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 11, 2012

February 11, 1853

Frederick Richard Chichester (Earl of Belfast) (November  25 1827, to February 11, 1853) was the heir to "large estates" in Ireland and England. Here is how the Dictionary of Irish Biography describes him:

He was educated at Eton, despite poor health, and as a young man displayed a great interest in, and some aptitude for, music, literature, and art. He was president of two Belfast choral societies, and performed on the piano at a concert in the town. He wrote Naples, ....(1856). Lectures on nineteenth-century poetry, which he delivered to the Belfast Working Men's Association, were published in 1852, and he planned another series on American literature.

I quote at length because there is some mystery accompanying the literary output of Chichester. Here first though is a portion from a novel, Uncle Armstrong, by Lord B******m (1866). The title page describes the writer as "Author of " Masters and Workmen," "The Fate of Folly," "Naples".

A lawyer's wife is described this way:

She was quietly knitting a stocking, with a book open before her, and a cat purring on the rug beside her: ...
Though the sitting-room of this worthy couple had none of the ornaments of art, or the useless little fanciful objects which encumbered that of Mrs. Langton, and the plain old-fashioned furniture dated from the lawyer's wedding day, nearly forty years before, when Grecian couches and spider-legged chairs had not yet been replaced by sofas never meant for repose, and rococo seats of every variety of form, yet the whole was bright, comfortable, and convenient. The candles were lighted, the tea service was on the table, the kettle singing by the side of a clear fire, the red carpet and curtains reflecting its cheerful glow. A pleasanter scene of old English life could not well be imagined. Everything at Mrs. Langton's had been luxurious and fashionable; but here all was real, quiet, unpretending comfort .
....The attorney's wife was both well-born and well-informed, but she was not a fashionable woman. Her own house was the scene of her pleasures, and happy in the approbation of her husband she never sought to shine in general society. Home was her principal sphere of action, but wherever her help was needed, either by rich or poor, she was ready to assist with her advice, her purse, and active and judicious service, which in sickness was far beyond price. She had borne three children, and buried them all, so that she could fully understand a mother's wants, and sympathise with a mother's sorrows. Though the wounds of her poor heart were healed by time and her husband's tender care, her own losses and sufferings had made her keenly sensible of those of others...

The description of feminine virtues interested me. Also a lengthy excerpt allows a glimpse at a nicely written story. The question was brought up by the DIB however -- there is some doubt whether he wrote all the novels attributed to him. At least we know that cats were a sturdy symbol of domestic contentment in the early 19th century. 

No comments: