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.

November 12, 2012

November 12, 1851

Lady Wilde (December 27, 1821 to February 3, 1896), the mother of Oscar, was an author in her own right. Her marriage to the Dublin eye and ear surgeon, William Wilde, on November 12, 1851 would lead to the "Lady" appellation after her husband received an honorary title for his services to medicine (1864). She collected Irish folktales and also translated foreign works.

One of these translations was of some fiction written by Wilhelm Meinhold (February 27, 1797 to November 30, 1851) a German priest and author. We excerpt a brief passage from a book she translated:  Sidonia the sorceress: the supposed destroyer of the whole reigning ducal house of Pomerania.

The story is of a beautiful woman who practises witchcraft. In this episode we find her putting a spell on a young man. We will jump into the middle of the action:

In the meantime I had reached the chapel, and Sidonia stretched forth her beautiful little hands, crying, along with her sister, "Help! help! He will eat us. Will you not kill him?" But the bear, as if already aware of my intention, began now to descend the ladder. However, I stepped before him, and as he descended, I ascended. Luckily for me, the interval between each step was very small, to accommodate the ladies' little feet, so that when Bruin tried to thrust his snout between them to get at me, he found it rather difficult work to make it pass. I had my dagger ready; and though the bees which he brought with him in his fur flew on my hands, I heeded them not, but watching my opportunity, plunged it deep into his side, so that he tumbled right down off the ladder; and though he raised himself up once and growled horribly, yet in a few seconds he lay dead before our eyes. How the ladies now tripped down the ladder, not two or three, but four or five steps at a time! and what thanks poured forth from their lips! I rushed first to Sidonia, who laid her little head upon my breast, while I endeavoured to remove the bees which had got entangled in her hair-net. The other lady went to call the huntsman, who was hiding in the quarry, and we were left alone. Heavens! how my heart burned, more than my inflamed hands all stung by the bees, as she asked, how could she repay my service. I prayed her for one kiss, which she granted. She had escaped with but one sting from the bees, who could not manage to get through her long, thick, beautiful hair, and she advanced joyfully to meet her father and the hunting-train, who had heard the cries of the ladies. When Count Otto heard what had happened, and saw the dead bear, he thanked me heartily, praying me to attend his daughter Clara's wedding, which was to be celebrated next week at the castle, and to remain as his guest until then. There was nothing in the world I could have desired beyond this, and I gratefully accepted his offer. Alas! I suffered for it after, as the cat from poisoned dainties.
I would have to include Lady Wilde in my book about women in kitchens.  The story was told of her that she scolded a servant: "Why do you put the plates on the coal shuttle. What do you think chairs are for?" In her last years she received visitors in a darkened parlor, with the curtains drawn, so that no one could see her wrinkles. 

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