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.

June 24, 2013

June 24, 1813

Mark Twain described his friend, Henry Ward Beecher, (June 24, 1813 to March 8, 1887)  "as homely as a singed cat when he isn't doing anything." This image is puzzling only if you forget that fireplaces were until recently everyone's source of heat, and that includes those feline hearth sitters.

Henry Ward Beecher in the Pulpit, (1886) is one collection of his sermons, and we notice a minor theme, called by an editor a "homely" turn:

" I have a cat in the country," he says, " that knowing there is a rat in the drain will lie crouched in the grass for six hours together, waiting for that rat to come out. And I know people  [ who will wait for for Christians that way, to see if they make a mistake].

Mostly Beecher was doing things. Certainly his sermons were widely distributed. Beecher, a powerful orator who spoke against slavery, and for women's suffrage, also felt that discontented laborers had no case to make for higher wages. His view of God emphasized the deity's love and forgiveness. Of which Beecher himself had some need, if stories about his adultery were accurate.

Another sermon, quoted in Life and work of Henry Ward Beecher, listing Thomas Wallace Knox as author, (1887) mentions:

When the absent are spoken of, some will speak gold of them, some silver, some iron, some lead, and some always speak dirt, for they have a natural attraction toward what is evil, and think it shows penetration in them. As a cat watching for mice does not look up though an elephant goes by, so they are so busy mousing for defects that they let great excellences pass them unnoticed. I will not say it is not Christian to make beads of others' faults, and tell them over every day; I say it is infernal. If you want to know how the devil feels, you do know if you are such an one.

Beecher is such a good writer. And we all know the kind of person of whom he speaks, and they are not lovely. Still, there seems to be a rodentine squeak in such quotes. 

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