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.

April 24, 2016

April 24, 1718

Kitty Fisher was a famous 18th century courtesan. Nathaniel Hone (April 24, 1718 to August 14, 1784) painted her portrait (below) in 1765. Joshua Reynolds had painted her several times also. She married, the son of an MP, in 1766. She did not enjoy her respectability for long: she died in 1767. 

One assumes the bowl of fish and stretched paw is a reference to Thomas Gray's "Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes" (1748). That light verse plays with 18th century assumptions about women: 

What female heart can gold despise?
What cat's averse to fish?

This particular portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery and has been since 1929 when John Baring, 2nd Baron Revelstoke 
(banking money) made it a gift. The Baron enjoyed his respectability rather longer.

Three-quarters format. Nathaniel Hone’s Kitty Fisher, 1765, 29 ½ x 24 ½ ins (74.9 x 62.2 cm) (National Portrait Gallery).

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