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.

September 14, 2016

September 14, 1932

Jean Cras (May 22, 1879 to September 14, 1932) rose to the rank of Rear Admiral in the French Navy. His father had been a naval surgeon. The career of Jean Cras included his overseeing the "baptism" of sailors when their ship crossed the Tropic [of Cancer], if this was their first time for such a transit. This seems to have involved being dunked in water. Cras supervised the dunking of the Captain's cat, named Diaoul (devil). He wrote that he felt bad after playing this joke [the picture I have is that the cat was in a crate, and dropped into the ocean for a minute]. He says the cat hid for the rest of the day.

Cras is more famous today for his music: he composed classical and chamber music of renown. His most famous work is the opera Polypheme, (1922) which was based on a "lyric drama" written by Albert Samain (1899). He kept a piano in his ship's quarters.

Information about his music is available here. A biography, Jean Cras: Polymath of Music and Letters, (Paul-André Bempéchat, 2009 ) is where we got the cat story. He was also considered a lover of cats. No need to doubt that. In the story above, he was just trying to entertain the crew.

Cras in fact was a deeply religious man. He said of the Navy, "Happily the Navy instructs one not to dwell upon material things but to value all the dear souls constant and present in our lives. "

Bempéchat addresses Cras's concern:

...this extended to the animals who suddenly entered his life at sea and whom he adopted and nurtured over many long years. His veneration for the sanctity of life is well exemplified by the care he took of the theatrical buldog Polyte and the fussy cat Diaoul; he once even cared for his son's "insipid" pet mouse which, as he claimed, not even a starving cat would consider, and once expressed disgust on witnessing a bullfight in Spain ("barbaric").

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