Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 11 – Sir Walter Scott and Hinx)

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) owned a cat named Hinx and once made a comment to Washington Irving, “Ah! Cats are mysterious kind of folk.  There is more passing in their minds than we are aware of.  It comes no doubt from their being so familiar with warlocks and witches.” (Van Vechten, 1921, p. 81)  Scott loved cats, and a portrait of him by John Watson Gordon shows the author at work with his tabby cat, Hinx, close by on his desk.


sir walter scott and cat


An interesting anecdote is that Scott had the pleasure of meeting the Archbishop of Toronto, Naples, who had quite a reputation for doting on cats.  Scott himself observed that the archbishop’s only passion was in fact for his cats.  Likewise, amused by the archbishop’s devotion to his cats, a Lady Morgan recorded her meeting with the ailurophile.   “You must pardon my passion for cats,” said the archbishop, “‘but I never exclude them from my dining room and you will find they make excellent company…’ Between the first and second courses, the door opened, and several enormously large beautiful Angora cats were introduced by the names, Pantalone, Desdemona, and Othello.  They took their places on chairs near the tables, and were as silent, as quiet, as motionless, and as well behaved as the most bon-ton table in London could require.  On the Bishop requesting one of the Chaplains to help the Signora Desdemona, the butler stepped to his lordship, and observed, ‘My lord, la Signora Desdemona will prefer waiting for the roast.’ “(Ibid)



Van Vechten, Carl. (1921). The tiger in the house. Alfred A. Knopf. Inc.


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Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats



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