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 3, 2017

January 3, 1611

We rely on The Oceana, and other works of James Harrington, esq; collected, methodiz'd, and review'd, with an exact account of his life prefix'd (1656, 1737) for a cat metaphor from James Harrington (January 3, 1611 to September 10, 1677). He was a 17th century political theorist in an era of turmoil. Such times inspire basic thoughts.

He is a good writer:

.....The Italians are a grave and prudent Nation, yet in some Things no less extravagant than the wildest; particularly in their Carnival ... about Shrovetide: in these they are all Mummers, not with our Modesty, in the Night, but for divers Days together, and before the Sun; during which Time, one would think by the Strangeness of their Habit, that Italy were once more overrun by Goths and Vandals, ...

I am not convinced Harrington's Oceana was not an exaggeration to prove another point, but most agree that he was in favor of a commonwealth form of government. He argued that a commonwealth could not exist with a monarchical form of government:

.... [T]o affirm that a Senate, and a Popular Assembly thus constituted can procreate Monarchy, is to affirm that a Horse... can generate a Cat: that Wheat being rightly sown may come up Peas; or that a River in its natural channel may run upwards.

James Harrington's life is the subject of an Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article and so we learn:

His immediate family was a minor branch of the ancient and far-flung Harrington family, which had included royal favourites and generations of civic dignitaries and was related to the high nobility by either descent or marriage....
Little is known of his financial circumstances, but he seems to have been comfortably off from inherited properties. He was able to live as a private scholar on his estates and, from the mid-1650s until his death, in a house named Little Ambry near Dean's Yard, Westminster, and to provide for his brother and three sisters, as well as his stepmother, two half-brothers, and two stepsisters, his father having married again after the death of James's mother. The family was remarkably close. Two of his sisters who married well, Elisabeth into the Assheton (or Ashton) family and Anne into the Evelyn family, were especially devoted to him. He made his brother William's children his heirs at his death; he himself died 1675....

Some of the Harringtons had been active in the parliament that executed Charles I and it appears that our Harrington was confused with those parliamentarians and punished with imprisonment, for two years until his family engineered his release.

[O]nly two years before his death, he married a Mrs Dayrell, his 'old sweetheart' .... the daughter of Sir Marmaduke Dayrell (or Dorell) of Buckinghamshire. In person he was reckoned very good company, an excellent conversationalist, amiable, and generous. He had no personal enemies and many devoted friends, and was highly gregarious.

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