artiste in 1856. His works include: Albertus (1830), La Comédie de la Mort (1838), Une Larme du Diable (1839), Constantinople (1853) and L'Art Moderne (1856)...

Some of the pressures on the artist are listed in his Britannica article:

After that trip
[to Spain, in 1840] he found traveling to be a welcome escape from the constant pressures of his journalistic work, which he pursued to support himself, two mistresses, and his three children, as well as his two sisters.

And Gautier supported a number of cats. So it is nice to read:

In his last years he became the friend of the French princess Mathilde,
[the niece of Napoleon Bonaparte] who gave him a sinecure post as a librarian to ease his financial strain.

The tomb of Theophile Gautier has a cat on it---

This is appropriate for the man who said:

I must own that all my life I have been as fond of animals in general and of cats in particular as any Brahmin or old maid.“  The tombstone is in Montmartre cemetery in Paris.

October 22, 2016

October 22, 1783

Constantine Rafinesque (October 22, 1783 to September 18, 1840) was born in Turkey, studied in Europe, and settled in the United States in 1815. He pursued various fields of knowledge and was considered a polymath. It was his idea for example that the American Indian arrived on this continent via the Bering Strait. Less presciently Rafinesque in 1836 claimed to have discovered tablets from which he transcribed the creation myth of the Delaware Indians, tablets which were then lost. (Joseph Smith told a similar story in 1830.) His diverse, and copious writings won him little respect.

One summary of his output:

Among the many works he left behind were rambling discourses on zoology and geology; a catalog of Native American burial mounds; a new interpretation of the Hebrew Bible; a 5,400-line epic poem (with footnotes); and, last but not least, a lengthy series of studies on North American plants.

The writings Rafinesque left behind, described as the product of a “nervous and appalling industry,” included notes on cougars.

Eastern Cougar: Historic Accounts, Scientific Investigations, New Evidence

edited by Chris Bolgiano, and Jerry Roberts (2005) rates his writings about cougars as "one of the more accurate of a burgeoning of popular as well as scientific magazine pieces on zoology...or cougars in particular."

October 21, 2016

October 21, 1944

Janet Ahlberg (October 21, 1944 to November 13, 1994), illustrated children's books. Her work won two Kate Greenaway medals. Here are some lovely examples.

The books she illustrated were often written by her husband Allan Ahlberg. Here is her portrayal of her family.

October 20, 2016

October 20, 1937

John Wragg (October 20, 1937) is a well known British artist. His father Arthur Wragg, also made a living in art. The website of John Wragg shows cats he paints. That is where I found "Stray," which he dated to 2010.

Here is a thumbnail.


Go to his site, and notice, that same cat appears in other, interior, scenes. And find out more about this painter and sculptor.

John Wragg, Blue Chair, cat painting: Cat Painting

 [confims he does painting AND sculpture--bio matches his wsw]


RA 1991 (ARA 1983)

Born 20 Oct. 1937; s of Arthur and Ethel Wragg


York Sch. of Art; Royal Coll. of Art

Work in public collections: Israel Mus., Jerusalem; Tate Gall.; Arts Council of GB; Arts Council of NI; Contemp. Art Soc.; Wellington Art Gall., NZ; work in private collections in GB, America, Canada, France and Holland. One-man exhibitions: Hanover Gall., 1963, 1966 and 1970; Galerie Alexandre Iolas, Paris, 1968; York Fest., 1969; Bridge Street Gall., Bath, 1982; Katherine House Gall., Marlborough, 1984; Quinton Green Fine Art, London, 1985; Devizes Mus. Gall., 1994; England & Co., London, 1994; L’Art Abstrait, London, 1995; Handel House Gall., Devizes, 2000; Bruton Gall., Leeds, 2000; exhibitions: Lord’s Gall., 1959; L’Art Vivant, 1965–68; Arts Council Gall., Belfast, 1966; Pittsburgh Internat., 1967; Britische Kunst heute, Hamburg, Fondn Maeght, and Contemp. Art Fair, Florence, 1968; Bath Fest. Gall., 1977 and 1984; Artists Market, 1978; Biennale di Scultura di Arese, Milan, and King Street Gall., Bristol, 1980; Galerie Bollhagen Worpswede, N Germany, 1981 and 1983; Quinton Green Fine Art, London, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987; Best of British, Simpsons, 1993; Connaught Brown, London, 1993; Monumental ’96, Belgium, 1996; Courcoux & Courcoux, 1997; Bruton Gall., Leeds, 1999; Bruton St Gall., London, 1999; Discerning Eye, Mall Galls, London, 2000; Cobham Fest., 2001; Bohun Gall., Henley-on-Thames, 2001; RWA Gall., 2001; Hotbath Gall., Bath, 2002. Sainsbury Award, 1960; Winner of Sainsbury Sculpture Comp., King’s Road, Chelsea, 1966; Arts Council Major Award, 1977; Chantry Bequest, 1981. Relevant publications: chapters and articles about his work in: Neue Dimensionen der Plastik, 1964; Contemporary British Artists, 1979; British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century, 1981; Studio Internat., Art & Artiste, Sculpture Internat., Arts Rev., and The Artist


6 Castle Lane, Devizes, Wilts, SN10 1HJ

(01380) 727087 johnwragg.ra@virgin.neteq