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 2, 2017

April 2, 1867

Charles Henry Bennett (July 26, 1828 to April 2, 1867) was a Victorian illustrator. We read that "As an adult, Charles became part of the London bohemian scene, and was a founder member of the Savage Club, each member of which was “a working man in literature or art”.

Bennett was busy and ultimately popular with his illustrations. His ODNB article details his relations with the famous writer Charles Kingsley:

Towards the end of the 1850s, Charles Bennett prepared an illustrated version of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, for which he produced more than 120 drawings, including sparely drawn caricatures of all the characters. He initially had great difficulty getting this work published, until it came to the attention of Charles Kingsley, who provided a preface for the book, whereupon Longmans accepted it for publication. In his letter to Charles Bennett, Kingsley agreed that an appropriately illustrated version of the book was needed and offered his views on the style to be used. He cautioned against imaginative freedom at the cost of beauty of form and pointed to a strong German element in Bunyan, which should be expressed by a tendency to the grotesque. He concludes the letter by urging the artist to put the visions on paper as they appeared to the mind of the seer himself. “Now we know that Bunyan saw these people in his mind's eye, as dressed in the garb of his own century. It is very graceful and I should keep to it, not only for historic truth's sake, but because in no other way can you express Bunyan's leading idea, that the same supernatural world which was close to old prophets and martyrs was close to him; that the devil who whispered in the ears of Judas, whispered in the ears of a cavalier over his dice, or a Presbyterian minister in his Geneva gown.” Perhaps feeling that he was being too prescriptive, Kingsley concluded, “Take these hints as meant, kindly.”

Among a series of children's books he drew is The Nine Lives of a Cat. A Tale of Wonder.
The reader may want to check out the copy at, in they are interested in the Victorian sensibility. Most people now find it rather dreadful to consider the ways a cat can die, however talented the artist of these scenes. I must recommend though, the last page, "Tail Piece" for cleverness. Lovecraft is said to have found it horrible, but it has a unique charm: more feline than yucky. Here is a different sample page anyway.

After his death colleagues at Punch raised money for Bennett's family, a wife and six children. Though Bennett did not leave his family secure, friends' efforts were so successful, the widow could soon list her income as that of an "annuitand."

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