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.

January 22, 2012

January 22, 1929

"R.C." [Rudolph Chambers] Lehmann (January 3, 1856 to January 22, 1929) was an English writer, a lawyer, and a politician (the Liberal party). His father was wealthy and his mother, Nina Chambers, had a renowned Scottish cultural heritage: her father was Robert Chambers, publisher, naturalist, and writer.(His was the Book of Days (1862-1864). Lehmann's literary privilege was also earned, but the only challenge to his talent was the criticism of his friends that he was 'indolent.' His parodies of Sherlock Holmes appeared regularly in Punch magazine, from August to November, 1894. A Cambridge alumni database mentions these books he wrote:

In Cambridge Courts, The Complete Oarsman, Mr Punch's Prize Novels, The Adventures of Picklock Holes, Reminiscences. It does not mention a small volume published in 1913, A spark divine: a book for animal-lovers. Here we read about a torty he adopted. The description is in the form of an argument against the idea that cats did not really like people so much, but rather attached themselves to houses. I never heard that idea before, but apparently it was put forth in Edwardian England. Here are R. C. Lehmann's words:

Venus was a tortoiseshell waif who appeared one morning, Heaven knows whence, in our garden. She announced her presence to me by pitiful mewings, and then, in answer to a call, she revealed herself, a thin, woebegone figure with a patchy coat and a long, stiff, attenuated tail. As soon as she had made up her mind about me her friendship; and devotion began to gush forth. She rubbed herself round and round my legs; she showed herself, as a little boy once said of another cat, extraordinarily fond of the human hand. She followed me about the garden, purring madly whenever I touched her; she came with me toward the house and accepted a bowl of milk with rapture. Thenceforward she was my intimate and affectionate friend. Yet it was only by slow degrees that I was able to coax her into the house, and her attitude in it never was one of complete ease. She was a wild free thing and could not brook the confinement of four walls. Where she slept I never discovered, but after breakfast I always found her waiting for me (and milk) near the library window. When she was about to become a mother a comfortable box was prepared for her in a shed, and it was hoped that she would use it for the interesting event. However, she preferred a thick patch of bushes in the garden, and there one morning we discovered her, supremely happy, with four plain kittens. Twice they were transferred to the box in the shed, and twice Venus bore them back to the bushes one by one. While she was carrying a kitten on one of these maternal excursions I met her. She hesitated a moment, and then deposited the kitten at my feet and mewed. The invitation was too obvious to be neglected. I took up her little burden, and carried it for her to her leafy retreat. After that she was allowed to have her way, and we rigged up an old umbrella to protect her and her young barbarians from rain. Never in the whole course of our friendship did she suffer herself to become a strictly domestic cat. She loved and trusted human beings, but she did not like their homes.

One assumes the house Venus rejected was the Lehmann home, a large house called Fieldhead, in Bourne End, (Buckinghamshire). There Lehmann and his American wife had a large litter themselves, who grew up to become artists, mostly, like the novelist, Rosamund Lehmann (1901-1990).

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