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.

December 15, 2013

December 15, 1759

Samuel Johnson, (September 18, 1709  to December 13, 1784) of dictionary fame, is also well known for his fondness for his cat named Hodge. So famed that a statue was put up outside his  home, after Johnson's death, and a charming statue it is.

But before we add a bit to Johnson's cat lore, here is a quote from Samuel Johnson describing old maids. A topic close to my heart, and here it is:

There is, I think, no class of English women from whom we are in any danger of Amazonian usurpation. The old maids seem nearest to independence, and most likely to be animated by revenge against masculine authority; they often speak of men with acrimonious vehemence, but it is seldom found that they have any settled hatred against them, and it is yet more rarely observed that they have any kindness for each other. They will not easily combine in any plot; and if they should ever agree to retire and fortify themselves in castles or in mountains, the sentinel will capitulate upon easy terms, if the besiegers have handsome sword- knots, and are well supplied with fringe and lace.

The gamesters, if they were united, would make a formidable body; and, since they consider men only as beings that are to lose their money, they might live together without any wish for the officiousness of gallantry or the delights of diversified conversation. But as nothing would hold them together but the hope of plundering one another, their government would fail from the defect of its principles, the men would need only to neglect them, and they would perish in a few weeks by a civil war.

I do not mean to censure the ladies of England as defective in knowledge or in spirit, when I suppose them unlikely to revive the military honours of their sex. The character of the ancient Amazons was rather terrible than lovely; the hand could not be very delicate that was only employed in drawing the bow and brandishing the battle-axe; their power was maintained by cruelty, their courage was deformed by ferocity, and their example only shews that men and women live best together.

This is Johnson, published in The Idler (December 15, 1759). 
Our actual source for this whole post includes some skimpy information about other cats of Johnson's, including one named Lily.  So nice to think Johnson had other cats. The quote on old maids however, betrays a use of cliches that Johnson usually avoids. Still his marvelous prose style shines on. 

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