W. J. BRODERIP. 1849
" I come, Graymalkin !" - MACBETH.
IF dogs are the friends of mankind, their companions in their walks, and their partners in the pleasures of the chase, cats may be considered as the chosen allies of womanhood. Not that the sterner sex have not shown as much fondness for these luxurious quadrupeds as the ladies have exhibited, ay, even those who cradle the blind offspring of their Selimas, and adorn the pensive mother's neck with coral beads. Mahomet, Montaigne, Richelieu, and Johnson, were not exactly simpletons, though it might be difficult to make a modern dandy understand the kindness of heart that sent the lexicographer out to purchase oysters for his favourite Hodge, when he was old and sick, and fancied no other food. When we reflect that these purring associates of the Englishman's fireside are so closely connected with the untranslatable word "comfort" a word that has neither name nor representation out of this "nook-shotten isle," and its snuggeries of sea-coal and hearth-rugs with which their satisfactory song harmonizes so soothingly ; that they are the guardians of the store-room, the larder, the dairy, and the granary ; that they
" Watch o'er the weal of Rhedycinian cheese ;
And melting marble of collegiate brawn
For heads of houses guard, and lords in lawn ;"
we are led to inquire the cause of the hatred, even where no antipathy exists, which rages against this maligned and persecuted race. The gardener and the gamekeeper, the latter especially, have some grounds for their deadly enmity ; the schoolboy too often looks upon them as having been brought into the world for the express purpose of being shod with walnut- shells, or thrown off the church tower with blown bladders tied to their necks; and of being sent to navigate the horsepond in a bowl, there to withstand the attacks of a fleet of water-dogs, and, finally, die by the teeth of his terrier; whilst the murderous cat-skinner only sees in them subjects appointed to be flayed alive.
We cannot resist the temptation of recording a case of tempered schoolboy vengeance. Some few years ago, horticulture was the fashion, not to say passion, at a certain school ; and the master thinking, wisely enough, that the boys might have worse pursuits, encouraged the zeal with which they cultivated their little gardens. Whether any of these horticulturists afterwards belonged to the agricultural society of a celebrated college in one of our universities, whose members, in their zeal for improvement, one fine night ploughed up the lawn in the middle of the quad, with sofas, and planted the Principal out of his own chapel, with shrubs and trees trans-planted from his own garden, does not appear ; the schoolboys, at all events, dibbled, and delved, and sowed, and weeded, and were kept out of mischief. But who shall reckon upon happiness ? There was a tremendous bluff-visaged, dark-coloured tabby cat, belonging to a little spiteful tailor, who lived hard by. This provoking beast nightly tore up their crocuses, polyanthuses, and hyacinths, and laid low whole rows of mustard and cress : nor was there not a suspicion that in the destruction of the last-mentioned articles puss was assisted by his master ; for though the flowers were prostrate, the esculents for the most part vanished altogether. The boys went up in a body with a complaint to him of the shears, reciting the damage done, and warning him that he should keep his cat at home at night. Their just indignation was treated with derision by the little tailor, who received the remonstrance seated at his door, pipe in mouth. Two or three of the strongest of the youths were for executing summary justice on the irritating Schneider, and quenching him and his pipe together at the pump ; but they were restrained by a sage among them, who, looking unutterable things at the smoker, informed him that he had better look out, or he would not know his cat again when he saw it, and left him in no very comfortable state of mind. After the exhibition of much ingenuity and many failures, the trespasser was, at last, caught, bagged, and carried into a room, where a convention of outraged gardeners, immediately proceeded to consult upon his doom. Two or three of the greatest sufferers loudly gave their voices for death : others were for sparing his life, but curtailing his tail of its fair proportions, and otherwise maltreating him so that he should never be the same cat again. At length the sage, who was merciful, but determined, begged to be heard. He said that the tailor was in fault more than the cat, which did but after its kind in frequenting gardens, if suffered to go abroad at night ; and as he had by him some of the bestow zegellak (wel brand en vast houd) for electrical experiments, he proposed to make the unhappy bagster a warning to all tailors to keep their cats from wandering. He explained his plan, which was adopted nem con., and having dissolved sealing-wax quant suff. in spirit of wine, dipped a brush therein ; and while two assistants, who were bit and scratched worse than Hogarth's actress in the barn, held the victim, painted the struggling Tommy all over of a bright vermilion, with a masterly hand. The tableau vivant was then set down, and home he bolted in the gloaming. How the cat entered the tailors house, and what the tailor thought of the advent, no one knew ; but it was observed that the tailor's hair became rather suddenly gray. For two days nobody saw either him or his cat. On the third, he, remembering the threat of the philosophic gardener, walked into the school-room, at high school-time, with his vermilion quadruped under his arm, held him up before the master, and asked, with a solemn voice and manner, " if that was the way a cat ought to he treated ?" The master, who was taken by surprise, burst out into a fit of laughter, in which he was, of course, joined by the boys. The crest-fallen tailor turned round, and with the port of a much-injured man, walked out with his rubicund cat under his arm, as he had walked in.
These are their open and avowed foes : their secret enemies are scarcely less numerous. Why is this ? The answer may be, perhaps, found in a dark and disgraceful portion of the criminal annals of this country, of which more anon. But we must first say a word or two, touching the natural history of this familiar beast : no easy task ; for the origin of the house cat, like that of many other of our domestic animals, has puzzled the learned ; and the stock from whence it sprung, is still, in the opinion of some, a problem for the zoologist to solve.
That the cat was domesticated among the Egyptians, we have pregnant evidence, not only in their custom of shaving their brows when their cats died a natural death, but also in the mummies found in their catacombs (no pun meant), and in the figures of these animals on the monuments of that ancient country, perched on the top of the Sistrum, for instance, and supposed to represent the moon probably from the following mythological legends.
Jove, tired of state affairs and Juno's tongue, sought, one day, a little relaxation in the company of his pretty Latona twins, Apollo and Hecate. To amuse them, he bade them try their hand at creation, and do something towards filling the empty globule, now called earth. Apollo set his wits to work, and produced MAN. No one likes to be outdone ; so, as Diana saw at a glance that there was no going beyond her brother's handiwork, she tried to turn the laugh against him, and concocted a sort of H. B. of her brother's production, in the form of an ape. No one likes to be laughed at : so Pol cut his sister's fun rather short, by turning up a ramping lion. Di, however, was not to be frightened, and played another card of ridicule in the shape of a cat. Apollo, upon tin's, got into good humour, and, determined to beat his lively antagonist at her own weapons, made a mouse, which Hecate's cat immediately ate up. The lovely sex always have it hollow in matters of finesse. Her success at this game seems to have pleased the Goddess of Wisdom : for when Typhon and his giant host pressed the gods so hard, that they were compelled to flee into Egypt, and save themselves from his fury by shooting their souls into the bodies of quadrupeds and birds, she chose the form of a cat for her metamorphosis, whilst her brother was glad to escape into the person of a crow, and her papa into the woolly carcass of a ram.
No, say others, that is a fable ; but the reason why the cat was sacred to Hecate is this : The triple night consequent on Jupiter's visit to Alcmena, set all Olympus a wondering ; and it was not long before Juno, whose acuteness was not suffered to become dull for want of exercise, soon discovered the liaison. The months rolled on. The Queen of Heaven sent for the Parcse, and gave them her imperial orders, which they sternly obeyed, and poor Alcmena had a weary time of it. Her gossip, Galanthis, after scolding, beseeching, and saying and doing all that a kind woman, almost at her wit's end, from witnessing the agonies of her bosom friend, could, to make an impression on their stony hearts, had recourse to a little deception. She persuaded the Fates and Lucina, that it was the will of Jove that Hercules should be born. They believed her, dissolved the spell, " And made that lady light of her sons." The good Galanthis, however, paid dearly for her friendly ruse : she had provoked the fiercest of all vengeance that of a deceived Queen, and was turned into a cat. Hecate, though a bit of a prude, was so struck with commiseration, that she chose the metamorphosed dame as her consecrated attendant. Accordingly it was said that the number of the cat's offspring was a gradual progression one, two, three, four, and so on, always augmenting, till a litter of seven was produced, and the total amounted to twenty-eight, the days of a lunation, and that the pupil of the cat's luminous eye dilated and diminished as the moon waxed or waned. ( There is another version, setting forth how Galanthis was turned into a weazel by Lucina, who, delegated by Juno, sat near the door of Alcmena's house, with her legs crossed and her fingers joined, in the form of an old woman. Galanthis, suspecting Juno's jealousy, and that the cross-legged old woman was the cause of Alcmena's protracted pain, rushed out of the house with a joyful countenance, and informed the crone that the birth had taken place. Whereupon Lucina uncrossed her legs and loosed her fingers, when Hercules and Iphicles were immediately born. )
Leaving the mythologists to settle the question how Hecate and the cat became associated a connexion, which, at one dismal period, many were made to rue, we must return to Egypt, where, without doubt, the cat was domesticated. Thence it may have come to the Greeks, and from them to the Romans, and from the Romans to the rest of the world, as far as their empire extended. But why seek so far, when in your indigenous wild-cat, you may find the ancestor of the playful house-kitten that now chases the straw which you draw before it ? So thought Linnaeus, Pennant, and Cuvier. In opposition to this high authority, are arranged the following reasons, historical and zoological :
By the laws of Howel dda (Howel the Good) who died in the year 948, after a reign of thirty-three years over South Wales, and eight years over the whole of the principality, the price of a kitling before it could see, was to be a penny ; till it caught a mouse, twopence ; and when it commenced mouser, fourpence ; but then it was a sine qud non that it should be perfect in its senses of hearing and seeing, be a good mouser, a good nurse, and have the claws entire. If there happened to be a failure in these essentials, the vendor was to forfeit a third of its value to the vendee. Again ; he who stole or killed the cat that guarded the prince's granary, was to forfeit a milch ewe, its fleece and lamb ; or as much wheat as when poured on the cat suspended by its tail (the head touching the floor), would form a heap high enough to cover the tip of the tail. Pennant, who quotes these laws in his British Zoology (1777), observes, that this evidence almost proves to a demonstration, that cats were not aborigines of these islands, nor known to the earliest inhabitants ; and yet in his Synopsis of Quadrupeds (1771), and in his History of Quadrupeds (3d edition, 1793), he makes the wild cat of these islands, and of the woods of most parts of Europe, the stock of the domestic variety, and, in the very same work that contains the observation above quoted, says, speaking of the wild cat, " This animal does not diffr specifically from the tame cat ; the latter being originally of the same kind, but altered in colour and in some other trifling accidents, as are common to animals reclaimed from the woods and domesticated." Now, though domestication will do a great deal in modifying form and colour, there are some points of difference between the true wild cat and tame cats, which are well worthy of notice.
The wild cat is described by Pennant, as being three or four times as large as the house cat. The teeth and claws are, to use his expression, " tremendous," and the animal is altogether more robust. Domestication does not, generally, diminish the size of animals ; on the contrary, it is the experience of every day that the tendency is of an opposite quality, unless the care of the breeder be directed to secure a comparatively minute race ; as, for example, in the case of Bantam fowls and lap-dogs. The tail of the wild cat is stout and as large at the extremity, as it is in the middle and at its insertion, if not larger ; that of the house cat tapers from the base to the tip. Though colour is but a treacherous guide, it should not pass unnoticed that the tail of the wild cat always terminates in a black tuft. Well ; but the house cat will breed with the wild cat, and the offspring will be fruitful. Even if this were satisfactorily proved, it would not, in our opinion, be entirely conclusive : most of the so-called wild cats, however, are merely house cats, which have left their homes, or whose homes have left them, and which have taken to a vagabond and marauding life. Place one of these vagrant cats by the side of a real Scottish wild cat, and you will soon perceive the difference. The latter looks like a stout dwarf tiger ; and his trenchant teeth, broad foot, and powerful claws, well justify the motto of the Clan Chattan, " Touch not the cat but (without) the glove."
Dr. Ruppell discovered in Nubia a cat (fells maniculata}, and M. Temminck agrees with the doctor in thinking that this is the stock from which the Egyptian and our domestic cats sprang. It is one-third smaller than the European wild cat, and the proportions of the limbs are more delicate ; indeed, Dr. Ruppell calls it klelnpfotige Katze, but its tail is longer. Its stature is about that of a middle-sized house cat. He found it in the craggy and bushy country near Ambukol, west of the Nile, and, on comparing a specimen with the skeleton of a cat's mummy, the latter agreed with the former in the size of the body, the shape of the head, and the length of the tail. On this and other evidence, Dr. Ruppell comes to the conclusion that his fells maniculata is descended from the domestic cat of the Egyptians. Sir William Jardine concurs with Dr. Ruppell and M. Temminck; but Mr. Bell, and his opinion is worthy of all respect, differs from them, principally upon the ground that the tail of fells maniculata, instead of being taper, like that of our house cat, terminates in a thickened and tufted extremity, although it is somewhat slender in the greater part of its length. The ears, too, Mr. Bell observes, are much longer and broader, and the legs are longer and more slender.
" Who shall decide, when doctors disagree ?"
We have seen how the cat is associated with Hecate ; and we accordingly find it acting a conspicuous part in witchcraft. The expostulating tabby, in Gay's Fables, says to the old beldame,
" 'Tis infamy to serve a hag,
Cats are thought imps, her broom a nag ;
And boys against our lives combine,
Because, 'tis said, your cats have nine."
The cat probably owes this reputation to a ninefold vitality, not only to its extraordinary endurance of violence, and its recovery from injuries which, frequently, leave it for dead ; but also to the belief that a witch was empowered to take on her a cat's body nine times. Absurd as these fancies now appear to us, they become matter of grave and even painful interest, if considered as to their effect on the manners of the time when the belief in witchcraft was rife, and when hundreds of wretched old women, in these islands alone, were sent out of life " in a red gown " (the slang of that day for being " burnt quick" or alive), after undergoing the most excruciating tortures to make them confess the impossibilities for which they suffered. The smile that rises upon reading these absurdities is changed to the frown of horror and execration at the fate of these unhappy creatures, and the stupid zeal of their prosecutors.
Our gentle King Jamie, the great malleus maleficarum was, naturally enough, supposed to be the special object of the wrath of the whole sisterhood, and, accordingly, we find that on his return from Denmark, in 1590, all the powers of darkness were in league to prevent the completion of his matrimonial union with the princess of that state. Whilst a favouring gale for- warded the rest of the fleet, the royal pair were vexed by storms, and the ship that carried the queen sprang a leak. Nor was the mischief confined to royalty, for the loss of a passage-boat between Leith and Kinghorn was attributed to the war of elements raised on this occasion. Here is a specimen of one of these conjurations :
" Agnes Sampsoun, Jonnet Campbell, Johnne Fean, Geilie Duncane, and Meg Dyn, baptesit ane catt in the wobster's (weavers) hous, in the maner following : First, twa of thame held ane fingar in the ane syd of the chimnay cruik ; and ane vther held ane vther fingar in the vther syde, the twa nebbisf of the fingaris meting togidder. Than they patt the catt thryis throw the lynkis of the cruik, and passet it thryis vnder the chimnay. Thaireftir at Beigie Todis hous, thay knitt to the foure feit of the catt foure jountis (joints or extremities): of men : quhilk being done, the said Jonet fetchit it to Leith ; and about midnicht, she, and twa Luikehop, and two wyfeis callit (two persons of the name) Stobeis, came to the peir held, and saying thir wordis, ' see that thair be na desait amang us,' and thay caist the catt in the see, sa far as thay mycht, quihlk swam owre and came againe : and thay that war in the panis, caist in an vther catt in the see at xi houris, efter quhilk, be thair sorcerie and inchantmentis, the boit perischit betuix Leith and Kinghorne." (Trial of Agnes Sampsoun, 1590. f " In a sieve I'll thither sail." MACBETH. J Trial of Beigis Tod, May, 1608. Tried in 1607.)
We also find in an old pamphlet (1591) " Newes from Scotland, &c. &c. &c.," the following version of an enchantment on the same occasion :
" Moreover she confessed that she took a cat and christened it, &c. &c., and that in the night following, the said cat was conveyed into the middest of the sea by all these witches sayling in their riddles, or cives,f and so left the said cat right before the towne of Leith in Scotland. This doone, there did arise such a tempest at sea, as a greater hath not been seen, &c." " Againe, it is confessed that the said christened cat was the cause of the Kinges Majestie's shippe, at his comming forthe of Denmarke, had a contrarie winde to the rest of the shippes then being in his companie, which thing was most straunge and true, as the Kinges Majestic acknowledgeth, for when the rest of the shippes had a fair and good winde, then- was the winde contrarie, and altogether against his Majestic, &c."
Nor was this an unconvivial expedition ; for " they together went to sea, each one in a riddle or cive, and went in the same very substantially with flaggons of wine, making merrie, and drinking by the way in the same riddles or cives."
In 1594 we find a convocation of sorcerers assembled at Seaton Thorn christening a cat, and making the poor beast an oblation to Satan ; and this also stated in a criminal trial. Isobell Griersoun had, it seems, a grudge against Adam Clark, and to feed it fat, she "in the likenes of her awin catt, accompanied with ane grit number of vther cattis, in ane devillish maner enterit within the hous quhair thay maid ane grit and feirful noyis and truble, quhairby the said Adam, then lying in his bed, with his wyfe and seruand, apprehendit sic ane grit feir that thay wer liklie to gang mad." Another witch lady was seen making her escape by " ane hole in the ruife," and another stated that she was among " the cattis that onbesett him." In short, it was the favourite shape in which the witches played their pranks.
" Under the cradle I did creep
By day, and when the child was asleep
At night, I suck'd the breath and rose
And plucked the nodding nurse by the nose."
Even in our own times we have seen a good old nurse drive a cat out of the room with much significance of manner, that it might not " suck the child's breath ;" nor is such caution to be wondered at, when it was the fashionable form for the witches to appear in at their sabbath. It is recorded of Fontenelle, that he confessed to having been brought up in the belief, that all the cats deserted their dwellings on the Eve of St. John, to hie them to the infernal assembly. But, as far as our islands were concerned, such gross superstitions and disgraceful trials as we have noticed, were not confined to Scotland. The following depositions of Matthew Hop- kins, Gent., appear in an old tract (1645) intituled, " A true and exact relation of the severall informations, examinations, and con- fessions of the late witches, arraigned and executed in the county of Essex. Who were arraigned and condemned at the late sessions, holden at Chelmesford before the Right Honorable Robert, Earl of Warwicke, and severall of his majesties justices of peace, the 29 of July, 1645. Wherein the several murthers and devillish witchcrafts, committed on the bodies of men, women, and children, and divers cattell, are fully discovered. Published by Authorities
The informations appear to have been taken before " Sir Harbottell Grimston, Knight and Baronet, one of the Members of the Honourable House of Commons : and Sir Thomas Bowes, Knight, another of his majesties justices of the peace for the county." The first informant is " John Rivit, of Mannintree, Tayler ; who, on the 21st March, 1645, deposes that about Christmas last, his wife was taken sick and lame, with such violent fits that he verily conceived her sickness was something more than merely natural; whereupon, about a fortnight since, he went to a cunning woman, the wife of one Hovye, at Hadleigh in Suffolk, who told him that his wife was cursed by two women who were his near neighbours, the one dwelling a little above his house, and the other beneath his house (which stood on the side of a hill), whereupon he believed his said wife was bewitched by one Elizabeth Clarke, alias Bedingfield, that dwelt above his house, ' for that the said Elizabeths mother and some other of her kings- folke did suffer death for witchcraft and murther.' "
The tailor having laid this very satisfactory and sure foundation on the 21st, Hopkins the witchfinder, who lived by his nefarious trade, and had doubtless either got scent of the case or had been apprized of it by the Manningtree sages, makes his appearance on the 25th. The scoundrel's deposition would suffer by more curtailment than is absolutely necessary, and therefore we give it as far as we can in his own words. " This informant saith, that the said Elizabeth Clarke (sus- pected for a witch as aforesaid) being by the appointment of the said justices watched certaine nights, for the better discovery of her wicked practises, this informant came into the roome where the said Elizabeth was watched as aforesaid, the last night, being the 24th of this instant March, but intended not to have stayed long there. But the said Elizabeth forthwith told this informant and one Master Sterne there present, if they would stay and do the said Elizabeth no hurt, shee would call one of her white impes and play with it in her lap ; but this informant told her, they would not allow of it ; and that staying there a while longer, the said Elizabeth confessed " (Here follows an alleged confession, the particulars of which we must omit ; suffice it that the prince of darkness is not made to possess the most refined taste, though it is stated that he appeared " in the shape of a proper gentleman with a laced band.") The deposition then goes on : " And within a quarter of an houre after there appeared an impe like to a dog, which was white, with some sandy spots, and seemed to be very fat and plumpe, with very short legges, who forthwith vanished away ; and the said Elizabeth said the name of that impe was Jarmara : and immediately there appeared another impe, which shee called Vinegar Tom, in the shape of a greyhound with long legges : and the said Elizabeth then said that the next impe should be a black impe, and should come for the said Master Sterne, which appeared, but presently vanished : and the last that appeared was in the shape of a polcat, but the head somewhat bigger. And the said Elizabeth then told this informant that she had five impes of her owne, and two of the impes of the old Beldam Weste (meaning one Anne Weste, widow) who is now also suspected to be guilty of witchcraft : and said sometimes the impes of the old beldam sucked on the said Elizabeth ; and sometimes her impes sucked on the old beldam Weste. And the said Elizabeth further told this informant that Satan would never let her rest, or be quiet, until she did consent to the killing of the hogges of one Mr. Edwards of Mannintree aforesaid, and the horse of one Robert Tayler of the same towne : and this informant further saith, that going from the house of the said Mr. Edwards to his own house about nine or ten of the clock that night, with his greyhound with him, he saw the greyhound suddenly give a jumpe, and ran as shee had been in full course after an hare ; and that when this informant made haste to see what his greyhound so eagerly pursued, he espied a white thing about the bignesse of a kitlyn, and the greyhound standing aloofe from it ; and that by and by the said white impe or kitlyn daunced about the said greyhound, and by all likelihood bit off a piece of the flesh of the shoulder of the greyhound ; for the greyhound came shrieking and crying to this informant with a piece of flesh torn from her shoulder. And this informant further saith, that coming into his own yard that night he espied a black thing, proportioned like a cat, onely it was thrice as big, sitting on a strawberry-bed, and fixing the eyes on this informant ; and when he went towards it, it leaped over the pale towards this informant, as he thought, but ran quite through the yard, with his greyhound after it to a great gate, which was undersett with a paire of tumbrell strings, and did throw the said gate wide open, and then vanished ; and the said greyhound returned againe to this informant, shaking and trembling exceedingly."
Mr. Matthew Hopkins having delivered himself of this dainty farrago, " Mr. John Sterne, Gent.," on the same day confirms him, of course ; spicing his own account, however, a little more highly with " Impes." " And the said Elizabeth desired this informant, and the rest that were in the roome with her to sit downe, and said she would show this informant and the rest some of her impes : and within half an hour there appeared a white thing in the likeness of a cat, but not altogether so big : and being asked if she would not be afraid of her impes, the said Elizabeth answered ; ' What, doe yee thinke I am afraid of my children ?' And that she called the name of that white impe Hoult," &c. &c. Then follow five other informations, also upon oath, to the same tune, and the confession of the poor overworn old woman herself, giddy for lack of sleep and upon this evidence she was executed at Chelmsford. Hopkins, having made his footing good, witch prosecutions, of course, abounded in the county. The conviction of Elizabeth Clarke was made the stepping-stone for that of Anne Leech, who was also executed at Chelmsford, as was Hellen Clark. His depositions do not indeed appear in the two last-mentioned cases, which were heard before the justices in April, of the same year ; but he was, doubtless, busy on the spot, aiding and abetting ; indeed, we find him in that same month giving his information upon oath in the case of Rebecca West, against whom a true bill was found by the grand jury ; though she escaped capital punishment on her trial, being " acquitted of life and death." Anne Weste was not so fortunate, for she was executed at Manningtree, on the first of August in that year.
Our readers, if we have any, must be sick at heart of these melancholy and disgusting details ; but before we close the painful catalogue, we must draw their attention to one more case ; for it strongly shows how completely the mania for witch- finding had pervaded all ranks, reaching even that holy profession, the duty of whose members it is to preach peace on earth, and good-will towards men. We have, indeed, the information of " John Edes, Clerke," in the cases of Rebecca and Anne West, or Weste ; but in those cases there was much more evidence, such as it was. In the following case, the Rev. Joseph Long appears to be the principal and almost the only witness. " The Information of Joseph Long, Minister of Clacton, in the county of Essex, taken before the said just., April 29, 1645. This informant saith, that Anne, the wife of John Cooper, of Clacton aforesaid, being accused for a witch, confessed unto this informant, that she the said Anne was guilty of the sin of witchcraft ; and that she hath had three black impes * * * * called by the names of Wynowe, Jeso, and Panu. And this informant saith, that the said Anne told him, that once she cursed a colt of one William Cottingams, of Clacton aforesaid, and the said colt broke his neck presently after going out of a gate ; and the said Anne further confessed unto this informant, that she the said Anne offered to give unto her daughter, Sarah Cooper, an impe in the likeness of a gray kite, to suck on the said Sarah ; which impe's name, the said Anne called Tomboy ; and told the said Sarah, there was a cat for her ; and this informant saith, that the said Anne confessed unto him, that she the said Anne, about ten yeers since, falling out with Johan, the wife of Gregory Rous, of Clacton aforesaid, the said Anne Cooper sent one of her impes to kill the daughter of the said Gregory and Johan, named Mary. And this informant saith, that to his own knowledge, about the same time, the said child was strangely taken sick, and languishing, within a short time died."
The deposition of this clergyman seems to have been nearly all sufficient of itself, for the only other information given in this case is that of Roger Hempson, taken before the said justices on the same day ; this compendious piece of evidence runs thus : "This informant doth confirm the information of the said Joseph Longe, and concurs in every particular." The unhappy woman against whom this miserable stuff was recorded, was also executed at Manningtree, on the 1st of August, in the same year.
In 1661 we find the Demon Drummer of Tedworth, among other varied pranks, in the house of Master John Mompesson. purring, one night, in the children's bed like a cat, " and at that time the clothes and children were lift up from the bed, and six men could not keep them down." The lingering but expiring belief in this wretched sort of witchcraft is admirably touched by Addison (in the year 1711.) in his account of Moll White and her Cat, which, according to Sir Roger de Coverley, " lay under as bad report as Moll White herself ; for besides that Moll was said often to accompany her in the same shape, the cat was reported to have spoken twice or thrice in her life, and to have played several pranks above the capacity of an ordinary cat." The worthy knight's chaplain is made to act a very different part from the odious character assumed by the minister of Clacton, for Mr. Spectator tells us that he had found upon inquiry, that Sir Roger was several times staggered with the reports that had been brought him concerning this old woman, and would frequently have bound her over to the sessions, had not his chaplain with much ado persuaded him to the contrary. We willingly quit this dark part of our subject, and return to honest every-day household cats ; observing only, at parting, that if any modern Canidia should wish to concoct a charm, the brain of a black cat, the blacker the better, is a special ingredient.
The animal mechanism of this lion of the mice is admirably adapted to the work that the creature has to do. The apparatus by which the claws are retracted, and sheathed within the folds of the integuments, so that they may be unworn by ordinary progression, and always ready for use, is a most beautiful consentaneous arrangement of bone, elastic ligament and tendon. When the claws of a cat are thus retracted, nothing is softer than "The velvet of her paws ;" Nothing can be more noiseless than the silent tread with which she steals along on these pattes de velours; but the concealed weapons are ready to start on the instant into sharp and lacerating action quick as the lancets of a cupping instrument in the hands of the most skilful operator. How she crouches, as if she would almost conceal herself in the ground when she settles herself for her spring with what slashing force does she throw herself on her nimble four-footed prey with what agility does she leap into the air, and strike down her feathered game ! Her moveable spine enables her to turn in an almost inconceivably small compass ; and with the aid of the powerful muscles of the posterior extremities and her clutching claws, she is up a tree in an instant. Her powerful canine teeth her scissor-like back teeth, for they can hardly be called molars, and her rough tongue, with its horny retroverted papillae, are all fashioned to assist in the destruction and dissection of her prey; that is, when she has satiated herself with the enjoyment of its agonies of terror, and fruitless, though desperate efforts to escape. (Those who wish to make themselves minutely acquainted with the organization of the common cat should consult the elaborate and accurate work of Straus-Durckheim, entitled : " Anatomic Descriptive et Comparative du Chat," 4to. 1845. )
Some have found it difficult to account for the cause of the cat's proficiency in the art of ingeniously tormenting : a scene 6f this sort is a horrible sight to any one of good feeling ; but it is not at all clear that the cat, though she evidently takes great delight in the sport, perpetrates the act as a mere gratification of wanton cruelty. On the contrary, it seems that she resorts to this agonizing amusement as an exercise to sharpen her powers, or to keep, as it were, her hand in. A kitten, three parts grown, is very much given to this pastime. The mouse, in its paroxysms of terror, leaps aloft : the cat secures the victim with a bound. She then remains quite quiet, giving the panting trembler time to recover, and, presently, the poor mouse attempts to steal off gently. She suffers him to go on he quickens his pace he is near the door you feel almost certain that he is safe : bounce she pitches on the wretch, and has him secure. In this way the mouse is made to exhaust all his powers of strength and ingenuity in his anxious endeavours to escape ; whilst the cat, like a cunning fencer, is exercising herself to foresee and counteract every attempt. Sometimes a cat with kittens will slightly cripple two or three young rats which she keeps under surveillance, occasionally turning out one for the sport and practice of herself and family. But a cat knows better than to pursue this system with a bird which she has knocked down with a coup de patte : no ; she kills the winged prey at once.
Familiar as this animal is to every eye, it seems to be the opprobrium of painters. With one or two brilliant exceptions, of which Edwin Landseer is the chief, artists generally fail in representing a house cat. So, when it is brought upon the stage, how seldom does the actor understand his part ? When a cat is in the bills, we are not often absent, and most catawampous failures has it been our lot to see. But in this branch of art, also, a genius occasionally appears. Upon one occasion a Tartar enchanter had been for some time on the stage, magnificently clad, and with the lower part of his person dazzlingly enveloped in something like a Brobdignag card-purse : not only did he not get a hand, but his insufferable dulness began to endanger the piece. Coughs became extremely prevalent, and an awful sibilation from the pit " Rose like an exhalation ;" when to him entered a cat about the size of a leopard, but admirably dressed, walked up to a tree, and raising himself on his hind-legs against it, began clawing, as cats do, to keep their talons in trim. This immediately brought down the house ; one of the greatest philosophers of the day who was present exclaiming : " That's an observer !" and leading the rounds of applause like the trunk- maker of old. We know how difficult it is to get human artists to enter into the conception of this extremely difficult part ; but when the actor succeeds, the success is perfect. Could any one or any thing excel Jenny Vertpre in the " Femme Chatte ?"
A docile doggie, sewed up in cats' skins, has sometimes been substituted ; but do what you may, he will be a doggie still. It was a four-footed actor of this description that performed the cat in that pretty pantomime pantomimes were pantomimes then "Harlequin Whittington." When the rats ran about "to eat all up," to the great consternation of King Longobarobonyo, and the infinite delight of the holyday children, both small and great, down the captain of the ship put Whittington's cat. The cat did his duty, and was always cruelly severe upon one particular scamperer, evidently not formed of pasteboard, and made to feel " he was no actor there :" so far so good, excepting that the principal performer was rather of the least for a pantomimic cat ; and moreover pursued his prey more in the canine than the feline style. Still he got applause, and all went well, save with the poor real rat, who appeared for that night only. But when the victorious cat was brought forward to the floats in the arms of the captain, surrounded by the admiring king and queen, and their whole court, panting from the recent deed, and with a real red elongation of tongue hanging out of his mouth, all the terrier was confessed.
In these days, when the schoolmaster is not only abroad, but knocketh at the nursery door, to disenchant the nurslings, and reduce their tales to the simplicity of unromantic matter of fact, we dare not conceal the appalling fact that doubts have been cast upon the authenticity of the almost sacred story of " Whittington and his Cat."
"Cat?" say the learned. "Bah! Cat it might have been, but it was no mouser. Do we not know that catta signified a vessel ? Does not the profound Bailey, in his edition of Facciolatus and Forcellinus acknowledge this, when under that word catta he says, ' Videtur genus esse navigii, quod e Angli nos dicimus, A CAT ?' Did not Philip once build a great ship and how was it named ? " Tandem" says the erudite Aldrovandus, " CATUS erat navis genus ; legimus enim in annalibus Flandrite a Philippo Burgundione grandem navim Cati nomine cedificatam fuisse, qu& valli instar esse videbatur ; nee prater rationem cum Catce naves apud Gellium etiam legantur" We hope here be truths. Whit- tington's cat, then, was merely the lucky freight of one of these vessels, which, well husbanded, and fortunately and skilfully in- creased, raised the venturer to the lofty eminence on which is placed the chair whence the Lord Mayor of London looks down upon all sublunary things made to be eaten and imbibed. And we allow you this out of our great mercy ; for, if you show any signs of discontent, it shall go hard but we shall damage the theory that London has any exclusive right to the story at all. Have no other countries in Europe such a tale ? Is there no such story current in Asia somewhat generally, and in Persia very particularly ? When you have answered these questions, and mayhap a few more, we will condescend further.
Still, as it would be as difficult for the learned of the present day, say what they will, to convince a thorough-bred cockney that Whittington' s cat was not a bona fide mouser, as it was for the learned of a former day to convince Uncle Toby that there was no consanguinity betwixt the Duchess of Suffolk and her son, we would advise them not to waste their lore upon ears unalterably charmed by the music of Bow bells chiming so merrily "Turn again Whittington."
In the preface to "the famous ballad of "Sir Richard Whittington's advancement" we find it stated (A.D. 1727) as certain that there was such a man, a citizen of London, by trade a mercer, one who left public edifices and charitable works behind him sufficient to transmit his name to posterity. He founded a house of prayer, with an allowance for a master, fellows, choristers, clerks, &c., and an almshouse for thirteen poor men, called Whittington College. He rebuilt the wretched and loathsome prison standing in his time at the west gate of the city, and called it Newgate. The better half of St. Bartholomew's Hospital was built by him, and the fine library in Grey-friars, afterwards called Christ's Hospital, as well as great part of the east end of Guildhall, with a chapel and a library, in which the records of the city might be kept. The same authority adds that he was chosen sheriff in the seventeenth year of the reign of King Richard II., William Stondon, grocer, being then mayor of London. He was knighted, and in the twenty-first year of the same reign was chosen mayor an office which he held thrice, his second mayoralty being in the eighth year of Henry IV.'s reign, and his third in the seventh year of Henry V., to whom he is said to have advanced a very considerable sum towards carrying on the war in France. His generous conduct to the conqueror of Agincourtis thus noticed in the ballad :
" More his fame to advance,
Thousands he lent the king,
To maintain war in France,
Glory from thence to bring.
" And after, at a feast
Which he the king did make,
He burnt the bonds all in jest,
And would no money take.
" Ten thousand pounds he gave
To his prince willingly ;
And would no money have
For his kind courtesy."
We shall now let the writer of the preface speak for himself : " He marry 'd Alice, the daughter of Hugh and Molde Fitz- warren : at whose house, traditions say, Whittingdon liv'd a servant, when he got his immense riches, by venturing his cat in one of his master's ships. However, if we may give credit to his own will, he was a knight's son ; and more obliged to an English king and prince than to any African monarch, for his riches. For when he founded Whittington College, and left a maintenance for so many people, as above related ; they were, as Stow records it (for this maintenance), bound to pray for the good estate of Richard Whittington and Alice his wife, their founders ; and for Sir William Whittington and Dame Joan his wife ; and for Hugh Fitzwarren and Dame Molde his wife ; the fathers and mothers of the said Richard Whittington and Alice his wife : for King Richard II. and Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Glocester, special Lords and promoters of the said Richard Whittington, etc."
Howel in his Londinopolis (A.D. 1657) speaks of Richard Whittington as having been chosen for the mayoralty four times. The ballad and the preface above quoted give him that office only thrice.
" For to the city's praise,
Sir Richard Whittington,
Came to be in his days,
Thrice Mayor of London."
Generous, charitable, and exemplary as was his life, it does not appear that his bones were left undisturbed ; for the same Howel says that he was " thrice buried," in the chapter " Of Vintry Ward" the last-mentioned author thus writes : " Then is the fair parish church of Saint Michael, called Paternoster church, in the Royal-street. This church was new builded, and made a colledge of S. Spirit and S. Mary, founded by Richard Whittington, mercer, four times mayor, for a master, four fellows, masters of arts, clerks, conducts, chorists, etc. ; and an alms-house, called God's House or Hospital, for thirteen poor men, one of them to be tutor, and to have sixteen pence the week, the other twelve, each of them to have fourteen pence the week for ever, with other necessary provision, an hutch with three locks, with a common seal, etc. The licence for this foundation was granted by King Henry IV. the eleventh of his reign, and in the twelfth of the same king's reign, the mayor and the communalty of London, granted to Richard Whittington a vacant piece of ground thereon, to build his colledge in the Royall ; all which was confirmed by Henry VI. the third of his reign, to John Coventry, Jenkin Carpenter, and William Grove, executors to Richard Whittington. This foundation was again confirmed by Parliament, the tenth of Henry VI., and was suppressed by the statute of Edward VI. The alms-houses with the poor men do remain, and are paid by the mercers."
" This Richard Whittington was (in the church) three times buried : first, by his executors, under a fair monument ; then in the reign of Edward VI. the parson of that church, thinking some great riches (as he said) to be buried with him, caused his monument to be broken, his body to be spoiled of his leaden sheet, and again the second time to be buried ; and in the reign of Queen Mary, the parishioners were forced to take him up, and lap him in lead, as afore, to bury him the third time, and to place his monument, or the like, over him again, which remaineth still, and so he rested."
At all events, so long as London is London, Whittington will be always associated with his cat ; and no bad associate either, notwithstanding the vile character given of the slandered quadruped by Buffon and others for caprice, treachery, and in short, every bad quality that would make a companion odious.
Now, though we grant as a general proposition that cats are attached more to the place than the person, we at the same time are free to confess our belief that they are capable of the most steady personal attachment. There are " Some that are mad, if they behold a cat," and the antipathy is so strong that they are ready to faint if one be in the room with them. The gallant Highland chieftain alluded to by Sir Walter Scott, had " been seen to change into all the colours of his own plaid" on such an occasion. Such persons cannot be friendly to cats. But though these animals are too often treated with contumely and cruelty, the instinct of attachment is so strong, that they will still keep about the place, notwithstanding the bad treatment they have endured. Though proverbially loth to wet their feet, they have been known, after being carried to a far country in bags, in the hope of banishing them, to swim rivers in their irresistible anxiety to return to their home."
Others again will tell you, " I was disposed to be kind to that cat ; but whilst I was caressing it the ill-natured beast turned on me, and bit and scratched me." No pleasant operation, certainly, under any circumstances, but becoming a fearful attack when it is recollected that the bite of a cat has been known to communicate the horrible hydrophobia, as fatally as that of the dog. Now in such cases, unless the animal be diseased, or, at least, in nine out of ten, it will be found either that puss's temper has been ruined by previous provocations, or that the party attacked does not know how to play with a cat he does not understand the animal ; what he calls play is teasing, and is resented. But when a cat has been kindly dealt with, and its master or mistress is really fond of it, few animals are more attached. Such cats have been seen to follow their patrons about like dogs, escort them to the door, when permitted to go no farther, and abide patiently on the mat listening for the much-desired return, from morning till even- ing. On the entrance of their friend, no dog could express a more lively affection, a more hearty welcome. We need only allude to the story of the favourite cat that would not be parted from its dying master was with difficulty driven from the chamber of death and even after the body was " Compounded with the dust, whereto 'twas kin," would return again and again to the grave, though repeatedly chased from the churchyard, and there lie, braving cold and hunger for hours.
To be sure, puss is, as Pennant says, " a piteous, squalling, jarring lover;" nor need we wonder that the distinguished northern functionary " Unmov'd, unmelted by the piteous muse" , of a cat- parliament held under his window, fired his blunderbuss upon the amazed wretches not, however, till he had quieted his legal conscience by reading the Riot Act.
The days of puss's gestation are fifty-six, or thereabout; and as she produces two or three litters in a year, and some five or six at a birth, there is no fear that the cat population will decrease, notwithstanding the unsparing means used to keep it down. The young do not see till about the ninth day. Female cats are naturally kindly animals ; and so strongly imbued with the love of offspring that, at the season of maternity, all feelings seem to be merged in that passion. They have heeii known to suckle leverets and mice, and young rats have been seen sharing the full tide of maternal affection with a kitten. In the latter case the cat showed the young rats the same attentions in caressing them, and dressing their fur, as she did to her kitten.
The varieties are almost infinite : among them, the long silken-haired Angora, the Persian, the bluish Chartreuse, the tortoiseshell, and the typical tabby, are the most prominent. There is also a tailless variety, which most probably owes its existence to its unfortunate ancestors having been deprived of that handsome appendage by accident. To Spain, it is said, we are indebted for the tortoiseshell variety ; and a male of this colour, or rather assemblage of colours, being rare, even now, fetches a high price. (A friend, not less noted for his scientific labours than his fund of anecdote, tells us that some twenty-five, or (by'r Lady) thirty years ago, a tortoiseshell Tom-cat was exhibited in Piccadilly, where the Liverpool Museum was afterwards shown, and where dowagers and spinsters thronged to his levee, as was recorded in the caricatures of the day. " One hundred guineas," says our philosophical friend of many tales, " was the price asked ; and I saw many a longing, lingering, coronetted coach at the door of the exhibition-room.") We have seen one of these unhappy varieties chained to his little kennel, at the door of a dealer in beasts and birds, looking as important, and withal as sorrowful, as any wild beast of them all could look in such a shackled situation. And here we are almost tempted to give a hint to the President and Council of the Zoological Society of London, on the subject of the sin of keeping cats in cages. They certainly were once guilty of such incarceration ; but we hope that they have repented and let their prisoners out. At all events, the bereavement which they have recently had to lament disarms all censure ; and for the incarcerated cats, if incarcerated they still be, we can breathe no better wish than a speedy deliverance from their gaol, even if it be to embark with the grim ferryman on their transportation to the Feline Elysium.
" There shall the worthies of the whisk er'd race,
Elysian mice o'er floors of sapphire chace,
'Midst beds of aromatic marum stray,
Or raptur'd rove beside the milky way."