Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 7 – The Great Cat Massacre)

In addition to the negative images of the cat pointed out in the last post, a well documented incident in Paris of a working class mob torturing and murdering cats, because the rabblerousers were unhappy with their economic situation, proved that not all mentalities had changed.   Known as The Great Cat Massacre, workers in […]

CATS IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT (Part 6 – Naturalists’ Views on the Domestic Cat)

Not everyone was touched by the light of the Enlightenment, and a few scientists such as George Louis Leclerc de Buffon, a dog lover, and author of the Histoire Naturelle 1749-67, did not have a very high opinion of cats, and turned away from a reverence for nature, instead valuing animals solely for their purposefulness and […]

CATS IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT (Part 5 – Poems and Epitaphs for Deceased Cats)

Composing  poetry to deceased beloved companion cats was a trend of the times. Just as Johnson had mourned the death of Hodge, Bentham and many others would mourn the deaths of their beloved companion cats.  The following are some examples from the London Magazine of 1733, but interestingly enough these poems are anonymous, probably because […]

CATS IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT (PART 3 – Samuel Johnson and Hodge)

Samuel Johnson, the father of the first English dictionary had a cat named Hodge for whom he cared deeply.  James Boswell, Johnson’s friend and biographer, found Johnson’s relationship with Hodge so important that he included a description of this bond in Johnson’s biography.  “Nor would it be just under this head, to omit the fondness […]

CATS IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT (Part 3 – François-Augustin de Paradis de Moncrif)

Academics and writers of the age expressed their love and respect for the cat as well.  François-Augustin de Paradis de Moncrif (1687-1770), a member of the Académie Française and the royal historiographer to Louis XV, was the first person to ever write a book specifically about cats, originally entitled Les Chats † and published in […]

CATS IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT (Part 2- Jeremy Bentham)

Building on Diderot’s earlier philosophy, Jeremy Bentham’s (1748-1832) English philosophy of Utilitarianism was also based on the belief that all actions should lead to happiness ‘…it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong’.  Undoubtedly, as a cat owner, he must have considered and included the happiness […]

CATS IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT (Part 1)

BACKGROUND-CATS IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT The threat of plague and witchcraft waned in the 18th century, and the poverty and pestilence of earlier centuries slowly receded, making way for a new era full of new possibilities.  Man’s condition advanced with a concern for sanitation, and as the importance of good hygiene gained a foothold in major […]