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.

December 4, 2016

December 4, 1642

Cardinal Richelieu (September 9, 1585 to December 4, 1642), ) was an important statesman in France before being made a Cardinal in the church. This man whose family was described as minor nobility is remembered as the architect of modern France for the aggressive and effective manner in which he centralized royal authority in France and stabilized its borders.

It is often stated authoritatively that the Cardinal was fond of cats. There is no contemporary evidence for that. Some accounts state that Richelieu just liked kittens and had the felines disposed of when they grew up. Again, no reliable basis for these stories. Plenty of pictures were painted, later.

Cardinal Richelieu Playing with His Cats Giclee Print

Paradis de Moncrif (1687 - 1770) has been suggested as the origin of the stories. That may not be true.

What puzzles me most, and a fact I have not seen addressed in any history, is that there were other statesmen who were said to not just love cats, but be so fatuous about them as to allow the cats in meetings.

An Englishman, Cardinal Wolsey (1473 - 1530) is also reported to have been fond of cats. A fact which will not figure in the sources, directly, is the shifting boundary between indoors and outdoors in modern history. Without secure doors-- which you would leave open to maximize the breeze, it may be the cats just invited themselves in, and adopted the Cardinals.

December 3, 2016

December 3, 1944

Craig Raine (December 3, 1944) was poetry editor at Faber and Faber from 1981 t0 1991. Then he assumed the post of professor of poetry at New College Oxford, and after almost twenty years there became emeritus Fellow at New College. Some of his books

The Onion, Memory
, 1978,
A Martian Sends a Postcard Home,
A Free Translation, 1981,
Rich, 1984,
The Electrification of the Soviet Union,
History: The Home Movie, 1994;
Clay. Whereabouts Unknown, 1996;
In Defence of T. S. Eliot (essays), 2000

And he wrote novels--
Heartbreak, 2010; and The Divine Comedy, 2012;

The Divine Comedy
is blurbed as "a voyeuristic meditation on sex and insecurity, God and the nature of the human body—its capacity for pleasure and pain, its desires, disappointments, and its many mortifying betrayals." Along these lines is the fact men do not have a bone in their penises. Other animals do. Raine says "the raccoon, gorillas, chimpanzees, the walrus, polar bears, rats, gerbils, jerboas, seals – cats as well as dogs" all do. Ted Hughes was wrong then to assert only dogs had this anatomical feature, as Raine gleefully points out.

In a change of tempo, here is a lovely statement by Raine on what it is he does:

'What the poet does is as ordinary and mysterious as digesting. I question. I break life down. I impose chaos on order. For instance, we think we know how food is ingested, digested, divided into energy and excrement. The neat theory, however, is one thing; control of the process is another; consciousness of the process yet another. Are we aware of protein in the stomach being acted on by pepsin, the appropriate enzyme? Digestion, thinking and breathing are all functions we perform without knowing how we perform them. The body is a dark continent. The mind is another. So I can say very little about what I do. I accept nothing as read. I attack the pretence that we know how things work, whether they happen to be the action of saliva or sexual love from adolescence to old age. This is John Donne on prayer, but prayer as a dissipation rather than single-minded devotion: 'a memory of yesterdays pleasures, a feare of tomorrows dangers, a straw under my knee, a noise in mine eare, a light in mine eye, an any thing, a nothing, a fancy, a Chimera in my braine, troubles me in my prayer.' This sermon was preached in December 1626 and is still a valid prescription for the art I like - art which pays attention, which remembers, which records, which prefers what is actually true to what is merely ideal, which imposes chaos on order.'

December 2, 2016

December 2, 1891

Otto Dix  (December 2, 1891 to July 25, 1969) was a German artist.

The Museum of Modern Art quotes this summary of the art of Otto Dix

Otto Dix aggressively implies in this portfolio that sex is the force driving all men. In Apotheose (Apotheosis), fragmented body parts and leering faces orbit a grotesquely distorted prostitute, whose outsize genitalia mark the center of the composition. Dix believed in the utter incompatibility of men and women. He borrowed imagery conveying the epic conflict of the sexes from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, such as the juxtaposed moon and sun in Mann und Weib (Nächtliche Szene) (Man and woman [nocturnal scene]) and the cats slinking over moonlit roofs in Katzen (Cats). On the streets, meanwhile, traditional order—both moral and pictorial—breaks down. Die Prominenten (Konstellation) (The celebrities [constellation]) reveals Dix's skepticism toward exuberant promises of a better future: four ideologues share a single body, espousing a manifesto of love, fatherland, order, and Dada.

Although still indebted stylistically to the Expressionist techniques of distortion, the Futurist fracturing of picture planes, and the Cubist use of collage, Dix has already discovered the power of scathing social critique in these early woodcuts, which count as some of his first prints. He made woodcuts only briefly, between 1919 and 1920, and then gave up the medium entirely.Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

Here is the Otto Dix print, Katzen, one of nine, they reference:

The National Gallery of Australia provides some background information on Dix.

Otto Dix was born in 1891 in Untermhaus, Thuringia, the son of an ironworker. He initially trained in Gera and at the Dresden School of Arts and Crafts as a painter of wall decorations and later taught himself how to paint on canvas. He volunteered as a machine-gunner during World War I and in the autumn of 1915 he was sent to the Western Front. He was at the Somme during the major allied offensive of 1916.

After the war he studied at the academies of Dresden and Dusseldorf. Together with George Grosz, he was one of the leading exponents of the artistic movement Die Neue Sachlichkeit [New Objectivity], a form of social realist art which unsentimentally examined the decadence and underlying social inequality of post-war German society. With the rise of the National Socialists in 1933, Dix was dismissed from his teaching post at the Dresden Academy. He moved south to Lake Constance and was only allowed to continue practising as an artist after he agreed to relinquish overtly political subject matter in favour of landscape painting. Dix was conscripted into the army during World War II and in 1945 was captured and put into a prisoner of war camp. He returned to Dresden after the war where his paintings became more religiously reflective of his war-time experiences. He died in 1969

Otto Dix died in Singen, which at the time was West Germany.

December 1, 2016

December 1, 1954

Professor Craig Clunas (December 1, 1954) is a Professor of the History of Art, and Fellow of Trinity College, University of Oxford. This standing began in 2007 and succeeded a career which included time at the V&A Museum, and as Senior Lecturer in History of Art, (1994–97),  and Professor of History of Art, (1997–2003), at the University of Sussex. 

He was also Percival David Professor of Chinese and East Asian Art at the  University of London, from 2003–07.  Clunas was A. W. Mellon Lecturer in Fine Arts, at the Center for Advanced Study in Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC, in 2012.

His major publications include:

Chinese Export Watercolours,
Chinese Furniture,
Chinese Art and Chinese Artists in France, 1924-1925
Superfluous Things: social status and material culture in Early Modern China
, 1991;
Fruitful Sites: garden culture in Ming Dynasty China
, 1996;
Art in China, 1997;
Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China,
Elegant Debts: the social art of Wen Zhengming, 2004;
Empire of Great Brightness: visual and material cultures of Ming China,

Screen of Kings: royal art and power in Ming China, (2013) is, to quote the jacket copy "... the first book in any language to examine the cultural role of the regional aristocracy – relatives of the emperors – in Ming dynasty China (1368–1644)." Therein we find this quote:

Of something like the huge palace of the Kings of Jin at Taiyuan, totally destroyed by fire shortly after the Qing conquest in 1646, we have only odd pairs of cast-iron lions, guardian figures which once stood outside a gate and which attest by their inscriptions to their date and origin.

We see the prose style of Professor Clunas can match the evanescent quality of some paintings. His latest book concerns the art market: Chinese Painting and Its Audiences (2016).

November 30, 2016

November 30, 1941

Rosalind Krauss (November 30, 1941) is an American art critic. She was an associate editor of Artforum from 1971 to 1974 and publishes often in other prestigious journals.. Her books include

The Originality of the Avant-garde and Other Modernist Myths
The Optical Unconscious (1993)
Bachelors (2000)
Perpetual Inventory (2010) which is a collection of her essays.

Not all her criticism is analytical: "Inside the art world, critic Rosalind Krauss spoke for many of us when she dismissed Botero as “pathetic.” Still her goal is the Clement Greenberg model of criticism where a public and verifiable aesthetic evaluation is the goal. And since the 1980s she has also found inspiration in the ideas of Jacques Lacan.

In an essay on William Kentridge ("'The Rock': William Kentridge's Drawings for Projection") Krauss situates a drawing of his wherein he "pets the cat which lies in bed next to him in the absent Mrs. Eckstein's place, and the cat, leaping onto his face as though to comfort him, transforms itself into a gas mask, grotesque..."

This Columbia professor recently won a College Art Association distinguished lifetime achievement award for writing on art.

November 29, 2016

November 29, 1934

Klaus Flugge (November 29, 1934) founded a publishing house for children's literature: Andersen Press, named after Hans Christian Andersen. His parents were Werner and Emmi Flügge. He married, in 1964,  Joëlle Dansac. 

A Guardian article sketches some background to Flugge's career. "

"Klaus Flugge, who emigrated to America as an East German refugee in 1957 ....became a successful publisher."
[He] launched the careers of some of our best-loved picture book illustrators, from Quentin Blake and Chris Riddell to David McKee, Tony Ross, Michael Foreman and Emma Chichester Clark,....

The background to his founding the Andersen press in 1976 includes:

Klaus Flugge was born in Hamburg in 1934, apprenticed to a bookshop and sent to Book Trade School in Leipzig. He emigrated to America at the age of 23 as an East German refugee who spoke only German and Russian. After a variety of jobs, and two years as an American GI, he was offered a job working as a personal assistant to Lew Schwartz, owner of Abelard-Schuman publishing in New York. After only eighteen months Schwartz suggested he go to Europe to build up the very small list they had there and so he came to London in 1961. He launched Andersen Press – named after Hans Christian Andersen - in the autumn of 1976....

Random House has a holding in this publishing company.]
Now 82, Klaus Flugge is still at his desk at Andersen Press five days a week, in an office decorated with over 200 illustrated envelopes from the artists he works with. 

These envelopes were tributes,  artistic renderings and often had cats on them. Here is an example. This envelope was decorated by David McKee.

And this envelope was drawn by Satoshi Kitamura

Klaus Flugge won the Eleanor Farjeon Award for distinguished services to children’s books, in 1999.  His Who's Who article lists his hobbies as book collecting, jazz, and swimming.

November 27, 2016

November 27, 1710

Robert Lowth,(November 27, 1710 to November 3, 1787) was an 18th century bishop of London.This position of leadership came with expectations of intellectual leadership and Lowth admirably fulfilled this role also. He made a new translation of the book of Isaiah. Below we compare Lowth's rendering of part of Isaiah with the same lines in the King James version.

The King James Version of Isaiah, parts of chapter 10:

17 And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day;
18 And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standard-bearer fainteth.
19 And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them.


17 And the light of Israel shall become a fire,
And his Holy One a flame;
And he shall burn, and consume his thorn
And his brier in one day.
18 Even the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field,
From the soul even to the flesh, shall he consume;
And it shall be, as when one fleeth out of the fire.
19 And the remainder of the trees of his forest shall be a
small number,
So that a child may write them down.

And shortly after, these very famous lines occur. The King James version reads Isaiah 11: 6-8 thusly:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp,...

Chapter 11: 6-8  Lowth phrases this way:

6 Then shall the wolf take up his abode with the lamb; And the leopard shall lie down with the kid;

And the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling shall come together;
And a little child shall lead them.
7 And the heifer and the she-bear shall feed together;
Together shall their young ones lie down;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 And the suckling shall play upon the hole of the aspic;

(This lion eating straw is refers to the practise, when farmers had their crop threshed by the oxen, of not muzzling the oxen, Apparently it mentions in Leviticus not to prevent those beasts from eating some of what they were threshing.)

His ODNB article provides biographical background on Robert Lowth.

.... He was the second son of William Lowth (1661-1732), prebendary of Winchester, and his wife, Margaret (fl. 1675-1735), ... He attended Winchester College, as a scholar, from November 1721 until September 1729. He matriculated as a commoner at St John's College, Oxford, on 26 March 1729 but was admitted as a scholar at New College in January 1730. He graduated BA in October 1733 and MA in June 1737, and became a fellow of New College.
In June 1741 Lowth was elected professor of poetry at Oxford, ... Re-elected in 1746, he served for a total of ten years, in the course of which he delivered the thirty-four Praelectiones de sacra poesi Hebraeorum that were to make his name. Published in 1753, together with a short confutation of Bishop Francis Hare's system of metre, Lowth's lectures established a new method for reading and understanding those passages of the Hebrew Bible, such as the Psalms and many of the writings of the prophets, that were traditionally considered as verse, as well as a means to expand and define the canon of biblical poetry. Building on the work of contemporary Oxford scholars, notably Thomas Hunt, Lowth urged the importance of setting biblical poetry in the context of oriental rather than classical style and the impossibility of ever determining the ancient vocalization of the Hebrew Bible with sufficient accuracy to identify its true metrical structure. In place of metre Lowth argued that the structure of Hebrew verse could be identified by its often parabolic or figurative mode of expression, and in particular by the parallelisms, or repetitions of similar words or phrases, sometimes in a regular order, sometimes not, that gave rhythm to Hebrew poetry and song, and served almost as an alternative to metre. Using these critical tools Lowth also tried to identify a sublime, and divinely inspired, quality in Hebrew verse....

In December 1741, shortly after his election as professor of poetry, Lowth was ordained deacon by Bishop Thomas Secker; he became a priest in December 1742. In July 1744 Bishop Benjamin Hoadly collated him to the rectory of Ovington, Hampshire, and in August 1750 promoted him archdeacon of Winchester, adding the rectory of East Woodhay to his preferments in June 1753. The University of Oxford created him DD by diploma on 18 July 1754. In March 1748 Lowth travelled with the embassy of Henry Bilson-Legge to Berlin, where he took the opportunity to instruct Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, about the principal English poets. He returned in February 1749 but was soon travelling again with lords George and Frederick Cavendish, sons of William Cavendish, third duke of Devonshire. They journeyed together through France and Italy, visiting Herculaneum in the spring of 1750. Lowth thus established firm connections with prominent whig noblemen and with influential figures in the ministry. He also cemented his own place in the life of his native county. On 26 December 1752 he married Mary (d. 1803), daughter and heir of Laurence Jackson of Christchurch, Hampshire, in the process securing substantial property and a considerable fortune. Despite the careful financial arrangements that preceded it this seems also to have been a loving marriage, and Lowth evidently took pleasure in the family that resulted. Two sons and five daughters were born between December 1753 and June 1765, but Lowth's later life was increasingly tinged by sadness as a result of the premature deaths of some of his children, of whom only Martha (1760-1812) and Robert (1762-1822), later vicar of Halstead, in Essex, and prebendary of St Paul's, survived their father.

In spite of his personal success Lowth complained in March 1755 that 'my affairs seem to be at a dead stand' ..... As a result he felt bound to accept appointment as chaplain to William Cavendish, then marquess of Hartington, who was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland in 1755. He extracted a promise that Hartington would intercede with Thomas Pelham-Holles, duke of Newcastle, then prime minister, to exchange any Irish preferment that Lowth might obtain for a suitable position at home. Lowth sailed for Dublin in May 1755, by which time Hartington was pursuing another scheme that would allow Lowth to change places with someone who would have liked an Irish bishopric ...[and] had the wherewithal to pay well for it' ... Lowth was granted the freedom of Limerick in June 1755 and soon afterwards Hartington's plans began to bear fruit. Protracted negotiations involving Joseph Butler, bishop of Durham, and Benjamin Hoadly, bishop of Winchester, as well as the duke of Newcastle eventually resulted in the appointment of James Leslie as bishop of Limerick, an office that Lowth had declined, and the transfer to Lowth of a prebendal stall at Durham. In place of Leslie's other preferments Lowth was granted the valuable living of Sedgefield. He took up his new positions and moved to co. Durham in October 1755, purchasing a post-chaise to facilitate communication with his family in Hampshire. Through Hartington, who had become duke of Devonshire, he was appointed a royal chaplain on 18 August 1757. Lowth was now free to pursue literary and theological controversy, and although further preferment took some time he was also set on a significant career within the Church of England.
[O]n 12 April 1777 he was nominated bishop of London. He was made dean of the Chapel Royal, was sworn of the privy council, and from 1786 was a member of the committee for trade and plantations. He was also a governor of the Charterhouse and a trustee of the British Museum. On the death of Frederick Cornwallis, archbishop of Canterbury, in 1783, he declined the offer of the primacy.

Although Lowth had been astute in the pursuit of worldly success, and of the patronage necessary to achieve it, he was nevertheless a dedicated and effective churchman and administrator. He preached regularly, and although his conclusions were often predictable the subjects that he tackled were sometimes controversial ones, such as the importance of instructing African slaves in Christian religion or the need to overcome the weakening of the constitution by 'a general national depravity' ...

More significant than Lowth's preaching, however, was his concern for the godly administration of the church. He was an efficient archdeacon, and as bishop of London conducted a campaign in the early 1780s against the practice of some lay patrons in forcing clergymen to accept bonds of resignation before instituting them to their livings. After legal battles lasting two and a half years the House of Lords finally ruled in Lowth's favour, upholding the principle that the beneficed clergy should be able to act as freeholders, without obligation to their patrons...

His reputation for scholarship and good sense ensured that individuals as different from one another as John Wesley and Alexander Geddes could enjoy his company and regard him as sympathetic and encouraging to some of their ideas.....

In 1762 Lowth published
A Short Introduction to English Grammar, in which he extolled the simplicity of the form and construction of the English language while remarking that it could still not rival the most ancient of languages, Hebrew...

This book on English grammar was very popular at the time, and still has some charming illuminations. This line for example, where Lowth makes the point that famous men have used a noun as an adjective (as in sea water). Lowth quotes John Locke as an example of this practise:

"Many men reason exceeding clear and rightly, who know not how to make a syllogism."

Some readers of this blog may find the study of ideas like Lowth's pointless. A broader perspective sees a kind of intellectual busyness an interesting thing to study in itself. The difference between yesterday and today may be like a stylistic shift. Today sophisticated intellectuals consider the possibilities of multiple universes each with different physical laws. That pursuit may turn out to be simply a way to avoid the implications of modern scientific research. A theory serves the same purpose now as god did in centuries past: and that is allowing an explanation (god or the multiverse) to cover the nakedness of not having a plausible explanation for something.

 My point is merely we may have more in common with previous eras than we suppose.