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 5, 2013

June 5, 1851

The Beechers were in the thick of that New England efflorescence that produced an Emerson, a Thoreau, and the lady that, as Lincoln said, caused the war: Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896).

Indignation over the the "Fugitive Slave Law",(1850) making it illegal for people outside the South to help runaway slaves, was a big motivation for the book for which Stowe is most remembered: Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly. That book appeared first in serial form, in the newspaper, National Era, on June 5, 1851. The book version followed and was shortly selling in England, one thousand copies a week.

Stowe's cat is said to have sat on her shoulder while she wrote. But her childhood cats were important enough to be remembered by her biographer, Martha Foote Crow who published Harriet Beecher Stowe: a biography for girls , in 1913. Here we read:

This elder sister of Harriet's [Catherine]was so full of fun that she was the life and joy of the house. Writing to their brother Edward in 1819, she said: "Apropos—last week we interred Tom, Junior, with funeral honors, by the side of old Tom of happy memory. What a fatal mortality there is among the cats of the parsonage! Our Harriet is chief mourner always at their funerals. She has asked for what she calls an 'epithet' for the gravestone of Tom, Junior, which I gave as follows:

"Here died our kit
Who had a fit,
And acted queer.
Shot with a gun,
Her race is run,
And she lies here."

Tom Junior was a female cat apparently. And we learn about Harriet, and the 19th century, by recalling also the verse Harriet copied in school to learn her letters:

The cat doth play
And after slay.

We should say, we learn about ourselves.

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