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.

February 24, 2017

February 24, 1848

Charles Grant Blairfindie Allen (February 24, 1848 to October 25, 1899) was a writer who grew up near a Canadian wilderness, but after receiving a scholarship to Oxford University he never returned to Canada. He was inspired by the idea of evolution and his fiction and essays reflect this very Victorian excitement.

His books were read. William James referred to Allen's The Evolution of the Idea of God (1897). Chesterton said of the same book that "it would be much more interesting if God wrote a book on the evolution of the idea of Grant Allen." Not only was Grant Allen read, but his income from the sale of his books allowed his family to winter in the south of France.

There are some biographical details here. Including:

In 1895, Allen's scandalous book titled
The Woman Who Did (1895) contained startling views on marriage and kindred, which promptly became a bestseller.The British Barbarians (1889) is a bold social commentary. An African Millionaire(1897) is a set of 12 humorous light fiction stories portraying the con man as hero and is a strong contender for pioneering the crime writing genre.

Grant has a graceful way of analyzing class distinctions in his work. 
Miss Cayley's Adventures (1899) is a work of fiction and we quote a brief section on royal assumptions, in the context of Indian tiger hunting.

He drew himself up and opened his palms with a twinkling of pendant emeralds 'I am royal' he answered with naive dignity and the tiger is a royal beast. Kings know the ways of kings If a king kills what is kingly, it owes him no grudge for it. But if a common man or a low caste man were to kill a tiger-- who can say what might happen.
With Allen's death, he left an unfinished manuscript. His good friend, Conan Doyle finished the writing of it and it was published posthumously.




February 23, 2017

February 23, 1950

Rebecca Goldstein (February 23, 1950) is an American philosopher. Goldstein, according to a writeup in Edge was

....awarded the 2014 National Humanities Medal by President Obama,[and] is a philosopher, novelist, and professor of English and Philosophy at NYU. Her nonfiction works include Plato at the Googleplex; Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel; and Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity. She is the author of six novels—The Mind-Body Problem, The Late-Summer Passion of a Woman of Mind, The Dark Sister, Mazel, Properties of Light, and 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction—and a collection of stories called Strange Attractors.

Among her honors are two Whiting awards, one in philosophy and one in writing, two National Jewish Book Awards, as well as the Koret International Award in Jewish Thought. She has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Radcliffe Fellow, and in 1996 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Goldstein came up with the idea of "mattering," an attempt to justify and still defang, the concept of egoism.
She writes:

We can’t pursue our lives without thinking that our lives matter—though one has to be careful here to distinguish the relevant sense of “matter." Simply to take actions on the basis of desires is to act as if your life matters. It’s inconceivable to pursue a human life without these kinds of presumptions—that your own life matters to some extent. Clinical depression is when you are convinced that you don’t and will never matter. That’s a pathological attitude, and it highlights, by its pathology, the way in which the mattering instinct normally functions. To be a fully functioning, non-depressed person is to live and to act, to take it for granted that you can act on your own behalf, pursue your goals and projects. And that we have a right to be treated in accord with our own commitment to our lives mattering. We quite naturally flare up into outrage and indignation when others act in violation of the presumption grounding the pursuance of our lives. So this is what I mean by the mattering instinct, that commitment to one’s own life that is inseparable from pursuing a coherent human life.


A recent work of fiction, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction (2011) gives us an example of her prose. A woman debates waking up her husband:

She herself would have snarled like a trodden cat if she was woken in the middle of the night because somebody with something to tell her couldn't control himself until morning.

Okay as prose, not so good as natural history: Rebecca Goldstein can't tell dogs from cats.  Dogs snarl; cats might hiss, but more likely would just scratch the offender.

Her husband also has some renown. His name is Steven Pinker.

February 22, 2017

February 22, 1928

Martha Swope, (February 22, 1928 to January 12, 2017) got a New York Times obituary:

From 1957, when Ms. Swope was invited by Jerome Robbins to shoot rehearsals of “West Side Story,” to 1994, when she shut down her Times Square studio and sold her archive, Ms. Swope produced hundreds of thousands of images of performers in action, capturing Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in full flight, the cast of “La Cage Aux Folles” in full drag and John Travolta in full Saturday night fever....As official photographer first for New York City Ballet and then for an honor roll of other dance troupes, Ms. Swope chronicled the working lives of George Balanchine, Martha Graham, Mr. Robbins and other key figures in 20th-century dance. At the same time, she was what Variety called “the go-to photog” for New York’s theater industry...
We are given a glimpse of the private woman too, by this obituary writer:

Ms. Swope never revealed her age, even to intimates, who laugh about how often they tried unsuccessfully to find out, looking for her passport in a purse left briefly unattended on a trip, or searching her apartment for clues while feeding her cats.


And of the early years:

One of her pictures appeared in Life magazine, and her photography career took off.
“I didn’t even know what an interchangeable lens was, or a Leica,” she once recalled. But she was still hoping to become a dancer when Lincoln Kirstein, who ran the school and was general director of City Ballet, pulled her out of class one day to offer her a job recording the company’s work in pictures. She shelved her toe shoes.

Another obit notes:

In 2010 she donated her life's work, including contact sheets, negatives, prints, slides and digital files, to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.




February 21, 2017

February 21, 2000

Noel Gilroy Annan (December 25 1916 to February 21 2000) was the author of a variety of notable histories, such as:

Leslie Stephen: His Thought and Character in Relation to His Time (1951) and
The Curious Strength of Positivism in English Political Thought (1959).


Annan has been described as "As the foremost spokesman of his generation... [H]e cared passionately about education, culture, and the intellect: 'everything else is secondary', he once wrote."

His quote is from his book, The Dons: Mentors, Eccentrics and Geniuses, (1999) which has been reviewed:

For two hundred years Oxford and Cambridge Universities were home to some of Britain's greatest teachers and intellects, each forming the minds of the passing generations of students and influencing the thinking and practice of university learning throughout the country and the world.
In this entertaining, informative book, Noel Annan is at his incisive best. Displaying his customary mastery of his subject, he describes the great dons in all their glory and eccentricities: who they were, what they were like, why they mattered, and what their legacy is. Written with love and wisdom, the great minds of the past—figures such as John Henry Newman, John Sparrrow, and Isaiah Berlin—are brought alive. In addition, Annan's often quoted article "The Intellectual Aristocracy" is included in this book. No other work has ever explained so precisely and so intimately the significance of the dons and their important role in shaping higher education—at a time when the nature of learning is ever more the subject of dissension and uncertainty.


Thus Stephen Toulmin. Another reviewer (Robert Fulford,) described the book as "an affectionate elegy for a class that has largely expired."

We stress the eccentric in The Dons, by mentioning an incident Annan includes,when "the headmaster's exquisite cat" was dissected by a student.

February 20, 2017

February 20, 1919

Anne Isabella Ritchie [née Thackeray], Lady Ritchie, (June 9, 1837 to February 20,1919) was the daughter of William Thackeray so her eminence in late Victorian society is not surprising. She wrote novels. Miss Angel (1875), Miss Williamson's Divagations (1881), Mrs. Dymond (1885) are just a few titles; she was prolific, writing biography and criticism also. 

According to her Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry:

Among her obituaries, one of the most evocative is that contributed to the Times Literary Supplement by her stepniece Virginia Woolf (who also drew her as Mrs Hilbery in Night and Day) Although her novels are largely forgotten, posterity will remember her both as the diligent custodian of her father's memory (her biographical prefaces to the 1911 Centenary Edition of his works, collected as The Two Thackerays, 1988, are of lasting value) and as a vivid memorialist-roles which frequently, as in the autobiographical Chapters from some Memoirs (1894), overlap. A mass of surviving correspondence, much of it unpublished, confirms her centrality to the late-Victorian literary scene.

In Lady Ritchie's volume, Some Memoirs (1894) we have a charming picture of her childhood pets. She  starts by referencing her sister Harriet Marian (1840–1875).

My little sister had a menagerie of snails and flies in the sunny window-sill; these latter, chiefly invalids rescued out of milk-jugs, lay upon rose - leaves in various little pots and receptacles. She was very fond of animals, and so was my father—at least he always liked our animals. Now, looking back, I am full of wonder at the number of cats we were allowed to keep, though De la Pluche, the butler, and Gray, the housekeeper, waged war against them. The cats used to come to us from the garden, for then, as now, the open spaces of Kensington abounded in fauna. My sister used to adopt and christen them all in turn by the names of her favourite heroes; she had Nicholas Nickleby, a huge gray tabby, and Martin Chuzzlewit, and a poor little half-starved Barnaby Rudge, and many others. Their saucers used to be placed in a row on the little terrace at the back of my father's study, under the vine where the sour green grapes grew— not at all out of reach; and at the farther end of which was an empty greenhouse....

Anne Thackeray Ritchey's little sister grew up to marry Leslie Stephen; Harriet was his first wife.

February 19, 2017

February 19, 1877

Gabriele Munter (February 19, 1877 to May 19, 1962), the German painter, is discussed in this article.

A well known contributor to German Expressionism, Gabriele Munter came to Munich in 1901 to study art, and in 1902 became a pupil of the great Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). In 1903 they became lovers and for the next thirteen years were inseparable. During the summer of 1908, which she spent in Murnau with Kandinsky, along with Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941) and his Russian lover Marianne Werefkin (1870-1938), she finally found her individual style - a form of expressionism combining Bavarian folk art, stained glass work, and luminous blocks of colour. .... In 1909 she was co-founder of the New Artists' Association in Munich, a member of the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter, and a participant in all major shows of avant-garde art (including the two Blaue Reiter exhibitions) in Germany until 1914. In that year Kandinsky had to leave Germany. Munter met him once more in Stockholm before they finally parted in 1916. After the war she settled in Murnau where she lived a secluded life....
.[Murnau is south of Munich, and near the Alps.]

Although Munter deferred inevitably to her older and more creative partner, right from the beginning she had her own style of painting, which may have influenced Kandinsky's own vision - and may even have become an issue between them. For instance, while she was interested in Kandinsky's passion for abstract art, her own 20th-century paintings remained firmly figurative.

..... In 1927 she met the German art historian Johannes Eichner, who became her lifelong companion. The two settled in Murnau, where Munter lived and worked until her death. Despite the Nazi ban on modern art and the closure of her 1937 exhibition at the Munich Art Association (Kunstverein Munchner) because of her "Degenerate Art" (
entartete kunst), she continued to produce a variety of work, including portraiture, genre paintings and still lifes.

In 1956 she was awarded the Culture Prize in Painting by the city of Munich. In 1957, on the occasion of her 80th birthday, she donated an outstanding collection of almost 200 paintings (120 by Kandinsky, 60 by herself) to the city of Munich. In the same year, the Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich held a major retrospective of her painting. In 1960 she had her first solo art show in the United States, and in 1961 she had an important show at the Mannheim Kunsthalle. She died in her house at Murnau on 19 May 1962.


This is her 1930 "Still Life with Black Cat."





February 18, 2017

February 18, 1979

Claude Rogers (January 24, 1907 to February 18, 1979) was a English painter, of some note.  He studied at the Slade and London University and later taught art, at these schools, and others. I like his picture below, so much.





I do not know if that is Elsie, his wife, or not.