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 4, 2013

November 4, 1862

Who remembers Eden Phillpotts (November 4, 1862  to December 29, 1960) ? I didn't forget his writing, I never heard of him, until recently. My loss, this guy rises above the potboilers of popular culture. He wrote many novels. Hitchcock directed a movie about one of his books. The Farmer's Wife (1927) is a movie based on Phillpott's 1913, Widecombe Fair.

Let's look now at a non-fiction work. My Garden was published in 1906. The introduction shows Phillpotts' light touch:

It is not proposed to submit excuses for this work. Nowadays everybody with a garden larger than a tablecloth rushes into print concerning it, and expects us to follow through the whole procession of the seasons on that particular and precious plot. We are confronted with each plant, grass-blade, and worm-cast; we have the usual quotations from the poets; ... And now I am going to do it all over again; because to remain silent, if you have a garden, is to be notorious. That we may escape charges of eccentricity, therefore, we should all write garden books. In my case the time has come...

He's quite right about the garden books at the turn of the century before last. And the trend continues. Now though, we excerpt the part where he talks about --- garden animals.

Of respectable wild beasts the hedgehog occurs. He goes his nightly rounds and, I think, does good according to his lights. If we meet, as sometimes happens, in the dusk, he salaams very respectfully, bows his head down between his paws, and remains motionless in that somewhat servile attitude until I have passed by. Squirrels cross my garden constantly, with that little undulating run of theirs; but they do not stay, as I have nothing to offer them. Field mice, on the contrary, are very fond of half-hardy Cape bulbs—with a fondness different to mine. They build their nests in the rockeries, and have to be destroyed. Frogs, toads, and newts all increase and multiply here and are encouraged; and once I saw a large grass-snake apparently regarding a water-lily, but he poured himself away, like a little stream of amber and silver, among my marsh irises and never appeared again. Dogs enter, though not by invitation. The large dogs stroll round in a gentlemanly way and work no harm; the smaller sorts do evil, and tear and scratch and refuse to keep to the paths. When discovered, they bark insolently to hide their own uneasiness, and dash about over the borders and lose their heads, and forget how they got in. There is little use for a dog or a cat in a garden, though a cat certainly occurs here. His name is "Gaffer," and he is a brindled or tabbied beast of courteous disposition but colourless character. He does neither harm nor good. I have heard of him that he once caught a young thrush, who was sitting with his back turned waiting for his mother; but even that is in the nature of legend.

What a good writer. We will revisit Eden Phillpotts.

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