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.

June 18, 2016

June 18, 1979

When H. V. Morton (July 26, 1892 to June 18, 1979) published A Traveller in Rome (1957) he was already known for his travel writing. His public reputation began decades earlier when he scooped the London Times in reporting on Howard Carter's progress with the tomb of Tutankhamen. Among his books are these titles:

Through Lands of the Bible (1938)
The magic of Ireland (1980)
When You Go to London (1931)
In Search of London (1951)
The Splendour of Scotland (1977)
The Heart of London (1945)

This chatty erudite writer turned his attention to Italy more than once.

In Search of Rome
(1957) has been described as "perhaps the definitive guide book on the Eternal City." For Morton this included drawing attention to the thousands of feral cats in the city, which then as now, were a distinctive feature of that urban life. Street signs now, for instance, direct those concerned to feeding sites for the many moggies. Herein Morton lingers over many feline scenes, and below are just a few.

He describes one cat which approaches him: "a tomcat of sly and battered appearance, a perfect Nym or Bardolph of a cat...tattered tail erect."

Elsewhere he watches one of the colonies being fed. The food put out was something "no cat I had ever known would deign to touch" -- spaghetti noodles and tomato sauce. "These poor creatures," though, "are ready to fight for it,"

The description he gives of a space in the Vatican which "housed animals given to the Pontiff," mentions an eagle given to Pius XI. "The bird died a few days after its master, in 1939." And in a previous century "the favorite cat of Leo XII" lived there.

Henry Vollam Morton has attracted two biographers; one by Michael Bartholomew is titled In Search of H.V. Morton. There is also H.V. Morton: The life of an enchanted traveller, by Kenneth Fields

In fact Morton remains the subject of much interest in England, and this website points several directions for more study.

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