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 8, 2012

January 8, 1824

We remember Wilkie Collins, (January 8, 1824 to September 23, 1889) , as the author of The Moonstone, (1868) considered by many to be the first detective story. It tends to be the English who consider this Englishman to have a superior claim to the American Edgar Allen Poe (his Murders in the Rue Morgue is dated to 1841) regarding the invention of this genre.

In 1866. Wilkie Collins wrote to Nina Chambers, the daughter of author and publisher Robert Chambers, and described the following scene:

I went to show my friend Pigott the grave of the illustrious Shelley [at Rome—in the Protestant Cemetery]. Approaching the resting-place of the divine poet in a bright sunlight, the finest black Tom you ever saw discovered at an incredible distance that a catanthropist had entered the cemetery —rushed up at a gallop with his tail at right angles to his spine—turned over on his back with his four paws in the air, and said in the language of cats: 'Shelley be hanged! Come and tickle me!' I stooped and tickled him. We were both profoundly affected. I have wandered far from the statement that a cat is at her best in a room, and yet I cling to it. For in a room a cat confers and diffuses comfort in the very act of accepting it. Place her on a cushion with her front paws either folded and tucked beneath her or kneading her soft couch with a luxurious movement, and she will make, not merely a corner, but a whole library cozy. Her presence can ennoble a hovel and invest a semi detached cottage with an appearance of feudal and heraldic repose. If you call her she blinks and purrs; if you leave her to herself she is willing to pass hours in serene abstraction from the business of the world, conscious only of her own comfortable decorative quality and of her self-respecting dignity.

Wilkie Collins shared with his good friend Charles Dickins a concern to portray and thereby ameliorate the social ills of Victorian society, in ways besides cat ownership, too.

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