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.

July 13, 2013

July 13, 1756

Thomas Rowlandson (July 13, 1756 to April 21, 1827 ) was an English caricaturist. He was raised in impoverished circumstances, and as an adult was  imprudent with money, and frequently had none.  Rowlandson's success seems to be mainly the result of his genius. His drawings and etchings appeared in popular works by Oliver Goldsmith and Laurence Sterne, and were commissioned by magazines. A typical title of a set of his illustrations is : Tour of Dr Syntax in Search of the Picturesque.  

He certainly captured the 18th century cityscape and libertine life in his drawings. We notice a gentleness and good nature in the drawings below. The first is of the forgotten occupation of cat meat sellers -- who toured the city selling scraps of meat for people to feed their pets. It might have been a hazardous job if you were nervous about being followed by packs of animals. Notice the cat wisely surveying the scene from the second story. I do not know if cats' meat seller, was really a term for someone who sold pet food in general.  Pet food  until the 1950s was quite a different world business than today; a difference from today might be that expensive pet food only occasionally comes from dubious sources today. I also wonder how often the content was cats.  I never read that, it just popped into my mind. 

This is not a caricature.  The sketch below shows  his love of cats, who frequently appear in his drawings.  

The black cat - Thomas Rowlandson

And here is a scene in the office of a bookseller. In the 18th century the term bookseller including the whole range from publishers to distributors. The people trying to enter the office are unpublished writers, and the fellow before the desk is asking for more money for something already published.  Very 18th century, there is no romanticism in Rowlandson's sketches.  The cat for instance is just interested in getting warm by the fireplace.

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