1900s- 1930s - CAT CULTURE IN EUROPE
PARIS A CATS’ PARADISE – The Sun (USA), March 20th, 1910
There Writers, Composers And Artists Own Cats. A Fad Which Famous French Men And Women Have In Common. The Cats Range From Pets Like Mme. Curie’s To Companions Like Pierre Lott’s.
Paris is a paradise for cats. Nowhere in the world are they more beloved and petted, and nowhere are cats more beautiful. It is a curious fact that about every French woman or Frenchman of creative genius is a cat lover. Writers, composers, artists, sculptors and dramatists own cats. And their cats are always beautiful creatures, almost humanly wise and intelligent, and show marked charm of nature seeming to understand fully the love that is lavished upon them and to feel that they must respond to it with all their grace and warmth of affection. It is certainly interesting to watch these cats and their famous owners.
Mme. Curie, the discoverer of radium, owns a beautiful cat, to which she is devoted. The cat was equally loved by her late husband, Prof. Curie, who used to play with him for hours, and the cat would cut up all sorts of capers for his master. The cat’s name is Radium and he is a gray Angora, with a swan white tip on his tail. When Mme. Curie is at home Radium is always close beside her. He sits on her study table. Over which he walks very carefully and gingerly, that he may not disturb anything, and when she goes out he waits patiently and rather sadly till she returns, when he goes into ecstasies of delight. He sleeps on Mme. Curie’s bed and sits at the table with her at meals in a chair of his own, lapping his milk from a saucer in the daintiest way. The photograph shows him waiting patiently outside of Mme. Curie’s window for her return.
Maurice Maeterlinck, the Flemish mystic, who spends his time largely in Paris, has a very interesting cat of the common short-haired variety to which he is deeply attached. The cat’s brightness and intelligence has won her the name of La Sagesse, and Wisdom is really an excellent name for her. La Sagesse came to her celebrated master in a curious and interesting way. M. Maeterlinck and his wife, Gerogette Leblanc, were returning to their home in Pasay, just outside of Paris, one night after the theatre. It was just past midnight and rather cold.
Mme. Maeterlinck was looking from the window of the carriage when she saw two dogs chasing a small black cat. She rapped for the coachman to stop. As the carriage came to a standstill , pussy rushed up a stone post and was hanging to about an inch of coping a foot or two above the dogs, which were frantically barking at her. With her tail in a fluff and her back up, the cat was in abject terror.
Mme. Maeterlinck’s cries aroused her husband, who was taking a quiet forty winks beside her, and seeing the cat’s predicament he was out of the carriage in a moment and had the cat in his arms. She clung to him in terror and nestled closely to his neck. When they were serenely in the carriage and driving away the cat at once began to show her gratitude, purring and rubbing herself against the hands of her rescuers.
She was a small half-grown creature, very thin and scrawny, but in spite of her unattractive appearance she at once won the hearts of her rescuers and displayed as much wisdom and intelligence that she now is an inseparable member of the Maeterlinck household and, like the glass hive of bees, always is carried wherever the two great people go. She is now a large, well-fed glossy cat, very black and soft, with very green eyes and an amiable expression.
A very conspicuous cat in Paris is owned by Polaire, the spectacular French café chantant singer and dancer. Polaire’s cat is well known to the boulevards and parks of Paris, because Polaire wheels him out in a baby’s go-cart inviting attention. The cat is a striking looking creature himself, for he is a thoroughbred Siamese and said to be the only one of his kind in Paris. He was given to Polaire by a young Siamese nobleman who was one of her admirers at one time. The cat came all the way from Siam with a native attendant. These cats are of royal blood in Siam, that is, they are supposed to be owned only royalty and the nobility, and it is a sign of distinction and aristocracy to own one.
Polaire named her cat Apache, as she was at that time just beginning to do her famous Apache dance. He has a white body of very coarse hair and jet black nose, ears, paws and tail, the black looking as if smutted into the white with a finger. All Siamese cats of the same breed are exactly like this; they never vary and are never of any other color. He is a cat of intelligence, as all Siamese cats are always, and he is devoted to his mistress, who exhibits a mad sort of affection for him and constantly talks to him while wheeling him in his carriage. When she reaches a park or the Bois or the Tuileries Gardens she lets Apache out of his cart and he runs and frisks about, but comes to her at once upon her call. He is as obedient as a dog.
The Rev. Charles Wagner, author of “The Simple Life,” who preaches regularly in Paris to a large congregation, is devoted to cats and has a great many of them about his pleasant sunny home. He is especially fond of kittens and delights in spending a half hour on the floor playing with them and watching their graceful movements. There are always a number of them in his study, and convenient cushions, ample and cosey, are placed all about the room in chairs and on sofas, and it is not an uncommon sight to find him at work in his study with cats reposing in all quarters of the room and one perched on his desk sound asleep. Dr Wagner has cats of many kinds, but he prefers the blue Persians with long, beautiful hair. Five of his blue Persian kittens are shown here.
He has some common short-haired cats also of which he is very fond, and these were originally waifs and strays which he had taken in out of pity, for this Alsatian preacher has a big heart and cannot bear to let anything suffer if he can help it. So he has given many a wretched homeless cat a place by his fireside.
Rodin the sculptor is another famous cat lover. He has a strong preference for white cats. He has owned some wonderful specimens, and in his great studios among his white statues and casts they are highly decorative. They are always of the choice long-haired varieties, and he has some with very fine points. Some of them cost hundreds of francs, many of them having been blue ribbon prize winners. Although he never exhibits them after they become his property. Strange to say he has never made any large or impressive sculptures of cats, but he has made tiny sketches of them in wax, mere hints of their beautiful poses, and these are to be seen about his rooms and his studios. He says that the cat is the most difficult creature alive to portray perfectly and naturally. No painting of sculpture of a cat ever conveyed a perfect impression of the animal in all its grace and beauty; it is far too complex a creature to be duplicated in inanimate material, it baffles the most skilful art; therefore he does not undertake the impossible, though lesser artists have ventured where he will not.
Two of Rodin’s beautiful cats are shown here. They are posed on one of their dark velvet cushions in a low wicker chair. They are named the Jewel and the Star, Bijou and L’Etoile. They were given to M. Rodin when tiny kittens by Eleonora Duse, the Italian actress, who is a great friend of Rodin’s and herself a lover of cats. She sent them to him in a little gilded basket with a cover and lined with pale rose velvet. They are very loving and affectionate and respond gracefully to the sculptor’s caresses.
Pierre Loti is a great lover of cats. He spends hours caressing and fondling them and talking to them just as if they understood all that he said. He declares that they do understand him and that they are far wiser than people think. He has owned many cats and there are many graves of his cherished pets in the cat cemetery of Paris. Like Theophile Gautier, he cannot write unless his cats are all about him; in fact he prefers to have them all over him, sitting in his lap, on his shoulders or on his knees.
His cats are always beautiful creatures, fine specimens of the splendid long-haired Oriental varieties, with gorgeous brushes for tails and plumes in their ears. His favourite cat is shown in the picture. She is a black Persian of great beauty and was given him by a Turkish lady during the novelist’s last visit to Constantinople when he was gathering material for his novel “Disenchanted.” It was a little kitten then and he carried her home in his pocket, and the kitten seemed to love him extravagantly from the first and clung to him and seemed only happy when with him.
Loti, who is a believer in reincarnation and occult and mystic things, cultivates the theory that the spirit in this cat had some strong attachment for his spirit in a previous life and that it was prearranged that it should come to him as it did, and it is because of this fancy hthat he prefers this cat to others. In fact he says the creature is almost human.
Anatole France is a cat lover. He has always owned black Persians and he very frequently put cats into his novels. His story “The Crime of Sylvestre Ronnard” begins with a description of one of his black cats and ends with that of another. His cats used to walk about Paris with him like dogs.
Rostand has beautiful cats, always of the long-haired variety. He talks to them in a peculiar soft voice which they seem to love, for they purr and rub themselves against him, patting him with their paws and crying softly as if trying to speak. He calls it his cat talk and they know at once it is for them.
Mlle. Robinne of the Comedie Francaise carries a cat back and forth with her when she is actin and it dozes in her dressing room while she is on the stage.
Abbe Damprun of the Chamber of Deputies always has his cat on his table as he writes. He talks to the animals as if it were human, and this particular cat certainly seems almost humanly intelligent.