Nonfiction > Carl Van Vechten > The Tiger in the House > Chapter Seven
Carl Van Vechten (1880–1964).  The Tiger in the House. 1922.
Chapter Seven
The Cat in the Theatre
ACTORS, playwrights, singers in opera, managers of theatres, and stage-hands have as many superstitions as Italian peasants. I have known of a tenor who, because of the presence of a rival tenor in a stage box, would not go before the footlights in his great rôle of Tannhäuser until he had performed a ludicrous and scatologic rite. An admirer once sent a handsome and expensive peacock-feather fan to Madame Modjeska. Now birds in general and peacock-feathers in particular are considered more portentous omens in the theatre than the simultaneous breaking of a mirror, sitting at table with thirteen, and facing the evil eye in any other plane of worldly existence. The gift arrived just prior to a performance of Macbeth and the Polish actress refused to allow the curtain to ascend until the noble count, her husband, had with his own hands consigned the offending object to the flames of the theatre furnace. These are bad luck signs. Curiously, and perversely enough, the cat, who elsewhere often signifies the most dread disaster, is a harbinger of prosperity in the theatre. A black cat is preferred; indeed, the mere presence of a black cat is sufficient to insure the success of any playhouse or any play. However a cat of another colour will do. This superstition is so wide-spread that every theatre from the Comédie Française to the People’s Theatre on the New York Bowery entertains a cat, feeding her lavishly, and treating her with a respect and consideration which she seldom receives elsewhere save in the homes of cat-lovers. I myself have known a stage carpenter in the Apollo Theatre at Atlantic City to go to the butcher and spend his own money for fresh liver with which he returned to feed the cat before he went off to his own dinner. The Cécile Sorels, the Maggie Clines, the Kay Laurels, who pass the portals of the stage-door, regard themselves as fortunate if the cat so much as looks at them when they come in. If the pampered feline goes so far as to condescend a caress, rubbing herself against an actor’s leg, that actor may be practically certain that David Belasco will send for him in the morning to sign a life-contract. Thus a kitten which playfully attached itself to the trailing skirt of Florence Reed’s dress during a rehearsal of Seven Days is said to have been responsible for the subsequent success of that happy farce and the call-boy himself could have told you that Florence Reed would later become a star. After J. H. Mapleson had secured the lease of Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, he passed through the door of the Opera with but £2 in his pocket, his sole balance, but, he tells us in his “Memoirs,” he was assured that there was no occasion for despair when the “celebrated black cat of the theatre” rubbed herself in the most friendly way against his knees. It was the custom of Augustin Daly, after his work was done, to wait near the gallery entrance of his theatre on Thirtieth Street for a Broadway car. One night in a snow-storm a poor kitten begged his attention with a wavering mew. He picked her up and carried her back to the theatre, where she grew into cathood. At the first New York performance of Henry Irving in Faust the theatre cat wandered out on the open stage during the first scene; undisturbed by the thunder and lightning, from the vantage point of a canvas rock, she regarded the action with dignity and decorum. Irving afterwards remarked that he had regarded the incident as a lucky omen.   1
  Naturally the presence of cats in theatres is frequently responsible for accidents. Puss, who is at home where she is at home, has a habit of strolling abstractedly across the stage at embarrassing moments. Sometimes she will sit through a scene, staring critically at the actors, to the vast diversion of the customers, for the presence of a cat on the stage, despite the contradictory evidence of the Irving episode, will usually excite mirth in an audience, no matter what may be the predominant mood of the play. It has therefore become a general custom to appoint a deputy whose duty it is to lock puss up before the play begins. But this is not always practicable; sometimes, too, the squire may forget to carry out his instructions. There are certain theatre cats who make it a matter of honour never to cross the stage in front of the back drop when the curtain is up and who even teach their kittens, with sundry cuffs and explanatory mews, to observe this rule. Nevertheless unexpected and unwelcome appearances of cats on the scene are not infrequent. Charles Santley, in “Student and Singer,” tells how a cat almost caused the failure of The Flying Dutchman at its first performance in London. Santley, as Vanderdecken, had just finished his opening scene and had leaned back against a rock while he waited for Daland to make his entrance, when he heard some one behind him hiss, “Ts! Ts!” Looking out of the corner of his eye he made out that a cat was stealthily crossing the stage. Instead of letting her go on one of the men in the boat was foolishly attempting to send her back, not a very easy thing to get a cat to do under any circumstances. Being very tame and knowing all the people in the theatre she stopped to see who was calling her. “I was in dread,” writes Santley, “for I knew that if the public saw her she would attract all their attention and the rest of the act would go for nothing. To my great joy the cat did not recognize the boatman, so went quietly off.” Rossini told Madame Marchesi that the climax of the terrible fiasco of The Barber of Seville at the initial performance was the unexpected appearance of a cat on the stage which turned the already booing and hissing audience into a howling mob of mirth and necessitated the ringing down of the curtain. This incident reminds me that rude spectators sometimes express their displeasure by means of cat-calls. In the eighteenth century the cat-call was a small circular whistle, composed of two plates of tin with a hole in the centre, but more lately the small boy has learned to produce the hideous screech by placing two fingers in his mouth and whistling. The boy who has lost two front teeth is said to be better prepared by nature for making this noise. There have been occasions on which dead cats have been hurled at actors. Huckleberry Finn informs us that sixty-four dead cats were carried to the third performance of The Royal Nonesuch which, it will be remembered, was never given.   2
  But now and again puss has unexpectedly been a factor in the success of a play. Just before the curtain fell on the first act of a comedy at Wallack’s Theatre in New York the theatre cat walked slowly across the stage, set as a drawing-room, seated himself before the fireplace, and proceeded to wash himself. This realistic touch was very delightful and if David Belasco was in front he doubtless writhed in agonized envy that he had not introduced it into some play of his own. When the leading man and the leading woman appeared before the curtain there were calls for the cat, and the biggest round of applause greeted Tom when he came out in the actress’s arms. The producer decided on the spot that the cat should become a permanent actor, but when he was called to rehearsal the next morning the results were not very satisfactory. He refused, indeed, to be made a party to any such nonsense. It was the property-boy who hit on the solution: “No cat ain’t damn fool enough to let itself be trained to do extra work. Lookin’ after rats and mice is Peter’s job and we got to make him do the stunt along that line.” Accordingly the boy held a live mouse by a cord tantalizingly near a hole in the fireplace and puss waited breathlessly each night until the end of the act when the mouse was released. On one occasion the mouse made an earlier escape and the curtain came down with the leading woman screaming from a chair. The account of a similar incident I owe to Channing Pollock: “On the first night of The Little Gray Lady in New York I sat in the gallery and watched my play slowly fail. Not a single laugh during the whole first act! I have never seen a piece go so badly; it was flat, dead, and I prepared for the funeral. The scene of the second act was a backyard, with a fence, an alley, and an ashcan. At a certain point in the action, chosen it would seem with meticulous precision, the theatre cat bounded over the top of the fence, jumped down into the ashcan and, finding it empty, jumped out again and walked down the alley off the stage. The house howled and roared with laughter and broke into applause; the audience, indeed, had now been warmed into an appreciative mood and thereafter followed the progress of the play with enthusiasm. In the following performances, by the clever ruse of laying a trail of chopped meat along the proper route and releasing the cat at the proper moment, we were enabled to repeat this happy accident.”   3
  This kind of acting a cat is not unwilling to perform, but he has been called upon to do much more on the stage. Now at home he is a natural actor. The play of the kitten, the diversions of the grownup puss are invariably partly directed to a human audience. Indeed a feline who lives on amicable terms with men and women sleeps most of the time his friends are away. Canon Liddon’s famous cat loved to distract his distinguished prelate friend. He would jump upon a bust of Dr. Busby which stood on a bracket near the door, and balancing himself “for one instant upon that severe and reverent brow, would take a flying leap to the mantelpiece and returning, would land with exquisite and unvarying accuracy on the bust, repeating this performance as often as his master desired. Liddon’s great amusement was to stand with his back to the bracket, and fling a biscuit at Dr. Busby’s head, the cat catching it dexterously, and without losing his precarious foothold.” 1 Wordsworth, in his description of a kitten at play, quite mistakes the nature of the artful little ball of fur when he asks:
        What would little Tabby care
For the plaudits of the crowd?
For what else would she care, indeed? But, away from home, or constrained, the cat has a natural timidity, a natural dignity, and a feeling which amounts to an absolute aversion for the performance of silly antics which other animals, such as seals and dogs, seem to enjoy, and which elephants can be taught to execute with facility if not with desire. The showman’s task becomes a heavier one because of the feline character. Animals who appear in the theatre or the circus are usually trained by being beaten or threatened with red-hot irons. In other words it is through their sense of fear that their co-operation is gained. But such tactics will be of no assistance to any one who wishes to train cats. A terrified cat will shrink and tremble but he will not jump through hoops. A cat who has been beaten will not creep up to lick the mountebank’s hand.
  Nevertheless a man who has won a cat’s confidence can, with patience and interminable perseverance, accomplish a good deal in this direction. The easiest method is to prolong or exaggerate natural characteristics. If a cat has a natural habit of sitting on his haunches and waving his paws in the air, it is a comparatively easy matter to teach him to do this upon demand. Feathers will lie for whole minutes perfectly still on her back in the palms of my hands with one paw, perhaps, pasted to my nose, but she will often refuse to be held in any ordinary way. It is very simple, of course, to teach a cat to live at peace with animals which usually form his prey and a collection of this kind in a cage impresses a simple public. Harrison Weir describes one such family which a showman exhibited in which starlings sat on puss’s head and blackbirds on his back while rabbits, white mice, rats and other such beasties thrived in the cage. The animals seemed contented and happy. At another London street corner Mr. Weir met a man who had trained cats and birds: “The man takes a canary, opens the cat’s mouth, puts it in, takes it out, makes the cat, or cats, go up a short ladder and down another; then they are told to fight, and placed in front of each other; but fight they will not with their forepaws, so the master moves their paws for them, each looking away from the other.” Mr. Weir witnessed other performances at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster: “On each side of the stage there were cat kennels, from which the cats made their appearance on a given signal, ran across, on or over whatever was placed between, and disappeared quickly into the opposite kennels. But about it all there was a decided air of timidity, and an eagerness to get the performance over. When the cats came out they were caressed and encouraged, which seemed to have a soothing effect, and I have a strong apprehension that they received some dainty morsel when they reached their destination.” Other feats followed and the entertainment closed with an exhibition of tightrope walking in which the cats walked a rope on which white rats had been placed at intervals, without injuring the rodents. “A repetition of this feat was rendered a little more difficult by substituting for rats, which sat pretty quietly in one place, several white mice and small birds, which were more restless, and kept changing their positions. The cats re-crossed the rope, and passed over all these obstacles without even noticing the impediments in their way, with one or two exceptions, when they stopped, and cossetted one or more of the white rats, two of which rode triumphantly on the back of a large black cat.” Miss Winslow 2 gives some account of Herr Techow’s performing felines, who walk on their front feet, jump through hoops of fire, and perform other unnatural acts to the great edification of vaudeville audiences. Herr Techow told Miss Winslow that high-strung, nervous cats have the best minds but that it is difficult to keep them interested in their work. “A vagrant cat,” he continued, “is the easiest to teach, the quickest to learn. Just as a street gamin gets his wits sharpened by his vagrant life, the stray, half-starved cat, forced to defend himself from foes and to snatch his living where he can, has his perceptive faculties quickened and his brain-cells enlarged. I cannot teach a kitten. I take them from a year to two or three years old, and train them three years longer before it is safe to put them on the stage with confidence in their performing the tricks they may have mastered.”   5
  Performing cats, however, are seldom to be seen in circuses or vaudeville. They are most difficult to train, not because they are stupid but because they are too intelligent to be interested in such nonsense. A cat is never vulgar and this sort of thing undoubtedly strikes a cat as vulgar. As the cat will willingly die to preserve his independence he cannot, even when he has seemingly made the compromise with the showman, be depended upon to carry out instructions. Bearing on this point Miss Repplier 3 tells a particularly significant story of a cat she saw with a troupe of performing animals at the Folies-Bergère in Paris:   6
  “Her fellow actors, poodles, and monkeys, played their parts with relish and a sense of fun. The cat, a thing apart, condescended to leap twice through a hoop, and to balance herself very prettily on a large rubber ball. She then retired to the top of a ladder, made a deft and modest toilet, and composed herself for slumber. Twice the trainer spoke to her persuasively, but she paid no heed, and evinced no further interest in him, nor in his entertainment. Her time for condescension was past.   7
  “The next day I commented on the cat’s behaviour to some friends who had also been to the Folies-Bergère on different nights. ‘But,’ said the first friend, ‘the evening I went, that cat did wonderful things; came down the ladder on her ball, played the fiddle, and stood on her head.’   8
  “‘Really,’ said the second friend. ‘Well the night I went she did nothing at all except cuff one of the monkeys that annoyed her. She just sat on the ladder and watched the performance. I presumed she was there by way of decoration.’” 4   9
  Cats have repeatedly been drawn into cinematograph representations with success, however. I remember an elaborate film which began with a cat killing a bird, not a very difficult thing to get a cat to do, and I have seen lovely white Persians, and delightfully amusing alley cats, frisk on and off the screen in this picture and that. Adolf Bolm has told me of an electrical drama entirely performed by a cat, a bear, and a fish.  10
  Occasionally a playwright has asked an actress to carry a cat, as dogs are often carried, on the stage. Avery Hopwood wanted his Countess with a cat to meet his Sadie Love with a dog. But an attempt or two at rehearsals decided him that the project had best be abandoned. The theme of Eugene Walter’s play, The Assassin, was inherited blood-lust, and the audience learned that the girl-heroine was affected with the taint when she killed her pet kitten at the end of the second act. The murder was accomplished off stage and was indicated by the screams of the girl, like the crucifixion in Aphrodite, but in order to establish the idea of the kitten in the minds of the audience it was considered necessary to keep her on the stage during the whole act. The very youngest of kittens was secured for the purpose but even so it was no easy matter to hold her and Fania Marinoff, to whom the task fell, found it expedient to cut puss’s claws before many rehearsals had taken place. The kitten was thoroughly jolly, good-natured, and happy on trains and in hotels, even in the dressing-room, but once the curtain had risen she was transformed into an animated fiend, whose one idea was escape. She struggled and often yowled and holding the kitten became as firmly fixed in Miss Marinoff’s mind as any of her lines. At the end of Lady Gregory’s play, The Deliverer, 5 the King’s Nurseling is thrown to the King’s cats:
        A loud mewing and screaming is heard.
Dan’s wife: What is that screeching?
Malachi’s wife: It is the King’s cats calling for their food.
Ard: Shove him over the steps to them.
Malachi: Will you throw him to the King’s cats?
Dan’s wife: A good thought. No one will recognize him. They’ll have the face ate off him ere morning.
Ard’s wife: Throw him to the King’s cats!
They screech again. Their shadow is seen on the steps. The King’s Nurseling is dragged into darkness. A louder screech is heard. 6
Another stage cat is that in Chester Bailey Fernald’s one-act play, The Cat and the Cherub, which is not to be confused with the story with the same title. One-Two is a delightful character in the story, but in the play the cat becomes scarcely more than a name.
  There are occasions on which playwrights call upon actors to impersonate cats; the most notable example of this sort of drama is probably The Blue Bird. Maeterlinck, of course, is exclusively a dog-lover and the Cat does not come off very well; nor is his portrait cleverly drawn. The Cat is represented as fawning on his human friends to gain his own ends, but do cats ever fawn? None that I have known do. On the other hand Hinze the Tom Cat in Ludwig Tieck’s Der Gestiefelte Kater is one of the most delightful and sympathetic cats to be found in all literature. This cat, almost white with a few black spots, is the wisest and wittiest personage in the comedy, which purports to be a dramatic version of Puss in Boots. The piece is a mad fantastic satire on the German people, the German government, and even the play form itself. In Thomas Middleton’s The Witch, Hecate’s cat plays a considerable part in the incantation scenes. In his ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, Tschaikovsky introduces a short dance between two cats in a scenic episode in which other heroes and heroines of the Perrault tales appear. Here, to the accompaniment of spits and meows in the orchestra, Puss in Boots has an entirely apocryphal encounter with the White Cat. The mood of this divertissement is humorous and Adolf Bolm has told me that it is one of the most delightful scenes in the ballet when danced at Petrograd. When Anna Pavlowa presented a version of this work at the New York Hippodrome several seasons ago I think this pas de deux was omitted. How many pantomimes have been constructed on the subject of cats I cannot even begin to conjecture. J. R. Planché wrote one, I know, on the theme of the White Cat, and Dick Whittington and Puss in Boots must have been figured as frequently in the London Christmas lists as any other folk or fairy story heroes. 7  12
  At the height of her rivalry with Taglioni, Fanny Elssler danced in a ballet called La Chatte Métamorphosée en Femme, drawn by Coralli and Duveyrier from a vaudeville of the same title by Scribe and Melesville; the music was composed by a young winner of the prix de Rome, a forgotten Apollo named Montfort. There was much preliminary booming of this ballet; it was announced that, as the action passed in China, the costumes would be copied from authentic Canton models and the following paragraph went the round of the Paris journals: “Until recently, it is said, Mlle. Fanny Elssler had an unconquerable aversion for cats. Each of us has his bête noire; well, the bête noire of Fanny Elssler was a cat, even a white cat. The sight of a cat made her tremble, the mewing of a cat made her dash away on the points of her toes. But the love of art is like all love: it knows the way to triumph over fear; it knows how to vanquish the most sincere repugnances; and through devotion to her art, to give truth to her impersonation, Mlle. Elssler has had the courage to buy a little white cat, which is always with her. The perfidious animal is always by her side; and her beautiful enemy, forgetting her hate, asks inspiration of the feline, studies her graceful poses, 8 her light movements, her undulating walk, and even her defiant glare and immobile stare; sometimes she still trembles, if by chance her hand encounters the white ermine-like fur; the woman remembers her infantile terrors, and her vanquished repugnance reawakens for a moment; but the artist recalls herself to her rôle, rids herself of her weakness, draws the pretty cat towards her and bravely caresses it. The repellent animal disappears from her eyes; she sees only her model; she dreams of the success she will owe to it; she hears the public applaud her and she realizes that her effort will be rewarded.” 9  13
  The ballet was not a great success. The vaudeville of Scribe had been stupidly adapted and the music was uninteresting. But Fanny’s performance was considered extraordinary. She played the rôle of a young Chinese Princess, in love with a student, who in turn adored his cat,
        L’èclat d’une langue vermeille
Sur deux lèvres en velours noir.
The young man was made to believe that by means of a magic cap he could change his beloved puss into a woman. He consented to the metamorphosis and the Princess took the place of the animal. She adopted the habits of cats, 10 exaggerated their faults in order to make the young man an ailurophobe. She lapped milk from a bowl, made war on birds, played him a thousand tricks until the student was ready to take the Princess and let the cat go. All this, we learn, was carried through with astonishing effect by Fanny Elssler, who had really studied the manner of cats, captured their subtle walk, copied their gestures, their soft paw-blows, their fashion of stretching themselves. “The suppleness,” said a writer in the “Courrier des Théâtres,” “the elegant softness, the velvet agility, the spiritual vivacity, the comic expression, full of taste and charm, employed by Mlle. Fanny captivated the spectators until they believed that they had witnessed a play, whereas they had only seen a ravishing actress.” 11
  I have already spoken of Mademoiselle Deshoulières’s tragedy to be enacted by her mother’s cat and her lovers. Moncrif has inserted in his book a quaint engraving of a fantastic performance of this piece. Mimy, Grisette, Marmuse, and Cafar in costumes of the Louis XIV epoch stalk the rooftops on their hind legs, while common cats, clothed only in fur, sedately watch the performance from various points of vantage. Cupid with his bow presides over this charming scene.  15
  This perhaps was the last play written entirely for cats until Colette Willy’s Sept Dialogues de Bêtes appeared in the early twentieth century, over two hundred years later. 12 And, of course, Madame Willy’s work is not devoted entirely to cats! No one has written about animals with more sympathetic understanding than Colette. Pierre Loti is a careful and sensitive observer but he writes about cats objectively. Colette treats them subjectively, tries to put herself under their skins, makes them, indeed, speak for themselves. This method, of course, has obvious difficulties, the main one being the avoidance of sentimentality, but any one who reads this book, and both lovers of cats and dogs will enjoy it, will see how well she has succeeded. These dialogues, in the form of a series of short one-act plays, between a cat, Kiki-la-Doucette, and a dog, Toby-Chien, although dated 1905, in psychological content are similar to certain phases of the modern Russian drama. Often, instead of conversing, each animal proceeds to relate his own thoughts, to think aloud. These thoughts are natural, but significant, and, of course, amusing. The book was written, indeed, “pour amuser Willy.” Occasionally He and She, the human companions of the animals, appear but as subordinate figures and they are always seen from the point of view of the cat and the dog. The result is something very fine, something very near finished art.  16
  In the opening dialogue Kiki explains her position quite neatly: “Neither the Two-footed Ones, nor you, comprehend the egoism of cats.… They christen thus, higglety-pigglety, the instinct of self-preservation, the chaste reserve, the dignity, the fatiguing self-denial, which comes to us from the impossibility of being understood by them. Dog of little distinction, but devoid of favouritism, do you understand me better? The cat is a guest and not a plaything. Truly I do not know in what times we live! The Two-footed Ones, He and She, have they alone the right to be sad, to be gay, to lick the plates, to complain, to be capricious? I too have my caprices, my griefs, my irregular appetites, my hours of dreamy retreat in which I withdraw from the world.…” There, indeed, is the whole psychology of the cat in a single speech. A little later, when the dog asks her if she has not a secret understanding with Him, she reveals a little more of her soul: “An understanding … yes. Secret and chaste and profound. He rarely speaks, and scratches the paper with a sound like the scratching of mice. It is to Him that I have given my avaricious heart, my precious Cat heart. And He, without words, has given me His. The exchange has made me happy and reserved, and sometimes with that capricious and dominating instinct which makes us the rivals of women, I try my power on Him. For Him, when we are alone, the diabolical pointed ears which presage a bound on the paper which he scratches! For Him the tap-tap-tap of the tambourining paws through the pens and scattered letters. For Him, also, the persistent mewing which demands liberty, ‘The Hymn to the Doorknob,’ he smilingly observes, or ‘The Plaint of the Sequestered.’ But for Him also the tender contemplation of my inspiring eyes, which weigh on his bent head until he looks at me and there results a shock of souls so foreseen and so soft that I close my lids in exquisite shame.… She … moves too much, often bullies me, fans me in the air, holding my paws two by two, insists on caressing me, laughs at me, imitates my voice too well.…”  17
  Toby-Chien complains that sometimes when they are playing together the cat treats him like a stranger. “Could not this be called a bad disposition?” he asks. “No,” answers the cat, “a disposition only. A Cat’s disposition. It is in such irritating moments that I feel, beyond doubt, the humiliating situation in which I and the rest of my race live. I can recall the time when hierophants in long tunics of linen spoke to us on bended knees, and listened timidly to our sung speech. Remember, Dog, that we have not changed. Perhaps there are days when my racial consciousness is more dominant, when everything justly offends me, a brusque gesture, a gross laugh, the sound of a door closing, your odour, your inconceivable audacity in touching me, in surrounding me with your circular bounds.…” There is much more of this delicately felt psychology; the effect of heat, cold, hunger, movement, a storm … even death, on the cat is discussed, all of this wrapped in a rather subtle French which does not lend itself very gracefully to translation.  18
  In the last dialogue of all, there is an amusing and sudden descent to bedroom farce, a veritable Georges Feydeau comedy of ithyphallic manners, in which a visiting toy-dog is the protagonist. This little lady proves very attractive to Toby who is about to complete an easy seduction when the miniature one catching sight of the outraged Kiki sitting atop the piano and regarding the scene with a very natural horror, yelps, “A tiger, a tiger, help!” and rushes shrieking from the room. It may be remarked just here that the cat, although a passionate lover, is both modest and subtle. Dogs conduct their amours with little regard for public decency but a cat makes love at night in shady groves, sanctified by the natural odours of the warm earth, or in the hidden recesses of gabled roofs.  19
  There is no dialogue in the book more characteristic, more delicious than the scene on the train. He and She are on their way to the country. Toby is loose in the compartment; Kiki, of course, has been carried in a basket. She is released at the dinner hour so that she may enjoy her chicken bone. But soon there is to be a change of cars; how is Kiki to be gotten back into the basket? He and She discuss this question until the cat, having completed an elaborate Roman after-dinner toilet, arches her back, spreads her claws in front of her, descends into the basket and sinks into mysterious slumber! This incident is a perfect example of the charming perversity of the cat.  20

Note 1.  Agnes Repplier: “The Fireside Sphinx.” [back]
Note 2.  “Concerning Cats,” p. 232. [back]
Note 3.  “The Grocer’s Cat” in “Americans and Others.” [back]
Note 4.  It is perhaps easier for a cat to train a man than for a man to train a cat. A cat who desires to live with human beings makes it his business to see that the so-called superior race behaves in the proper manner towards him. [back]
Note 5.  “Irish Folk-History Plays,” Second Series. [back]
Note 6.  There is an historical precedent for this scene. A certain King of Persia, having devastated Egypt and profaned the temples, committed the final outrage in killing the sacred bull, Apis. The Egyptians were revenged; they hacked his body to pieces, and fed the morsels to the sacred cats! [back]
Note 7.  It is interesting to know that Bernard Shaw’s extravagant farce, Passion, Poison, and Petrifaction, was suggested by a story told by the author to the children of William Archer about a cat who by mistake lapped up a saucer of plaster of Paris instead of milk, and thereupon became petrified and was used to prop up a door! [back]
Note 8.  Rouvière, the actor, writes Champfleury, was truly feline by nature, and was haunted by a desire to represent his sensations by the brush. He fell in with Carlin, the harlequin of the Italian stage, who lived surrounded by cats, whose “pupil” he declared himself to be. A picture by Rouvière explains certain movements of that actor, who was remarkable for his quick, strange, and caressing gestures in Hamlet.… Thus might be explained certain exceptional faculties of Rouvière’s, which, even after his death, might serve an instructive purpose. Those faculties were drawn from the living sources of nature, for it may be said that the contemplation of a cat is as valuable to an actor as a course at the Conservatoire. [back]
Note 9.  This priceless example of 1837 puffery, so like the efforts of many present day press agents, I take from Auguste Ehrhard’s charming book, “Fanny Elssler.” [back]
Note 10.  In the “Century Magazine” for April 1891, Allan McLane Hamilton published a story called “Herr von Striempfell’s Experiment,” in which a scientist transplanted the brain of a cat into that of a beautiful, sensible, and dignified woman who, after her convalescence underwent a remarkable change, acquiring feline characteristics of a familiar kind. At a formal dinner one evening she dived from her chair into the corner and caught a mouse between her teeth! Finally she died slowly and with the greatest difficulty, bearing out the nine lives superstition. In his “Recollections of an Alienist” (1916), Dr. Hamilton remarks (p. 232): “Many years ago I wrote … a short tale … which by some people was taken in dead earnest.… Strange to say this led to serious experimentation and I have heard of occasions when the brain grafting was actually tried with apparent success, but let us hope with no transfer of objectionable peculiarities.” [back]
Note 11.  In Ward McAllister’s “Society As I Have Found It,” in the description of the ball given in honour of Lady Mandeville’s visit to New York, the author writes (p. 354): “The most remarkable costume, and one spoken of to this day, was that of a cat; the dress being of cats’ tails, and white cats’ heads and a bell with ‘Puss’ on it in large letters.” [back]
Note 12.  H. C. Bunner wrote a child’s operetta called “Three Little Kittens of the Land of Pie,” but although it is founded on the familiar nursery rhyme of the “three little kittens who lost their mittens,” and although all the characters are cats, King Thomas the First, Head of the House of Grimalkin, Ringtail, Kitcat, Prince Tortoiseshell of Caterwaulia, Prince Spot of Bacquephensia, Prince Velvet of Miaouwa, Princesses Kitty, Malta, and Angora, there is not a line of the dialogue or the lyrics which suggests cat psychology or is even intended to. [back]



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