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.

August 20, 2016

August 20, 1939

According to the 1907 edition of Who's Who, Agnes Giberne (November 19, 1845 to August 20, 1939) was the author of:

....Scientific works and tales, etc.; d. of late Major Charles Giberue and Lydia Mary Wilson. [Major Charles Giberne was directly descended from "the noble Jean de Giberne,' who in 1553 was Seigneur de Gibertain... in Languedoc, head of "une noble et ancienne famille." Jean Rene de Giberne migrated to England late in the 17th century, and all other branches of the family died out.] b. Ahmednugger, India. Educ.: home; literary tastes from mother: scientific from father. Began to scribble stories at seven years old; began to publish children's stories at seventeen; did not put name on title-page till some years later; began to write on scientific subjects, 1880. Publications: The Curate's Home,...; Aimee; Coulyng Castle; Sweetbriar; Duties and Duties; Tim Teddington's Dream; Life Tangles, etc.; Sun, Moon, and Stars; Father Amur; Starry Skies; Among the Stars; The World's Foundations; The Ocean of Air; Radiant Suns; Miss Devereux, Spinster, 1891;....

The Lost Found; Or Brunhild’s Trials (1876) is one of her books. This scene shows one twelve year old girl blackmailing another.

A sickly orphan girl, Brunhild, lives with her aunt who keeps a shop. Brunhild does not have a happy childhood. However, she has one thing that she really loves – her cat Muffy. This brings temptations when someone threatens to take the cat away.
from a blurb.

Brunhild was scarcely over twelve when the first joy of her life dawned upon her, a joy centring in nothing more nor less than the possession of a certain grey kitten. She found the little kitten in an almost dying condition one snowy winter's eve, and carried it home, pitying its helpless condition. Poor little lonely waif, cast forth to die,—how like in its desolation to the motherless Brunhild herself! Nobody seemed to want it, or care for it, and Brunhild's heart clung to the forsaken animal, as she pleaded earnestly for permission to keep it as her own. Happily, Kathleen took no fancy to the miserable bedraggled creature, and Mrs. Holdsworth's cat having recently died, she made no objection to its being replaced.

So the matter was settled, the kitten being distinctly avowed as Brunhild's peculiar property. Gladly, for the securing of her possession, did she yield up a portion of her morning and evening supply of milk. This was Mrs. Holdsworth's invariable plan. If the children kept pets, they must feed them, she declared. She couldn't afford to do anything of the sort. No exception was made...

....It proved to be a pet worth securing. Nobody came forward to claim it as lost property, and no mention of a vanished kitten reached the ears of any in the household. Yet, as the months passed, the little grey cat grew into that which no owner would carelessly have flung away. To Brunhild's partial eyes the soft fur had from the first been unusually thick and long for so tiny an animal, but it became rapidly thicker and longer, till pussy's coat hung halfway to the ground, and the splendid grey tail, with its black markings, resembled a fox's brush. Such a beauty had never been seen in the village before, and Brunhild's cat was the wonder of the neighbours.

What an amazing glimpse of Victorian sentimentality we get with this book. The heroine is an orphan and gets thrown out of her home with her aunt, because Brunhild is being blackmailed by another teenager who pretends the cat really belongs elsewhere and will be taken from her, unless Brunhild steals money from her aunt to buy the other child's silence. Then that other child steals the cat anyway and the other child's mother sells the cat on. Brunhild is sickly but Patty, the other child, falls ill and actually dies, but not before telling this minister's daughter who hopes to bring Brunhild to seeing God's mercy, where the cat is. Katherine is only sixteen herself, but succeeds in obtaining the cat back for Brunhild, converting Brunhild to a grateful Christianity, and when Brunhild is recovered enough, finds her a home with other orphans being cared for by an old lady. A place where she is loved and can have the cat.

Agnes Giberne wrote in other genres also.

Sun, Moon and Stars: Astronomy for Beginners
(1879), sold well on both sides of the Atlantic.

And she wrote a biography: A Lady of England : the life and letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker (1895.)

All told we have a portrait of 19th century England which seems stamped with family values, but the impression is oddly askew.

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