THE CASE OF THE COUNTESS DE LA TORRE - A NINETEENTH CENTURY CAT HOARDER
The Countess de la Torre was a wealthy eccentric who became well-known for what is now called animal hoarding and was allegedly the inspiration for the character of William Thackeray's character, Becky Sharp. She was born Theresa Reviss, reputedly the illegitimate daughter of Charles Buller and a "girl in the Baker Street bazaar" and was known to all as "Tizzie" (alternatively she was legitimate daughter of Buller's married mistress). Buller's wife decided to embrace scandal by adopting Tizzie. The girl was subsequently spoiled her so far beyond endurance that she became the supposed model for Becky Sharp, the profligate heroine of Thackeray's Vanity Fair (Thackeray apparently detested the spoilt and wily girl). When Charles Buller died in 1848, he instructed that an annuity of £100 be given to one Theresa Reviss, who was granted further provision from the sale of land and houses in Calcutta. Used to being indulged, Tizzie lived far beyond her slender means and sought security through marriages to two foreign counts.
The Bullers spent part of their time in India where Tizzie cut quite a swath as a femme fatale; on one occasion she had attended a fancy-dress ball as His Satanic Majesty, complete with sweeping tail. Gentlemen went wild over her. The Lord Chancellor of the time took her out on his yacht for a trip. In mid-ocean, she threw up her hands and claimed she was compromised. He was said to have settled on her an Italian villa where, once established in a sumptuously furnished villa owned by the Lord Chancellor, Tizzie married Count Gateschi, a knight of the Holy Roman Empire. When the Lord Chancellor died, Tizzie had to give up the villa after which she disappeared.
Some time later she reappeared, this time in London as the "Countess de la Torre" (estimated to be in her mid forties). Her home became a refuge for homeless cats and dogs, but she was often in police court regarding the nuisance caused by her collection of dogs and cats. Though she was immune to it, the house reeked of excrement and was soaked in animal urine and neighbours frequently complained of the noise and smell. Although she gave the appearance of a lady of independent means, she had no possessions worth seizing in lieu of debts. Later on, the Countess was reported as having left her home in Kensington and lodging in an inn at Gerard's Cross, often sleeping rough with her collection of goats, even dressing the part of a herdswoman (I can't be sure whether sleeping under the stars was part of her eccentricity or a reflection of her diminishing finances). She frequently claimed to have a fortune in her Italian estate, but that it was not being paid to her.
A COUNTESS AND HER CATS - Northampton Mercury , 21 July 1883
The Countess de la Torre, residing in Pembroke - place, Kensington, was, on Saturday, summoned before the magistrate at the Hammersmith Police court, charged with causing a nuisance by keeping eighteen cats and nine dogs in three of the rooms which she occupied. The Countess said she was a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and was the habit of showing compassion on cats that had been abandoned by her neighbours. An order for the abatement of the nuisance was made, and the Countess was mulcted in four shillings costs.
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS. - Tamworth Herald, 6 October 1883
On Tuesday, at the Kensington Vestry Hall, before the Hon. E. C. Gurzon, Sir Henry Gordon, and others, justices of the peace, the Countess de la Torre, residing at 38, Pembroke-square, was summoned for permitting a number of cats to remain on her premises, so as to cause nuisance injurioua to health.—Mr. Harding, clerk of the Kensington Vestry, attended to support the summons and said the offence was one of many years' steading. -The Countess : I am willing to do anything. - Mr. Harding: Her ladyship has made that promise on more than one occasion, and I regret that I cannot place any reliance in it.—Mr.Bird (a magistrate): How many cats are there? – The Countess: I have five cats and also feed some stray ones. – Mr. Harding explained that the Countess was summoned not long since at the Hammersmith Police Court , when a prohibitory order was granted for the keeping of cats at 39 Pembroke Square, where she had then resided. She had since removed to 38. The Countess: This persecution is a cruel thing; it is through a neighbour. I have two dogs.-Mr Abbott the sanitary inspector said that when the Countess was summoned on the last occasion she had eighteen cats and nine dogs - Mr. Harding: They were shut up in a room and one could naturally imagine the filthy smell. Mr. Bird: Do you confine the animals in the room ?- The Countess: Certainly not.—There being no witnesses to prove the offence, the Bench dismissed the summons.
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS. - Dundee Courier, 25 February 1884
At Hammersmith Police Court on Saturday, an application was made by one of the sanitary officers of Kensington for a summons against the Countess de la Torre for keeping a number of cats and dogs upon her premises. The Usher informed the Magistrate that the Countess had been summoned before at that Court, and also at the Kensington Special Sessions in respect of her cats and dogs. Mr Paget inquired of the Inspector if he knew anything about the case. The applicant said did. He went to the house and saw seventeen cats and seven dogs. Paget—Seventeen cats and seven dogs (Laughter.) They may be great nuisance to persons in the house. Are they a nuisance to anyone else? The Inspector—Yes. Mr Paget—ln what way ? The Inspector—By the smell from, the cats. Mr Paget granted the summons.
GOSSIP FROM FOREIGN PAPERS from The New York Times, August 22, 1884: The Dowager Countess de la Torre, who is devoting herself to the rescue in England from a life of hardship of all the houseless cats she can discover, during a period of nine months has placed 79 cats where they will be permitted to earn as honest living. In her own house she has a sort of hospital where the kittens can be placed on bamboo chairs and soft cushions.
This made the Countess de la Torre sound like some kind of cat saint, and perhaps that was her intention. The reality was that of a cat hoarder whose devotion to cats outstripped her ability to keep them in healthy conditions. The true state of affairs had already been reported a year earlier, as the following cutting demonstrates:
A COUNTESS AND HER CATS.
The New Zealand Herald, Volume XX, Issue 6829, 6, October 1883 (Page 2)
At the Hammersmith Police Court, the Countess de la Torre, residing in Pembroke Square, Kensington, was summoned by Mr. Harding, clerk of the Kensington Vestry, for keeping a number of cats and dogs in her dwelling rooms, so as to be a nuisance. Thomas Abbott, one of the inspectors of nuisances for the parish, said that in consequence of the abominable stench arising from the house where the defendant occupied four rooms, he inspected them, and found in three eighteen cats and nine dogs kept in the most offensive manner. The animals were running about the stairs and rooms, but were confined to the house. He served her with a notice to discontinue keeping the cats and dogs, but she had paid no attention to it. As he was there again and found the nuisance still existing, there being twelve cats, he asked the magistrate to make an order to abate the nuisance, and also to grant a prohibitory order. In answer to questions, the inspector said the landlady of the house had not raised any objection, but the neighbours had complained of the nuisance. The defendant said that she had six little kittens, which the inspector called cats. Mary O'Donnell, who was a servant in the house, was called, and said it was not fit for a person to live there. She counted twelve cats in the house that day. The defendant, in answer to the complainant, said she was a member of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and she took care of the cats of people who were away. She did so to prevent them from being starved. She had promised Mr. Harding and Dr. Dudfield, the medical officer of health, not to keep more than her own four or five cats and two dogs. Mr. Sheil explained that the defendant was liable to a penalty of 20s for each day she kept the animals, He made the order with 4s costs.
What marks the Countess as a hoarder, rather than a multi-pet household, were the conditions in which she and her pets lived. She was repeatedly reported as a nuisance because ofthe stench emanating from her home (this at a time when disease was thought to be spread by bad smells). The rooms reeked of animal excrement and urine and were considered unfit for habitation. Such was the interest in this nuisance neighbour, that she was widely reported in the New Zealand press for the benefit of ex-pats living there. While The New York Times had fallen for the idea of an idyllic home for cats, the reports coming out of London told a very different story that eventually ran over several years and became a sort of soap opera.
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS - Derry Journal , 10 March 1884
The Countess de la Torre, of Pembroke-square, Kensington, appeared at Hammersmith Police Court, the other day, to answer a summons at the instance of Mr. G. C. Harding, clerk of the vestry, for causing a nuisance by reason of keeping a number of cats and dogs upon her premises. Mr. C. E. Nettleton appeared for the countess, who held some papers in her hands. James Whiteman, one of the inspectors of nuisance for Kensington, said he went to the defendant’s house, 38, Pembroke-square, on the 22nd ult. In the kitchen he counted eleven cats, and six in the first floor front room. He also saw six cats in the back yard, and one in the house. The animals were so kept as to be a nuisance to the next door neighbour. The countess was the only person who occupied the house. He did not see any lodgers or servants in the house.
Mr. Paget—Lives there by herself with the dogs and cats ?
Mr- Paget observed that was a peculiar statement. It was not usual to have eleven cats in the kitchen. In cross-examination the witness said he went to the house between twelve and one o’clock in consequence of the complaint from the next door neighbour. The odour from the cats in the kitchen was terrible, and he had to place a handkerchief in his mouth before he could count them. Mr. Paget then called for the medical officer of health, and was informed by the inspector that he was not present. Mr. Paget—Why is he not here. The inspector proceeded to state that the medical officer was not present on the former occasion. Mr. Paget said he was constantly making orders in cases of pig-keeping, and he always had the evidence of the medical officers. Mr. Nettleton elicited from the inspector that he had made previous inspection, and then stated that the countess was keeping the animals as well as she was able free from smells. The neighbour was called, and said he was obliged to shut the front windows on account of the smells, and also the back door to prevent them running in and out. Mr. Paget again said that unless the inspector had the evidence the medical officer could not proceed. If the parish officers did not know how to conduct their cases they must pay costs. He dismissed the summons, and ordered the vestry to pay one guinea coats to the countess.
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS. - Dundee Evening Telegraph, 1 August 1884
Mm Giacometti Prodgers, of cab-fare fame, has worthy successor in the Countess de la Torre, a residenter in London, whose special weakness is the keeping of twenty-four cats and nine dogs in her own dwelling-house. Every now and then the Countess appears at her local police court in answer to summonses from those who live in painfully close proximity to her, and on such occasions she is always accompanied by one of her many pots. Everyone knows that it is sweet to hear the watchdog’s honest bark, and that a cat is a pleasing addition to a hearth ; but one can have too much of good thing - the honest barks of nine watchdogs, and the yowling of the twenty-four cats must be exceedingly detrimental to the peace of the neighbourhood. On Monday the Countess appealed against an order of Mr Barstow, who directed that the nuisance should be discontinued, but the appeal was adjourned, and for some days more least Pembroke Square wilt resound with the sweet music discoursed by the Countess’s cats and dogs.
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS. - Edinburgh Evening News , 5 August 1884
The July Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the hearing of appeals against convictions on orders made by police-magistrates were continued on Saturday at the London Guildhall. The Dowager Countess Mary de la Torre, who carried a large bundle of legal papers, appealed against a decision of the justices of the Kensington Division, dated June 1884, whereby she was ordered to discontinue keeping cats and dogs, and other animals.—Several witnesses having been called to the serious character of the nuisance, the appellant was cross-examined. She said her husband was the Count de la Torre, and was Minister at Rome. She was a great student of natural history, and could pass an examination as a doctor, but her father was opposed to it. She had taken an interest in cats all her life from feelings of humanity, and because she was writing a book on natural history. Her cats were always a subject of levying blackmail by the landlords. Her object was to find homes for cats. People brought stray cats to her, and she had placed 77 cats in different homes in less than nine months. She looked upon it as a labour of love and an act of mercy to rescue stray cats. She provided bamboo chairs in the drawing-room for some of the cats when they had kittens, and that she called the "nursery. " —By the Court : She had several valuable cats worth £160 each, and had taken several prizes. She had two Manx cats which were considered perfect. She had been annoyed by boys throwing stones her house and breaking her windows.—The Assistant Judge, in giving the decision of the bench, said they entertained doubt about keeping so large a number of animals being a nuisance, injurious to health, and as the appellant seemed obstinately bent on resisting the order of the magistrates, it would the duty of the Local Authority to enforce the order forthwith in the most effectual manner.—The order was confirmed, with costs.
THE COUNTESS DE LA TORRE AND HER CATS - St James's Gazette, 18 August 1884
The Countess De La Torre, of 38, Pembroke-square, was summoned at Kensington Saturday for disobeying a prohibitory order of the justices do away with number of cats and dogs which she kept in her dwelling-house. In defence the Countess said that seven of her cats had been destroyed and she bad given seven away. She had three cats still, and stray ones came to the house. By direction of the chairman, two officers of the vestry proceeded to the house of the Countess to ascertain the number of the cats and dogs. They found thirteen cats and seven dogs, and the smell in the house was most offensive. The chairman made an order for the Countess to pay 10 shillings a day from the 2nd August, on which day the decision of the justices was confirmed, to the present time. An order was also granted giving permission to enter the house and abolish the nuisance.
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS. Worcester Journal, 30 August 1884
On Saturday the inspector of nuisances for the Kensington Vestry again visited the house of the Countess de la Torre, in Pembroke-square, Kensington, for the purpose of ascertaining if anything had been done in order to comply with the decision of the magistrates prohibiting the keeping of the animals. Contrary to expectations the inspector was admitted. He made an examination, and found that the number of cats and dogs had been reduced from twenty-one to seven, the others having been destroyed. The countess said her animals were poisoned without her consent or previous knowledge by persons unknown. Her ladyship was given to understand that the vestry have no desire to enforce the order of the justices relative to the abolition of the nuisance if she showed an inclination permanently to discontinue the keeping of cats and dogs in her dwelling-house.
Dundee Evening Telegraph, 1 September 1884 – The Countess de la Torre, accompanied by several of her cats and dogs, is enjoying salubrious quietude at Dover.
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS
Te Aroha News, New Zealand, Volume II, Issue 73, 25 October 1884, Page 5
One day recently the Countess de la Torre, who is famous in London as the owner of a large number of cats, was summoned in a Police Court and ordered to destroy her pets, as they had become a nuisance to her neighbours. On this the "Pall Mall Gazette" sent their enterprising interviewer to see the Countess, with the following result:
CURIOUS INTERIOR. I pulled the bell at 35, Pembroke Square, but it offered no resistance and made no sound. I knocked with my knuckles, but there was no answer. The lower sitting room seemed to be empty, and the house, above and below, gave no sign of life. The door was evidently new, and had received a first coat of red paint. It was without a knocker, or a handle, or a number. I was beginning to think that I had come to the wrong house when a boy who was playing in the square cried out, " Look out ! She's coming! " and I heard steps, and, after some unbarring of bolts, the door was cautiously opened. “The Countess de la Torre?" "I am the Countess. Come in." The door was carefully closed behind me, and I found myself in the narrow passage which would be called a hall by courtesy, half lighted by a long window opening on to the staircase. What little space there was was blocked with dishes, bottles, and bundles of newspapers. I followed the Countess into the sitting-room. She seated herself in a low chair near the window, guarded by wooden shutters drawn close together for protection from stray stones and iron, which sometimes came crashing through. She motioned me to a low oak chair, the only remnant of luxury in the room. The floor was carpetless. In one corner was a small heap of blankets; at my feet was a small open hamper half filled with straw, the bed of one of her cats. Between us stood a deal box, which might be used as a table, but was occupied by various cats during my sitting of two hours. By her side was another box filled to overflowing with letters and papers, to which she constantly referred. The wall was papered. The mantel-piece was littered with an undiscribable(sic) mass of odds and ends; a few empty shelves were fixed in one corner, and that was all. Through the open folding-doors I saw another room, containing a plain iron bed with a few bed clothes, the only piece of furniture, unless one counted boxes and jugs, and plates of red disinfecting powder. That, I presume, was the bedroom.
THE COUNTESS'S BIOGRAPHY. In her chair by the window, in that bare room, surrounded by her cats in council, sat the Countess, her face in the shade. She is apparently about forty-five years old, with a pale, intellectual face, furrowed by much trouble, a broad high forehead, from which her dark grey hair is brushed away. Her face lightens up when excited, and the wildness of her brown eye softens when her cats jump up on her lap. A grey knitted shawl was fastened round her neck and fell to her waist, where it was joined by a well-worn cotton dress. "Perhaps," she began, "; "; I inherited my fondness for animals from my father. He had a passion for cats. Whenever I take a poor starved creature in I think of my father, and fancy that I am paying a tribute to his memory. I have no other tie in the world but my cats, no one to care for, no one to care for me." The Countess was born in the purple. Her father was Italian and her mother a Scotchwoman, but she herself is cosmopolitan, and speaks fluently English, German, Italian, and French. The united fortunes of herself and her husband made a most handsome income, but much of it was gambled away, and the Countess has lavished her own share with a free hand. Garibaldi was indebted to her for large sums of money, and that the Countess, who has paid so much for the cause of Italian freedom, should be reduced to her present extremities, should serve as a warning to intending patriots; for, alas! she has not found the gratitude which she expected. “I have spent gold enough to fill this room — aye, and more — to benefit my fellow-beings. They have proved to be ingrates. My charity has been abused. Animals are more grateful than my fellows. I now devote my small means to the cause of suffering cats and dogs and dumb creatures." The Countess, it may be added, besides devoting much of her large fortune to the cause of Italian freedom, took charge of one of the hospitals during the war, and when in charge of the ambulance was twice wounded. Her sobriquet was the Italian Nightingale, in allusion not to her powers of singing, but of nursing. In 1870 she was busy again at Versailles nursing the German wounded. "I come of a military family. I shall stick to my post. At present I am in a state of siege. l am ordered to abate the nuisance, and daily I am subject to a fine of ten shillings a day until I do so. I keep my doors locked, so that my enemies shall not enter if I can help it. Will, oh! will the law allow them to come and kill my cats?" And here there was a flood of tears. The little boys and girls — wicked urchins — who deserve to be devoured by wolves like the rogues who mocked at the prophet, cry at her:" Hoh ! hoh ! mother of dogs and cats ! Thou shouldst be burned, thou wicked one ! Harbourer of unclean animals, thou shouldst be drowned as a witch " "Are we living in the Middle Ages? Will they duck (drown) me? or will the ordeal be by fire ?"
THE STRYCHNINE AT WORK. An animal smell pervaded the house, but without I did not detect anything unusual, however one might regard the Countess as a next-door neighbour, it is ridiculous to say that her establishment is a nuisance to the whole square. Since the decision of the magistrate on Saturday, poison has made sad havoc among the cats. The Countess burst into tears as she told of the death of her red cat " Ruby," of the tabby Manx "Rosie," of the decease of "Jumbo," of " Bella," and another whose name has escaped me. Post-mortems have revealed the strychnine. How have they come by their death? Is it the neighbours? For, strange to say, after the appeal case, which went against the Countess, poison carried off two of the collection, "Bob" and "Cobby," who are now at rest. "I would not have sold them for a hundred pounds apiece," sobbed the Countess, crying bitterly. "How can they inflict this agony upon me? My cats are all I have to care for in the whole world. My left-hand neighbour does not complain; it is the people on my right who are persecuting me. Ask the postmen or the policemen whether my house smells strongly enough to be a nuisance. Why, my windows are always open; my cats are never allowed to go out at night, so that there may be no noise. Every morning at daylight I put on my dressing-gown and let them out. As for the smell, why, my windows are open all day long, with a draught of fresh air constantly ventilating the house, and dishes of carbolic powder in every room. Does the law of England say how many cats or how many dogs I shall keep? No. Why the pigeons in the square have damaged my roof, but I have said nothing about it. Then why shouldn't I be allowed to have my cats in peace there are seventy houses round about me; every house has its cat, I daresay, and those seventy are actually allowed to do as they list at night, whilst my poor pets are put under lock and key to preserve the peace."
FIVE CATS DEAD IN THE COAL-CELLAR. The Countess then lead the way down the steps on to the kitchen floor, down a passage which took us to the area." Here are my dead pets," she cried, as she pulled open the door of the coal-cellar. On the top of an empty hamper lay two fine black-and-white cats, rigid with the colds of a violent death. These were lifted up, and beneath the hamper were three more fine cats, also dead, apparently from strychnine. With careful step I then went into the strip of garden, a little wilderness with one or two trees, the grass long and uncared for, and the beds choked up with weeds, low party walls separating it from the gardens on each side. The dogs, bright, cheery fellows, barked a welcome, and one or two cats appeared and followed us with every mark of affection. "Ah!" said the Countess with a shriek, "there is something wrong with this poor cat," lifting it up, smelling its mouth, and carrying it indoors. Then we went into the dark kitchen, in which it is easy to picture the Countess, brooding over the ingratitude of the men and women whom she had befriended, and thinking of the treasure that has been thrown so recklessly and so fruitlessly away, seated on a broken-backed chair, with a few embers burning in the grate, and a halfpenny candle stuck in the neck of a bottle. "Let us go upstairs," said the Countess; and, mounting the narrow bare steps, followed by half-a-dozen cats, we entered a room overlooking the square, one window being open, the other closed, with the shutters fastened across. This room is the old nursery. An old sideboard stood in the middle, on "which was a waste-paper basket filled with litter, where inclined a big grey cat. A small, low chair, such as passengers use at sea, covered with a bit of sheepskin, stood by the open window. Before the fireplace were the cradles ranged round. On a torn and battered sofa were half a dozen little baskets for the reception of the mothers and their offspring. The room, like the others in the house, had a poverty-stricken air, being altogether given up to the animals. Close against the walls were jugs and pails of water, plates full of the red disinfectant powder, dirty glasses, and an old basket or two.
THE CATS COME TO THE COUNTESS. "I have now only five of my own left. I have eight or ten stray ones, three dogs, and a few puppies. Do not think that I go to look for them. No, no. They come to me. There is a poor little kitten who came mewing to my door last night. I must give it shelter. Sometimes I have more, sometimes less. It is all the same to me. Letters often come asking me to take charge of a cat whose mistress is going to India, or to some far-off country. "Will you take my cat, Countess, and care for it? they write. I take it, of course, and when my house gets too full I try to provide homes elsewhere for the poor creatures. Look at Bijou," stroking a pretty cat sitting beside me purring most contentedly. "He was brought to me a few weeks ago by a poor girl, a seamstress, whose garret full of furniture had been sold for a debt. She came to me sobbing as if her heart would break, and beseeched me to take the poor fellow. Bijou came, and you ask about the existence of affection in a cat. Why for many hours he never moved from one position, and refused all food. At last he settled down, but the other day his mistress came here, and the cat made a great spring to her lap, kissing her face, and evincing the greatest joy at her appearance. Some day she will take him away again, poor girl! There is a cat which a lady who has sailed for India sent to me. I had to pay three shillings for its carriage from Brighton," added the Countess with an odd smile. "When a stray cat first joins the circle, starving and "wretched, I put her down in the middle of the room before a basin of milk or soup. The others, who have probably gone through the same experience and know quite well how the case is, watch their new comrade from a distance, eyeing her with vigilance taking her food. One by one they approach nearer, looking at me and then at the cat. Gradually they form a circle, and sitting each on her haunches, they regard the new-comer with complacency, never thinking of helping themselves." "Cats," mused the Countess, sadly, "have a prescience of coming death. My dear ones who have just gone hovered round me for the last week closer than ever, clinging to my skirts, and looking up at me with forbodings of evil omen in their eyes. I watched them with all the greater care and tenderness. But I have always noticed this in the cats. Ruby gave two great bounds and jumped to my bosom. She died there, and her last look said, "Mother, they have poisoned me.' "
THE HABITS OF THE CATS. "I never allow anyone to feed my cats but myself; no other hand touches their food. They have bread and milk at times, but I find that soup with biscuit is the best diet. I take a sheep's head, and make a good stock. I then break the biscuit up into it. The food costs me about a penny a day. You see how beautifully clean my cats are; that is by the constant use of the brush. It is most cruel to wash a cat, which abhors water. The greatest insult you can offer to a cat is to throw water at it. If a strange cat comes into a house, and you wish to get rid of it, do not drive it away with a stone or a stick; throw a glass of water over it. You will then see the cat retreat indignantly, and with a haughty indifference to the consequences of a retreat, as much as to say, "; You dare to throw water at me. I leave you. I shake the dust of your house from my paws. Nevermore shall you see me.' It is like pork to a Jew. Of all cats the tortoise-shell is the most intelligent. They are almost human. Prince Krapotkin's experiments, of which I read the other day, I have repeatedly tried myself. I have seen cats look into the mirror, paw it gently, walk right round it, over and over again, puzzled, and eventually beat a retreat, completely at a loss to understand the phenomenon. Now that we are discussing the cat, it is worth noticing that during the whole of one year, with all my cats of both sexes, I have only had one litter of kittens, of which the father and mother have been my own cats. They prefer fresh faces like human beings." The Countess at this moment rose from her chair and called in a soft voice for some of her familiars. They came in from every corner. Upstairs I heard the patter of feet, as they had evidently jumped up from their sleep, and then the sound of their footsteps coming down the steps. ";( Is the instinct of locality very strong in the cat ? Do the cats that are placed in your charge never find their way back to their former homes?" No. I find that cats that have been petted very much and have never been allowed to roam soon settle down." "Surely in your large family it is a little difficult to preserve order "—a question suggested by a very severe lick in the face administered by a sedate-looking black-and-white cat to a too playful kitten. "; I call the black-and-white there the Policeman. He settles all quarrels. He is exclusive in his friendships, and keeps order in my house. He is my oldest friend, and is rewarded with an odd mixture of fear and respect." "If I had seventy cats in my house, do you think that they would have the same dispositions ?" "No. Cats are as human beings. ";One is sulky, another affectionate, one is spiteful, another combative, one sentimental, another may have a sweet disposition, be soft and gentle, one may be fond of wandering, another prefers the fireside. When a strange cat comes into the house it shows much concern as to its surroundings. It refuses food perhaps, and sits on a box or a chair for hours together, looking intently at me as I sit here. "Who are you ?' " Are you going to be kind to me!
"Why do you go out of your way to show me all this kindness ?' That is what the strange cat says to me. Having made up its mind quite suddenly that I am its friend, she makes a great jump at me, and clings to me, purring and caressing me."
CRUELTY TO ANIMALS. "Countess, have you taught your doctrine of kindness to your cats ? Suppose Bijou there spied a mouse, would she sit contentedly then on the box?" "No, alas! Bijou and Bob, Jumbo and Bella, soft and gentle as they are, are but cats. When the millennium comes then they will play with a mouse no longer. But can you explain the horrible cowardice which shall make a man able to abuse an animal. Now I feed the sparrows in the square with a few handfuls of crumbs, but when they come fluttering to me — for they have learned to know me well— why the boys, urged on by bribes, or by their own innate cruelty, stone them to death. Only the other day they killed one before my eyes with a catapult ; another I rescued, and gave the poor bruised thing a shelter. I put it in the sun, and in two or three hours it revived and took wing. When I hear a woman say, ";Oh ! I hate cats,' I look upon her with contempt. The heart of a woman should be open to the sufferings of animals and all dumb things. A woman who is cruel to an animal would be cruel to a child. A hard hearted woman is an error of nature. Why, I could tell you of many great men and women who have cherished the cat. Mahommed himself when his cat fell asleep on his sleeve, it being time to go to prayers at the mosque, rather than disturb the slumbers of the cat, cut off his sleeve. Richelieu had his portrait painted with cats in his arm; then take Chateaubriand, George Sand, or Victor Hugo. The Princess of Wales once said at a meeting of the Society for the Protection of Animals: "; If I have saved one cat from misery, I shall feel that I have done something.' What a charming answer !" But all animals are fond of the Countess. She has even cherished spiders more for their delicate beauty of their workmanship than for themselves. "I used to bring them to me by a peculiar low hiss."
A LETTER OF SYMPATHY. Letters of sympathy came pouring in upon this unfortunate lady. Some are genuine enough. Others may be judged of by what follows : "My lady, — I am sorry for the magistrate's decision against you on Saturday, and in case you should wish to find sympathy with the human race, instead of the feline," etc. Certainly neat. The writer then goes on to tell a sad enough story, and winds up by proposing that the Countess shall purchase the pawn-tickets for what follows : " Girls' button boots (nines), 3s. ; flannel petticoat, 4s. 6d. ; black overcoat, 12s. ; light trousers, 6s. ; half-dozen table knives, 6s. ; half-dozen cheese knives, 5s; best plate half dozen table forks, 7s. ; ditto half dozen dessert, 6s. ; ivory carver and fork, 7s. ; ditto poultry ditto, 6s. ; silver watch, 15s. ; metal ditto, 7 ; " etc. There is a touch of humour in the postscript, "All warranted good as new and carriage paid. Cash with order, as they have to be redeemed from the pawnbrokers' — suitable for presents." "Self and wife are members of the Church of England " damns the fellow at once. Then I bade the Countess good-bye, thinking of some of the grim stories which she had poured out, half sadly, half fiercely, of women who had lain in amid those sad surroundings, of families she had succoured within those bare walls ; and but over these it is best to draw the veil of oblivion. Her whole life affords another proof of the old saying that truth is stranger than fiction. So ends the story of the Countess and her cats. I met the cat's-meat man with his armful of skewers on the door step. The door closed upon him, but I heard the cats chorusing a devouring welcome. Some day they may devour the Countess. There may be no gratitude either in man or beast. It would be a sublime ending.
CATS OF THE COUNTESS DE LA TORRE
The New York Times, January 22, 1885 (reprinted from the London Daily News)
The Countess de la Torre is in trouble again. This no doubt is in some sense her own fault, but in another sense it is her misfortune. The grand lady seems to afford another illustration of the mischief that is apt to result from square pegs getting into round holes. She appears to have a rather gushing, ill regulated love of animals, which she has not the means of gratifying in an altogether rational and unobjectionable way. If Mr. Bartlett could find a comfortable little berth for her at “the Zoo,” or if she could be engaged at the Home for Cats and Dogs at Battersea, or the Brown Institute in Wandsworth –road, she would probably be happy and useful. Her little hobby is really a very harmless and amiable one, though it is a pity she will indulge it in unsuitable premises and in defiance of a Justice’s orders. She has acquired a reputation which in many ways in unfortunate. It seems that not only do stray cats somehow betray a marvelous knowledge that her house is a refuge for the destitute and come hungrily mewing about her hospitable door, but not a few are specially sent to her by unknown persons, who sometimes overlook the little matter of the prepayment of the carriage. People of sterner stuff would of course know how to meet such impositions. The Countess de la Torre, however, meekly submits, and from pure pity seems quite incapable of driving a cat away. The creatures come over her garden wall, and always somehow seem to be holding a sort of Ecumenical Council when the Inspector of Nuisances drops in. Hence there is always a conflict of evidence when she comes to court. The Inspector has counted 21 animals; the Countess and her witnesses declare that she has only 8 or 10. Of course she must obey the law, and must take the consequences if she does not. At the same time it is impossible to refuse her some degree of sympathy. She must certainly be anything but a pleasant neighbor, but there is a very evident disposition to make the most of her foibles. For instance, it was complained of her on Tuesday that she had placed on the walls of her house placards of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals — truly a shocking offense; and it was further added that large “crowds of disorderly boys were in the habit of assembling outside the house to read the placards.” There are evidently some very remarkable boys in that part of London.
COMMITTAL OF THE COUNTESS DE LA TORRE. - Worcester Journal , 21 February 1885
On Tuesday, at the Kensington Petty Sessions, Mr. G. C. Harding, clerk of the vestry, made an application for a committal order against the Countess de la Torre in default of paying a fine of £7, imposed upon her for keeping a large number of cats and dogs in her residence at Pembroke-square, Earls-court. The countess was not in attendance. Mr. Harding intimated that there was not sufficient goods to answer the distress warrant. He called the inspector, who proved that the defendant had private means. It was also stated that notwithstanding the prohibitory order granted by the Bench a number of cats and dogs were still kept in the house. Mr. Hallswell (a magistrate) - How will the cats exist if we commit the countess to prison ? The magistrate was informed that there were servants in the house. The Bench then ordered the countess to be committed to goal for one month.
West London Standard And Chelsea Herald Newspaper: February 28, 1885 - Page 6 "The committal order of one months imprisonment against the Countess de la Torre has been suspended for a fortnight to enable her ladyship to pay the fine of £7 imposed for keeping cats and dogs on her premises."
THE COUNTESS DE TORRE AND HER CATS - Edinburgh Evening News , 12 March 1885
At the Kensington Petty Sessions, before Mr Bird and other magistrates, this case was again brought, under the notice of the bench on Tuesday by Mr G. C. Harding, the clerk of the vestry. At a previous session the magistrates, on the application of Mr Harding, granted a committal order of one month's imprisonment against the Countess de Torre for having failed to pay a fine of £7 imposed upon her for keeping large number of cats and dogs in her residence at Pembroke Square. The Countess subsequently applied to the bench for an extension of time to enable her to pay the fine, and the application was granted. Mr Harding now stated that the fine had not been paid, and the Countess still persisted in her conduct, causing most serious annoyance. The bench signed the order for defendant's removal to prison.
COMMITTAL OF THE COUNTESS DE LA TORRE.
Feilding Star, Volume VI, Issue 131, 21 April 1885, Page 3
On February 17, at the Kensington Petty Sessions, before Mr W Bird and other magistrates, Mr G. C. Harding, clerk of the vestry, made an application for a committal order against the Countess De la Torre in default of paying a fine of £7 imposed upon her for keeping a large number qf cats and dogs in her residence at Pembroke Square, Earl's Court. — The Countess was not in attendance. — The Chairman wished to be informed if the distress warrant had been enforced. - Mr Harding stated that there were not sufficient goods to answer the warrant. He called the inspector who proved that Che Countess had private means, It was also stated that, notwithstanding the prohibitory order granted by the Bench, a number of cats and dogs were still kept in the house, and this smell was most offensive. The Chairman doubted whether the Bench had the power to grant a committal order unless additional evidenced means was adduced - — Mr Harding said he had no other evidence, but he pointed out the section of the Act which gave the magistrates power in such a case. - The Bench then ordered the Countess to be committed to gaol for one month.
THE COUNTESS DE LA TORRE AND HER CATS. - Edinburgh Evening News, 9 July 1885
At the Kensington Petty Sessions on Tuesday the Countess de la Torre was summoned for disobeying an order of the justices to discontinue the keeping of cats and dogs on her premises in Pembroke Square. On this occasion the Countess did not attend, but the case was heard in her absence. Whiteman.the inspector of nuisances, said that on the 2nd inst, he visited the house of the Countess de la Torre, and found four dogs and two cats in the front kitchen, two dogs and three puppies in the back kitchen, two cats on the first floor back, five cats and two kittens on the first floor front—, (laughter)—and seven cats in the garden, three of which were seated on the cistern. (Renewed laughter.) In answer to the chairman, Whiteman said the smell was very offensive. Harding: Is the smell sufficiently bad to be injurious to health ?—Mr Whiteman : Yes, sir. There had been many complaints.—Mr James J. Wade, a resident of Pembroke Square, was called, and said he experienced considerable annoyance in consequence of the smells, which were undoubtedly injurious to health. The cats and dogs appeared to be in a bad condition, the smell arising from them being excessively bad, and likely to spread disease.—Mr Harding explained that the vestry had refrained from taking proceedings for a time, thinking that the countess would come to her senses and put an end to a nuisance of a most abominable nature. He hoped the bench would impose such a fine as would show the countess that she could not set the law at defiance, and that the magistrates insisted on their orders being carried out.—The Chairman : We fined her on the last occasion £7. Was that paid?. —Mr Harding : Yes, sir.—The chairman said the bench were determined to put a stop to such a nuisance. He imposed a penalty of 10s a day for 20 days, £10 in all, with costs.
THE COUNTESS DE LA TORRE. A PEST HOUSE IN KENSINGTON - Morning Post , 26 July 1885
A special court of the Kensington bench of magistrates was held on Saturday — Mr. W. Bird in the chair— for the purpose of hearing an application on behalf of the parish authorities for an order to close the house occupied by the Countess de la Torre, who has been frequently summoned for keeping a number of cats and dogs in an insanitary condition.
Mr. Harding, clerk of the vestry, said he applied under the 13th section of the Nuisances Removal Act, for an order to close the house, 38, Pembroke-square, Earls-court, as unfit for human habitation. By the assistance of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals he had been enabled to get rid of the cats and dogs, so that the nuisance to a very great extent was removed. The premises were, however, in a very disgraceful and filthy condition ; no one was in charge of the house, and he ventured to ask the bench to go still further out of their way and view the premises. The Countess de la Torre was now in Holloway Gaol under an order from that bench for the non-payment of poor and vestry rates. The bench would recollect convicting the countess for keeping the animals on her premises. She appealed, but the conviction was upheld.
William Abbott, one of the sanitary inspectors, deposed to visiting the premises on the previous day and on two other occasions. On the first visit he saw 31 cats and 6 dogs running about the house. The back door was open, and the animals could go into the garden. The floors of the rooms on the basement, ground floor, and first floor, were in an abominable and most filthy condition, and the house was totally unfit for human habitation. The cats were removed on the 23d, and the dogs on the 24th to a home at Battersea. There might be mere about the premises. A. woman whom the countess had asked to fred the animals during her imprisonment gave him the key of the house.
Mr. Halswell (a magistrate): Were the animals fed daily ?
Mr. Harding: When I visited the house I found a little water and some bread. Many of the animals seemed half starved.
Dr. F. Orme Dudfield, the medical officer of health, was called, and corroborated the evidence of the inspector as to the injurious condition of the house. The owner of the premises said he had been a heavy loser through the Countess, though he had treated her with great kindness, and had actually paid her fines for her.
Mr. Burke (a magistrate): Let me advise you to harden your heart (Laughter)
The magistrates then proceeded to view the premises. On returning, the chairman said they would have no hesitation in granting the order asked for. It was utterly incomprehensible to them how any human being could live in such a filthy place. In his opinion it was a good thing for the countess that she was located elsewhere. — The order for closing the premises was then made out and signed. Mr. Harding again thanked the magistrates for their at- tendance, and the proceedings, which attracted considerable attention, terminated.
THE HOUSE OF THE COUNTESS DE LA TORRE. - St James's Gazette, 27 July 1885
An application was made to the Kensington magistrates on Saturday for an order to enable the parish authorities to close the house in Pembroke-square, Earl’s-court, occupied by the Countess de la Torre, who has been frequently summoned for keeping a number of cats and dogs in such a manner as to be dangerous to the public health. The house was described as being unfit for human habitation. At present the Countess is confined in Holloway Gaol for non-payment of local rates. A sanitary inspector said that he found thirty-one cats and sixty dogs running about the house, but recently the animals had been removed to the Home at Battersea. The magistrates, after viewing the premises, granted the order forthwith. It was utterly incomprehensible, the chairman said, that any human being could live in such a filthy place
London American Register Newspaper: August 1, 1885 - Page 8
Many people are fond of dogs, and many people of cats, but few have for these domestic animals so comprehensive a liking as a lady called Countess 4e la Torre, who has lately been summoned before the London magistrates for keeping “ a number of cats and dogs in an insalubrious condition.” The Countess de la Torre has, however, a rival in Paris, namely, an old lady living at Neuilly, whose house is a perfect menagerie, and whose moments from morning till night are entirely taken up in providing for the wants of her pets. On various occasions, her neighbors have “ had the law of her,” as a character m Dickens was so much given to saying ; but, in spite of fines and warnings, and, in one or two cases, the disbanding of her household troops, she has always managed to gather a fresh army. Cats and dogs are absolutely necessary to this lady’s life. All we can hope is that she keeps them from molesting each other, which cats and dogs are proverbially said to be inclined to do.
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS.
Oamaru Mail, Volume X, Issue 3035, 4 September 1885, Page 3
On July 7, at the Kensington Petty Session, before Mr W. Bird and a bench of magistrates, the Countess de la Torre was summoned for disobeying on order of She justices to discontinue the keeping of Cats and dogs on her premises in Pembroke Square. The countess did not attend. Mr G. C. Harding, clerk of the vestry, supported the commons. Mr Whiteman, the inspector of Nuisances, said on the 2nd ult. he visited the home of the Countess de la Torre, and found four dogs and two cats in the front kitchen, two dogs aud three puppies in the back kitchen, two cats on the first-floor back, five cats and two kittens on the first-floor front —(laughter) — and seven cats in the garden, three of which were seated on the cistern. (Laughter.) It was stated that the smell was sufficiently bad to be injurious to health. The chairman said the Bench were determined to put a stop to such a nuisance. He imposed a penalty of 10s a day for twenty days, £10 in all, with costs.
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS.
New Zealand Herald, Volume XXII, Issue 7425, 5 September 1885, Page 2
At the Kensington Petty Sessions recently, the Countess de la Torre was summoned for disobeying an order of the Justices to discontinue the keeping of cats and dogs on her premises in Pembroke Square. On this occasion the Countess did not attend, but the case was heard in her absence. Mr. Whiteman, the Inspector of Nuisances, said he visited the house of the Countess de la Torre, and found four dogs and two cats in the front kitchen, two dogs and three puppies in the back kitchen, two cats on the first floor back, five cats and two kittens on the first floor front (laughter) and seven cats in the garden, three of which were seated on the cistern. (Renewed laughter.) In answer to the Chairman, Mr. Whiteman said the smell was very offensive.—Mr. Harding : Is the smell sufficiently bad to be injurious to health?— Mr. Whiteman : Yes, sir. There have been many complaints.—Mr. James J. Wade, a resident of Pembroke Square, was called, and said he experienced considerable annoyance in consequence of the smells, which were undoubtedly injurious to health. The cats and dogs appeared to be in a bad condition, the smell arising from them being excessively bad, and likely to spread disease. Mr. Harding explained that the vestry had refrained from taking proceedings for a time, thinking that the Countess would come to her senses and put an end to a nuisance of a moot abominable nature. He hoped the Bench would impose such a fine as would show the Countess that she could not set the law at defiance, and that the Magistrates insisted on their orders being carried out.- A penalty of 10s a day for 20 days, £10 in a11, with costs, was imposed.
During 1886, Countess de la Torre evidently decamped from Pembroke Square, Kensington, and taken up residence in Lillie-road, Fulham where the nuisance continued. The next information I found was this from the Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Fulham 1886: Countess de la Torre and her cats. This lady has become a great nuisance in the parish from the numerous cats which she congregates together. The house in which she resides is simply stinking from cats excrement, and the flooring of the various rooms is impregnated with feline urine. On a summons taken out by direction of your Vestry, Mr. C. Bennett granted a prohibitory order on the 2nd March, and at present a summons for penalties for non-compliance with it is pending.
THE COUNTESS AND HER LANDLADY.
London Evening News Newspaper Archive: February 24, 1887 - Page 4
At the Hammersmith Court, Mr. Hill said he was instructed by the Countess de la Torre to apply for two summonses.—Mr. Paget : Is it for detaining a cat ?— Mr. Hill said it was not. He applied for summonses against the landlady and a man for obtaining a note to the bankers of the Countess, requesting payment of money to them by threats. —Mr. Paget : You want a warrant!— Mr. Hill: I don’t wish to proceed unreasonably. I would be content with a summons.— Mr. Paget thought it was usual to apply for a warrant in a case of the kind.—At the request of the magistrate, Mr. Hill detailed the circumstances under which the note was obtained from the Countess de la Torre. He said they threatened to send for a body of men to throw her -out of the premises, and to let loose her birds and kill her eats unless she signed the document. He explained that the document Was a post-dated cheque. —Mr. Paget recommended the Countess to stop payment of the cheque.—The Countess said she had not stopped payment as the landlady was frightened and stated that she would not apply for the money.— Mr. Paget thought it was very unwise of the Countess to trust to her statement of the landlady, and not stop the cheque, it seemed to him to be an attempt to transfer the business of the County Court to that Court. In any case he should require an information.—The Countess then withdrew with her solicitor.
THE IRREPRESSIBLE COUNTESS AND HER CATS. - South Wales Daily News, 24 February 1887
At Hammersmith police-court on Tuesday, Mr Crowther, one of the inspectors of Fulham Vestry, applied to the magistrate for a summons against the Conntess de la Torre for keeping a number of cats in an unsanitary state.—Mr Bennett enquired the number of cats in the possession of the countess.—The Inspector said there were 25, but it was impossible to count them as some ran up the chimney and others out of the windows.—-Mr Bennett: Did you give her notice to remove the cats?—The Inspector: I served a notice. —Mr Bennett: They are not removed? The Inspector: No, sir.—Mr Bennett then granted the summons.—The Countess de la Torre, who was in court, followed the inspector to complain of her landlady again. She said her landlady had threatened to send some men again to remove her from the apartments.—Mr Bennett; Do you go in fear of her ?—The Countess: Yes.— Mr Bennett granted her a summons for threats, and also one against one of the men for an assault.
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS - Cardiff Times , 5 March 1887
At Hammersmith on Tuesday the Countess de la Torre appeared to answer a summons charging her with keeping a number of cats so as to be a nuisance and injurious to health, .—Mr Haynes, who supported the summons on behalf of the Sanitary Authority of Fulham, said the countess could not plead ignorance of the law as she had figured in Kensington in similar cases. He regretted that she should have left that parish to reside in Fulham. (Laughter.)—Alfred Croucher, one of the sanitary inspectors, said on the 8th ult., inconsequence of complaints, he visited the house occupied by the countess, and counted ten cats in a back room on the ground floor, where the atmosphere was most revolting. In another room ha counted eight cats. He counted seven others in a back room on the first floor. It was impossible to count all the cats, as some ran up the chimney and out of the room. (Laughter.) He reported the case, and served the countess with a notice. The cats had not been removed. In the yard he found the dead body of a cat, in a decomposed state, in a basket.—The defendant said that she was willing to abide by the number which Dr Egan directed she might keep, and to keep the cats in a. proper way.—Mr Bennett observed that she had not kept them properly so far.—The defendant said she was upset and ill, and it was impossible for her to do so. The cats were now in a nice condition.—Mr Bennett made an order for the abatement of the nuisance in seven days, and for the payment of 4 shillings costs.
ALLEGED LIBEL ON THE COUNTESS DE LA TORRE. - South Wales Echo, 6 May 1887
At Hammersmith, yesterday, Mr Haynes applied, on behalf of the Countess de la Torre, for a summons against Ida White, who described herself as a Socialist, for the publication of a defamatory libel. He produced a pamphlet, in which his client was described as the “Cat Countess at the American Exhibition," and it was dedicated to “Buffalo Bill." One portion of the pamphlet held up the Countess de la Torre to public ridicule. [Buffalo Bill apologised for his name appearing on the front, evidently without his permission. The satire was because the COuntess lived near the Exhibition at the time]
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS AGAIN. - Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough, 12 May 1887
The Countess de la Torre appeared at the Hammersmith Police Court yesterday to answer a summons at the instance of the Fulham Vestry for disobeyiug an order to abate a nuisance caused by the keeping of cats and goats upon i her premises. — The order was made by Mr Curtis-Bennett, but owing to illness he was not sitting. — Mr White pressed the case as one of urgency, and said unless the nuisance was abated it might cause fever in the district. — Dr. F. Egan, the medical officer of health, was called to prove that it was a matter of urgency. He said the Countess resided in Lillie-road, near the entrance to the American Exhibition. The goats were some times in the house. — Mr Paget: Have you had any complaints from the neighbours ? — The Doctor said there had been general complaints ail round, but not any particular complaint from the next door neighbours. — Mr Paget thought it was not a case of urgency, and adjourned the summons for a week, when it was expected that Mr Bennett would be able to resume his duties.
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS
28th May 1887
At Hammersmith, last Monday, the Countess de la Torre appeared to answer the adjourned summons for disobeying an order made by Mr Curtis Bennett to abate a nuisance caused by the accumulation of cats in the rooms she occupied in Lillie-road, Fulham. Evidence was given by Dr. Egan, who said the nuisance was not abated in her rooms for a number of days. The Countess had since left the house. Mr. Bennett said she was liable for a heavy penalty, 20s a day, but as she had left the house he would not fine her for each day. He, however, hoped that she would not be brought before him again. He then fined her 60s., with 2s costs, to be paid in fourteen days. The Countess said she intended to appeal. Mr Bennett said there was no appeal.
THE COUNTESS DE LA TORRE AND HER DOMESTIC PETS - South Wales Echo, 9 June 1887
At the Middlesex Sessions, yesterday, Charles Harris and James Rutter surrendered in discharge of their bail to answer an indictment which charged them with having unlawfully and maliciously committed damage and spoil to and upon certain property of and belonging to Countess De La Torre. The allegation against the defendants was that they had wantonly destroyed a shed erected at the request of the prosecutrix during April last, in which she had stored cats, goats, and other animals, After a few words in examination of the prosecutrix, who carried a bundle of newspapers and other periodicals into the witness box, the learned Assistant-Judge ruled that there was no case to go before the jury, inasmuch as the defendants had been legitimately employed by the owner of the property, who had felt himself aggrieved that the use of the shed in question had been so badly perverted. The jury, under the direction of the court, returned a verdict of not guilty, and the defendants were at once set at liberty.
THE COUNTESS HER CATS.
New Zealand Herald, Volume XXIV, Issue 7990, 2 July 1887, Page 2
The Countess de la Torre, who carried a goat in her arms, appeared at Hammersmith Police Court on May 20 to answer an adjourned summons charging her with disobeying an order to abate a nuisance caused by " an accumulation of cats" on her premises at Richmond Gardens, Lillie Road, Fulham. Dr. P. Egan, the medical officer of health, stated that he was of opinion that the nuisance was more injurious than ever since the removal into the front garden. It was possible that other cases of fever, and even diphtheria, might arise in the course of a few days. He also stated that on May 13, during the absence of the Countess at the Court, the landlady placed her goods, with the cats and goats, in the front garden. Dr. Egan said the state of the front of the house was most injurious to the neighbourhood. Since the 10th instant the Countess had been Bleeping in the garden. Ultimately the summons was adjourned. Mrs. Ida White, the landlady, who had complained In the morning of the Countess de la Torre, with a man, attempting to break into the bouse during the night, and was present during the hearing of the summons, was arrested outside the Court on a warrant for publishing a libel concerning the Countess, and taken off to the station. She was brought up at the Hammersmith Police Court charged with the libel, Mr. Haynes, who appeared for the prosecutrix, said the libel was contained in a pamphlet which was sold by the defendant outside the Court. It was headed "The Cat Countess at the American Exhibition. Dedicated to Buffalo Bill (W. Cody). Shocking Disclosures. By Ida White, Socialist." Ha also stated that there was no printer's name to the pamphlet. It stated that it was published by the authoress, at 40, Lillie Road, West Kensington. Several passages were relied upon, fyit th« whole of the pamphlet was of a disgraceful character. When arrested the prisoner said, "I am glad it has come to this ; it will assist me in selling my book, 1 wrote it and published it." At the request of Mr. Haynes a remand was granted. Mr. Paget allowed bail, and granted the defendant a summons against the Countess for breaking a window in her house in trying to regain possession of her apartments.
THE COUNTESS AND HER CATS. HER LADYSHIP LIVING IN A SAWPIT - South Wales Echo, 4 January 1888
At the Hammersmith police-court, yesterday, an application was made to commit the Countess de la Torre to prison in default of paying a fine. The magistrate was informed that on the 23rd of May Mr Bennett made an order upon the Countess to abate a nuisance or pay a fine of 60s. The nuisance was caused by the keeping of a number of cats and it had not been abated. The usher said the Countess was turned out of the house and had been living in a sawpit all the summer, and he had heard that she was still living in it. The magistrate (Mr Fen wick) referred to the register, and said he found that Mr Bennett had not fixed any term of imprisonment. He could not, therefore, make any order of committal, as he was not acquainted with the facts. He suggested that application should be made to Mr Bennett.
The Sydney Mail, Saturday, February 18th, 1888: The Countess de la Torre, who is often being fined at Hammersmith for keeping so many cats, has been living in an old sawpit for months, in order to enjoy the company of her pets. From then on, the reports were mainly about nuisamces caused by her goats, her out-of-control-dogs and her inability to pay bills. Despite all the news reports, she was still getting goods and services on account and she claimed to have fortune in an estate in Italy.
This report about the Countess’s failure to pay her bills, comes from the London Mid Surrey Times And General Advertiser Saturday, July 7, 1888, London, Middlesex: Assault. - :On Saturday, at Hammersmith Police-court, Lewis Poole was summoned for assaulting the Countess de la Torre, who gave an address in St. Oswald-road, Fulham. - The countess said on June 2 the defendant came to her in an excited state for the payment of an account. The defendant put his fist in her face, and then said, “ Will you pay or not ? ” She said, “Decidedly not.” He caught hold of her, shook her, and threw her down, causing her face to be bruised. She had suffered pain in her head. - The defendant said it was quite false. He simply asked for his money. - Dr. Boorham said he was called to attend the countess on the 4th of June. She was suffering from an extensive bruise on the left temple, which was considerably swollen, black, and she had a black eye. She had the appearance of having had a severe shock. - In answer to the complaint, the defendant said the countess spat in his face. He took hold of her and twisted her away. He never struck a woman in his life, let alone a countess. She promised to pay him when the work was done. - Mr. Curtis-Bennett said the defendant had no right to push her down, and fined him 20s. with 2s. costs, or seven days’ imprisonment.
THE COUNTESS - Aberdeen Evening Express, 14 July 1888
The Countess della Torre (not de la Torre, as police d reporters would have it) is at last comfortably established. She has found lodgings at Walham Green with a landlady of sweet reasonableness, and a pasture for her goats. This is in a field near Walham Green, adjacent to a disused timber yard, where couple of sheds house the Countess's s 14 goats, 2 dogs, and her 14 cats. A representative of the "Star" called upon the Countess the other day in her new domain. Although she has left Italy seven or eight years for this inhospitable clime, the Countess's accent is decidedly foreign. "I left Italy," she said, " because I was so disgusted with the treatment Garibaldi received. I draw my income from landed property in Italy." The Countess is only 46, and has a keen dark eye. She acknowledged that up to now her experience of the English had not been of the happiest. " The, police," she remarked (and Sir Charles Warren will be glad to hear this), "the police I found very chivalrous. But I have been much persecuted by various roughs. They used to break into my lodgings and shout, '”Burn her, burn her;"' and the tones in which little boys greeted her in the streets were anything but pianissimo. Many, probably, suppose the Countess cultivates a specially valuable breed of cats, but it is nothing of the kind.
Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 1, Number 4, 9 June 1889, also Otago Witness, Issue 1979, 16 January 1890, Page 42
The Countess de la Torre, who used to make herself somewhat obnoxious with her tribe of cats in Kensington, is now sojourning at a small inn at Gerard's Cross with a flock of goats. The noble lady, clad positively after the fashion of a herdswoman, in a full cotton skirt and blouse bodice, roams the country with her four-footed friends — sometimes, it is said, even sleeping among them at night, in truly pastoral fashion. She has not deserted her penchant for cats, of which she still keeps a large number.
A COUNTESS AND HER PETS - Derby Daily Telegraph , 15 August 1890
At Uxbridge County Court on Wednesday, before his Honour Judge Holl, the Countess de la Torre was sued by Mr. Robert Chipps, of the Pack Horse Inn, Gerrard's-cross, Bucks, for the sum of £15 2s. 11d. for board and lodging for herself and certain animals. The evidence showed that in March last the Countess went to lodge with the plaintiff, remaining with him until October, and when she first came she had with her some 23 cats, over 40 goats, two dogs, and a donkey. These animals, which decreased in number time went on, were attended to on separate premises. The Countess desired to be supplied with a quantity of meat, but that was principally for the cats, the Countess being a vegetarian. The food was cooked at the plaintiffs house, and carried across to the Bull Hotel on Gerrard's-cross-common, where most of the animals were kept. His Honour gave verdict for the plaintiff for £10.
THE COMTESSE AND HER DOGS - South Bucks Standard, 30 January 1891
Le Comtesse La de la Torre, who resides at Gerrard’s Cross, and who has frequently figured in the London police courts for keeping cats which become a nuisance and a source or annoyance to the public, and who has been summoned several times in respect of her goats, was now charged with keeping a ferocious dog at Gerrard’s Cross, on Jan. the 8th inst., which bit a lad named Francis Dancer on that date.—Mr. S. Wood, solicitor, High Wycombe, appeared for the prosecution at the instance of the boy’s parents, and the Countess conducted her own case- Defendant stepped into the dock rather reluctantly, dressed in a somewhat fantastic manner, and with a number of small parcels of goods on her arm. Mr. H. S. Wood, in his opening speech, informed the Bench that four dogs belonging to the Countess had attacked and worried a boy of the age of ten on the Common at the village of Chalfont St. Giles; that the boy was found on the ground with the dogs on him Mr. Fowler, of Beaconsfield, who courageously drove the dogs away and saved the boy, who was taken to a doctor and his wound cauterised. The Countess, it appears, stood while the dogs were worrying the boy, but did not attempt to drive or call them away, and simply jeered at Mr. Fowler when he asked her what she meant by her brutal conduct. Mr. Wood characterised the Countess’s conduct inhuman, and said that she was more fit to be in the back woods of America than civilised England.— Francis Dancer said he lived at Gerrard Cross. On January 8th, Thursday, he was going home from school to dinner, and went across the Common, and while going there he was thrown down by four dogs, which attacked him: one of the dogs, a little black one, took hold of his arm and bit it. He screamed and saw the Comtesse near the spot; she did not come to his assistance. Mr. Fowler came to him. He went to the doctor, who cauterised the wound. —Mr. Herbert Fowler, of Beaconsfield, said that while on business at Gerrard’s Cross he saw the Comtesse de la Torre come out of her gateway with several dogs. There were two boys near; the younger was the last witness. A retriever and a collie jumped at the boy and threw him three yards on the ground, and he fell on the furze. Next came a half-bred pug dog - a terrier-pug - which bit the boy’s arm whilst he was on the ground. Witness jumped down out his cart. - By the Bench: Was it a black poodle?-Witness: No, it had a short nose and curly tail. He drove two dogs off with his whip, and then the other two dogs returned and worried the boy again. The defendant stood looking on and did nothing to stop the matter. She had a stick in her hand. She was a most inhuman woman; she did not try to get the dogs away. He took the boy into a cottage and stripped him, and called a doctor, who cauterised the wound. The Comtesse called him a bad, wicked man. He had been attacked by the same, dog in June, and on that occasion told her she ought to be ashamed of herself for keeping such a dog.—The Comtesse: I have no black dog and no pug dog, zat is ze most amusing part of ze matter. Charles Steasley said he had several times been attacked by the dogs and the Comtesse had always been with them, he knew the dogs well. He had seen the dogs attack another boy. —Mr. Wood having addressed the Bench for the prosecution, said he could call other witnesses who could give evidence as to the ferocity of the dog, but would not if the bench did not think it desirable. The Comtesse said, in defence, the dogs were young and most loving and affectionate, they only romped with the boy and he fell down and cut his arm the he had not been bitten, for there was only a mark, a semi-circular mark, on the top side the arm and the boy could not therefore have been bitten. She did not know which was the dog which had bitten the boy; and had no dog such as Fowler had described and she did not think that his testimony was worth much, for he had been convicted of “bad practices” before the Bench, (Laughter).—The Chairman said she must learn to keep the dogs under control; she had been most inhuman in her conduct, and she would have to pay the costs, 28s., and the dog must at once destroyed, and she would be liable to a penalty of20s for every day the dog was kept after that date. Defendant left the dock without paying, and protesting that the dogs were affectionate and that she did not know which it was that had bitten the boy; but on the suggestion of the Bench Mr. Fowler undertook to point out which was the animal. This was all the business of the day.
COUNTESS AND HER CARRIAGE HIRE - Lincolnshire Echo, 12 March 1894
In the High Court on Saturday an action was brought by Mr. William Crane, licensed victualler, carrying on business at the Rose and Crown, Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire, against the Countess de la Torre, residing at Gerard's Cross, in the same county, to recover £102 4s., balance of the amount alleged to be due for carriage hire. -—Mr. Crawford, in opening the case for the plaintiff said the defendant was some extent known to the Courts, as she was the lady who kept a number of cats or other animals. In October, 1892, she employed plaintiff to drive her to various places, and the plaintiff continued to supply her with carriages down to February, 1894. Plaintiff had received money on account, and the balance now due was £102 4s.— Plaintiff having given evidence in support –f his case, Mr justice Wills gave judgment for the plaintiff for the amount he claimed, with costs.
BANKRUPTCY OF THE COUNTESS DE LA TORRE - South Bucks Standard , 29 June 1894
Mary, Countess de la Torre, or Gerrards Cross, appeared at the Windsor Bankruptcy Court on Saturday to undergo her public examination.
I found that the Countess's cat-addiction was later mentioned in a satirical piece known as a "budget" (a "budget" was often a one-man stage act). I don't know if she was still alive at this time or whether she had succumbed due to sleeping rough with her animals.
OCTOBER 1, 1897 THE WESTMINSTER BUDGET - HER LADYSHIP THE CAT.
Cats, as everybody knows, are fashionable. The Countess of Jersey keeps dozens and scores, to say nothing of the Countess de la Torre, who for years past has fought the battles of her innumerable malkins in private and in public. The great authoress, who is paid a fortune for every novel she writes, is photographed, by preference, with a great Persian cat on her knees ; the eminent scientist makes his tabbies the companions of his study and his laboratory, and the poet's fine frenzy is stimulated by the purring of a white kitten. And so the world, which rather would be led than lead, even where its domestic favourites are concerned (since it is much easier to adopt the "ideas " of other people than to start any of your own), follows suit, and raises Grimalkin from the low estate into which she had sunk since the days when she figured majestically as an Egyptian goddess. Seeing that cats are thus " coming to the fore," it was an excellent idea of the Editor of the Young Woman to despatch an interviewer to Mr. Louis Wain, the man who knows probably more about cats, and who can draw them with more spirit and grace, than any other artist in England, and to obtain Mr. Wain's opinion on the important subject of cats. Mr. Wain, while being interviewed at his pretty Westgate home, was drawing diligently, after the manner of artists, under the hands of some of whom we have seen the most fascinating sketches grow while, half absently, the artist was being cruelly cross-examined by the all-absorbing journalist. Two of the sketches thus obtained — there are ever so many more in the article itself — we reproduce by kind permission of the Editor of the Young Woman.
Mr. Wain has a delightful theory concerning cats'. He says :"I look upon the human being as a large electrical battery, and the cat as a smaller one, and on contact the larger battery absorbs the electricity of the smaller one, while the smaller battery attracts electricity from the atmosphere, every point of the cat's fur being a conductor of electricity for the time being, and thus the loss is made up. The well- known fact that you can get electrical sparks from a cat's back goes to show that this is not an idle theory of mine. The cat ' iS not only a stronger animal than the dog, but is a more refined animal, and it is certainly electrically stronger.'' The latter part of which pretty speech will be as honey to every lover of a cat.
Next followed the inevitable question: " Is the cat, as a pet, dying out or progressing ? " And in the answer to this there is yet another whole jarful of honey for the friend of the "little electric battery." "Progressing, and very rapidly, too," exclaims Mr. Wain emphatically. " The cat has not been properly developed until recently. ; It used to be merely the old maid's pet, and it is only of late years that decided progress has been made in giving it a real status in family life. It used to be confined to the kitchen, but, now the long-haired species have come into vogue,' it takes an honoured place in the drawing-room." And not the long-haired species only, we may add, but observation teaches us that any species of cat whatever, whether its hair be long or short, its colour blue or white or tortoiseshell, is taken into the heart and the " front seats " in homes of every class.
There is a great deal of information about the "intelligent foreigners" among cats in this entertaining article. Thus the Persian is by far the most amiable of the "foreign cats. The pure white and orange-coloured are the best kind. The Siamese cat, the most distinct type, and one which is. not to be found anywhere else in the world, is most carefully looked after by the Siamese, who believe in the transmigration of souls. The royal cat of Siam, with its rich brown-coloured head, legs, and tail, its cream-coloured body, and its light mauve eyes, is fast becoming a rarity. Russia sends us many "a novelty in the way of cats— some enormous creatures and some very small. Most of them are of a rich blue colour, and possess a great wealth of fur. But Britons' may be poud of the fact that "the most intelligent cats come from the Midlands, having big heads, and wearing a look of great wisdom." The following are some of the signs of the " perfect" cat : Eyes round as circles, fat cheeks, a short nose, and a forehead in which there is room for brains.
The Countess had previously been satirised in the article INTEMPERANCE IN CATS in The New York Times, June 10, 1885:
The woman who was arrested the other day on the charge of habitual and disorderly cat keeping was a melancholy example of the effects of intemperance in cats. She confessed that she habitually kept eighteen cats and their kittens in her rooms, and her appearance showed she was wholly incapable of reformation. Intemperance in cats is a feminine vice and it is very seldom that a man becomes addicted to it. The Countess DELLA TORRE [sic], who is frequently brought before the London police courts, sometimes keeps as many as sixty, or seventy cats, and other women almost as bad are from time to time mentioned in the English police reports. In some of these cases the thirst for cats is probably inherited, and in others intemperance in cats is due to moral weakness and absence of self-control. Usually; however, it is misery which draws women to cats. They seek in the society of those demoralizing animals forgetfulness of the miseries of daily life and a temporary excitement, the subsidence of which plunges them still deeper in misery.
It is the common belief that a woman can indulge moderately in cats without any evil consequences. To a certain extent this is probably true. That is to say, there are thousands of women who keep their one cat and are apparently none the worse for it. Still, it is unquestionably true that it is dangerous to tamper with cats. The unhappy victims of the cat passion who are dragged before the courts would have escaped degradation had they never touched cats. It may safely be asserted that not one of those degraded creatures foresaw when she kept her first cat the wretched fate that awaited her. Total abstinence from cats of every age is the price of safety, and it is a price which no one should hesitate to pay. Even if a woman knows that she herself can indulge in a single cat without danger of becoming intemperate she should reflect upon the evil effect which her example may have upon other women, and should abstain wholly from cats lest she should be the means of her neighbors' fall.
The passion for cats, whatever may be its origin in any individual case, is the sure ruin of the wretched woman who yields to it. Under the fatal fascination of cats she loses all interest in high and noble things. She neglects her proper occupation and forgets her friends. She cares for nothing, but to shut herself up in her room and there indulges in reckless and prolonged intemperance in cats. At a later stage in her career she loses all sense of shame, and does not hesitate to show herself surrounded by cats. She reduces herself to abject poverty by squandering her money on cats, and if she escapes imprisonment as a disorderly cat keeper she is finally found dead in the midst of her cats. The possibility of such degradation could hardly fail to deter any woman from indulging in cats were it placed fairly before her, and it is the duty of philanthropic women to leave no means untried from promote total abstinence from cats among those of the weaker sex.