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.

January 14, 2016

January 14, 1898

Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, the nephew and biographer of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (January 27, 1832 to January 14, 1898) published in 1898, The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.  The subject needs no introduction, but there are many less publicized aspects of Dodgson's life, spent at Christ Church, Oxford (his father's school) where he was a mathematics lecturer. His Cheshire cat in fact is a prominent trope in 20th century physics, and that would be an interesting theme to lay out. However, our interest now is in a note in his nephew's biography: Carroll has assume the title of Curator of his college Common Room. That is a feature of many schools, and here it sounds a bit like a men's club. His nephew capitalizes these names. And tells this story:

The beginning of 1884 was chiefly occupied in Common Room business. The Curatorship seems to have been anything but a sinecure. Besides weightier responsibilities, it involved the care of the Common Room Cat! In this case the "care" ultimately killed the cat—but not until it had passed the span of life usually allotted to those animals, and beyond which their further existence is equally a nuisance to themselves and to every one else. As to the best way of "terminating its sublunary existence," Mr. Dodgson consulted two surgeons, one of whom was Sir James Paget. I do not know what method was finally adopted, but I am sure it was one that gave no pain to pussy's nerves, and as little as possible to her feelings.

So perhaps we should not conclude it is Carroll's "Cheshire cat" which haunts modern physics. It could be the Common Room Cat.

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