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.

September 12, 2013

September 12, 1829

Charles Dudley Warner (September 12, 1829 to October 20, 1900) an American writer and friend of American writers, (like Mark Twain), worked first as a lawyer, newspaper editor (Hartford Courant) and editor/writer for Harper's magazine. He wrote novels, and essays on his travels. His first book, of essays, printed first in the paper as columns, was My Summer in a Garden which concerns 1870, though the publication date is 1871. This book was the start of Warner's fame. In the book he mentions a cat named Calvin. The setting is the total loss of the garden peas to birds. Warner in response brings out the cat to guard the garden. Here is how Warner describes the setting:

... I called Calvin. (That is the name of our cat, given him on account of his gravity, morality, and uprightness. We never familiarly call him John.) I petted Calvin. I lavished upon him an enthusiastic fondness. I told him that he had no fault; that the one action that I had called a vice was an heroic exhibition of regard for my interests. I bade him go and do likewise continually. I now saw how much better instinct is than mere unguided reason. Calvin knew. If he had put his opinion into English (instead of his native catalogue), it would have been, "You need not teach your grandmother to suck eggs." It was only the round of Nature. The worms eat a noxious something in the ground. The birds eat the worms. Calvin eats the birds. We eat — no, we do not eat Calvin. There the chain stops. When you ascend the scale of being, and come to an animal that is, like ourselves, inedible, you have arrived at a result where you can rest. Let us respect the cat. He completes an edible chain.

The 1880 edition of My Summer in a Garden, includes a eulogy for Calvin. Warner was famous during the 19th century, but now he is mainly famous among readers of anthologized cat stories. He deserves a wider audience. I invite you to check this biographical sketch of the writer, who co-authored the novel, The Gilded Age, with Mark Twain, here.

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