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

les chats de François-Augustin_Paradis_de_Moncrif_attributed_to_Maurice_Quentin_de_La_Tour (1) history of catsAcademics 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 1727.  Unfortunately, “…it (Les Chats) at once became the subject of satires and skits….a comedy had been presented entitled Gulliver dans L’Isle de la folie, by Dominique and Romagnesi….It contained a scene between Gulliver and a musician, who boasted of writing ‘a magnificent Cantata to the honour and glory of Cats…The stuff of the lyrics was taken directly from Moncrif, and the piece was performed with enthusiastic mewings”….  for which he would be ever afterward ridiculed (Bretnor, 1965, pp 10-11).  However, according to Maurepas’ memoirs, it was upon Moncrif’s election to the Academie Française that an aspiring comedian let a cat lose in the crowd which started to make the most horrendous howling noises. The audience immediately mimicked it and turned the whole gathering into chaos (Ibid p 12).  Even so, perhaps Moncrif had the last laugh, as his exceptional book is still being published today. “….somebody said of him, when he was famous as the laureate of the cats, that he had risen in life by never scratching, by always having velvet paws, and by never putting up his back, even when he was startled.”(Gosse, n.d.p.174)  

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