Monday, October 31, 2022

Les Chats (The Cats) by François-Augustin de Paradis de Moncrif

This is the entire book translated into English from the original French. Read about the book by clicking on this link. It may not load properly as it is about 36,000 words!



Published by the Ex-Classics Project
Public Domain

Frontispiece – Portrait of Moncrif

Introduction by Edmund Gosse

An accomplished lady of my acquaintance tells me that she is
preparing an anthology of the cat. This announcement has reminded me
of one of the oddest and most entertaining volumes in my library.
People who collect prints of the eighteenth century know an engraving
which represents a tom-cat, rampant, holding up an oval portrait of a
gentleman and standing, in order to do so, on a volume. The volume is
Les Chats, the book before us, and the portrait is that of the
author, the amiable and amusing Augustin Paradis de Moncrif. He was
the son of English, or more probably of Scotch parents settled in
Paris, where he was born in 1687. All we know of his earlier years is
to be found in a single sparkling page of d'Alembert, who makes
Moncrif float out of obscurity like the most elegant of iridescent
bubbles. He was handsome and seductive, turned a copy of verses with
the best of gentlemen, but was particularly distinguished by the art
with which he purveyed little dramas for the amateur stage, then so
much in fashion in France. Somebody said of him, when he was famous
as the laureate of the cats, that he had risen in life by never
scratching, by always having velvet paws, and by never putting up his
back, even when he was startled. Voltaire called him "my very dear
Sylph," and he was the ideal of all that was noiseless, graceful,
good-humoured, and well-bred. He slipped unobtrusively into the
French Academy, and lived to be eighty-three, dying at last, like
Anacreon, in the midst of music and dances and fair nymphs of the
Opera, affecting to be a sad old rogue to the very last.

This book on Cats, the only one by which he is now remembered, was
the sole production of his lifetime which cost him any annoyance. He
was forty years of age when it appeared, and the subject was
considered a little frivolous, even for such a petit conteur as
Moncrif. People continued to tease him about it, and the only rough
thing he ever did was the result of one such twitting. The poet Roy
made an epigram about "cats" and "rats," in execrable taste, no
doubt; this stung our Sylph to such an excess that he waited outside
the Palais Royal and beat Roy with a stick when he came out. The poet
was, perhaps, not much hurt; at all events, he had the presence of
mind to retort, "Patte de velours, patte de velours, Minon-minet!" It
was six years after this that Moncrif was elected into the French
Academy, and then the shower of epigrams broke out again. He wished
to be made historiographer; "Oh, nonsense," the wits cried, "he must
mean historiogriffe" and they invited him, on nights when the Academy
met, to climb on to the roof and miau from the chimneypots. He had
the weakness to apologise for his charming book, and to withdraw it
from circulation. His pastoral tales and heroic ballets, his
Zélindors and Zéloïdes and Erosines, which to us seem utterly vapid
and frivolous, never gave him a moment's uneasiness. His crumpled
rose-leaf was the book by which his name lives in literature.

The book of cats is written in the form of eleven letters to Madame
la Marquise de B––. The anonymous author represents himself as too
much excited to sleep, after an evening spent in a fashionable house,
where the company was abusing cats. He was unsupported; where was the
Marquise, who would have brought a thousand arguments to his
assistance, founded on her own experience of virtuous pussies?
Instead of going to bed he will sit up and indite the panegyric of
the feline race. He is still sore at the prejudice and injustice of
the people he has just left. It culminated in the conduct of a lady
who declared that cats were poison, and who, "when pussy appeared in
the room, had the presence of mind to faint." These people had
rallied him on the absurdity of his enthusiasm; but, as he says, the
Marquise well knows, "how many women have a passion for cats, and how
many men are women in this respect."

So he starts away on his dissertation, with all its elegant pedantry,
its paradoxical wit, its genuine touches of observation and its
constant sparkle of anecdote. He is troubled to account for the
existence of the cat. An Ottoman legend relates that when the animals
were in the Ark, Noah gave the lion a great box on the ear, which
made him sneeze, and produce a cat out his nose. But the author
questions this origin, and is more inclined to agree with a Turkish
Minister of Religion, sometime Ambassador to France, that the ape,
"weary of a sedentary life" in the Ark, paid his attentions to a very
agreeable young lioness, whose infidelities resulted in the birth of
a Tom-cat and a Puss-cat, and that these, combining the qualities of
their parents, spread through the Ark un esprit de coquetterie–which
lasted during the whole of the sojourn there. Moncrif has no
difficulty in showing that the East has always been devoted to cats,
and he tells the story of Mahomet, who, being consulted one day on a
point of piety, preferred to cut off his sleeve, on which his
favourite pussy was asleep, rather than wake her violently by rising.

From the French poets, Moncrif collects a good many curious tributes
to the "harmless, necessary cat." I am seized with an ambition to put
some fragments of these into English verse. Most of them are highly
complimentary. It is true that Ronsard was one of those who could not
appreciate a "matou." He sang or said:

There is no man now living anywhere
  Who hates cats with a deeper hate than I;
I hate their eyes, their heads, the way they stare,
  And when I see one come, I turn and fly.

But among the précieuses of the seventeenth century there was much
more appreciation. Mme. Deshoulières wrote a whole series of songs
and couplets about her cat, Grisette. In a letter to her husband,
referring to the attentions she herself receives from admirers, she

Deshoulières cares not for the smart
  Her bright eyes cause, disdainful hussy,
But, like a mouse, her idle heart
  Is captured by a pussy.

Much better than these is the sonnet on the cat of the Duchess of
Lesdiguières, with its admirable line:

Chatte pour tout le monde, et pour les chats tigresse.

A fugitive epistle by Scarron, delightfully turned, is too long to be
quoted here, nor can I pause to cite the rondeau which the Duchess of
Maine addressed to her favourite. But she supplemented it as follows:

My pretty puss, my solace and delight,
To celebrate thy loveliness aright
I ought to call to life the bard who sung
Of Lesbia's sparrow with so sweet a tongue;
But 'tis in vain to summon here to me
So famous a dead personage as he,
And you must take contentedly to-day
This poor rondeau that Cupid wafts your way.

When this cat died the Duchess was too much affected to write its
epitaph herself, and accordingly it was done for her, in the
following style, by La Mothe le Vayer, the author of the Dialogues:

Puss passer-by, within this simple tomb
  Lies one whose life fell Atropos hath shred;
The happiest cat on earth hath heard her doom,
  And sleeps for ever in a marble bed.
Alas! what long delicious days I've seen!
  O cats of Egypt, my illustrious sires,
You who on altars, bound with garlands green,
  Have melted hearts, and kindled fond desires,–
Hymns in your praise were paid, and offerings too,
  But I'm not jealous of those rights divine.
Since Ludovisa loved me, close and true,
  Your ancient glory was less proud than mine.
To live a simple pussy by her side
Was nobler far than to be deified.

To these and other tributes Moncrif adds idyls and romances of his
own, while regretting that it never occurred to Theocritus to write a
bergerie de chats. He tells stories of blameless pussies beloved by
Fontanelle and La Fontaine, and quotes Marot in praise of "the green-
eyed Venus." But he tears himself away at last from all these
historical reminiscences, and in his eleventh letter he deals with
cats as they are. We hasten as lightly as possible over a story of
the disinterestedness of a feline Heloise, which is too pathetic for
a nineteenth-century ear. But we may repeat the touching anecdote of
Bayle's friend, Mlle. Dupuy. This lady excelled to a surprising
degree in playing the harp, and she attributed her excellence in this
accomplishment to her cat, whose critical taste was only equalled by
his close attention to Mlle. Dupuy's performance. She felt that she
owed so much to this cat, under whose care her reputation for skill
on the harp had become universal, that when she died she left him, in
her will, one agreeable house in town and another in the country. To
this bequest she added a revenue sufficient to supply all the
requirements of a well-bred tom-cat, and at the same time she left
pensions to certain persons whose duty it should be to wait upon him.
Her ignoble family contested the will, and there was a long suit.
Moncrif gives a handsome double-plate illustration of this incident.
Mlle. Dupuy, sadly wasted by illness, is seen in bed, with her cat in
her arms, dictating her will to the family lawyer in a periwig; her
physician is also present.

This leads me to speak of the illustrations to Les Chats, which
greatly add to its value. They were engraved by Otten from original
drawings by Coypel. In another edition the same drawings are engraved
by Count Caylus. Some of them are of a charming absurdity. One, a
double plate, represents a tragedy acted by cats on the roof of a
fashionable house. The actors are tricked out in the most magnificent
feathers and furbelows, but the audience consists of common cats.
Cupid sits above, with his bow and fluttering wings. Another plate
shows the mausoleum of the Duchess of Lesdiguières' cat, with a
marble pussy of heroic size, upon a marble pillow, in a grove of
poplars. Another is a medal to "Chat Noir premier, né en 1725," with
the proud inscription, "Knowing to whom I belong, I am aware of my
value." The profile within is that of as haughty a tom as ever shook
out his whiskers in a lady's boudoir.



Illustration: The Angora Cat, by Fragonard

Did your heart throb all evening, Madame? They spoke of Cats in the
house I have just come from; they unleashed themselves against them,
and you know how hard it is to bear that particular injustice. I will
not report all the absurdities or all the vices of which Cats were

It would vex me greatly to repeat them.<1>

I attempted to defend their cause; it seems to me that I spoke sense,
but in disputes is this how we persuade people? It would have taken
wit: Where were you, Madame? I initially contested the arguments they
made, with the coolness and moderation which one should maintain when
expounding very reasonable opinions when they are not yet well
established in people's minds, but an incident occurred that
completely disconcerted me: A Cat appeared, and at first sight one of
my adversaries had the presence of mind to faint; they got angry with
me; they declared to me that all my philosophical reasoning could do
nothing against what had just occurred; that Cats have not been, are
not, and never will be anything but dangerous, unsociable animals.
What pierced me with sorrow was that the majority of those
conspirators were intelligent people.

I must confide to you a great project, Madame. Among so many
memorable facts which people have tried to clarify and put in order,
no one has yet thought of preparing a History of Cats; isn't this
astonishing? Homer found it worth his Muse's while to describe the
War of the Mice and the Frogs. One of the chapters of Lucien, treated
with great licence, praises the Fly; and even Asses have had the
satisfaction of seeing a eulogy written.<2> Why have Cats been been
neglected? I would not be surprised if I had to resort to the
imagination in order to compose a work to their glory; but as soon as
we look at the Cats of past ages, what a crowd of events we discover,
each more interesting than the last. Before presenting this picture,
I would appear quite ridiculous if I dared propose that there had
been a Cat whose life was perhaps more brilliant and more star-
crossed than that of Alcibiades or Helen. However, if both have
ignited famous wars, if Helen saw altars raised to her beauty, such
advantages put them not in the least above a great number of he-cats
and she-cats who hold an equally good rank in the Temple of Memory.

The History of Cats should naturally arouse imitation by the most
illustrious writers. But since since such a history has not yet been
written, mediocrity of talent should not stifle zeal. I will dare to
attempt this work, and I believe I can be successful, if you promise
to help my enterprise. We will start by looking for the sources of
the false prejudice against Cats which is common here. We will
expound in good faith the insights we have gained from long
acquaintance with their affairs and from reasoning. We will report
the different forms which the interests of Cats have taken
successively among the nations, while keeping all proper precautions
to not revolt those people who have, purely through emotion,
antipathy towards them. We will always bear in mind that there are
certain natural repugnances, which according to Father Malbranche<3>
may be the effect of the unbridled imagination of mothers which has
influenced that of the children; or, as a famous English philosopher
explains it,<4> the result of nursery stories.

Fear is a child's first lesson, says La Fontaine, and besides, it is
easy to recognize that natural or acquired antipathies may fall upon
the very objects which seem least to attract them; one person cannot
see birds without shuddering; another will flee at the sight of a
cork. Germanicus could not bear either the crowing or the appearance
of a cockerel.<5> Cats are not characterized by this sort of hatred
as dangerous or wicked. Children hear from the cradle that Cats are
naturally treacherous, that they steal the breath of infants, even
that they are sorcerers. Later on, reason vainly denounces these
calumnies, but because illusion spoke first it will, for a long time,
continue to be persuasive even though it has been recognised as false
- even if Cats are no longer believed to be sorcerers, they will
continue to be feared as much as if they actually had been sorcerers.

M. de Fontenelle confesses that he was brought up to believe that on
St. John's Eve there was not a single Cat left in the cities, because
on that day they went off to a general Sabbath. What glory for them,
Madame, and how satisfying for us, to dream that one of M. de
Fontenelle's first steps on the path of philosophy led him to rid
himself of a false prejudice against Cats,and to cherish them?

Therefore, this apology, as I have just proposed it, will only be
looked at by persons who follow an ancient prejudice through
laziness, or those to whom it is a sign of delicacy to profess a fear
of Cats.<6>

You know, Madame, what a role our dear friends played in antiquity.
If man's respects, however ridiculously founded, can do any honour to
the object of that respect, there can be no creatures with more
brilliant titles than those of the Cat species. It may not be prudent
to portray it so advantageously at first; but to put some order in
our work, we must begin with the deified cats of Egypt, which were
honoured by statues, and by a mysterious cult transmitted in turn to
the Greeks,<7> and Romans;<8> and without stopping at a great number
of ancient monuments which appear to have been preserved expressly to
prove the glory of the first Cats, we will first show only the Cat
God as it was represented in Egypt in its natural form, wearing a
necklet in the middle of which a tablet was attached, adorned with
hieroglyphic characters.<9> It is true that we do not understand the
meaning of these characters; but we might explain them by piecing
together different events of Egyptian Mythology.

These people had a tradition that the Gods, pursued by Typhon,<10>
conceived of hiding themselves in the shape of animals.<11>
Anubis,<12> later worshipped as Mercury, was transformed into a Dog.
Diana, who according to Apuleius is the same as Isis,<13> became a
beautiful Cat, and as Plutarch aptly remarked<14> (we must not omit
citing him) the Egyptians did not randomly imagine which animal's
form each divinity had supposedly taken. For example, Mercury only
chose the form of the Dog to show his faithfulness in fulfilling his
Master's orders.

If we follow Plutarch's reasoning, it would be reasonable for us to
find some correspondence between Diana and her metamorphosis, and to
conclude that the Egyptians imagined this Goddess disguised as a she-
cat because they saw in her the cautious qualities manifested in she-
cats. <15>

Illustration: Cat Goddess Bastet with Sistrum

It is next necessary to explain another ancient figure adorned with
symbols that will put anyone who has resolved never to esteem Cats in
a bad mood. The Cat God is represented there having before him a
sistrum<16>, whose handle is placed in a small cup, or, if you will,
a goblet. We must first remark that the sistrum was an instrument
dedicated to the greatest Divinities of the Egyptians;<17> we at once
find an opportunity to to establish that Music was admitted in their
feasts, without yet discovering how much this Music has to do with
our Cats.

We must mention that Plutarch mentions a famous song that was sung at
all Egyptian suppers. This song praised the young Maneros, whose name
it bore. The Egyptians considered him the inventor of Music; he was
the son of King Malcander and Queen Astarte, who welcomed Isis when,
seeking her husband's body<18> which Typhon had divided into several
pieces, she found it thrown by the waves on the coast of Biblus,<19>
where the father of young Maneros reigned as King.

Another circumstance which is essential to recount is that the upper
extremity of the Egyptian sistrum was ordinarily embellished by a
beautiful sculpture representing a Cat with a woman's face, and that
there were sometimes Cats scattered on various other areas of this

But we have another, even more imposing, ancient monument. The Cat
God is represented with his natural head upon the body of a man. He
holds this same sistrum with a dexterity and striking air of
familiarity that shows that he knows how to use of this instrument.
Hey! why shouldn't there be a real relationship between musical
instruments and Cats? Especially as dolphins have, for many
centuries<20> been stirred by the strains of the lyre, and since
stags delight in the sound of the flute; and since Greek mares loved
songs so much that one was written especially for them and bore their
name.<21> According to Plutarch's reports, this was a sort of
epithalamium whose charm softened the sternness of these mares. They
would only consented to receiving a mate when they heard that
voluptuous air, an air that was only used only for that purpose.<22>

But here is quite another discovery that must be made absolutely
clear. Cats are most advantageously organized for Music; they are
able to give various modulations to their voices and use different
tones to express the different passions that take hold of them. Those
who object to this proposition will be quite astonished to learn that
we have expressly used the terms of two men famous for their

Cats have been given a great and beautiful voice, we will ask their
adversaries what they think of this arrangement of sistrum and goblet
so often found between the Cats' paws. It seems to me, Madame, that
they will confess in good faith (for there are certain truths which
cut across prejudice) and agree, say I, that the sistrum, a symbol of
music, and the goblet which necessarily awakens the idea of feasts,
clearly reveal that the Egyptians admitted Cats to feasts where they
delighted everyone present with their charming voices.

But suppose that they do not grasp the simplicity of this proposition
right away, and that like those strong minds in M. de la Mothe's
fable,<24> who consider anything they don't understand to be
impossible, they dare to dismiss the song of Cats as caterwauling on
the basis of a verse wrongly attributed to Ovid,<25> that this song,
say I, is neither harmonious nor even bearable, and appears
foolishness to us; but we will hide our knowledge of it so as not to
appear prepared. We will content ourselves at first by replying that
this what seems to them a caterwauling among the Cats today proves
nothing against the Cats of Antiquity, the Arts being subject to
great revolutions: We will add, with utmost circumspection, that the
dissonances they complain of are perhaps nothing but a lack of
understanding and taste on their part. This may need some
clarification, and it is then that the truth will be seen in its best

We can say that our own Music, to our modern ears, is limited to a
certain division of sounds which we call tones, or semi-tones, and we
are sufficiently limited in ourselves to suppose that this same
division comprises everything that can be called Music. Hence we
unjustly call those sounds whose intervals and admirable
relationships, at least among their own kind, escape us through being
outside of our self-imposed limits, as bellowing, mewing, whinnying
etc.<26> The Egyptians were evidently more enlightened; they had
probably studied the music of animals; they knew that a sound is
neither right nor wrong in itself, and that it almost always appear
to be one or the other only because of our habit of judging whether a
collection of sounds is a dissonance or a harmony. They sensed, for
example, whether the Music of Cats progressed from one tone to
another in the same steps as our own, or if they broke down that same
tone and struck the intervals that we call commas, which would have
made a prodigious difference between their Music and ours. They
discerned in the chorus of tomcats, or in a recitation, the simple or
more subtle modulations, the lightness of the passages, the sweetness
of the sound, or perhaps a sharpness that made it appealing. Hence,
what seems to us to be no more than a confused noise, a pandemonium,
is only the result of our own ignorance, a lack of delicacy in our
organs, of correctness and discernment.

The Music of Asian Peoples seems quite ridiculous to us. For their
part, they find no common sense in ours. We believe reciprocally that
we hear only caterwauling; thus each Nation, in this respect, is so
to speak the Cat of the other nation, and both sides are, perhaps,
led by ignorance so that they can only form false judgments.

Hence no doubt gaiety imperceptibly seizes the feast. In our Songs,
where this same background is found quite commonly, it is at least
presented by images that seem to have more relation with the feelings
that we want to inspire.

To this simple reasoning, which will no doubt make a great impression
on them, we will add a reflection which will finally convince them.
The Egyptians put everything to good use in order to sense the
happiness of existence. The skeletons brought to the feasts were a
warning to take advantage of every moment of life. Drink, they said,
and be glad, because you may die tomorrow. <27> Regardless of how
accustomed Egyptians were to this spectacle and this exhortation, on
first impression it does not give pleasant thoughts. It is not a
precept to inspire pleasure, but the image of pleasure itself. The
songs, sistrums, and Cats then came to the rescue, brightening up the
sombre truth which had just been announced. Doubtless gaiety then
imperceptibly took over the feast. In our songs, where this same
theme is commonly found, it is at least presented by images that seem
to have more in common with the sentiments they want to inspire.

Pardon me, Madame, the small vanity of quoting myself here as an
example. This song is only the same idea of the Egyptians, but
rendered in softer colours, which are in this respect the sistrums
and cats that enlivened the display of skeletons.

These are the ideas which have awakened in me in the first moments of
my chagrin. This letter must carry a sense of my agitation, be kind
enough to read into it all the charm which it lacks. I am going to
make serious inquiries, before assembling the Glory of Cats with the
order and accuracy suitable to such an interesting, and equally
unknown, subject ignored by the commoners.

I have the honour to be, etc.

Notes to the First Letter

1. Monsieur de Fontenelle.
2. By M. de la Mothe le Vayer, under the name of Orasius Tubero.
Jacques Pelletier of the City of Mans, a Poet published in 1581,
wrote a Poem praising the Ant. Le Sieur Perrin, Introducer of
Ambassadors to the Duke of Orleans, put that eulogy into verse, and
wrote eulogies to the Cricket, Gnat, and Silkworm, printed in 1663.
3. One sees many people who cannot abide the sight of a Cat, on
account of the fear which these animais have caused in the mothers of
these persons while they were pregnant. Rech. de la vérité, vol. 1,
1.2, p. 18p. See also on page 175, the first note.
4. Mr. Locke. He holds the same opinion as Father Malbranche, but
adds that most often these antipathies, though believed natural, are
acquired. Their origin is the accidental joining of two ideas, which
the violence of a first impression, or a too great indulgence, has so
strongly united that afterwards they remain connected in a person's
mind. The ideas of spirits or of phantoms have no more relationship
to shadows than to the light, but if one succeeds in often
inculcating these different ideas in a child's mind, and in exciting
them as joined together, the child might never be able to separate
them throughout his life; the fear of Cats is, therefore, nothing but
one of these irregular combinations of ideas which dishonour our
understanding. Traité de l'entendement, p. 488-489, book 2, chap. 33,
trans. from the English.
M. de Coulange has written on the subject of children in one of his
We make them fear the werewolf;
We make them fear the bogeyman;
The Dragon comes out from his hole
To devour them as quick as he can;
These small unfortunates are made aware
That there are monsters everywhere.
5. Plutarch, Book of Envy and Hatred, page 107, translated by Amyot.
6. An outstanding example of the chimerical causes which almost
always underlie a person's hatred for Cats is found in the Poems of
Ronsard in an Epistle to the Poet Belleau.
No man alive hates Cats, the world around,
As much as I, with hatred so profound;
I hate their eyes, their faces and the way they stare,
And should I see one I will quickly flee elsewhere,
I tremble in nerve, and vein, and in each limb,
And never may a Cat can enter into my Room;
I abhorring those who, it seems, cannot abide
Life unless they have a Cat always by their side.

Thus far his declaration of hatred is explained in great detail: the
cat's eyes, its brow (face) and its gaze are singled out and set
before us. We imagine that the Poet will give his reasons for this
hatred, but that's not the case at all, and he moves on to this
But still this awful creature joins me on my bed
Stretches out his body right beside my head,
Seeking the feather pillow soft and deep,
Where on my left side I lie sound asleep.

This fortunate revelation of Ronsard's sleeping preference, proves as
much against Cats as against Ronsard. We then sensibly continue the
main subject:
For gladly on my left side I would slumber on
Until the crowing cock'rel wakens me at dawn.
But the Cat cries out, his caterwaul makes fright;
Beside myself, I waken startled in the night,
And sat bolt upright I call Servants to my room.
One lights a candle to illuminate the gloom;
It's such a happy sight, the other servant said,
To see how the white Cat favouring its Master's bed;
A single Cat, the other one assured me,
Signifies the end of some lenghty misery;
But with tearful eyes and deeply furrowed brow,
Unplacated I at once informed them how
The mewing of a Cat is but a prophecy
Of the onset of a long, vexatious malady;
And for what length of time it will confine me,
Just like the Cat, through four seasons it will find me,
Constant to his post in his Lord's household,
In Spring and Summer, in Autumn and in Winter cold,
Come sun or snow, dark night or brightest day,
The cat stands firm and never takes himself away,
He makes his rounds, and returns then to his chosen post,
Like some forgotten Roman Legionary's ghost
With Dog and Goose beside him, that latter named's harsh call,
Saved the Roman Capitol by giving warning of the Gauls.

There are so many inconsistencies in the orator's ideas and his rant.
He supports his antipathy to Cats by praising them, he mentions their
steady temperament and their faithfulness in guarding their Master's
home. Finally, he compares them to the sacred Geese who saved the
Capitol. It's not surprising that Ronsard's fame has not lasted. His
lack of philosophy highlighted the shortcomings of his Poetry, and
this work quite probably starts to confirm why this poet is not
generally held in contempt.
7. Orpheus brought the religious ceremonies of the Egyptians to
Greece, and passed them on to the Thebans. Diod. of Sicily, first
book, page 11.
8. Lucien, Dialogue of the Assembly of Gods.
9. Refer to The Antiquities of Father Montfaucon, Book VI of the
Supplement, plate XLIV of the eleventh Volume.
10. Brother of Osiris who was the husband of Isis, Diod. of Sic. book
1, page 6.
11. It was said that they truly changed themselves into the forms of
animals, and this was the reason that many animals were held to be
gods by the Egyptians. Natalis Comitis, Mythologies.
12. Son of Osiris and Isis.
13. Isis, daughter of Saturn and Rhea, and according some
Mythologists, of Jupiter and Juno, children of Saturn and Rhea,
succeeded them to the Kingdom of Egypt, gave laws to the Egyptians
and established the cult of the Gods. Diod.
"I am Isis, Egypt's perfect Queen, // Bubastis City it was built by
me." These words were carved in the city of Nysa in Arabia. Diod. qf
Sic., book l,pag. 6 and pag. 15.
Isis simultaneously Cybele, Minerva, Venus, Diana, Proserpine, Ceres,
Juno, Bellona, Hecate, and Rhamnusia; because of this that she has
been called Myrionyme, Goddess of a Thousand Names. Apulcius Metam.
Book XI.
14. Lib. de Matrim.
15. She said "Thus Jove became a ram, the Lord of flocks, and even to
this day Libyan Ammon is represented with curving horns; Apollo hid
in a crow's shape, Bacchus in a goat; the sister of Phoebus in a cat,
Juno in a snow-white cow, Venus in a fish, and Mercury in an ibis
bird. ' Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book V. translated by Miller.
16. The sistrum was a musical instrument; Isidore states that the
Amazons used it in war.

Illustration: Sistra
17. See the antiquities of Father Montfaucon, the second Volume of
the second part.
18. After killing Osiris, Typhon cut the body into twenty-six parts,
which he scattered and hid in different countries. Isis searched for
the body parts and gathered them together, with the exception of the
male parts, but she had an image made of these and consecrated it by
feasts and sacrifices, and called it Phallus. Diodorus, Plutarch, and
19. Biblus, Biblis, or Biblos, the maritime City of Phoenicia, is one
of the most ancient Cities in the world. Steph. Bizant.
In their Pamyliens feast, the Egyptians carried a triumphal statue
whose sex organs were exaggerated, in order to convey the idea that
generation is the principle behind all things. Plut. Chap. Of Isis
and of Osiris.
20. Arion, an inhabitant of Methymne, invented the Dithyramb. He
played the lyre so beautifully that when he threw himself into the
sea the Dolphins welcomed him and carried him to Taenarus. Pindar.
Plutarch. Ovid. Athenius.
"As the Dolphin goes his way // Skirting round the seacoast spray //
Where he hears the plangent sound // Of oboes... " Plutarch VII.
21. This song was called Hippotauron. Plutarch VII. Symposiacs.
22. Without resorting to past centuries for examples, in a province
of France we have animals over whom certain tones have the same
influence as Plutarch's song had over the mares.
They start by calling the lover by his name: Let's get along, my
handsome Martin, they say; let's get along, young vanquisher; haven't
we chosen you a charming mistress? Look how she views you with
favour; come along, what are you waiting for to make you happy? This
invitation, which is uttered with a sort of singing style, never
fails to produce the desired effect.
23. M. Grew and M. le Clerc. The changes in the windpipe are
remarkable among animals. The segments of this tube are so disposed
that they can be used by animals to give various modulations to their
voices. Among the Cats (who, in expressing the passions which possess
them, make use of various tones) these segments are separate and
flexible. Depending on whether they are more or less dilated, or
whether all or just some of them are so disposed, the tone will be
higher or lower, in the same way as the string of a viol under a
greater or lesser pressure of the finger. M. le Clerc, Bibl. chois,
tome I. p. 293 and 294. Extract from the Sacred Cosmology of M. Grew.
24. Styling itself infallible, this rigid mind // Denies in arrogance
the world beyond its ken. // know it not, so it's impossible: where
can we find // A truer syllogism of stupid men?
25. Pardus hiando felit. Philomel. Poem. Carm. 50.
26. According to Montagne, "These new Peoples of India, after being
conquered came to sue for peace and pardon from the men, and brought
them gold. They were on the point of offering as much of it to the
horses with a harangue completely identical to that for the men,
believing their neighing to be talk of compromise and truce."
26. Herod. in Euterp.
More inconstant than the clouds and sea
Shall we regret time's never-ending fickle flight?
Though you are forced to leave us, we are free
In your passing to seize our delight.
And hold onto your sweetest hours:
If life a thoroughfare must be
Along the way we will at least smell flowers.


Illustration: Statue of the Egyptian Cat Goddess Bastet

Although it was very late, Madame, when I closed my letter last
night, you will understand that it was impossible for me to sleep. I
spent the night reading all the books about Antiquity that I have. We
can now arm ourselves with beautiful quotations in Latin and also in
Greek, which are evidence for the glory of Cats, for it is necessary
that we do not spare our adversaries. It seems to me that it is
easier to be right in Greek than it is in French.

As we have sufficiently proved that the Cats had altars in Egypt, we
need not describe a number of ancient monuments which leave no room
for doubt in this matter. For the sake of accuracy we will only quote
all the images of this Divinity found in the table which lists the
mysteries of Isis, and point out that the Cat God called Elurus is
sometimes represented with human traits, a mystery of which a
scholarly commentator assures us is because a she-cat is very
comparable to the Moon, with which this animal, he says, conforms

But this assemblage of human traits in the Cat God has a metaphysical
cause, which I find even more important to clarify. I am sure,
Madame, that this struck you at once.

You know that the vanity of men makes them draw as close as possible
to what they have elevated above themselves. As soon as the Egyptians
had erected Altars to Elurus, they unconsciously substituted in him
some of their own features. It is represented in a monument having
the body of a man and the head of a Cat; it is adorned with several
more attributes common to Egyptian Figures, but the most worthy of
admiration is a crown of light that is cast from the God's head.
Father Montfaucon<2> remarks that if these are not actually rays they
come close to being so; if they are rays, he adds, they are
appropriate to this God, one of the most honoured of Egypt.

The reflection we have just made on the effects of self-esteem lead
us to suppose that the Egyptian ladies felt, in turn, the advantage
of resembling the Cat Goddess. No doubt it was they who gave some
human traits to the statues erected to her. How will they respond
when we reveal the portrait of the Cat Goddess depicted as a
beautiful woman, adorned with a beautiful plume in the manner of
Egyptian figures, and holding a kind of sceptre<3> at the top of
which is the goblet whose allegory we have already mentioned, or when
we show her seated with dignity in an armchair? Could we see another
monument of this beautiful Goddess keeping her Cat's head properly
poised on the body of a woman without admiring it? She wears a type
of headdress that covers her shoulders and part of her arms, and
which reveals a ravishing bosom. She has a tunic that descends
modestly to her ankles, and holds below her breast a man's head
restrained by the chin, a manifest symbol of the ascendency which the
Egyptians believed she had over the heart; and on the other arm she
holds a kind of urn, which was apparently another mysterious eulogy
of her charms.<4>

With this assemblage of graces, isn't it easy to believe that the Cat
Goddess was regarded in Egypt as the mother of Love? All the beauties
of Memphis probably prided themselves on resembling her, and the
Poets who made verses in her honour had the art to have eyes as round
and luminous as those of the Goddess. You can well imagine the
annoyance of women who make a great show of fearing Cats when we
convince them that there is no greater flattery than to be revered as
greatly as an Egyptian Cat.

It would not be a daring idea to call the Cat Goddess the Mother of
Love. It was Isis herself whom the Egyptians adored under that
pleasant form; and Isis presided over the heart. Lovers appealed to
her to give them the gift of pleasing; they doubtless called upon her
to persuade their mistresses, while they swore by the number thirty-
six,<6> the most solemn and sacred of their oaths.

Let us now clarify things, that is to say, let us talk about the
worship of the Cat God.

Each Egyptian divinity had several priests, one of whom had
superiority;<7> and it was from the order of these priests that the
Egyptians elected their Kings. It appears that the Pontiff of the
Cats always had most right to the Crown. We must remember, I believe,
that these priests bathed twice a day in cold water; that they were
dressed in linen, since the flax flower is a heavenly blue colour. We
can also say that their sandals were made from a certain plant called
papyrus.<8> It only remains for us to put this word into Greek, and
claim a miracle about this plant. The Biblians claimed that a head
made from the papyrus plant was carried regularly every year from
Egypt to Biblus for a period of seven days. They regarded this wonder
as testimony of the favour of their God Osiris.<9> It is true that
this fable only slightly touches upon to our subject; but at least it
will illustrate the footwear of our Priests, and one more quote is
not to be neglected. We can add that these High Priests, by reason of
cleanliness suited to the dignity of their office, shaved the body
regularly every three days.<10>

We can presume, and it seems to me a very prudent remark to make,
that these Priests, in their ceremonies, conformed as far as possible
to the Spirit and attributes of the Divinity to which they were
devoted; and thus joyfulness, physical suppleness, and pantomime
attitudes must have made up the main part of the mysteries of the Cat
God. If Signor Tomasini, who gracefully performs the role of
Harlequin in our Italian Comedy, had lived in the time of the ancient
Egyptians, the devotees of the Cat God would have regarded him as the
image of the Divinity. Such strange contradiction of the human mind!
That which is comic on the Stage today would then have constituted
all the dignity of the Temple.

But regarding Cats as Divinities proves only human foolishness, and
are no more illustrative in this respect than the Egyptian Storks,
the Rats, and the God of Farts,<11>, which have also had their
mysteries; nothing better characterizes this rivalry than a fable of
Monsieur de la Mothe, entitled the Gods of Egypt. It is one of those
which, in substance and form, is most charming and philosophical.<12>

Let us leave such an extravagant religion<13> to establish the pre-
eminence that Cats had over other animals in Egyptian society. They
personally enjoyed the most honourable distinctions and privileges.
When an Egyptian deliberately killed a Cercopithecus, which is a type
of Monkey, or an Ichneumon, a type of Rat, which according to Elianus
destroys Crocodiles, or the Apis Bull himself, it cost him his life.
But the law was far more severe regarding those who made an attack
upon Cats, whether deliberately or by accident. They were immediately
handed over to the secular arm. The people seized them, and furiously
tore them to pieces, so, as soon as an Egyptian saw a dead Cat, he
took himself away from it, tearful and trembling, and went to
announce this catastrophe, protesting his own innocence, and the
whole Town was filled with clamour.<14> Then the Magistrates
ceremoniously came to remove the body; they embalmed it with scented
Cedar oil, and several other aromatic herbs necessary to preserve
it.<15> They then transported it to Bubastis to be interred in a
sacred building.

The honourable treatment which they were given during their lives
shows even better how valued they were in society. The Egyptians
perfumed them and provided them with sumptuous beds to sleep in. They
employed all the secrets of medicine to treat and preserve those who
were born with a delicate constitution; at the right time, they gave
each she-cat a suitable husband, paying great attention to matching
their tastes, temperaments and features.<16>

When a blaze broke out, the Cats played quite another role. They went
into a divine fury: the Egyptians, accustomed to this marvel,
neglected the blaze, and surrounded the cats. Some of these tutelary
Cats escaped and leapt over the assembly, throwing themselves into
the flames. When this misfortune occurred, the Egyptians went into
solemn mourning.<17>

This mourning was so marked and so sincere, that the women forgot
about their beauty; and, to avoid the shame of still looking
attractive during such reasonable sadness, they smeared their faces
and ran dishevelled around the city, in a state of desolation. They
tied their clothes at the waist and beat their uncovered breasts,
their nearest relatives, also half-naked, followed them, abandoned to
the delirium caused by the great sorrow.<18>

Who knows if the example of this fable was not the secret source that
determined Q. Curtius's generous action? There is every reason to
believe that his devotion to the safety of his country, in throwing
himself into the abyss, was only an imitation of the heroism of the
Cats of Egypt.

When a Cat died a natural death, all its acquaintances fell into
consternation; they bore the marks of their sorrow to the point of
shaving their eyebrows.<19> There may have been such a Cat in Memphis
whose funeral obsequies were more lavish and more widely observed 
than those of Alcestis and Ephestion. Admetus,<20> to demonstrate his
sorrow at the loss of this beloved wife, ordered that they should cut
the manes of the horses that drew the funeral hearse.<21> Alexander,
it is true, cropped the manes of all the horses in his empire,
stipulated the same for the mules, and pulled down the battlements of
the cities. But what are such sacrifices compared to the tears of the
most beautiful women of Egypt, running in disarray through the town,
and demanding yet again of Destiny a Cat whose best days have been
cut short by the Fates? What could match so many eyebrows shaved from
the most respected foreheads in all Egypt?<22> And what effort was
not spared in maintaining the household Cat? What concern for all its
tastes? What attention to giving it a pleasant life? We have seen an
offended Cat cause political projects to miscarry, and sow disorder
and rebellion. Egypt, under one of the Ptolemies, was the scene of
this great adventure; the name of the Romans being equally feared and
honoured there at this time. The Egyptians submitted to everything
that came out of Italy. It happened that a Roman made some sort of
unintended insult to a Cat, nevertheless, all the people took arms
against him in revenge, and neither the presence of Magistrates, nor
the threats of Ptolemy, could stop their fury. The guilty man was
butchered, and thus the power of Rome could not be enforced when it
rivalled the cause of an offended Cat.

This respect for animals influenced all the actions of the Egyptians.
Those who lived in the cities consecrated their children to these
sacred animals. You judge well, Madame, that it could only have been
to Cats that fashionable people were devoted. Here is how this
ceremony went. They shaved the child's head either entirely, or half,
or only a third of it, then the hair was weighed in a balance against
a proportional quantity of gold or silver, and when the weight of
metal prevailed this offering was given to the person who cared for
the Cat to whom the child had just been dedicated: with this sum he
bought fish and bread, which he mixed with milk to feed the revered

This function was extremely envied and they paraded the marks of it
with pomp. They openly wore wore the portrait of the Cat to whom they
had been consecrated: this display gained the respect of citizens who
were always ready to prostrate themselves before those to whom the
care of sacred animals had been entrusted;<24> and, as each Palace
dedicated to animals contained only a single species only, imagine,
Madame, the great fortune of a citizen whose sole satisfaction during
his life was to care for the Cats and thus enjoy the high esteem of
the public.<25>

This love of Cats among the Egyptians never appeared with greater
constancy and greatness of soul than in the war they had to sustain
against Cambyses in the fourth year of his reign. They were then
governed by Psammenitus who had just succeeded Amasis.

The ambitious Cambyses, unable to force entry into Egypt without
first taking control of the town of Peluse, <26> which appeared
impregnable, devised a stratagem worthy of his high policy. Knowing
that the garrison of this town was composed entirely of Egyptians, he
put at the head of his troops a great number of Cats: his captains
and his soldiers each bore a cat as a buckler. It was only because of
these chiefs that his army took control of Peluse. The Egyptians,
afraid confusing these Cats with their enemies, dared not launch any
arrow, and allowed themselves to be conquered instead.<27>

Here are all my discoveries so far, Madame, and as I do not trust my
own knowledge alone, I will consult all the scientific minds of
Europe. You judge well, that I will spare neither time nor effort.
Works that are only a game of the mind, ask only a moment of our
leisure; but one feels carried away by real rivalry, when one
undertakes some essential point of history.

I have the honour to be etc.

Notes to the Second Letter

1. Vignière adds: Through this symbol the Egyptians sought to
understand the Moon, with which this beast has a great accord and
conformity of habit, whether you observe the changes, spots, and
specks of her skin, or her cunning, or that she goes abroad more by
night than by day, besides which they say that, in her first
pregnancy, she produces one kitten, produces two in her second, three
in her third, and so on consecutively up to the seventh, each time
increasing by one; so that in her whole life she eventually has as
many kittens as one counts days in each lunation; for all these
numbers added together amount to twenty-eight; furthermore the
enlargement of the pupils of her eyes at the full Moon, and their
contraction in its waning, gives us enough reason to understand the
degree by which she conforms and adapts to this Star's permutations.
Notes sur Philostrat. chap. du Nil, pag. 37, 1615 edition.
2. Sixth book of the Antiquities, eleventh Volume of the Supplement,
forty-fourth plate.
3. Possibly an augur's baton.
4. Antiq. Of F. Montfaucon, Book VI, Vol. II, plate XLV.
5. To satisfy ourselves that Cats can have a true relationship with
the graces and with beauty, without seeking out authorities in Egypt,
is there not in Paris an infinitely agreeable person nicknamed
Princess Miaou? I certainly know of no sworn enemy of Cats who would
not consider herself most fortunate to resemble her.
6. In Plutarch, who tells of this oath, we are not told why it was
current among the Egyptians. What relationship does the number
thirty-six have to the tenderness of a lover? Surely the preference
given to this number over all others comes from the fact that thirty-
six has a greater number of factors than the preceding numbers,
except for 24, which is equal to it in this regard, but which still
yields to it in that 36 is a square, and that 24 is not.
7. Plutarch in Isis and Osiris. These priests led an extremely
austere life. They were forbidden to drink wine and did not offer it
to their Gods; they regarded this liquor as made from the blood of
Giants who made war on the Gods, which produced wine when it
moistened the ground. Plutarch ib.
8. A type of reed from which paper is made in Egypt; this paper was
used throughout the known world before the invention of rag paper.
The Kings of Egypt were most jealous of this secret, and the
Egyptians alone carried on this commerce.
9. In Dea Syr. Luci.
10. Euterp. C. 37. Herodot.
11. See Volume II of the second part of the Antiquity of Father
Montfaucon. See also the Memoirs of M. de Sallengre, on the
Dissertation of M. Terrin of the Academy of Arles concerning the Dieu
Pet. pag.18.
12. In Egypt of old each beast was a God
While men were all dull as beasts;
The animal elsewhere denied an abode
Had in Egypt both Temples and Feasts.
One day, sacrificed at the Shrine of the Cat,
Was a flawless white Rat to the feline Most High:
Next day was the turn of the mighty God Rat;
One thing alone would satisfy,
That at his Temple a feline should die, etc.
13. The women of Egypt rendered a rather ridiculous homage to the
Bull Apis. This is how this ceremony is described by Amyot after
Diodorus of Sicily. When Apis dies, the Priests first bring a Calf
into the City of the Nile, and feed it for 40 days. Afterwards it is
put into a covered ship on which there is a cabin or deckhouse of
gold, and conducted like a God to the City of Memphis. There it is
lodged it in the Temple of Vulcan, and right from the start only
women may look upon the Bull, and when before it their dresses are
raised... The rest is too indecent to be reported here. Trad.
d'Amyot. book I, p. 55.
14. If anyone killed a cat, whether intentionally or accidentally, he
was certain to be dragged away, usually in a very rough manner, and
beaten without benefit of the law by the mob that had come together
about the corpse, etc. pag. 74, edit. ann. 1604.
15. Indeed in the town of Bubastis dead cats are carried to a sacred
edifice where they are embalmed and ceremoniously interred. Herod.
book 2, c. 67.
According to Herodotus,the ancient Egyptian city of Bubastis was
situated on the eastern shore of the Nile delta.
The Grand Priest Onias built a Fortress at Bubastis. Joseph, b. 7, c.
30, War of the Jews.
This City was the preferred as the sepulchre of Cats, and was one of
the most renowned of Egypt. Feasts in honour of the Goddess Diana
were celebrated there, and as many as sixty-thousand men and women
might travel by ship for the feasts. They sailed to the sound of
flutes and cymbals, and when they were about to land, the women,
cried out loudly to surnmoned the inhabitants, who gathered on the
bank, and joined in their dances and concerts. So they progressed to
the Temple where the sacrifices were conducted with extreme
magnificence. Herod. L. D. Euterp.
16. Plutarch.
17. When a fire broke out something akin to the supernatural took
hold of the cats. The Egyptians, ignoring the fire, immediately tried
to save the cat, for the cats, to tell the truth, whether from
distraction or from leaping around to get away, fling themselves into
the fire. When this occurs there is great lamentation among the
Egyptians. Herodot. second book.
18. Herodotus. Second book.
19. They shave off the eyebrows. Herodot.
20. You who harness together the fourfold chariot teams and take care
of the single riding horses, shear close the manes from their necks.
Euripides. Alcestis. edit. Aldi 1505
21. Diodorus of Sicily reported that in his time a person charged
with the care of one of these sacred animals spent up to nine
thousand marks for its funeral rites, pag. 54.
22. Indeed so greatly did men venerate animals, and to such lengths
did everyone take this obstinate reverence, that under the
circumstances even King Ptolemy's title of 'Friend of the State' was
revoked by the Romans, and the common people, made apprehensive,
anxiously gathered together to obsequiously honour the persons
arrived from Italy and give them no cause for crime or strife. But if
a cat was killed by some Roman the mob rushed to his home and neither
the King's officials, sent to intercede, nor the commoners' fear of
Rome could save him from retribution however much the deed might have
been accidental. What we relate comes not from hearsay but from what
we ourselves witnessed during our Egyptian journey. Diod. Sicul. pag.
23. As set forth in various languages, they serve up bread crumbled
in milk accompanied by much tongue-clicking Poppyssimo. for their
cats or fed them with shredded fish from the Nile. Diod. of Sic. p.
24. Egyptian cities were taxed to pay for an infinite number of
Portraits of sacred animais, which were distributed to the Citizens.
Diod. Herod.
25. In truth this ritual has not changed appreciably, or rather the
people are ashamed to deviate openly; on the contrary, as if they
would furnish the gods with highest honour s, they march round the
cities with appropriate signs, and you can see from a distance which
animals they care for by the bending of everyone's knees; in
addition, the animals are honoured in other ways. Diod. of Sicily, p.
26. Peluse was formerly called Avaris, and even earlier was called
Triplion, according to Manethon.
27. Polyenus book III, Herodotus book II, Diod. of Sicily book I.
Also Prideaux History of the Jews Vol. I, book 3, page 303.


Our work advances, Madame; many intelligent people have perceived its
usefulness, and have assisted me with their ideas; seriously, I fear
that the lady of the day before yesterday did not faint in good
faith: it is no longer fashionable to do anything but play at certain
fears, so soon enough no one will think of being afraid of Cats.
Women scarcely adopt anything ridiculous unless it carries some
pleasing quality; their vanity is in this regard is rather more
sensitive than our own.

But will it be enough for us to see the antipathy for Cats disappear?
Should not all eyes be open to their merit?
Will you never return, Astraea's happy age?
Those days of peace and pleasure, drunk on joy,
Where, love once sworn and given sway,
Reigned in the heart, forever and anon;
And where the tender, cherished wife
Knew no sweeter spell than that
Of passing all her happy life
Between her bridegroom and her Cat.<1>

But, Madame, let's not be held back by too flattering ideas, let's
move on to some of the historical truths which we still have to

The Arabs adored a golden Cat;<2> they had so great an opinion of
Cats that they could never bring themselves to believe in an origin
similar to that of other animals. They singled out the cat in a fable
which soon acquired the authority of history among them. According to
this fable, the rats multiplied in the Ark and devoured the food of
the other animals without restraint. Noah resolved to destroy them,
and finding himself near the lion, he gave him a slap in the face.
This slap made the lion sneeze; he sneezed out a beautiful Cat, the
first Cat who came to make war on the Mice.<3>

This marvellous event was, as you see, Madame, was only poorly
developed by the Arabian Author; he never explained what prompted
Noah to choose to slap the lion; but fortunately we find this same
fable rendered more clearly in one of the Persian Letters. This is
how it is told. Out of the pig's nose came a rat which went about
gnawing everything that in front of him. This became so unbearable to
Noah that he thought it advisable to consult God again. He was
ordered to give the lion a great blow on the forehead, making the
beast sneeze a cat out of its nose. <4>

The events of this Fable, fortunately restored by the author of the
Persian Letters, prove with what choice and delicacy he felt the
exact touches for putting the true niceties into a work; and this
fragment of the history of Cats probably contributed a great deal to
the success of a book so generally applauded. And the Persians,
Madame (we know that they were an enlightened people) can we believe
they did not hold Cats in high esteem? We have only to read what
happened during the reign of one of their most illustrious kings. He
was called Hormus. Quiet in the midst of peace, this Monarch learned
that an army of three hundred thousand men commanded by his kinsman,
Prince Shabe-Shah, was invading his Empire. He assembled his
Ministers, and while he deliberated on such a pressing contingency, a
venerable old man presented himself, and spoke thus: King, the army
of the rebel can be destroyed in a single day. You have in your realm
the hero to whom this victory is reserved. You will know him among
your captains by a distinction as rare as it is to his advantage; but
in order not to appear suspicious in what I propose, I must remind
you of the services I gave to your illustrious father, King
Nuchirvan. It was to me that this monarch entrusted the task of
asking for one of his daughters in marriage from the Khacan of the
Turks. I was introduced into the Palace of the Princesses; they all
appeared to me extremely beautiful, I would indeed have been at a
loss to decide had I believed that beauty alone should determine my
choice; but I wanted it to be the qualities of the heart and spirit
that tipped the scales. I asked Khakhan for the liberty of remaining
at his Court for some time in order to become acquainted with the
character of his daughters the princesses. They all showed an equal
eagerness to become the King of Persia's wife. I secretly examined
the various tricks each played to induce me into giving her the
preference. Only one (the one who has become the Queen your mother)
and this one alone, I say, used nothing but the same manner which she
had always kept; this was a great sweetness in her character, and the
same relish for her duties, a certain charm in her spirit that made
her loved by all who approached her. After all, to fix my choice, she 
did not try to appear other than she was. I thought I recognized by
this mark the true quality of virtue. I asked for her in the name of
my King, and her father, the Emperor, following the custom of his
Realm, had the Princess' horoscope cast by the most able astrologers
before her departure: They all agreed on one circumstance: they
predicted that she would bear a son who would surpass all of his
Ancestors in fame; that this Prince would be attacked by one of the
Kings of Turkestan, over whom he would obtain a complete victory if
he were fortunate enough to find one of his subjects who had the
countenance of a wild Cat.

This story finished, the old man who had the Science of the Sages,
disappeared in a flash.

The King now thought only of finding the hero who was destined to
save his realm. The old man had not given his name, nor any
information as to where he lived; but the fortunate likeness to a Cat
quickly made him recognise the person of Baharam, nicknamed Kounin.
He came from the Princes of Rei's line, and governed the Province of
Adherbigan at the time.<5> Hormus urged him to take the command of
his army, and was marvellously surprised when Baharam chose only
twelve thousand men to fight the three hundred thousand rebels; this
troop, animated by the admirable omen of their general's countenance,
conquered the enemy army. With his own hand Baharam slew Prince
Shabe-Shah, and took his son prisoner, therefore the victory most
worthy of illustrating Persia can be considered as the work of Cats.
When Sennacherib,<6> King of the Arabs and Assyrians, lost the famous
battle against the King of Egypt, would he have experienced this
great reversal of fortune had he taken the precaution of having Cats
in his army? He was camped near Peluse, when one night rural rats
fell upon his camp, gnawing the bows and the straps that secured the
shields. Sethon,<7> who reigned in Egypt at the time, and who had
only a handful of soldiers, attacked Sennacherib's troops at that
point, who without arms had no means other than flight or captivity.
Had the King of the Assyrians been seconded by some Cats, he would
have conquered Egypt.

If not all celebrated Historians have also endeavoured to record the
marvellous events occasioned by the Cats, we at least find that they
generally all have a marked esteem for them. Lucian, in his Dialogue
of the Assembly of Gods, examining the animals honoured in Egypt,
ridicules the monkeys, baboons, and sphinxes, but he maintains a
respectful silence towards the Cats. This restraint in a cynical
philosopher can only be regarded as a veritable eulogy; and this is
not the only occasion where Cats have been treated with great
respect. Among the Romans, Dogs were never allowed to enter the
Temples of Hercules;<8> the sacrifice would have been interrupted,
and the mysteries profaned. Those who had made this law had doubtless
foreseen that Cats, who by their agility could make their way into
places forbidden to dogs, could easily find a way into these
Temples,<9> as Cats are never mentioned in this law of exclusion.

What more obvious proof that the presence of Cats was regarded
favourably in the most august assemblies? We have already shown them
in the place of honour at Egyptian feasts, eating, and delighting the
table by the charm of their voices. This circumstance of their
triumph, which may seem most difficult to believe, finds however a
clear enough proof in what Plutarch<10> says on the subject of
cicadas, which he calls musicians. He claims that they were esteemed
as such by Pythagoras; and that it was because of their music that he
forbade anyone to allow swallow's nests to remain on the houses,
because those birds ate Cicadas. We will not dispute the point, I
believe that Pythagoras was the most delicate connoisseur of music
that Antiquity had.

Whoever hears the music of the spheres, who feels that Planet Earth
produces by its movement an exact third or octave with the sound
formed by the Planet Venus, must be believed when he declares that
Cicadas are Musicians; and in good faith, if their song is melodious,
he would have to be very ill-disposed to deny Cats<11> the same
advantage. We admit that the voice of Cats is more strident; and,
besides, we more clearly distinguish the variety and design of their
song; it is so simple and so agreeable that children who have just
left the cradle remember it and find pleasure imitating it. But we
have, Madame, in a party given at the Court of Louis XI, a music
beside which a concert of Cats becomes the simplest thing in the
world. They had the idea of performing an Opera of an entirely new
sort before this Prince; it consisted only of pigs, and it was very
successful.<12> After this example, we would blush, as you may well
judge, Madame, to continue to support approval of the music of Cats.
Those who are not sensitive to it can only blame the little care they
have taken to cultivate their taste.

Hermes Trismegistus discovered first in Egypt that the three parts of
Music had a considerable relation to the seasons of the year: that
the treble resembled Summer, the bass Winter, and the middle range
the Spring;<13> we did not expect these resemblances. Music has a
number of characteristics which only present themselves when one is
quite determined to discover them; we still have confused ideas about
the qualities expressed in the voices of Cats. Wit is to be hoped
that one day a new Trismegistus will make them understandable, and
make their nicety and their beauty known; perhaps this curious
knowledge is not so far removed as one might think. A man of our
times, to whom we owe some very pleasant poems,<14> has made himself
even more commendable by his study of the Language of Cats,<15> a
satisfying study and one which is happily successful in that he
understands exactly what the different inflections of their voices
express; and what is admirable is that to acquire this ability you
need only once listen to a recitation of this Dialogue he composed,
where two Lovers converse. Here, Madame, is this charming scene; it
loses much if it is only read, though it was written with elegance
and precision; the manner of declaiming Cat-fashion, as he does,
gives it a complete air of realism. The scene is the kitchen

The she-cat, watching the spit go round and is washing her face:
That's nice.

The tomcat catching sight of the she-cat, approaches her timidly: Are
you doing anything?

The she-cat gives him only a half-glance: Ohn.

The tomcat says in passionate tones: Are you doing anything?

The she-cat, modestly: Oh nothing much.

The tomcat, piqued: I dreamed it then.

The she-cat, softening: No-o

The tomcat appearing to move away: I dreamed it then.

The she-cat, sheepishly: Go upstairs, (louder) Go upstairs.

Together they run up the stairs.: Let's go upstairs (louder) let's go

The two Lovers quickly arrive on the roof; and the scene ends with
amorous outcries, interspersed with those naive expressions used in
our older Romances, and which the delicacy of the century has
banished from the works.

I have the honour to be, etc.

Notes to the Third Letter

1. Plato's depiction of the golden age under Saturn lists one of the
principal advantages of men at that time as their communication with
animals. They introduced themselves to each animals and made
inquiries, coming to understand the true qualities, and acquiring a
most perfect intelligence, and leading much longer and happier lives
than we could know how to lead. Montagne chap. 12, pag. 210.
2. In the city of Nabata a golden Cat was worshipped by the Arabs.
Plin. book VI. cap. XXIX. de Fele sive catto animali.
3. According to the Genharime, Murtadi, a Resident of the Arabian
city of Tybe, in 1584 prepared a Treatise on the wonders of Egypt.
This was translated into French by Valtier in 1665, and it is from
this Treatise that this tradition is taken.
4. In this letter, entitled Ottoman Tradition, the spirit of Japhet
speaks and is interrogated by the Jew Ibesalon.
5. Or Medea.
6. Bibliotheque Orientale, cites Kondemire,
7. Sethon, Priest of Vulcan, succeeded blind Anysis. Anysis was
dethroned at the start of his reign by an Ethiopian named Sabach, who
after coming to the throne showed only the virtues of a true Monarch.
Having been warned in a dream his safety would necessitate gathering
together all the Priests of Egypt and cutting them in half at the
waist, he preferred to relinquish the Crown and return it to Egypt
rather than to keep it by performing such an inhuman act. After
Sabach's abdication, Anysis reascended the throne and, upon his
death, was succeeded by Sethon. Herod.
8. The Priest of Jupiter, called the Flamen Dial, was forbidden from
having any dog in his house, and equally forbidden to say the
creatures name, because, says Plutarch, the dog is a naturally
violent and quarrelsome animal. L. des Demand. des Chos. Romaines.
9. The Greeks were careful to bar dogs from their Sacrifices of
Purification, a custom which they called Peryscylacism. Plutarch in
Romul. pag. 37, Amyot's translation.
10. Because there was a Temple to Diana on the Acropolis, and also on
the Isle of Delos which was sacred to her, no dogs were allowed in
those places, because dogs indecently couple in public. Plutarch liv.
11. Cats are so happily constituted for music that they are the soul
of a concert, even after their death. The violin is the most
agreeable of ail the Instruments: the first string of the violin is
the most sonorous and the most moving, and the best of these are made
of Catgut.
12. Louis XI one day requested the Abbé de Baigne, a very clever man
and an inventor of new things (where musical instruments were
concerned) who was in his service, to create something harmonious out
of pigs, believing that no-one would ever be able to do this.
Undismayed, the Abbé de Baigne asked him for money to do it with, and
this was delivered to him without delay. The Abbé devised something
as peculiar as anyone had ever seen. A great number of pigs of
various ages were assembled under a velvet-covered tent or pavilion
in front of which was a wooden table painted with a number of keys
and resembling an organ. As he touched those keys they made little
barbs prick the pigs. This made them squeak and grunt in such order
and harmony that the King and his companions were pleased by it.
Bouchet. Annales d'Aquitaine, fol. 164.
13. Diodorus of Sicily, book I, pag. 7.
14. Monsieur Hautetot.
15. Aesop understood the language of crows and of jays. Plutarch
livre du Banq. des sept Sages.


Alexander and the Caesars<1> saw cities eager to bear their names;
Cats enjoy the same glory.

Near Paphos which, without regard for Poetry, has changed its name to
that of Bafa, is a famous Cape at the tip of the Isle of Cyprus
called the Cape of she-cats, and it is with justice that their memory
is highly honoured there. We see there the ruins of a Monastery whose
monks formerly kept a great number of Cats to make war on the
Serpents that laid waste to the country;<2> and these cats were so
well disciplined that at the sound of a certain bell they all
returned to the Abbey at mealtimes, and afterwards went backto the
countryside, where they continued their hunt with zeal and admirable
skill.<3> When the Turks conquered this island the cats were all
destroyed along with the Monastery: changes ofrulership always
involve great disasters.

It was only in the sixteenth century that we finally possessed any of
that breed of Cats so beloved in the Levant.<4> I have carefully
researched the evidence of their establishment in France, and the
details of the different branches which have been spread here; but in
order to better illustrate the history of this house I have prepared
this genealogy. I send it to you, Madame; please inform me if the
style seems sufficiently clear to you, and sufficiently well ordered.
Historical Genealogy Illustrating the House of Brinbelle, Originally
from Asia.

Brinbelle, first of that name, was born in Constantinople in the
1101st year of the Hegira, equivalent to the year 1699 of our era,
first married the favourite Cat of the Grand Seigneur. After losing
this husband, she embarked on a journey to France, and gave birth in
the ship to two posthumous she-cats. She married a second time in
Paris, to Marmotin on the May 1st, 1700; and her third wedding was on
August 17th, 1704, to the famous Ratillon d'Austrazie.

The heroic conduct she kept after the revolutions that happened in
the sex of her third husband, will make her famous as long as there
are she-cats in the world. This event is dealt with in great detail
in the following letter:

Litter 1: Brinbelle II and Manon I

Having been sent to the country without her confession, she became
fiercely depressed, and no longer deigned to interact with men. She
eventually reappeared, however, with the same sweetness of character
that she had been known for. She brought with her two young kittens,
her children, whose father is unknown; and seeing that they were
welcomed, and satisfied at their establishment, she returned to her
lonely country. These beautiful kittens were named the two
Areopagites, because of their serious demeanour and their measured

Arreopagite the Elder, and Arreopagite Cadet - Their character is
very amiable, though rather cold at first. They are only at ease with
their true friends; but then they have the most engaging ways in the

Litter 2: The Grand Rouroux (Great Red)

Litter 3: The Grand Blanblanc (Great White)

Neither one of these had any posterity, due to the perfidy of the
traitor, Chaudronier.

Remarks: I considered it necessary to set down this genealogy in
imitation of those of the People of the Indies, who trace their
descent through the female line the lines of descent are more
accurate, and moreover it is a she-cat who is the source of this
admirable line of Asiatic Cats in France.

Note. - In this Genealogy of Brinbelle, the date of her arrival in
France is false, those of the births of her illustrious children are
also false; apart from this, the genealogy is extremely faithful.

The renown of Cats is spread throughout the Orient; in Constantinople
they are treated with the same consideration as the children of a
household. We need see only the foundations established by highly-
placed people for the care of Cats who choose to live in
independence. There are open houses where they are courteously
received, where an expensive table is set for them, and where they
can spend the nights; and if these dwellings are situated somewhere
that does not suit the health of any of them, they can choose another
refuge, there being a great number of these establishments in almost
all the cities.<5> The oldest writing about Cats have among the Turks
is a tradition connected to the history of Mahomet; it is certainly
the most beautiful episode of his life. He cherished his Cat so
greatly that one day, when he was consulted upon a point of Religion,
he preferred to cut off the trim of his sleeve, which it was resting
on, rather than wake it up when he went to speak to the person
waiting for him.<6>

Let us return to this great passion that Asians have for Cats. Some
may object that it is only the result of superstition. The example of
Mahomet, it will be said, is the only motive; but, to show the
fallacy of this reasoning, we need only refer to history.

Mahomet, among all his followers, had the most intimate confidence
for Abdorraham and wished to honour him by giving him a shining
nickname. It was Arab custom to be called the father of something
connected with your manners or talents; this was how Chalid,
Mahomet's host during his journey from Medina, acquired the name
Abujob – Father of Job - because of his extreme patience. Among
Abdorraham's most esteemed qualities, Mahomet judged it impossible to
draw a more honourable nickname than that reflecting his attachment
to a Cat that he always carried in his arms. He therefore gave him
the excellent nickname of Abuhareira, i.e. Father of the Cat.<7>

Mahomet then, in the first stages of his seduction, weighed all his
demands; he was too astute to name a disciple to whom he wished to
give authority Father of the Cat, unless Cats were regarded in high
esteem by the Arabs. The effect that proper names produce in our
imagination surely give us reason to believe that, in all countries,
there has always been an idea of elevation or degradation attached to
those proper names? It doubtless would have been a great oddity in
Mecca and Medina to call himself Father of Pigs, since these animals
were proscribed by the Koran.<8>

An Oriental tradition of the origin of cats seems to have escaped the
researches of different travellers, but it seems to me to be more
important than any of those just reported, being plausible in its
circumstances. I have it from a Mulla,<9> who accompanied in France
the late Ambassador of the Porte. Here is this tradition:

During the first days that the animals spent shut up in the Ark,
astonished by the ship's movements and by the new home they found
themselves in, they all remained in their separate quarters without
finding out much their animal neighbours. The monkey was the first to
get bored of this sedentary life; he proceeded to tease a young
lioness in his neighbourhood. This example caught on universally and
a spirit of coquetry spread throughout the Ark and lasted throughout
the voyage and, among some animals, even when back on dry land. An
astonishing number of infidelities occurred between the different
species, resulting in the birth of previously unknown animals.<10>
The affair between the monkey and the lioness resulted in the birth
of two Cats, one male and one female, who, in marked difference to
the other animals born of the gallantries that went on in the Ark,
were born with the faculty of reproducing their own species.

All the nations of Asia are full of traditions that glorify Cats,
even among the Indians where the Brahmins, those first Philosophers,
have long maintained a high reputation, we see in their works of
Philosophy a parallel drawn between Brahmins and Cats. I have
discovered in this respect an authentic enough fragment of the
history of the Gods of India; it is a handwritten manuscript which is
in the hands of a person known for great wit and profound

A Fragment from the History of the Gods of India - The Cat, The
Brahmin, and The Penitent.

An Indian king named Salamgam had at his court a Brahmin<12> and a
Penitent,<13> both famous for their virtuousness. Between them there
arose between them a rivalry and a dissension which often resulted in
many marvellous events.

One day, as these illustrious champions disputed before the King over
which of them was most virtuous, the Brahmin, outraged at seeing the
Penitent share the court's esteem with him, declared loudly that his
own virtue was so acceptable before the God Parabaravarastou, who in
India is King of the First Order of Divinities, that he could
instantly and at will transport himself into any of the seven Heavens
to which the Indians aspire. The Penitent took the Brahmin at his
word; and the King, whom they had chosen to judge their disputes,
ordered him to proceed to the Heaven of Devendiren,<14> and to bring
back from it a flower from the Parisadam tree, whose mere odour
conveys immortality.

The Brahmin bowed deeply to the King, rose upwards, and disappeared
in a flash. The Court waited in astonishment, but did not doubt that
the Brahmin would lose the wager. The Heaven of Devendiren had never
been accessible to mortals. It is the residence of forty-eight
million Goddesses, whose husbands are one hundred and twenty-four
million Gods, of whom Devendiren is Sovereign; and the flower
Parisadam, of which he is extremely jealous, is the chief delight of
his Heaven.

The Penitent took great care to point out all these difficulties, and
was already applauding the impending shame of his rival, when the
Brahmin suddenly reappeared with the famous flower which he could
only have picked in the gardens of the God Devendiren. The King and
the whole Court fell to their knees in admiration, and the Brahmin's
virtue was exalted to the highest degree. Only the Penitent refused
to give tribute. 'King,' he said, 'and you, too easily deceived
court, you regard the Brahmin's access to the Heaven of Devendiren as
a great marvel. It is only the work of a common virtue; understand
that I send my Cat there whenever I please, and that Devendiren
receives it with all sorts of friendliness and distinctions.' Without
waiting for a reply, he made his Cat Patripatan appear and said a
word in its ear. The cat rose up, and in full sight of the rapt
Court, was lost in the clouds, pierced through them into the Heaven
of Devendiren, who took him in his arms, and gave him a thousand

Up to that point, the Penitent's project went marvellously; but the
favourite Goddess of Devendiren was struck, as though by a 
thunderbolt, with such a fancy for the amiable Patripatan that she
was determined to keep him.

Devendiren, to whom the Cat had first explained the subject of his
embassy, opposed this. He argued that Patripatan was awaited with
impatience at the court of King Salamgam; that the Cat had left there
risking the reputation of a Penitent, and that the greatest affront
one could do to anyone was to steal his Cat. The Goddess would not
listen, and all that Devendiren could get from here was a promise
that she would only keep Patripatan for two or three centuries, after
which she would faithfully return it to the awaiting Court. Salamgam,
however, was becoming impatient when the cat did not return, and only
the Penitent kept his composure. Eventually they waited for three
whole centuries without any inconvenience except impatience, for the
Penitent, by the power of his Virtue, prevented anyone from growing

When this time had elapsed, the skies suddenly became beautiful and
from a thousand-coloured cloud emerge a throne formed of various
flowers from the Heaven of Devendiren. The Cat was sitting
majestically upon this throne, and when he arrived in front of the
King he presented to him, with his charming paw, an entire branch of
the tree bearing the flower of Parisadam. The whole Court proclaimed
his victory and the Penitent was universally congratulated, but the
Brahmin, in his turn, dared to dispute the Penitent's triumph. He
argued that the virtue of the Penitent had not achieved this great
success on its own, and that everyone knew of the great liking which
Devendiren and his favourite Goddess had for Cats, and that doubtless
Patripatan, in this marvellous adventure, deserved at least half the
glory. The King, struck by this judicious reflection, dared not
decide between the Penitent and the Brahmin, but all opinions were
united in admiration for Patripatan, and after this event the
illustrious Cat was the delight of the Court, and dined each evening
seated on the Monarch's shoulder. Believe it well, Madame.

I have the honour to be, etc.

Notes to the Fourth Letter

1. Alexandria in Egypt, and Cefaree in Cappadocia, etc.
2. Debreves. Voyages in Levant.
3. Villamont, in the account of his voyages, reports all the events
of Cape Delle gatte in even more detail. He says: The serpents of
this island are white and black in colour and at least seven feet
long, and as great around as a man's leg; it was difficult for me to
believe that a Cat should be victorious over such a huge beast, and
that they should have the industry to go hunting for them, and not
return until the midday bell is sounded, and that when they finish
dining they should continue the hunt until evening, except that a
monk assured me that he has witnessed this, and it has been confirmed
for me by many persons who have also witnessed it.
4. Voyages in Levant by M. de Tournefort, of the Academy of Science:
"The Cats of the Levant - he says in this same account - are no more
beautiful than our own, and those beautiful slate-coloured Cats are
quite scarce there. They are brought there from the Island of Malta",
and to declare that these Cats are not beautiful and that they are
infinitely pleasing is to praise enough, and accords them that
certain je ne sais quoi.
Corneille le Brun in his tour of the Levant also reports all the
details of the good treatment given there to Cats. He mentions this
with regret and, therefore, cannot be suspected of embellishing his
account: "The Cat - he says - whose good qualities, if it has any,
are nothing compared with those of the dog (who is the most faithful
of all the beasts), is considered a perfect animal by the Turks. They
are very kind to the cats that live in their houses, while the poor
dogs are obliged to lie in the streets." That is to say, "they
flatter the Cats, they caress them, they display them in front of
their shops as is the custom in Venice and elsewhere." Corneille le
Brun condemns the general taste of a voluptuous nation, who,
sequestered in the bosoms of their families, prefer to occupy
themselves with only pleasing objects, and pass their lives with
Cats. This traveller, I say, established a most important truth to
the glory of the very Cats he disdains. The greatest eulogies are the
ones wrested from one's enemies. We see that this man, whom we esteem
in various other regards, has in no way developed his taste through
his travels; he left with a hatred of Cats and he returned with the
same unjustified prejudice.
Rarely, roving the world over // Makes one a better man.
5. M. de Tournefort. Id.
6. Prideaux, Vie de Mahomet, pag. 227 and 228. He reports by the
authority of Elmacin and Bochart.
7. Socrates regarded as the first evidence of a father's prudence the
giving of beautiful names to his children. Montagne said on this
subject: A Gentleman, my neighbour, considering the benefits of the
old days, did not forget to take account of the pride & magnificence
of the names of the Nobility in those times, Dom Grumedan, Quadragan,
Argesilan, yet he who heard them would sense, by the sound alone,
that they were different people from Pierre, Guillot and Michel. P
472, book 1.
8. In the Chapter of the Tablet Mahomet declares Pigs to be unclean.
9. Mulla - a Minister of Religion.
10. Mules, Jumarts and others.
11. M. Freret of the Academie des belles Lettres.
12. The Brahmins are the highest rank in India; they are the keepers
of Philosophy and Religion.
13. The Penitents, in Indian mythology, are equivalent to the Heroes
in Greek mythology; the Penitents, though mortal, sometimes engage in
trials of strength with the Gods. See the Letters of Father du Hald.
Delon l'Histoire des Bramines et others.
14. The Indians believe in many Heavens where one enjoys different
degrees of voluptuousness, according to the virtues which one has
practised in the world.


Cats, Madame, are suspected of having a penchant for harm; how little
we understand them! It takes only one stroke of the pencil to
apologise; this trait which will prove their gentleness and good
nature is much to the shame of men, but it is a question of
justifying innocence; we could not hide anything. Let us make an
effort, Madame. Let us carefully consider Cats at the moment of an
outrage which we dare to do to their persons through the barbarous
ministry of boilermakers; before the perfidy takes place. A Cat,
seduced by the caresses of a man whom he wished to have as his
master, finds himself in the hands of an enemy. He finally escapes.
He is outraged. He always has his claws, whose attacks have been
exaggerated, but haughty contempt becomes his sole vengeance. He is
content to flee those men who so inhumanely betrayed him, but is soon
overcome by his unfortunate inborn inclination towards their company
so he returns, and as his only reproach he shows them that
taciturnity and languor in which he spends the rest of his life.

Monsieur de Benserade's rhyming sonnet is an admirable picture of the
noble anguish of Cats when they have experienced the horrors of
mutilation. The Cat of Madame Deshoullieres is the hero of this
tragic adventure.
I never say a word and I look good
But make bad sport since that unhappy day
When my ability to love was cut away,
The finest flower of cat-dom's lost manhood.
Thus Moricault must now complain and rage
Against the hand which did him such a turn,
That made him cold where once his ardour burned,
He once was busy, but is now a joker made;
No longer brave, he's now a coward and a fool;
Who lurks among the chimneys of the roof;
Once talented in realms of sweet romance
It makes his Seraglio so heartily enraged
To see him reduced to this sad and slothful state -
One cut has made the knight lay down his lance.

Don't try to tell us that Cats do not understand the price of this
attribute that we believe (being tyrants) we have the right to rob
from them. It is only men that can sustain such affronts without
blushing. In ancient times a Priest of Cybele,<1> who in his delirium
was, so to speak, separated from himself, reappeared in society with
more confidence and esteem. Today a child given as tribute is proud
of the misery that will give him access to the interior of his
Sultan's Palace; he is congratulated for that shameful route into his
master's favour. A mutilated Cat not only feels all the weight of his
privation, but in the eyes of other Cats he becomes a defective
creature and this exempts them from all obligations to him; they
offer him a hundred insults; they overwhelm him with outrages. It is
a common error that the female Cats keep up this hatred, but this
false conviction is only a result of the ignorance of the common man
regarding that which happens in the roof gutters. If anyone had
bothered to write the memoirs of the famous Cat of the Hotel de
Guise, whose genealogy is laid down in the preceding letter,
certainly no further evidence would be needed to establish that it is
the Toms alone who dare to abuse the misfortune of their mutilated
colleagues; at the same time, the writer would make known the loving
affection and the delicacy a female cat is capable of.

The lovely Brinbelle, as we have already explained, became the wife
of d'Austrasie in her third marriage; never did spouses feel such a
lively and lasting love for each other. They mutually fell in love at
first sight, and this way of uniting has many charms.
A love that must one day be born
It would not be too soon to form;
Let's both start by loving one another,
It's the sweetest way to get to know each other!

Our Cats loved each other from the first meeting, and the more they
knew of each other, the more they loved each other. There was not a
single roof where they did not demonstrate a union so worthy of envy
and meow (if I dare to steal this agreeable turn of speech from M. de
Voiture <2>) their mutual love. A neighbour of rather savage manners,
did not enjoy their lovers' talk interrupting his sleep, so he lured
the young tomcat with feigned caresses, and set snares that a cooler-
blooded Cat would have discerned, but he allowed himself to be

Love, Love, when we are in your hands,
We might as well say farewell to prudence.<3>

Thus he fell into his enemy's hands, who in his fury makes him
another Atys. Imagine the sorrow of the loving Minette when she
discovered this mystery of inhumanity. Do not imagine that our modern
Heloise behaved like the wife of Abelard, regretting the well-being
that her husband could no longer provide her.

The heart does all, the rest is useless.

M. de la Fontaine seems to have said this expressly for the glory of
our Cat. In vain did a host of lovely and willing she-cats offer him
their attentions, which they considered the surest consolation he
could receive.

Nothing could shake her faithfulness. Heloise consented to shut
herself in a cloister whose austerity allowed her no chance to be
unfaithful to her Abelard. Our Cat, more sure of herself and more
attached to her lover, did not force herself to be virtuous; she
maintained her complete liberty, and employed it to remain faithful.

Not for a moment did she lose sight of that dear Cat; and while
others of her species were very fastidious regarding the perfection
of their fellows, outrageously treating those who, like him, are so
to speak separated from their being, she fearlessly defended him. She
was seen a hundred times unsheathing her claws against the
persecutors of her adored Cat, between whose paws she deliciously
passed the rest of her life.<4>

Admit, Madame, that ever since there have been lovers there are few
models so pure in passion, or such good examples. We often hear that
the topics of Tragedy are exhausted. Why not make recourse to events
as impressive as these, and which took place before our eyes? What a
dramatic poem we might compose upon the generous loves we have just
described? If, for fear of strangeness, we dare not put our heroes on
the stage in their natural form (which, in my opinion, would produce
an admirable effect) it would be simple to produce them under Greek
names. Have we not, in the decadent days of the Eastern Empire, a
large number of well-known personages who experienced the same
misfortune of the tomcat of the Hotel de Guise? This circumstance,
which might form the crux of the piece, would thus be linked to
history; but I always come back to the thought that the picture would
be much more interesting if we represented the subject in its
original simplicity: we are so accustomed to only seeing men upon the
stage, and it would be a piquant novelty in the theatre, and would
doubtless be a great success.

We have discussed the fidelity of she-cats. What more glorious proof
for them than the sympathy they have for their husbands, and which so
many naturalists have recognized! When he dies while they are full,
to use the vulgar term, whether or not they understand this loss, a
revolution takes place within them that makes them immediately

And those loud cries that she-cats make at night in the upper part of
our Cities, the vulgar regard these as purely mechanical clamours.
The Ancients are divided on that viewpoint. One has claimed that it
is the effect of the claws of the tomcat, embraces her too violently
in his excessive zeal;<5> another imagines it the result of another
amatory cause,<6> but it is difficult to conceive how we might learn
which. It turns the she-cat into Semele, and the tomcat into Jupiter;
but the true origin of these cries is the result of a prudent she-cat
who had a grand passion in her heart.

Here is the most generally accepted opinion on the subject of the
exclamations of she-cats; the one I have just spoken of was in
rendezvous with a Cat whom she loved to distraction. Those who follow
ancient philosophy claim that it was the precise moment when her
lover triumphed over her weakness. It is true that this belief is
founded upon the opinion of Aristotle,<7> who maintains that she-
cats, being more temperamental than toms, far from having the
strength to hold their austerity any longer, are eternal flirts –
shameless, incautious, immodest, to the point of violence, if the
tom's ardour seems to be failing.

Be that as it may, a mouse appeared, and here our gallant takes off
in pursuit of it. The piqued she-cat, as you may well imagine,
thought of an expedient so she never again experienced such an
affront; this was to shriek from time to time whenever she tête-a-
tête with her lover. These cries never failed to carry a long
distance to frighten away the mice, which no longer dared come and
disturb their rendezvous. This precaution appeared so wise and so
loving to all the other she-cats that ever since then, whenever they
are with their favourite tomcat they affect to spread these clamours
- the certain scarecrow against the mousely species. My Goodness, how
happy women would be if they needed nothing but this expedient to
prevent their lovers being distracted from their company.

I have the honour to be, etc.

Notes to the Fifth Letter

1. Among the Greeks and Romans, Cybele had Priests who consecrated
themselves to her mysteries by renouncing their sex; they were called
Galles. One the day of their initiation, from the time that the sound
of flutes began to sound out, many of the assistants were seized by a
frenzy, then the young man to be initiated threw off his garments,
uttered great cries and seized a knife; he himself achieved the
dishonour of his body, a sacrifice that brought him great praises. He
was conducted in triumph through the whole city, carrying in his
hands the proof of his mutilation. Fastes d'Ovide. Lucian. Plutarch.
2.... And every night // For you my crying soul mews out its plight.
3. M. de la Fontaine, The Amorous Lion. Fable to Mademoiselle de
4. The attachment of Psyche for her lover was not so disinterested as
that of our Cat for hers; all her regrets are not falling upon the
heart of that lover when she says:
Though I still will not know half of your charms // I've seen them
all // I have seen all the weapons // That make you victorious. I. La
Fontaine, Love of Psyche.
5. Pliny records certain particulars regarding the conduct of Cats in
their amours. Cats, he says, copulate by the male standing over and
the female thrown underneath.
6. Among Cats the male is the most lecherous, the female, in truth,
the most affectionate to her young; wherefore she avoids copulation
with the male, whereupon he most passionately like a blazing fire
expels his seed and hence burns up the female's genital parts, etc.
Elian, lib. 6, cap. 27.
7. Moreover the female cats, etc. are themselves naturally lecherous
and salacious, therefore, they themselves call the males to mate with
them; encouraging and compelling them, even punishing them if by
chance they do not surrender. De Mirabilib. tom. I, pag. 1166.


In examining moral axioms, we discover that those which have a
proverbial form are the most generally established in the mind;<1>
but that what is good in the praise of Cats is the care with which we
have had to choose them to form the central figure of most of these
judicious maxims.

The Ancients gave definitions of prudence, well worthy of long being
credited in men's minds; and they maintain their authority and we
still we admire the person who, with unexpected imagination, said "a
scalded Cat fears even cold water." Every other image has vanished to
leave Cats in possession of being the perfect symbol of caution. What
glory for them that their conduct obliges men to draw from Cats the
wisest examples to follow! But also what a comical sight for these
same Cats to see us fall again each day into the same traps whose
dangers we have already experienced! A mistress who has betrayed us a
hundred times, still finds in our weakness some resources of
confidence in her, which makes her more ready to commit new treason.
A Cat can only be fooled once in its lifetime; it is armed with
mistrust not only against whatever has wronged it, but also against
everything that gives rise to the idea of being wronged. Hot water
will have injured it; that is enough, it will fear cold water as
well, and will always have as little as possible to do with it.

Let's not blush at this; it is on the roof-gutters that we would do
well to go for education; it is there that we should find admirable
examples of activity, of modesty, of noble emulation, and a hatred
for sloth. When Hannibal, not allowing himself to rest, incessantly
watched Scipio in order to find a favourable chance to conquer him,
what model had he before his eyes? He was watching his enemy like a
Cat watches a mouse.

It is true that in the number of proverbs where Cats are the
principal subject, there are some that seem to exist to make them
ridiculous;<3> but what is there that we don't abuse? and how often
has the vanity of saying a bon mot led to unjust mockery? When we
wish to depict an unrestrained love which latches onto the first
objects which present themselves, we commonly says that this is to
run the roof-gutters, thus compromising the conduct of she-cats,
without considering whether they deserve such a charge. If we have an
analytical mind, should we not admit that condemning she-cats for
roaming the roof-gutters is much like giving the shortcomings of a
pretty woman just because she walks out on the terrace of her house?
she-cats certainly never abandon precise propriety when they roam the
rooftops and chimneys. It is only a matter of considering what
attracts them there during men's hours of rest.<2> Is it love, you
ask, that wakens them? Without a doubt. But it is the pleasure of
loving, and not a maladjusted imagination, as some suppose. They are
usually looking for a single favourite Cat and, moreover, when one
among them has a weakness for tomcats trying his luck, surrendering
to him through vanity, there is always another she-cat, whose
reserved conduct may well be admitted in compensation. All you need
do is this famous Sonnet about Madame Lesdiguieres' pussycat.

Menine of golden eyes, her fine fur grey,
Charming Menine, unique among her kind,
Loved by an illustrious Duchess, could we find
Mortals who would not envy such a destiny?
Chaste Menine who never knew a Menin;
In her time she was a feline Lucrece,
Puss-cat to the world, but to tomcats a Tigress;
In the middle of her days her life is ending;
Does it matter now that scornful proud Menine,
Never with a rooftop roaming Tom was seen
And never listened to their amorous regrets?
From all who breathe Fate will have its due
And loving none, now withdraws the tempting fruits.
This life is sad, and on its heels comes death.

However we have used Cats in common sayings that have become
established, the result is an advantageous consequence for them.<4>
Had we not been in the habit of concerning ourselves with them, it
would have been very simple to choose other animals, or else other
symbols, as the centre of these proverbs. But Cats were esteemed;
they could not be used to often as topics of conversation; they have
been linked to moral maxims. Eh! what could be substituted in their
place? How could we describe someone who knows how to get away from
all embarrassing situations? It is so simple and elegant to say, he
has the nature of a Cat, he always falls on his feet.

It must be admitted that this attribute, with which they are born, is
most admirable. The Academy of Sciences did not consider the task of
explaining how Cats do this to be a pointless study. Have the
pleasure, Madame, of reading the following extract from the Memoirs
of this Academy.<5>

Cats, when they fall from a height, usually fall on their feet, even
when they first have their feet topmost, and should, therefore, fall
on their head. It is, of course, not possible for them to turn
themselves over while in mid-air, where they have no fixed point to
lean against; but they are gripped by a fear which makes them bend
their spine in such a way that their entrails are pushed upwards. At
the same time they stretch out their head and their legs towards the
place from which they fell, giving these parts greater leverage; thus
their centre of gravity moves from the centre of the body, and is
placed uppermost. From this it follows that these animals can make a
half turn in the air, and point their paws downwards which almost
always saves their lives. The finest knowledge of mechanics could do
no better on this occasion than what is done through confusion and
blind fear.

Madame, it seems to me that this is not too high a praise of Cats. I
did not notice it myself at first glance. I was touched by pleasure
that the Academy of Sciences busied itself with them. Shall we let
them save themselves like fools, thanks to a confused and blind
feeling? But since it is Monsieur de Fontanelle who wrote this, who
should we complain to? His works have embraced all kinds of minds. He
has admirers everywhere; he has the right to be wrong about Cats with
impunity. Let us confine ourselves to responding that if it is only
fright that serves them so well, nature has at least treated them
with great distinction, making them find even in their weakness,
resources for their preservation; and that it would be very desirable
for men if their own fear resembled that of Cats.

I have the honour to be, etc.

Notes to the Sixth Letter

1. What are the sources of the ascendency which proverbs have over
our minds? We get our ideas either through our senses or by
reflection. The ones that come from sensations, such as cold and
heat, are within the scope of every mind; but the ideas that come
through reflection are themselves a gathering of ideas, such as the
ideas of doubt, perception, and understanding; those sorts of idea, I
say, strike and interest only those who are accustomed to using their
minds. Pythagoras wanted to establish how dangerous it is to awaken
sleeping troubles i.e. to attack the repose of those able to avenge
themselves, so he said "You must not stir the fire with a sword." And
when Afranius had to describe prudence, he explained it thus: I am
the daughter of Custom who engendered me in, Memory, my mother. Amiot
in his Preface to Plutarch translated this in two lines: I am
Prudence and Custom is my father // Who engendered me in Memory my
mother. These two maxims now fall quite flat in society. We need to
be able understand the entirety of the ideas underpinning them in
order to comprehend their full meaning. They would make no impression
among the common rabble, but if Pythagoras and Afranius had set down
their definitions in terms that were within the scope of every mind,
one might have said "Let sleeping cats lie," and the other might had
phrased it "A scalded Cat fears even cold water." This gives two
moral maxims simple enough to be equally striking to all minds.
2. In order to avoid the snares of vanity which blind us even to our
personal faults, we need only consider this proverb frequently: "He
looks like a burnt Cat; worth less than he thinks."
The greatest example of activity which one could set as a target is
"to be up before the Cats are on their feet."
The magistrates never forget how much their presence is required to
restrain the licence of the people, when they have learnt it in the
form "Where there are no Cats, the Rats walk about at their ease."
(Extracted from Illustres proverbes nouveaux et historiques,
expliquez par diverses questions curieuses et morales qui peuvent
servir à toute sorte de personnes pour se divertir dans les
compagnies. ["Illustrated new and historical proverbs, explained by
various curious and moral questions that can be used by all kinds of
people to entertain themselves in company."] Tom. 2. pag. 30, 196.
imp. en 1665.
3. I call a Cat a Cat, and Rolet a Rogue. Despreaux. Sat. He is going
to throw the Cat at your legs, and others.
But it is necessary to remark that in these sayings, Cats are only
indirectly implicated, whereas other animals are often named
explicitly in the proverbs, simply and individually. We cannot be
more of a Rogue than a screech-owl, sadder than an owl, or more cruel
than a tiger. Are we greedy? We are as as a dog. What is the worst
dinner the world? A dog's dinner. We might as well be a dog if we
speak badly of our mistress. What does we do when we are the
unhappiest person in the world? We runs mad like a dog. Those madmen
who go spewing ineffectual abuse against others are dogs who bark at
the moon. In reading works which displease us, like this one perhaps,
we might be as bored as a dog. In the Iliad, when Achilles was
furious at Agamemnon, he found no insult more cutting than to call
him Dog-face.
4. One commonly uses "Rominagrobis" to refer to those large Cats
whose juvenile playfulness gives way to a grave and circumspect
demeanour. Furthermore, this name is used to describe men who affect
a serious and formal appearance.
One of the most pleasing applications of this saying is found in
"Melusine" by M. Fuselier, a comedy of the new Italian Theatre which
was presented with great success in 1718. Fuselier asks the
difference between love and Hymen. Trivelin who replies: "Love is a
little kitten, playful, and endearing; but Hymen? Oh! Oh! that is a
Rominagrobis is a composite of Raoul, Hermine, and Grobis, which
properly signify "A Cat who plays the great Gentleman under his
Ermine robe." Remarq. sur Rabelais, liv. 3, chap. 21, page 115.
5. If the weight of a foreign body plunged into water is greater than
the weight of an equal volume of water, and if its centre of gravity
has been raised up, not only must this body sink in the liquid, but
it must make a half turn in sinking, because its centre of gravity
must necessarily drop as low as possible, after which the body
continues to sink, but without turning further. The turn is made at a
point that is not equally distant from the centre of gravity and the
centre of the figure, because the two forces applied are unequal.
Therefore the Cats, etc. Extr. de la Diss. de M. Parent, Mémoires de
l'Académie des Sciences, annee 1700. pag. 156.


Illustration: Detail From Seanchas Mór, a Mediaeval Irish Manuscript

A marked advantage, Madame, that Cats have over other animals is
their natural cleanliness. Several of the sages of antiquity<1>
recognized, before us, the hatred Cats have for bad smell, the
modesty with which they hide themselves in the moments when they
answer the call of nature, and the care with which they hide from
sight the results of surrendering to nature's call.<2> This etiquette
(if you will permit us to call it that) is not at all the result of
training them through violence and punishment, as it is in other
animals, but is a gift of nature in cats. Eh! What fortunate
provisions has nature not given them? When a Cat, through
thoughtlessness or whim (for all societies have some defective
members), say I, commits as discourtesy or a wrong, it is unnecessary
to use insults or threats as a punishment. We need only call him by
name, simply saying Come Here Cat. At this word he returns of his own
accord, he smells his wickedness and can no longer bear the looks
which have highlighted his mistake. He flees, going to the solitude
of the roof-gutters to hide his shame, and to surrender to his

It is not surprising, then, to see that so many first-rate persons
understand the value of association with Cats. Madame Deshoulières
could not refuse her Muse the pleasure of celebrating them: A great
Princess (Madame la Duchesse du Maine) has immortalized Marlamain,
her illustrious Cat, in verses worthy of being engraved in the Temple
of the Graces. What advantages will we not derive from this work?
Let's read it again, please, Madame:

When I wish to paint Minon, my puss,
I must use an excellent paintbrush,
To depict her kindliness correctly,
And display her pretty flexibility;
But alas! a puny Poëtereau am I,
And naught can contain her sweet beauty
For even Cupid, though pleasing to the eye,
Has not the spirit of delicacy
Of my Minon.

If Jupiter should change his shape anon
He'd not choose serpent, bBull or swan
To touch the heart of some sweet maid
His divine form would he exchange
For the shape and skin he would put on
Of my Minon.

Pretty Puss, my joy and my solace,
If all your charms I wished to celebrate
I would have to recall to life the man
Who of Lesbia's sparrow sang.
Or the one who wrote exquisite psalms
To celebrate sweet Issa's charms.
But, alas! From Styx's shadowed shore,
We can evoke the famous dead no more,
So you must content yourself today.
With this Rondeau writ by love's dictates.

What Heroes would not envy Cats the glory of such a eulogy? And what
Muse would not be honoured to have written those verses?<3> Cats can,
therefore, boast of having had the most famous persons of our century
sing the praise of their illustrious personages. Those who have tried
to wrong them have fallen into obscurity; a hatred of Cats is, among
Authors, a mark of mediocrity – just read this quatrain by Chevalier

Dear Pussy will you please recall
If you should slap our bitch at all,
That you'll find yourself become a muff
For our little Fanny soon enough.

That is what a vulgar spirit produces. Scarron, gifted with a fine
imagination, is far from making the same mistake. We still have a
fragment of it which proves again what a keen interest there is in
Cats. Scarron relates an adventure which appears, I am sure you will
agree with me, suitable as the subject of an excellent comedy.

EPISTLE OF SCARRON to Madame de Montatere<4>

A lady whose name, I swear, stays secret,
Because, of course, I am most discreet,
I'll mention not the Lady's name and age,
Not appearance, nor her parentage;
But one of her friends has told me this -
That this Lady - and that word must suffice -
Her greatest joy, her sweet obsession,
Was the tomcat in her possession.
One day, wishing for diversion
She dressed him up – what strange perversion,
With pretty tresses he was be-wigged,
With rich earrings his ears were sprigged,
And once his pretty head was dressed,
The Lady turned attention to his dress.
A jewelled necklet, at his throat to shine,
Each pearl bigger than a blackbird's eye
(I'd say a Cod-fish or Whiting,
But these fishes did not fit my writing.)
Next there came a fine white shirt,
A matching frock-coat and a skirt,
A ruff and neckerchief in the height of fashion
Transformed her tomcat, strong and dashing
Into the image of a demoiselle
Though in truth one not too beautiful;
But the Lady who embellished him
Still found the sight quite ravishing.
In front of a large mirror, she
Held him up that he might see,
But unsurprised, and unimpressed
He saw himself disguised and dressed,
And caught up in this Lady's folly
A figure of her Idolatry.
But then the second act took place
When tomcat escaped from her embrace,
And paying no heed to hurt or harm,
He fled full speed from his Mistress' arms,
The good Cat quickly gained the stairs,
Up to the attic, and from there,
The safety of the roof-tiles made,
While down below his Mistress prayed.
Imploring of her household servants
To retrieve him, her tones most fervent.
But in the country of the roof-tiles,
Where tomcats exercise their cunning wiles,
They vainly that feisty fellow followed
As he fled them in finery borrowed.
Next day, from a neighbour, I received
This tale which at first I'd not believed,
And though stunned at sights upon the roof
There were others who confirmed its truth.
The angry cat has not returned,
His Lady's embraces forever spurned,
Her own rage was not for the collar's cost,
But for the beloved tomcat she had lost.

It appears from this adventure that Cats do not like to perform for
others; anything to do with subservience appears to be repugnant to
their inborn independence. A few days ago, Monsieur de Fontenelle
related that, as a child, he had a Cat which kept him greatly amused.
You may well believe, Madame, that I very carefully made not of this
fact, hoping to conclude from it the natural consequence that a
childhood love of Cats can be seen as a predictor of superior merit.
We have, moreover, proof that this same taste continues still when a
child reaches the age of reason and is compatible with even the most
serious occupations. We see that, for Montagne, it was a real
recreation to study the actions of his Cat, and everyone is aware
that one of the greatest Ministers in France<5> always had a number
of kittens playing about that same cabinet in which so many
institutions, both useful and honourable to the nation, had their
origin. But let us return to what I have to tell you about Monsieur
de Fontenelle. Among other games, he then thought of giving a
discourse that he composed on the spot; but getting no attention from
the other children who had to listen to him, and not wishing to do
this without an audience, he took his Cat and, placing it in a chair,
made him a spectator. The Cat soon forgot that he alone formed the
entire assembly and headed for the door. The orator had to run after
his audience from stair to stair, still declaiming enthusiastically,
right up to the point where the Cat reached the roof-gutters and was
lost from sight.

I am disappointed that he did not put this event into verse. What an
honour it would be for the Cats, if they were placed between the
Sonnet of Daphne and the Worlds!

Our work would be more extensive than that of the seven Sages of
Greece, were we to report all the works of the famous Poets in honour
of Cats; but I have used these different Poems in the course of these
Letters wherever they serve as authority or clarification for some
circumstance essential to the glory of our Heroes; I have
nevertheless collected all of their these works. Such a curious
collection can only be pleasing to those who like to exhaust every
subject, and will present to Cat-lovers, in a single panorama, all
those different and widely scattered opinions, with which they occupy
themselves with such pleasure.

Cats still have among us honours of another kind. Paris contains a
structure whose simplicity and elegance does great credit to
architecture; this is the tomb of Madame de Lesdiguieres' Cat. The
epitaph engraved there proves sufficiently that this Cat was the
delight of its Mistress' life, who loved it, it is said, to the point
of madness – a mark of great attachment.

I have the honour to be, etc.<6>

I reopen this letter, Madame, to tell you how much I share your grief
over Marlamain's death, which you surely already know. Consider my
position; someone told me of quite bluntly. Has anyone told you all
the details of this sad event? Half an hour before he expired, his
restlessness showed that he wished to be carried into the apartment
of his illustrious Mistress. As soon as he was placed near her he
gathered all his remaining strength to make the most tender farewell.
A few moments later, when they saw that he wished to be carried away,
no doubt to spare his Mistress the sight of his death, they put him
back in his room, where he expired. His last sigh was one of those
sweet and tender mews, which he was accustomed to make when honoured
with those caresses that made him so illustrious. I have just tried
to compose his Epitaph: I will show it to you; but do not read it if
you know the one written by Monsieur de la Mothe because it will show
how little mine is worth in comparison.


Wherever you are, Puss, hold your step,
Now enslaved to Atropos are your claws,
Understand now the sternness of death.
When from sweetest life you have been torn.
Alas! for I have the passing of delicious hours.
Oh! Egyptian cats, my august ancestors -
Sat on altars and by garlands wreathed.
The love of each heart, the charm of every eye,
With hymns and offerings lavished upon thee;
I do not envy you those vain tributes;
Ludovica loved me, your glory pales at that;
To have lived beside her as a simple cat,
Is worth far more than to be a God like you.

Notes to the Seventh Letter

1. Because, however, Cats detest above all things a foul odour, they
therefore bury their excrements in a previously dug ditch. Elian.
lib. 7. cap. 40. They bury their excrements in a ditch in the ground.
2. Du Bellay rather poetically rendered the sentiment of the Ancients
regarding the cleanliness of Cats; it is in the epitaph of his Cat,
Belaud, was a well-bred creature,
And sometimes was constrained by nature
To perform a less-than-proper act,
But through propriety, in fact,
Beneath the ashes he concealed
That which he was constrained to yield.

3. In one of her letters Madame Deshouillieres did not hesitate to
tell her husband that during his absence her attachment for Grisette,
her admirable Cat, kept her fully occupied. Here are the sections of
this letter; they are set out as song verses. Madame had previously
recounted the sad loss of one of her horses.
To the tune of "La jeune Iris sans cesse me suit. "
To be on foot is not the only care
Which makes me feel so melancholy
I sleep almost like an elf,
I am alarmed, and I forget myself
And if my heart to you I must lay bare,
I'm in love to the point of folly.

To the tune of a Gaillard:
Come back from the astonishment
You feel at such a compliment.
I love, 'tis; but thank God that
My love is for my little Cat.

To the tune of "Si l'Amour étoit ivrogne." (If Love Was a Drunkard)
My pretty little Grisette
Her name is widely known;
But sometimes she makes me fret
Far more than I have shown;
So believe this Chansonette
Which round the world has flown.

To the tune of "Quand le péril est agreable." (When Peril is
Deshouillieres is just an ingrate
For her whose lovely eyes are caught;
And her heart caught like a rat
Is captured by a Cat.
To the tune of "Des Feuillentines."
Look! See what a spirit
Out of spite
By my bed composing,
I watch my grey Cat reposing,
Rolled up upon my clothing.

After several couplets on the news of the day, in order to give the
end of her letter a piquant turn, Madame Deshouillieres declared :
Done at my Toilette
June the seventh,
Torn between Grisette,
My concerns, and my pen.

4. This work is not actually in the Collected Works of Scaron; it is
found in a Collection of "Gazettes" of verse.
5. Monsieur de Colbert.
6. Here is a pretty Cat: // His Mistress, who loved nothing, // Loved
him to madness; // Why would you ask? It's plain to see.
The example of Madame Lesdiguieres is not unusual, one often finds
persons who delight in their Cats; they are usually those who have a
delicate spirit and tender passions. This is not because a love of
Cats cannot be found in a heart ruled by tumultuous passions, but it
is more ordinarily found in those who lead a life that is voluptuous
rather than stormy.
Sometimes this fondness for Cats is taken to extremes. Last Autumn in
the little village called Tassy, situated on the road to Evreux, a
lady came from Paris with a great retinue and arrived very late at a
rather mediocre hostelry. Her first concern before descending from
her carriage was to ask if there was a Cat in the house. They told
here there was no cat there, but promised her all sorts of other
marvels. She replied that they had to have a Cat for her, and she
would not be able to stay there without one. The hostel owners at
once woke up the whole village, and finally brought her the Curate's
she-cat. As soon as she had taken the cat in her arms, the lady
entered the hostelry and considered herself in the Palace of Psyché.
She vowed that whenever she passed the night in an apartment without
a Cat present, she was suffered from unbearable vapours. Her health
suffered badly whenever she was away so she was reduced to borrowing
a cat at each stop along the route. Whenever she could not find a
cat, she spent the night out in the open.


You will be pleased, Madame, to see the name for Cats written in
Hebrew, and here are the characters חתול. They are read Chatoul.
According to the learned M. Menage,<1> this is where the genealogy
begins for the different names which Cats have successively received
in various Nations. From Chatoul, the Greeks made Katis; and this
became Catis among the Latins. Cautus, which means cautious and
prudent, characteristics of the cat, made the word Catus appropriate.
From there were have taken the word Chat. Madame, here you see a
choice of names for our friends; names made all the more suitable
because their etymology reveals certain qualities of the amiable
animal to which they are applied. We are disgusted to see that,
instead of drawing on such fertile sources, in almost all households
Cats are given nicknames at random, names that lack any reasonable
meaning. The greatest of our modern men have also made this mistake.
A hundred times over in his Fables, Monsieur de la Fontaine seems to
assign ridiculous names to Cats in the same places that he praises
them. Why not imitate the divine Homer in this respect? When he
speaks of Cats, it is always with the respect and the propriety that
is their natural due. One only has to read his poem
Batrachomyomachia, where portrays their talent for catching Mice. The
Rat Prince Psycarpax speaks thus to Bouffard, King of the Frogs:

My Lord, the ravening Cat has sharp slashing fingers,
And in my terror my senses are become bewildered,
For while it's true that baited traps are formidable,
A hundred times more do I fear its paws, implacable,
Lying in wait beneath our very roofs (oh false security!)
Hidden ready to spring and poised to slay me;
My valour, though great, vainly opposes its rage,
Against such claws, alas, what use is courage?<2>

It is from the deeds of heroes that we have always drawn our cats'
nicknames. When we search the naturalists' works for the Cats'
attributes a thousand honourable epithets spring to mind. It is true
that we sometimes see Cats in a less favourable light. When we
consider the suppleness and silence with which they slip into places
where they can catch birds,<3> this dexterity will not please those
who prefer birds to Cats. They will call it injustice, assault, and
tyranny, but reproaching them for eating a few birds<4> must be done
with great care because they are also the natural enemies of many
other animals which are harmful, and for which we have great
antipathy. They destroy lizards and snakes.<5>

Fortunately I have collected verses on this subject which I believe
are translated from Arabic. It's an Idyll entitled "The Cats." The
person into whose hands this verse had fallen was accustomed to
seeing this sort of work describing birds, goats, and sheep, and was
very surprised that Cats had become a pastoral subject. When she
communicated these verses to me, I immediately recalled the Cats of
the Isle of Cyprus which I mentioned in my fourth letter; they spent
part of the day hunting snakes in the fields, and went at regular
hours at the monastery where they lived.

I imagine, as will seem quite natural to you, that the monk entrusted
with the task of ringing the Cats' dinner bell, and who led them into
the fields, cared for them in the same way shepherds care for their
sheep. The leisure of this happy life doubtless inspired his taste
for poetry, and having no shepherdess to praise, he at least san of
his flock. I believe, Madame, that my conjectures will appear
sensible to you once you have read this work. Here it is:


Enough, pretty Cats, time to suspend your zeal,
To climb thick branches and there to take your ease;
During the noonday heat rest and enjoy sweet peace,
Your labours make this island beautiful.
Its bright enamelled lawns of vivid colors,
Its evergreen groves, the meandering wave that winds,
Can you believe, alas, the terrors that we find -
The thousand snakes that hide beneath the flowers?
For your protective claws, this much is clear,
That slay those perils and that stay their course.
Let all here celebrate your talons dear;
It's to you Cats alone these lovely days we owe.
The God of hearts will grant you conquests,
Immortalise your glory in our woods
Hold a triumph for you every day in our feasts:
And echo a hundred times your deeds.
O beautiful Cytherea, O heart's delight
Nothing compels us more; we will always follow you;
Where once you were worshipped on this Isle,
The Cats have returned their games and love restored.
Sweet kitties, it is due to your examples,
That Fidelity may now rebuild her temples.
You set an example for our own hearts,
That when you find beauty that is dear,
You're fired with zeal, your zest is sparked!
Not for flattery, not for vain pride to please,
It's the pleasure of loving makes you content:
That Shepherds are coming here to learn,
And to feel fires they never before have felt;
When with tenderest love we want to burn,
We must love just like these Cats.

Do you not think, Madame, that this new piece of pastoral verse has
something grander and more piquant about it (without however going
beyond rural simplicity) than the pastoral genre of the ancients?
What a shame that Theocritus did not have the idea of this one. In
sheep, one can only boast of the whiteness of their fleece, their
leaps on a sloping hillside, or the bleating of a ewe calling her
little lamb. There is nothing there to stir the heart. If you want to
stir the reader with images of love, you must make him forget the
flock and concentrate on the Shepherd and Shepherdess alone; but in a
Pastoral of Cats, you may find the entire theme of an interesting
Eclogue in the bosom of the flock itself.

Did not Madame Deshouillieres, who understood so well how to capture
images and ideas proper to Poetry, write the amours of Grisette in
great detail? Do we not have her tragic lyrical Poem upon the death
of one of this beautiful Cat's lovers? As you know, Madame, I thought
of having this poem set to music, but the work was important enough
to make it difficult for me to choose the musician. It is Cats that
form all the action. <6> I consulted our most delicate music
connoisseurs, and they have informed me that the song of the Cats
could be rendered exactly by many of our modem musicians, assuring me
that they would perform this poem in all its brilliance. On the other
hand, Italian scholars have shown me in good faith that their Music
should in many respects, be preferred, especially for the recitative.
This last reason thought to tip the scales, but as this opera is not
one of those whose presentation and success should be confined to a
single nation, and is intended for all of Europe at least, I wait for
the two parties to agree before I make a decision. I know many upper-
class persons who are impatient to see this question settled, and who
will certainly never see a new Opera other than this one. Imagine,
Madame, how brilliant and varied the ballet will be, being executed
by Cats. These new Dancers, by their extraordinary lightness, will
characterise the marvels of the Opera incomparably better than the
flights, chariots, and trapdoors whose mechanisms we always see.<7>

I have the honour to be, etc.

Notes to the Eighth Letter

1. Chat from Catus, the Comments of Isidore Murilegus Catus. The
Lexicon of Cyril. The old Lexicon, Greek, Latin Catta. The Scholiast
of Callimachus on the Hymn to Ceres, kattos. The Latin Catus was
formed from the Greek katis which signifies vivera, which Homer
contracts to katis. In Celtic Cat or Cas; according to Pezron it is
from this Celtic Cat that we have made Chat, in the same way as
making Charbon from Carbo, and Chambre from Camera. Menag. Dicton.
Etilmologiq. Lettre C.
In Arabie, Hareira. See the life of Mahomet by Prideaux. In Italian,
Gatto. In Spanish, Gato. In Dutch, Kater male, or Kat. In German,
Cats. In the Maldives, Boulan. See the voyages of Peyrard de Laval in
the Dictionaire de la Langue Maldivoise.
There are a number of Plants and Mechanical Instruments whose names
of are derived from the word Chat, no doubt due to various
relationships whose tradition is now lost; but we must point out that
these names are given only to agreeable or useful things.
We call the setting of a ring a Chatton (kitten). We give the same
name to the part of the Tulip that encloses its seeds. Chatte, in
Marine terminology, is a Barque of 60 tons. Chatte is a species of
Cucumber found in different parts of Egypt and very agreeable to the
taste, and also good against fever.
To pay in Cats and rats, a saying which signifies a bad debtor, has
no relationship at all to Cats; in olden times Chas meant a house,
and Ras signified a field; its meaning was to give developed land and
undeveloped land as inheritances instead of money. Dictionaire de
Cat. The name given to certain northern vessels with rounded sterns,
and which have only one bridge. Cat, in artillery terms, is a piece
of iron used to scrape the inside of a cannon to check for anything
in the chamber.
Chaters, this is the name given in Persia to runners. Tavernier. This
word could only have been derived from the Hebrew word Chatoul.
Chat levant or Chat prenant, Terms of Common Law. These words signify
a clause used in olden times in the region around Metz. The clause
gave power to those who took lands in mortgage to receive their
2. The Cat with hook-clawed toes,
Of all the beasts alarms me most;
And though I also fear the deceiving baited trap,
Above all, I fear the strength of the tomcat:
They are my greatest enemies, without a doubt,
For underneath our very roofs they seek us out.
3. Indeed with what silent, and what light footsteps, do Cats creep
up upon birds. Plin. lib. XI. cap. LXXXIII.
4. Montagne reports with admiration an event that occurred before his
eyes, by reciting what he saw, showing that he recognized surprising
qualities in Cats. Here are his own words : At my house we lately saw
a Cat lying in wait for a bird high up in a tree, each of which fixed
their eyes on the other from time to time; the bird let itself fall
as though dead between the paws of the Cat, either intoxicated by its
own imagination, or drawn by some attractive force of the Cat.
5. Cats are useful against asps with their deadly bite and against
other injurious kinds of Serpent. Est. Diod. Sic. page 74.
To the South of the region of the Marmarides, which is a desert,
there were snakes called cerastes, which had an extremely venomous
bite; they were made even more dangerous because they were the same
colour as the sand, so that you stepped on them because you could not
see them. In olden times these creatures moved into Egypt where they
turned many areas into deserts. Diod. de Sic. L.3. pag. 132.
The Ophiade Isle, which is situated in the Red Sea, was long deserted
because of the multitude of Snakes that lived there. Diodorus reports
that it was freed of snakes with the help of the King of Egypt. This
aid was, without doubt, an army of Cats which was sent there; but
History only ever honour s the Monarchs for the great events that
take place in their reigns.
6. The Characters are Grisette, Madame Deshouillieres' she-cat; Mimy,
Mademoiselle Deshouillieres' tomcat, the lover of Grisette; Marmuse,
another of Madame Deshouillieres' He-cats, and confidante of Mimy;
Cafar, tomcat belonging to the Monks of Chaillot, and Deputy of the
Cats of Village cats; a troupe of neighbourhood Cats. See this Poem
at the end of the Verses collected in this volume.
7. In Paris we have a famous painting which tells a story, and which
is an eternal monument to feline cleverness. We first discern a male
and female Cat in rendezvous at the foot of an elegant building, and
upon a corner of a cornice we see a Cat, half hidden, holding a
pistol aimed at the He-cat who is robbing the onlooker of his
mistress. This event, represented in allegory as it is, might cost
savants entire volumes of essays in times to come. The essence of
this story is that the Cat we see on the cornice, having surprised
his mistress with his rival, throws himself from the height of the
roof-gutter with such accuracy and force that the leap crushes his


Madame, if ever it were necessary to settle one's choice on a single
species of Cats, the blacks would be preferred without argument.
Black Cats are those whose nature has always been most miserly; she
seems to show them to us sometimes just to prove to us that she has
the secret of making them. To all appearances, the she-cats who take
most pride in their beauty are this colour, or at least try to be so.
I have noticed that they are tremendously well known by all sorts of
he-cats. In the he-cats' eyes they obviously have that zest which is
found in brunettes of all species, and it would be well to honour
these Verses by M. de Fontenelle, which much flatters bBrunettes.
Brunette-haired was the pretty creature
Who charmed wise Solomon's gaze,
And quite upset his sagacious nature,
Where sense and reason once held sway.
For brunettes are lively, witty creatures,
Living impishly from day to day,
And I must warn you that their pretty faces,
Have maddened too many Grecian sages,
Who were led, like goslings, by the beak,
By brunettes with their soft dark eyes
Into convivial merry soirees,
And who said, God knows, sweet things in Greek;
These days I am tormented by a brunette,
A philosopher, a deep-thinking man, that's me,
Aspiring to the title of man of philosophy,
And all the boredom an unbiased soul can get.
You gentlemen, who hold up in vanity
The sad gifts of your life austere and wise,
If on the street a brunette girl you see.
Cross to the other side in all humility,
Because brunettes collect your species as a prize.

It is true that the colour black is very harmful to Cats among the
uneducated; it greatly brings out the fire in their eyes, and this is
enough for people to think them sorcerers at the least,<1> but in
recompense this same aspect, together with their charming manners,
for sensible people it is a naïve image of people from Africa, whose
swarthy complexion gave them a savage look, but who, when they became
masters of Spain, seemed to have conquered the country only to bring
good manners and gallantry to it.

In this respect the late Madame de la Sablière furnished a most
remarkable example. She had spent part a part of her life in the
midst of a number of dogs. One fine day her friends were very
astonished to find them all exiled, and to see in their place a
rather triumphant troop of Cats. They asked her the reason for this
revolution, and she confessed that having felt herself passionately
attached to dogs, which seemed to her very unreasonable, she was
determined to have only those animals with whom business went no
further than she wished. What a guide is human prudence! She chose
Cats, especially black Cats. While it is true that she first
succeeded in breaking her initial attachment, it was only to take up
an attachment a hundred times more tender and enduring. Constantly
surrounded and occupied with these Cats; she was more and more given
to an unforeseen enchantment: amusements, passions; these all became
subordinate to the Cats. She no longer allowed anyone but her Cats
and Monsieur de la Fontaine into her intimacy, and this pleasant
relationship lasted until she died.

Among these rare Cats, this century has produced one in whom we find,
to an astonishing degree of resemblance, the seductive intercourse of
the Zegris and the Abencerages. Like them, he had an endless taste
for festivities. A lover of walks, and also an enemy of the sadness
spread by winter over all of nature, he chose a gallery where he
could enjoy eternal spring. It was an orangery, and he could be seen
breathing its perfumes, and wandering among its branches and flowers.
You may judge well, Madame, that the theatre of his loves could only

Under this arbour that love has made on purpose,
To soften a soulless woman's heart

To it he leads a tricoloured she-cat who wears a mask as black as is
his own, and whom he loves with all the much-extolled gallantry and
fidelity of olden times. This constancy is greatly to his merit.
Charming as he is, with the art of attracting Beauties into this
delightful place, where he reigns on the gloomy days, he has only to
imagine conquests in order to accomplish them.

What she-cat is so full of despite,
She'd harshly arm herself these clear-lit nights,
With nothing but a lover's torch!
It was beneath an arbour, on such evenings of delight,
That Cleves, despite herself, dallied with Nemours.

Yet I have still exposed only the weakest evidence of the merits of
this admirable Cat. A Princess to whom the Fates have made a gift
made more precious by her charming wit than by her high rank; this
great Princess, I say, cherishes and delights in him. At this price,
would not Anacreon himself have reasonably judged his talents
sufficiently rewarded?

I have the honour to be, etc.

Notes to the Ninth Letter

1. In this regard, each year at Metz there is a ceremony that is very
shameful to the intellect: The Magistrates come gravely into the
public Square and reveal some Cats in a cage placed on a Pyre, which
is set on fire with great formality. At the frightful cries which are
uttered by the poor Beasts, the people believe that they are also
hearing the suffering of an aged Sorceress who is supposed to have
metamorphosed into a Cat on the occasion when they were going to burn
The Cats are most unfortunate to have been chosen for the supposed
metamorphosis of the old woman. It would be just as natural to
imagine her changed into a dragon.
M. Locke has good reason to say that there are certain terrors which
dishonour our understanding. Is there anything as absurd as the
adventure of the mathematician* who one day imaged that his Cat had
spoken, and who thought he would die of fear? While he was working,
noticing that the Cat had its eyes fixed upon him, he said: You're
watching me most attentively; to which he claimed the Cat had
replied, Eh! Why not?
The mathematician, no doubt intoxicated by the fatigue of his work,
had taken a Miaou for an "Eh" Why not?"
* The mathematician's name was Monsieur Drouin, and he lived in Paris
at the house of Monsieur de Treville.


So far, Madame, we have only considered the pleasant form of our Cats
in draft; it is one of those forms that do the most honour to nature.
They combine the solid bearing of the quadrupeds with a charm and
dexterity given to only a small number of species. Covered with
velvet fur, where nature plays with a variety of colours, they are
born armed against the inclemency of the seasons.

There is a very curious mechanism in the art with which Cats arrange
their fur to either receive or avoid, as they please, the influences
of the air; this discovery, which I fortunately made, is the result
of a great number of observations.

When Cats wish to protect themselves against the wind, I noticed that
they hold their hair flat against their skin, which turns this
surface into bulwark from which the forces of cold or heat will
slide, whereas when the season is agreeable to their constitution, or
flatters their senses, they open up their fur, so to speak, ruffling
it and giving free passage to the breeze which they consent to hit
them. These precautions are doubtless a continuation of their
knowledge of changes in the heavens.<1> The circuits their paws trace
on their faces when washing are omens of rain or fine weather, which,
as even the least enlightened people have observed, supplements
mathematical instruments; thus Cats can be regarded as living

But let's suppose that these relationships between Cats and the stars
are imaginary, and let's look only at aspects of them that are
indisputable; their eyes, for instance, have long been envied by
beautiful women; we cannot give women greater flattery than to
describe their eyes as sea-green, that is to say, as changeable as
Cats' eyes; or green, as we notice is commonly found in cats.<3>
Monsieur de la Fontaine, in the Fable of the Daughters of Minee,
after describing the dispute between Neptune and Minerva on the
subject of the city of Athens, in order to characterize the dignity
of the Goddess, represents her with the sea-green eyes that are the
natural heritage of Cats.

She took the prize and named the city;
Athens offered their thanks to this Deity;
Presenting a hundred hand-picked virgins to her,
Skilled in sewing, both beautiful and clever.
The first bore many diverse presents,
The rest surrounded the sea-green eyed Goddess.

To paint the portrait of Venus in a single stroke, didn't Marot say:

The first day, Venus with her green eyes.

The Sire de Coucy, famed for his loves, vowed in his poems, written
in the time of Philippe Auguste, that this was the charm to which his
heart had yielded.<4> These beautiful eyes, which belonged to a
Madame de Fayel, caused, as we know, the most tragic adventure in the
world.<5> Green eyes inspire only great passions, and nature, which
has refused them to the beauties of this century, has lavished them
on the feline race.<6>

Knowing these agreeable animals only by the many qualities with which
they are endowed, would we not assume that they enjoy a long life?
However, while an annoying Raven has a span of six or seven
centuries, according to the opinion of the Ancients,<7> a Cat's
lifespan is, at most, ten or fifteen years. Why does nature preserve
for so short a time something seemingly created with so much
pleasure? In the different climes where they are scattered, she has
varied their form only to multiply their charms; it has been remarked
that the Cats of Europe exactly resemble the lion in many of their

Syrian Cats, which are larger than ours, are very curiously
variegated;<9> and as their eyes are not both in the same position,
and as their mouth are slanted towards the ear, ignorant travellers,
who only understand regularity in common proportions, have reported
that they had mouth and eyes askew; and concluded from this that they
were monstrous. But philosophically examined, their appearance is
very pleasing and agreeable. The Cats of Malabar live ordinarily in
the trees, flight is natural to them, and what is surprising is that
they fly without wings.<10>

But above all these species of foreign Cats, it is those of Persia,
we must admit, which surpass them all in beauty. In 1521, a famous
traveller<11> enriched Italy with this new race; a present she so
carefully and jealously preserved that it was not until almost a
century ago that any of these beautiful Cats were transported to
France. For this, we are obliged to the renowned Monsieur Menard who
brought a female Cat from Rome, and upon whose death he wrote a
Sonnet well worthy of honouring his Muse:.

It's a shame my puss has passed,
Into the country of the dead;
From her swift paws no rat was fast
Enough to 'scape her when it fled;
She was a Roman matron lovely,
A daughter of the noblest blood,
My lackey took her, without gloves, he
Found her near the Temple of the Gods;
Memory of her in me burns bright,
Of plush fur in black and white.
Much admired by all her met her,
(Except cruel Dame Cloton's attitude)
And in my house, with Mice took pleasure,
Which she did with solicitude.

It is not surprising that Monsieur Menard so tenderly missed his Cat;
she was doubtless the delight of his solitude, and the buttress of
his philosophy when he composed the verses which so characterized his
manners and his mind.

I'm weary of hoping and complaining,
Of Love, Great Things, and Destiny,
And for death, I now sit waiting,
With neither desire nor fear.

But what advantages have not been brought about by Cats? One of the
most famous Houses of England owes its riches and its glory to a cat.
Richard Whittington, in his early youth, deprived of the benefit of
wealth, but born with excellent tendencies, wanted to go to India to
seek better fortunes. He presented himself as a passenger to embark
on a ship. He was asked how he expected to subsist during the
journey, and replied that he had no wealth except for his a Cat, and
the desire to make a name for himself. They were touched by the noble
frankness with which he stated his situation. Whittington and his Cat
were received on board ship, and the vessel set sail. When they were
in the seas around India, a tempest took them by surprise, and drove
them aground on a coast where the ship and all aboard it were seized
by natives. The young Englishman, carrying his treasure in his arms,
was taken with the others before the King of these people; and while
they were at this audience, they noticed an immense number of rats
and mice running throughout the Palace, and even swarming over the
King's throne, causing great annoyance.

Whittington recognized the voice of fortune calling to him. He simply
let his Cat loose and instantly a world of rats and mice were
strangled and the rest were put to flight. The King, charmed at the
thought of finally being delivered from the plague that was laying
waste to his States, entered into transports of gratitude which he
could scarcely express strongly enough. He embraced both his feline
liberator and the young Englishman, and to accord them both worthy
marks of his great gratitude, he declared Whittington his favourite,
and he gave the marvellous Cat the title of Generalissimo of his
Armies, the armies having had no enemies to fight except for the
rodent plague that incessantly besieged the land.

Whittington, supported by the esteem given to him by his follower,
the Cat, rose above all the factions of the Court and governed that
Empire for many years. Finally, overcome by homesickness, he obtained
the freedom to return to his homeland. In exchange for General Cat,
who was to stay behind, the King gave Whittington a ship loaded with
riches. Scarcely had the young Englishman returned to England than he
was raised to the dignity of Mayor of London.<12> In his new rank, in
order to publicly acknowledge the gratitude he owed to Cats, he took
their name and was henceforth known as My Lord Cat. His descendants
were successors to this name. Likenesses of him are still scattered
around several parts of London; we can see him represented with great
pomp upon emblems, triumphantly bearing on his shoulder the Cat to
which he owed his was indebted for his fame and good fortune.

M. Bayle,<13> considering the gratitude we owe to Animals for the
services which they give us, recalls the testament of a Mademoiselle
Dupuy, a very sensible testimony of the obligations she believed she
owed her Cat. Mademoiselle Dupuy had an astonishing degree of talent
for playing the harp, and attributed the excellence of her attainment
to her Cat. He listened attentively whenever she practised on her
harp, and she had noticed a degree of interest and emotion in him, in
proportion to whether her performance had more or less precision and
harmony. By studying his response she had developed a style which had
earned her universal renown.

Upon her death she wished to give to her Cat a suitable mark of her
gratitude, and she made a will in his favour, bequeathing him a very
pleasant home in the city, and another in the country. To this she
attached an income more than sufficient to satisfy his needs and
tastes, and in order that the Cat's well-being should be faithfully
procured for him, she left considerable pensions to several persons
of merit, on condition that they would watch over the revenues of
this friendly heir, and that they would go a set number of times each
week to keep him company. This will was attacked. The most furious
advocates took sides and wrote. To date, I have fruitlessly done the
most exacting research to uncover the facts of this important matter.
Every day such curious and interesting works are lost, and it is
unjust for the public to be deprived of them.

I have the honour to be, etc.

Notes to the Tenth Letter

1. Vignière,* who has collected the opinions of the Ancients on this
subject, in explaining the symbol of the human-faced Cat on the
Egyptian Sistrum, expresses himself in these terms: "With regard to
the human face," it can have no other meaning except that "this
animal considers and notices the changes which occur each day to the
globe of the Moon." Cardan maintained to the contrary that these
changes in the pupils of their eyes, which expand and contract, are
purely voluntary. Others have believed that the approach or the
retreat of the Sun also influences them, observing that in the
morning they are dilated, at midday contracted to a point, and in the
evening are full of torpor and nonchalance. Johnston.
*Notes on Philostrate, Chap. The Sistrum..
M. Boyle, of the Royal Society of London, in the book entitled "A
disquisition about the final causes of natural things, etc," that is
to say, "Dissertation touchant les Causes finales des choses
naturelles," claims that Cats have pupils long and set
perpendicularly; the reason for this being, adds one of his friends,
learned in Optics, is that Cats, whose ordinary procedure is to climb
walls in pursuit of mice and rats, which they live on, can observe
them because of the perpendicular arrangement of their pupil more
easily than if it were transverse like that of horses, cattle, or
2. The Poet Ronsard took his ideas of the understanding he credited
to Cats much further. He did not hesitate to place them, so to speak,
on a par with the Sybils; this is perhaps the only praiseworthy part
of his Poetry:
Now as one sees that there are born among men
Augurs, Diviners...
See also that there are Prophets of our ills,
And of good, born among the animals,
Who, by signs, our future can predict;...
But above them all a domestic creature,
The Cat, has the power of prophecy,
And so those old Egyptians did well
To honour them...
Epistle to the Poet Remy Belleau.
3. We do not claim that sea-green eyes and green eyes are the same.
Sea-green eyes are ordinarily pale blue, or sometimes of the colour
of water, and they vary with further different shades during the
course of the day. In humans, green eyes do not change their shade,
but in Cats green eyes have the same augmentation and diminution of
colour which characterizes sea-green eyes.
According to Ménagé, Pers (sea-green) comes from the Greek peruos or
perios, which he explains as Subniger.
Pallas, taken for the wind, was called Glaucopis by the Egyptians,
that is to say having eyes of a verdant purity. Diod. Sic. lib. I.
page 5.
4. From the start, I found her so sweet,
That for all ills I would endure;
But such lovely green eyes, laughing, and clear,
So surprised me...
5. Reynaud de Coucy, wounded at the Siege of Ascalon, in the Crusade
of Phillipe-Auguste and Richard, King of England, charged his squire
to take his heart when he was dead, and to carry it to the Dame de
Fayel, who was in Gatinois, and with whom he loved deeply; he
attached a most tender letter to it which he signed with his blood as
he died. The Squire, on returning to France, was surprised by Sieur
de Fayel, who had been most jealous of Reynaud de Coucy, and who,
took his wife's lover's heart, and had it served at the table, so
that she ate it. She died of despair as soon as her husband revealed
this horrible vengeance to her.
Fauchet, in his researches on the ancient Poets, claims that Reynaud
de Coucy, killed at the Siege of Ascalon in 1191, is the same as
Raoul, first Seigneur and Chatelain de Coucy, and cites several
fragments of his works. In one of his songs, says Fauchet, "the
Seigneur Chatelain complains that he dare not declare his love
because of ill-speaking people," in another, he "wishes to have his
Lady naked in his arms before going overseas," which leads us to
believe there was no liaison between himself and his Lady except for
one of pure sentiment. This lady's death can be considered sure proof
of this: when those who lose their lover regret circumstances other
than their hearts, it is not customary for them to die of it. A
secret voice, which perhaps they have not listened to, cries to them
that they will recover what they have lost, and this persuasive voice
always binds them to life, but when the blessing they regret is only
the mutual tenderness that both begins and ends in the heart alone,
there is nothing to tell them that another object might inspire the
same passion in them, and they die for not perceiving another means
of consolation.
In those distant times, the land of Lovers was a long perspective;
one only glimpsed from afar the happiness of being loved, one
perceived almost nothing beyond, or at least one dared not believe
something only vaguely perceived. Today the perspective is extremely
near; we interests ourselves only in the background of the picture do
not pay attention to the rest.
6. For a long time Cats have been credited with having beautiful
eyes. One of our ancient Poets compared those of his Cat to the
Nuances of the Rainbow.
Eyes which like the Persian sloes,
Imitate the diverse hues,
That we see in the rainbows,
Arching through the skies.

7. Crows live nine of man's lifetimes. Plutarch. ch. des Animaux.
pag. 271. Translated by Amyot.
The stag and the raven, and the reproachful crows,
and the bird of gold flying where the great Ganges flows
Are reputed to watch while a century passes,
Two centuries, or three, such thoughts make me marvel.
Poems of la Peruse, printed in 1573. Sonnet on the death of the
Seigneur Jean de Voyer, Count de Paumy.
8. In Spain many methods of hunting Rabbits have been invented; among
others there is truly this method: the hunters carefully train wild
African Cats and insert them muzzled into the burrows, from which
with their claws they drag out any rabbits found inside or drive them
into the open where they are snatched up by those standing by. Strabo
lib. 3. pag. 99. edit. ann. 1587.
9. Johnston.
10. Scaliger and many other modem Travellers.
These Cats of Malabar fly by means of a very wide Membrane, which
extends from their hind feet to the fore; it is pulled up and folded
when they walk, and is spread out when they want to fly. The Cats of
the Philippines have the same attribute. See the flying Squirrel
which was sent last year to M. de Maurepas.
There are many other species of Cats in the Indies; some have ermine-
like fur and a tail ringed with black and white stripes; some others
have six paws. The Author of the present State of the Isles of
England reports that in Florida, adjoining Virginia, there are wild
Cats that wage war on savage beasts by leaping on their backs and
clinging there to subdue them and make them their prey. Other Indian
Cats carry their young in a pouch placed on their flank, and are no
less nimble for it.
An old French Poet, who was a Physician at the same time, draws this
portrait of a marvellous Cat.
This rare kitten which was made by Nature,
With her own hands she perfected its features,
This strange marvel we cannot help but praise -
It has eight feet, one head, one eye, four ears and two tails.
Paul Contant, Master Apothecary of Poitiers, pag. 40. fol 37.
But it is not enough that the earth is sown with these different
species, and another French Poet has most judiciously remarked that
the seas also have their Cats.
Who has not also seen that the grassy field
Has no rare animal that water does not yield?
The ocean has its own Elephant and. its red-coloured Cats.
Dampière, in his voyage around the world, describes the form of this
admirable fish. The Sea -at, he says, is primarily distinguished by
its whiskers, and by its brilliant eyes which glitter in the night.
11. Pietro del la Vallé; this Traveller, who seemed to have a great
deal of good sense, revealed in his letter written from Ispahan that,
as a good Citizen, he did not believe he could make a greater use of
his voyages, for Rome his beloved Country, than to transport there a
new race of Cats; he stated that he had married an Asiatic beauty
named Maani, and that he passed a delightful existence between his
Wife and these handsome Cats.
Pietro del la Vallé enjoyed a large fortune, and went nowhere in his
travels without a large retinue, leaving signs of his discernment and
his magnificence everywhere he went.
Those beautiful Cats were from the Province of Chorasan, on the
borders between Zagathay and; the region included the Province of
known to the ancients as Ariane, and part of the lands of Parthia and
Bactria. Its principal Cities were Herat, Nisabur, Saiachas,
Turschie, Mervera, etc.
12. He was the one who erected the exchange building in London.
13. Diction, article Rosen under note C. pag. 2485. Rotterdam
edition, printed in 1720.


Cats considered as they are today.

Our previous letters, Madame, have revealed the splendour of Cats in
a manner which, I believe, is satisfactory to those of us who
recognize their merit. But do you think it will make a sufficient
impression on those people prejudiced against them? We have many
kinds of adversaries to combat. There are severe spirits who assume
an extreme scepticism of history, and who will shamelessly deny the
facts which we advance in our faith in respectable antiquity. Others
will remain slaves of their childhood prejudices, accustomed to
lacking any regard for Cats, and who will learn of the Cat's past
glory, without changing their opinions. There is only one more cause
to take, Madame, and that is to examine the cat species as it is
today, set apart and considered in itself. You have given me much
enlightenment in this respect, which it is time to make use of. Let
us first transport ourselves to a region superior to that of the
terrestrial animals; it is there that we will find Cats in repose and
in an abundance which is not due to men. Can we not then recognize
that it is purely from courtesy that Cats have anything at all to do
with us? Given free choice, they choose to live, according to their
ambition or philosophy, in the porticos of the monarch or under the
citizen's simple roof. It costs them neither complacency nor concern
to please to obtain access there; their light-footedness and agility
open, so to speak, a road for them in the breezes; therefore, in the
upper regions of all cities, Cats populate their own private city. It
is there that they form a kind of republic that blossoms and 
maintains itself through its own powers. The lofts of houses are only
occupied by animals that reproduce themselves purely for their own
subsistence. Thus, without any human assistance, there is no Cat
which, excepting the time he devotes to idleness or to his love
affairs, does not find in abundance everything he needs to make him
happy. And how economically they enjoy their well-being! They ennoble
life's necessities, adding to them the appearance of liberty and
pleasure; they begin by making a spectacle of the Mouse that will
become their prey; they only decide to kill it when driven by
increasing need. In their agility and in their claws, Cats thus
carry, so to speak, their fortune and their native land.<1>

It is from the bosom of this happy an independence that they descend
into our homes. Eh, but under what auspices? And what charms do they
produce there? The most amiable playfulness, and exquisite and varied
poses that were formerly imitated and became the glory of the most
famous acrobats; those are their inborn talents that they bring among
us. In addition, aren't they also looking for masters? Born in a
happy state, always free to remain in it, nothing leads them to
servitude. It is only pure affection for men, convenience, and shared
humour, that makes us happy to possess them. They are a hundred times
more esteemed in these regards than dogs, which many people are
nevertheless unashamed to hold in higher regard than Cats. Dogs only
attach themselves to us because they would die without our support.
Let us examine them well: humiliated by their lowly position, there
is no sort of insult or ill-usage that they will not endure. What a
difference! In the most perfect Dog one finds only a faithful slave;
in one's Cat one possesses an amusing friend, whose loyalty is purely
voluntary; the moments he gives to you are so many sacrifices of that
freedom and that agility which do not limit either his visit or his

But we must still consider their superior qualities. If we analyse
their sentiments, dare I say, what superiorities do we discover?
Nothing astonishes them, and nothing coerces them. Anything that
moves becomes the object of fun. They believe that nature exists only
for their amusement. They do not imagine any other cause of movement
and when we excite their frisky attitudes by our teasing, does it not
seem that they see us only as entertainers and all our actions as
buffoonery? So we amuse ourselves and entertain each other, while
thinking it is only we who are only entertained.

This gaiety so natural to Cats reminds me of what we read of those
Kings of Turkestan<3> who never showed themselves to either their
subjects or their enemies without having that appearance of joy that
comes from the depths of the soul, and who, regarding this as the
foremost of all blessings, took the very appropriate title of "the
Prince who is never sad."

If a Cat tires of the tumult of the cities, the countryside offers
him a new homeland where nature seems to have foreseen all his needs.
Eh! what has nature not done for him? Is there a more happily
constituted animal? We never notice any deterioration in his health;
he seems exempt from all anxiety as we never see him bothering about
tomorrow's needs. What an advantage he has over other animals!
Foresight, as highly valued as it rightly is to us, is nevertheless
the daughter of fear; it is one of those virtues that implies a state
of misery in those that possess it. A Dog surrounded by everything
his voracity makes most precious to him does not enjoy the
tranquillity that constitutes true happiness. At the very moment of
his satisfaction, he feels a sense of approaching poverty, and he
distrustfully hides part of his wealth. The Cat, master of his
situation, tastes in the bosom of abundance the pure pleasure of
tranquillity; his cleverness and restraint almost certainly
guarantees him a pleasant future.

We cannot reproach Cats, as we may legitimately do with Dogs, that
their association is bought with care and constraint. Cats are
philosophical in their choice of home, there being no part of a house
that does not appear a pleasant retreat. They are indifferent to the
hours when meals are served, and in the intervals we do not fear that
they will be driven mad by thirst, becoming the terror and
destruction of the family which raised them in its arms, They do not
bring even the slightest inconvenience. They express themselves to us
by a soft murmur which seems to be as much flirtation as friendship.
They thus preserve, with as much art as prudence, that voice which
soars so clearly when they return to that region where men dare not
go and disturb them. In short, we need only busy ourselves with them
for our amusement. Dogs, happy only to be our slaves, nevertheless
sell us their servitude and their uselessness in cities; they
multiply our domestic cares. Cats, possessing a well-being that
expects nothing of us, deliver our houses from destructive
animals,<4> and lavish the pleasure of their society on us. When we
receive them into the intimacy of our families, they want only to
play the role animals, and demand none of the attentions which men
owe only to men. They spare us the shame of reckoning among our
occupations the duty of satisfying their needs or their caprices.<5>

If animals were susceptible to egotism, in which ones would it be
more forgivable? On examining the play and harmony found in all their
members, surely it seems that nature has given particular care to
their construction? She gave them an advantage that always succeeds
in humans, that of having a face. The whole of their features have a
character of finesse and mirth, especially their whiskers, and are
gifts they could not have received only as amenities. The brightness
of their eyes, still so esteemed among men, is certainly squandered
upon the cat species. Our eyes have no other faculty than to enable
us to perceive objects with the aid of light, and they become useless
to us whenever there is no light. Cats' eyes carry their own light
with them. The sun, or the artificial lights which are indispensable
need in almost all our actions, are only a spectacle to them. While
we are often stopped during our most interesting projects and
impatiently wait for the darkness to end, Cats in love clearly see
each on the roof-gutters and, being luckier than us, when their eyes
seek the object they desire, their eyes provide sufficient light to
find it.

These luminous qualities are so worthy of attention that they merited
a eulogy in the book written by one of our most celebrated
Academicians of Science.<7> He did not hesitate to honour the Cats'
eyes, and the sparks we see glittering when we rub their fur the
wrong way,<8> and which we call natural phosphorescence. This remark
will make known to future ages that Cats were not useless in the
scademies, and that they contributed to the perfection of the

Let's now examine their character. It is dangerous, if we believe
vulgar opinion, and this error, however shameful it may be in our
judgment, is adopted even by persons of common sense. We must not be
surprised at this. Intellectual men are ordinary people in many ways.
It is the result of a certain degree of laziness, which always
remains in those who have the most inclination to learn; and some,
moreover, barely reproach themselves for their own credulity if a
belief does not harm their pride.

As we have already established that Cats are capable of loyalty and
attentiveness in their conduct they maintain with men, as long as we
go into detail we will also prove that they have all the delicacy of
friendship. We can count on some people to dispute that this
friendship is constant; they will not fail to cry out against the
Cat's scratching paw. It is then a question of making known the
candour and innocence of the much reproached claw. First let us
examine first its form: it is so sharp, and requires so much
attention from the Cat, a dexterity so perfect that it does not catch
it, that even the least reasoning men agree when they say that Cats
make velvet paws. This manner of speaking which appears to be only an
expression is, however, a very fine analysis of the admirable skill
with which a cat must use his paw in order that his nails do not
scratch. Behold then, Cats are in a perpetual state of restraint,
and, moreover, what sort of restraint? A restraint that demands such
inconvenient concentration that it completely disturbs the natural
order and action of its mechanism. Cats that live with us are in a
constant state of attentiveness to retracting their claws. If we
opened our eyes to this situation, dare we not admit that the Cat's
affection is the most flattering and the most tender that we can
inspire? It is true that during his life, a Cat may have a dozen
distractions and despite himself, his claw will resume the game that
nature imposed on it, even if this only the transport of an
involuntary joy, the scratch, moreover falling only on distrustful
hands. Nevertheless, there are minds that are appalled. They do not
take into account past virtue. They become furious, forgetting how
much it costs a Cat to not scratch more often. Such injustice! Such

Here then is a friend who is amusing and delicate, and who has spent
his life in self-restraint, and you will not forgive his friendship
for a few moments of distraction? Could society be preserved among
men if they regarded with the same severity the clawings (if I may
call it that) they willingly exchange during their liaisons and their
friendships? This small loss of fair treatment in the conduct of
Cats, far from disposing us against them, is morality in action; we
should consider them animals as capable of teaching us as they are
capable of amusing us.

Rest assured, Madame; one day we shall see the merit of Cats
generally recognized. It is impossible that, in a nation as
enlightened as ours, prejudice should trump reasoning in this regard.
Do not doubt that, in social circles, at spectacles, at promenades,
at the ball, and even in academies, Cats will be received, or rather
sought after. It is impossible to not feel that in the Cat we possess
a friend who is excellent company, an admirable pantomime artist, a
born astrologer, and a perfect musician; in short an assemblage of
talents and the graces, but we cannot yet determine with real
precision when this epoch will arrive, which will justly be compared
to the golden age, reason will overcome the handiwork of prejudice.
The progress of reason is never rapid and she is circumspect with
those men who lead the way. She seems to fear letting them see that
it is reason who schools them; this is humiliating for humanity, and
contrary to the interests of the Cats.

I have the honour to be, etc.

Notes to the Eleventh Letter

1. The Allans, the Vandals, and the Sueves, all lovers of freedom,
knew no better symbol to represent liberty than the Cat; they carried
a sable Cat on a ground of gold. Method. Favyn. Hist. of Navarre, liv
I, pag. 34
In Heraldic terms, the Cat is called Effarouché (startled) when it is 
rampant; but when it has its hindquarters higher than its head it is
called Herissoné (crouching).
Felis efferata, Felis arreata.
2. The charm of feline society becomes more generally recognised in
Paris each day; they are starting to find there the same
consideration that they have in the Levant. One could make a long
list of cats who lead a delightful life there. The Princess of
Bouillon has two cats that could ceertainluy see the position of the
most fortunateCats of Asia without being jealous.
3. Bibliot. Orientale.
4. Indeed how silently... how secretly and watchfully, do Cats spring
forth upon Mice. Plin. Lib. XI. Cap. LXXIII
5. In speaking of Dogs, Montagne says, with what pains do we not
inconvenience ourselves on their behalf? It certainly does not seem
to me that the most abject servants would willingly do for their
Masters what Princes boast of doing for their Beasts. pag. 227. ch.
2. l. 2.
6. The eyes of nocturnal Animals such as cats glitter and shine in
the darkness. Plin. lib. XI. cap. XXXVI.
7. M. Lemery, Traité de Chymie.
8. Others, so I have heard, shook out flames from a black Cat by
rubbing the beast's back; so runs the text. Fortunius Licetus de
Lucernis, pag. 262.


Sarcophagus of Ta-Miou, beloved cat of the Egyptian Prince Tutmosis

These days, living vexes me;
And do you know why, Magny,
Know why I feel so morose?
No, it is not because I've lost
My rings, my money, or my purse;
I have suffered something worse
Three days ago I lost such treasure -
I lost my love, and thus lost pleasure.
When I recall what death has taken,
I can feel my sad heart breaking,
And when I speak or when I write,
I feel the wound of lost delight;
Belaud, my small gray cat, deceased.
Belaud – nature's finest masterpiece,
Wrought in flesh, fur and form of cat;
Belaud, the deadly scourge of rats
Whose beauty was such, 'tis true to tell,
He was worthy of being immortal.
First of all, I must say
That Belaud was not entirely grey,
Not like French cats bred here at home,
But more like those we find in Rome -
Silvery grey with lustrous shine,
Like richest satin, smooth and fine,
Lying like waves upon his spine,
And white beneath, just like ermine.
Small teeth housed in a muzzle short,
Eyes not too ardent, but full of warmth;
And like the shining Persian sloes,
Nuanced with tints stole from rainbows,
With glowing colours, iridescent
Like those painted on the rainy heavens.
A well-proportioned, short-eared head,
Set upon a compact neck.
Belaud had ebon-coloured nostrils,
Tipping that little leonine muzzle,
Either side of which there grew
His whiskery beard of silver hue,
A wisp of hair to add such grace
To his little lion-face.
Slender legs and little feet,
Softer than a fine wool mitt;
Except for when, with unsheathed claws,
He scratched, and then had not soft paws!
An elegant and soft, sleek throat,
Long monkey's tail and nuanced coat,
Variegated, flecked and freckled,
Subtly shaded, somewhat speckled.
The raised-up flanks support their burden,
Of his rounded, ample abdomen,
Below the back, moderately long,
And overall, a jovial form.
Belaud was such a handsome beast,
From his head down to his feet,
Rarely is such beauty seen,
In one single living being.
Oh what a misfortune! Calamity!
He cannot be restored to me!
What mourning has my soul received -
Death has dealt such bitter grief,
Far more savage than a bear,
If death had seen my Belaud, rare,
Death would have softened and relented,
And I would still be quite contented,
Instead of this sad and lonely path,
That life became when Belaud passed.
But cruel death had never gazed
Like I upon his silly games,
The agility and nimble tricks
Of Belaud's graceful antics,
Seen him scratch, or jump, or race,
Or turn about with supple with grace,
Become a whirlwind of a cat
To whisk about or snatch a rat
Then release it to prolong the play
His pastime sporting with his prey.
With what care he used velvet paws
To clean his whiskers and his jaws,
So that Belaud the little knave
Became then dignified and grave.
He was permitted even on my couch,
And would take gently from my mouth
Some tasty morsels of my meat
When together we sat down to eat -
For one of his thousand fetching traits
Was to watch me at my plate.
My God! What a pastime he found,
My Belaud as he twirled around,
Made foolish by a ball of thread,
And what pleasure, when his silly head
Chased time and time his furry tail,
And went whirling like a spinning wheel!
Or when sitting on his well-furred stern
Like a garter that same tail was worn,
Its tip pointing to his stomach, white,
And for all the world this funny sight
Was a wondrous caricature of some
Solemn learned doctor of the Sorbonne!
Or when, when teased he used his paw
Like some fencer with a sword,
But for me there was not any danger
For fuss would soon appease his anger.
And so, Magny, can you now see,
How Belaud passed his time with me;
And can you realise why I mourn?
I'm sure no other cat's been born
So skilful, learned or adroit
To engage the rats and mice in combat.
Belaud knew a thousand ways
To surprise them in their lairs,
And even if they'd thought to scrape
More than one hole for their escape;
There was not a single rat
So fast it could outrun my cat
Once in front of Belaud. Now I'll say more
No ignoramus was my Belaud:
He understood things well, was trainable,
To eat his meat sat at my table,
If, when he begged, he was not offered food,
As a sharp reminder he'd scratch you,
But if offered food, he'd stay his claws
And take his meat with outstretched paw.
Belaud was almost always well-behaved,
And rarely were his acts depraved,
He did just a few things that displeased -
Such as when he ate a vintage cheese,
Or my linnet and my chaffinch killed,
When they annoyed him with their trills.
But Magny, those things were forgiven
For we men are not perfect either.
Belaud was not the sort of feline,
Who prowled about both day and night,
To his appetite enslaved:
But for his mealtimes he would wait,
And he ate with great sobriety,
For he was not prone to gluttony.
Also it was not his nature
To defecate just anywhere,
Like so many others make their soil
Where'er they like and leave places spoiled.
Because Belaud had better taste,
And when he needed to make his waste,
Restrained himself with decency,
And always had the honesty
To hide his soil beneath ash-pile
That way my garden was not defiled.
Ah Belaud, my dearest plaything;
Ah Belaud of endless purring,
Rumbling his tuneless litany
Was how he often spoke to me;
He made complaints in sweet-voiced mews
Protesting kitten-like and cute.
The times Belaud annoyed me,
(Or at least the only times in memory)
Was when he roused me from my dreaming
When the night-time noise intrigued him -
Of nesting rats gnawing my mattress
And just as noisy he gave chase!
Dexterously he seized and snatched them
Never did he fail to catch them;
Now death has stole my bodyguard
The rats are chewing twice as hard
And with no cat his night-watch keeping
I'm more disturbed than e'er when sleeping
And I slumber fitfully in fear
That rats will now chew on my ears.
I fear that all the verse I write
Will be eaten by the rats and mice.
Truly the Gods lack sympathy
For miserable humanity,
An animal's demise foretells
The approach of yet more ills,
Or some other evil presages,
For in omens heaven sent a message,
It was a warning from dire Fate,
When she took Peloton, my dog away.
With foreboding I could sense,
There was some malignant influence
Hovering and filling me with dread
And then, my God, Belaud was dead!
No crueller storm could blast my head,
My cherished cat, Belaud was dead!
Belaud was my dearest friend
Was my companion, till his end,
In my room, on my bed, at table,
Belaud was more companionable,
Than any little fawning hound.
He did not prowl at night to howl
Like those monstrous tomcats, squalling,
In their horrid caterwauling;
But now that little tomcat fine
Will never found a family line.
And for Belaud, it is sad indeed,
That you'll not perpetuate your breed.
If it please God, my little Bel,
That I many fashion words so well,
And in some pretty style, with passion
My proclaim your grace in finest fashion,
If my verses be as sweet as true,
Belaud, in faith, I promise you,
That you'll live on, as long as cats
On earth wage warfare on the rats.
(Par du Bellay, Gentleman of Angevin, 1568.)

What a tough career it would be to find moral examples were it not
for the conduct of Cats! Does M. de la Fontaine need to depict a
natural beauty that could be corrupted by temptation? Does he wish to
warn us against ourselves, even though we follow the path of virtue?
A Cat provides him with the subject of his apology.


By. A. M. le Duc de Bourgogne.
Once a cat lived alongside a young Sparrow,
Who'd lodged close together since their days in the cradle,
For the cage and the basket were in the same household;
The bird very often tormented the young Cat -
The bird fenced with his beak, the cat's paws patted back;
Always sparing his friend however it teased him
Correcting it gently whene'er it displeased him:
Scrupulously using just soft velvet paws
Though well it knew it was armed with sharp claws.
The Sparrow, however, was less circumspect,
Belabouring the kitty with unrestrained pecks;
But master kitty both was wise and was discreet
Excusing the Sparrow for the use of its beak.
For between friends we must never surrender
To real wrath which would tear that friendship asunder.
From infancy bird and cat both knew the limits,
Living in harmony laid down by long habit,
So that their games never turned to real combat.
One day there appeared a neighbourhood Sparrow,
At first coming to visit, and then became a companion
To clowning Pierrot and his games with wise Raton.
But alas, the two Sparrows got into a real fight,
And wise Raton took his life-long friend's side;
Saying "This is a fine thing you insolent stranger,
By insulting my friend you have invited danger
Little neighbourhood Sparrow are you trying to eat mine?
Not if this Cat can help it! " and the Cat joined the fray,
Quickly crunched up the stranger and, surprised, he did say,
"Such exquisite flavour, that Sparrow, such savour,"
And reflecting on this he consumed his friend too.
So, from the fable, can we infer some moral?
For without one this tale is imperfect and hollow.
I think I see something, but its shadows confuse me,
Prince, you will find them immediately;
These are games for you, and not for the Muses,
For they do not have the same wit as thee.


By the Chevalier de S. Gilles.
There is nothing like having sharp wits,
Said a fox, and you cannot contradict,
I have much more than any other can boast.
No doubt about I have more than most.
In my repertoire I have two hundred good tricks.
Me, said the cat, I know to my benefit
A wonderful trick that I learnt from my mother,
And glad of that one, I know no other -
There is nothing like it.
Both creatures heard at the very same moment
The barking of dogs, and both of them left:
The tomcat climbed up to the top of a Sycamore,
The other fell prey to the dogs, was devoured.
A point of finesse or common sense is sufficient.
There is nothing like it.


From TATA, A tomcat belonging to Madame the Marquise de Mongla, TO
GRISETTE, a she-cat belonging to Madame Deshouillieres.
I have received your compliment,
Your nobly expressed sentiment;
And I can see well in your manners
That you despise the tiles and gutters.
And these things meet with my approval.
No other kitty is so beautiful,
No other kitty pleased me so greatly;
To no other was I so faithful
That I loved her and her alone.
When you offer me your tenderness,
Is it in good faith you speak?
Is it possible that you have interest
In an unfortunate like me?
Alas! Is this truly sincerity?
As a lover you'd regard me!
But I am forming now a fantasy;
Could I be loved? Could I be happy?
May I describe to you my anguish?
How friendship is all I can profess,
A jealous rival, enraged and ruthless,
Found me with his lover in a tryst.
Spare me from my story painful
Of his revenge and of my shame:
Pity me my dreadful destiny,
And let your pity soothe the injury
Both in my heart and my body's pain
That I can feel no more that pleasure.
I'm unworthy of you, sweet, pretty Grisette,
This pains me more than you could guess,
That I have lost my lover's fire:
A loss made more deplorable
Because it is irreparable.

How dare you recount to me
The losses you've sustained?
This is not the way to start,
No way to win a she-cat's heart
With stories pleading of your pain.
Ha! Fie! (a pack of priceless ladies
Would quite nonchalantly cry)
Ha! Fie! again, to such a lover, say we,
And Tata, I'll dare speak to you freely,
Far more am'rous are we ladies coy.
Woe to the others, and it's their misfortune,
That tomcats are disgraced like you.
Now I, made wise and tender by happy fate,
I will excuse you from pleasures more robust,
Let us make our love more chivalrous
In witty banter let us both converse,
And never will we exhaust our desires' source.
For you I will renounce the gutters and the tiles,
Where (by the way) I have never strayed,
For I am one of those proud queens who smiles,
On those who play the greatest airs, on gallant styles.
Alas! It's by these my heart is stole away,
When I learned what the others had to say,
Of your attractions and of your address
And of your incomparable Mistress.
Ever since that dangerous moment,
My every single thought you've occupied,
How to tell you? I had some designs,
To pay you some sweet compliment
From the love engendered by you in my heart.
You confirmed to me by pleasant verse
All I have heard of your talents so diverse.
In spite of your justified sadness,
I see, dear Tata, you are a shining gallant,
My verse is doggerel, a poor response
Compared to the fine lines flowing from your talent;
But this is rare, they say, among men too,
So what should I, Grisette, be frightened of?
When by my lines you see that I love you,
And for one who seeks my love that is enough.

It's with good reason I am charmed by you, Grisette,
You have more wit than any tomcat I have met;
Never, let me say, has any she-cat charmed me,
But in confidence I must ask you yet,
You surely are a flirt - you've quite disarmed me!
You can admit it and I'll not think you indiscreet.
The evil of coquetry is not that much indeed;
And such admission will not do you any hurt,
I will make my own admission if you need,
Despite my sorry loss, I'm still a flirt.
When love dies one can still write knowingly,
Gallantly, with knowledge of such love in mind,
Because, believe me, to speak happily
Especially of loving you will find,
Some visits to the roof-tiles are most necessary;
One does not become expert otherwise.
After all, it is a tomcat's weakness
It's up to us to dare to play the tease,
And on this point there's really little need,
To flatter us on what comes natural to us,
We display this talent freely without cease.
In cats there are no virginal Lucreces,
And we never see prudishness in our species;
But I've no wish to anger thee,
So let us flirt, let us take pleasure,
In these things by fate decreed;
In short, let's love and at our leisure;
You've wit and spirit enough to please;
And I believe we belong together!
I present no danger to your honour,
Though enraged at my own misfortune,
A small advantage to Grisette, it's true;
For if you weren't so wise and tender,
I could not have attracted you.
Ah! you understand me, but let's change language,
For it seems I might offend,
Well, my dear Grisette, a suggestion -
A correspondence between us two;
May this faithful beau give satisfaction
In the respect he has for you.

Tata, when I give up for you
Charming tomcats, tender too,
Planning to establish our friendship perfect,
Because a friendship is all we can do,
So why do you call me a coquette?
That reprimand is indiscreet;
Did some strange whim of yours that epithet beget
Because I have the name Grisette?
Do you some flirty heart suspect?
My name does not my nature set.
What! In order to write gallant lines to me,
You need some past experience in mind?
That it's impossible to write without some understanding
Gained from your days cavorting on the tiles
And amorous adventures in the guttering?
We feline connoisseurs think otherwise.
But we'd still have some soft weakness,
Do I really wish to flirt with you, Tata?
Alas! It's only yourself that you like to flatter,
And it's time for that mistake to cease,
I'll not hide the fact I find it an insult.
No feline Lucrece? For that matter,
There also are no feline Tarquins, Tata,
I say this without wishing to cause upset.
When Cats like you propose to please,
It should be done in better fashion,
First rid yourself of your suspicious jealousy
And stop grumbling about past passion,
Or, Tata, you cannot flirt with me.
I really do not wish to spend my days
Listening to you say that you're enraged
It's not necessary to proceed this way,
To discourage me from being sage;
And often, out of spite one may be engaged
A trifle beyond mere words and language,
In saying so, once more, no offence is intended.
Farewell, Tata, confidante of Grisette,
Because a young women like myself,
Find no great satisfaction in your letter,
Nor satisfaction in yourself.

a Dog belonging to Maréchal de Vivonne.
We would have known, even had you not said it,
That you come from a cynical breed,
The way that you answered what I'd writ,
Was proof enough indeed.
Nothing is sacred from your expert bite,
And nothing is granted grace;
You tear up everything despite
A twenty-centuries long space
That great talent of your race
Unaltered still burns bright.
Whether it be apocryphal or true,
That you count as your ancestors
That breed of biting Philosophers,
Though you have good teeth in your jaws,
The claws of cats are sharp-honed too,
However, I do not wish them to be used,
If you wanted you could dispense the hauteur,
That's unattractive in your nature,
Then, perhaps, with you I could be amused.
Perhaps you believe this she-cat too vulgar?
But of this notion you'll soon be disabused.
If you count Diogenes,
Crates of Thebes, and all the other hounds,
Me, whom you despise, for mine I count
All fabled Gods within my pedigree.
When the Titans daringly
Climbed up to the Heavens foolishly,
The god who threw his thundering lances,
Unwilling to to leave such things to chance,
Sent the Gods and Goddesses to earth for safety,
Away from the war that rent the heavens,
And, by the way, they obeyed him happily.
Of all the countries Egypt was chosen,
And there the gods went into hiding,
Adopting both pretty and ugly guises,
Safe from sight, those drinkers of ambrosia.
One took the figure of a bull, another was a bear,
And some in feathered finery were clad.
It was the supple figure of a female cat
That the Queen of Lovers chose to wear.
In feline form she was a comely Princess,
And to avoid earth-bound ennui,
She found contentment in the embrace
Of a lusty cat o'ercome by her beauty,
And after a while that glowing Goddess
Produced kittens in quantity.
It is from this source divine
That I, Grisette, draw my origins.-
Which of us, Cochon, tell truthfully,
Can best boast of quality?
Perhaps this discourse displeases you.
Let's talk about your wit which shows clearly through
In all your penned endeavours,
But is it your wit alone that knows how to please?
Are these brilliant lines in part due to your secretary
Whose fine phrases are so clever?
Between us, Cochon, I conjecture
That some sharp-witted secretary,
Gives you more wit than you have.
I know his turn, I know his manner -
Lively, charming, and singular -
Apollo could not write such dazzling words.
For me, I must rely on my own knowledge
I tell you, if you've not already heard
That I do not roam the gutters or roof-ridges.
Never have sharp, scandalous cries
Come forth from my modest throat.
When Love makes me feel its fire,
And it's to my Mistress, her alone,
That my love's secrets I confide.
Then sensitive to the torment I display,
She finds for me a kind and worthy mate,
Do you consider this a destiny to despise?
If this Marshal's love is true,
He'd surely do the same for you;
If your master, the great Hero,
With spirit and valour enough for thirty,
Saw how Love disturbs his hound's repose,
For you he'd find a she-dog hot and flirty,
Instead you must make puppy-eyes
Forced by your needs, to idolize
A scratching Mistress fruitlessly.

Never had a Dog so much wisdom,
Never was a Dog so eloquent,
So much spirit, such visible affection.
Would the Immortal authors of my birth consent,
To aid me against you in my faltering obligation!
They listen to my wishes, and already I commence
To feel in my pounding heart their divine aid;
They show me your many flaws that will dissuade
This fire which would have cost my innocence.
Yes, now I notice your most maddening defect.
There's no fault greater than that unworthy weakness
That makes you renounce your learned ancestors
When you would surely be more glorious
If we could believe you had their wisdom and finesse
And that you, Cochon, could draw some nobleness
With the blood of the Gods as its source.
It's just like those humans and their foolish vanity,
They dredge up some illustrious names
That are associated with money,
From houses glamourous and famed,
And that have an exalted history.
What if they discover names even greater still?
For sure some cunning genealogist
Will find some link, however tenuous, exists;
As often they change their clothes, they change their relatives at
They're governed by their pride instead of nature.
I know their faults better than they know mine.
But I did not know, Cochon, I swear,
That there were social climbers among your kind.
And here, it seems, at last we have your story:
A Cynic yesterday, a God today;
At once in heaven and on the Styx's black banks dreary
And on earth you're simultaneously placed;
Believing this, I find, is not so easy.
What! you would be these all-at-once
The great dog whose ardour burns us all?
Horrid Cerberus with triple-throated voice?
The fat dog whose baying quite unsettles,
Whose tend'rest barks to me are merely noise?
Do I seem so stupid, or so gullible,
To believe one dog is three? I'm more adroit!
When I described the gallant advernture
Venus had on the banks of the Nile,
Unlike you I resorted not to imposture.
So, you say I've not proved I'm the child
Of Venus, mother of the Graces.
And that you need more signs?
Let's leave the deeds of the first races
In whom we still preserve the traces;
I may only have for myself
Just a single mythology.
Which book is more trustworthy,
Than a book that contains in itself
The very first Theology?
If among heaven's celestial fires
That regulate the fate of every being,
Just because your species is appearing,
Do not be so conceited you'd expire.
The Ass of ever-drunken Silenus,
A dirty, stinking he-goat, and a Scorpion hideous,
And a thousand more beasts monstrous
Like your canine constellation shine upon us.
But, Cochon, show me if you would,
A dog good enough in mind and brain,
To walk about in human shape,
As we cats did, thanks to the ancient Gods.
A handsome youth once owned a She-Cat pretty,
History says he loved her to distraction;
And every day this love-lorn madman
A hundred times kissed the mouth and paw of kitty,
But this strange love could bear no fruit;
And since he needed something more,
That poor lover was reduced
To ask the Gods to metamorphose her.
He spared no effort and he spent his earnings,
Wept a sea of tears to Goddess Venus,
And at her famous Temple in Erice
He burnt more than one sacrifice.
Until Venus finally listened to his yearning.
By excess of pity for his strange burning,
From his she-cat Venus made a woman.
Do not go to some canine ignoramus,
But know that I'm still obliged to that lovely Goddess;
For the honour given to my species,
And I can call Aesop as my witness.
But let us both forget our breeds immortal,
Let's finish, Cochon, I agree,
Let's not pursue this famous quarrel.
Be tender and to me be faithful.
Despite the Gods, I give in to troubled feelings.
These guiltless games and gallant exchanges,
Are born in us through tenderness
That cannot withstand the commerce of the senses.
So without delay let's go together
To Permessus' banks, sacred to Apollo and the Muses,
And pick those flowers that last forever.
Let's crown with them the peerless Master,
Who embellishes your words with genius divine;
And leave in the world a memory lasting
Of our uncommon love, both yours and mine.


Illustration: The Tragedy

GRISETTE - Madame Deshouillieres' she-cat, in love with Cochon.
MIMY - Madame Deshouillieres' tomcat, in love with Grisette.
MARMUSE - Madame Deshouillieres' He-cat, Mimy's Confidante.
CAFAR, Cat belonging to Minimes of Chaillot, Deputy of the Village
A Troupe of Neighbourhood Cats.

The Scene is a house in Paris, the home of Madame Deshouillieres. The
Theatre opens, and represents a flat terrace level with the

MIMY, MARMUSE, Chorus of Neighbourhood Cats.

I can no longer suffer the rigours that Grisette
Imposes on me, nor the torment.
She mistreats me, preferring Cochon, you know. The ingrate!
Heavens, what a disturbance
That a cat should choose a dog for her sweetheart.
Can you believe it my dear Marmuse,
Can you imagine my excessive hurt
That for a year – no for two -
An ugly dog has that heart which was to me refused!

Mimy, I can feel your desperation,
I can barely express my sensitivities,
My awful feelings against that heartless beauty;
And besides I am your loyal companion,
Believe me when I say forget that cat
Give up on her who's so indelicate,
That she favours a Dog above the most perfect tomcats.

I cannot stop worshipping her allures;
But today I'll finally explode with with vengeance.
Please do not abandon me, Marmuse
Come help me punish an ungrateful mistress.

Nothing is more sacred than to serve a friend,
Let's go, Mimy, I offer you my willing hand,
And I wait gladly for your command.

MIMY, MARMUSE, CAFAR, Chorus of Neighbourhood Cats.

Listen handsome tomcats, great news has come,
Cochon has just lost the day.
To a cruel and frightful rage -
Grisette is robbed of the object of her Love.

The heart of Grisette
Is for rent today.
With this Coquette
Who wants to play?
But I'm thinking that
As an important Cat,
I will do nothing,
That could make others
Say my heart aspires
To a dog's leftovers.

What favorable hand has washed away
Our insult in this cursed dog's blood?
Cafar, tell us the story if you would
Of the agreeable events of this day.

Do not imitate the triumphant style
Of those mortals who as beautiful minds are known.
Their talk could make an elephant out of a fly,
And we could travel from Paris to Rome,
Before they could express the sorrow of a child
From whom an apple was stolen.

I do not care to be so dull of silly.
It happened in Chaillot, a nearby village,
A fruitful, pleasant place and populous beside.

Just as I said – we'll be in danger of dozing off
Before you even get to Cochon's death,
It would take less time to turn you into a muff
You glorious windbag with your boring eloquence.

CAFAR, to Mimy.
You fool, is all this really necessary?

Do not be diverted at his fits of rage.

For a while, as we must surely be aware,
Chaillot has been the usual residence
Of a Marshal brave as long-dead Caesar,
As wise as Cato, and as learned as Homer.

Please stop there, my friend Cafar,
It's not your place to reciting eulogies,
We all know this Marshal,
Know what he can do, know of his deeds,
And we love him, with the faith of animals.

CAFAR, to Mimy.
Don't you want to shut him up, Mimy?
Silence the rascally little tomcat?

MIMY, to Marmuse.
Shh! Marmuse, listen, even if it's just to please me.

Then I will tell it all, if you'll permit.

His Master's favours made Cochon full of pride,
The wrath of the other dogs knew no bounds:
It it too much, they said, we'll get revenge for all the hounds;
Who do not want this traitor by our side.
At that moment rage offered herself to them:
If one of you will take me in today.
Without it being perceived in any way,
To the prideful one I'll deal punishment.
Citron, with no thought and no delay,
Opened up his soul to cruel rage.
First this nimble dog was seen
Running wildly throughout the Village,
Then he seized Cochon in an ugly scene,
And right away he did him in.

Our fortunes have now become favourable.
That dog, that formidable rival,
Who made us neglect our tender interest,
Fate has stopped him in a manner irrevocable.
But perhaps the love-pangs that we found unbearable
Will not be comforted in completeness.
Grisette will mourn her vanished pleasures strange
When we love, is it an advantage,
To see the proud object to whom we pay homage,
Have her lovely eyes ever full of sorrow's pain?

Miaou, miaou, we are avenged.

MARMUSE, to Mimy.
Instead of spreading pretty words,
We'd better go to the house with careful tread
To steal some soles, or from what I've heard,
Some capons, well fattened from the diet fed,
That I know we've not yet eaten yet.

Marmuse, another thought is worrying my mind.

Like the hero of a romantic novel, will you find,
That maybe you are being duped, my friend?

Miaou, miaou, we are avenged.

GRISETTE, MIMY, MARMUSE, CAFAR, Chorus of Neighbourhood Cats.

Cruel tomcats, what's this you say of me?
Do you think I'm insulted or outraged?

Meow, meow, we are avenged.

If my cruel troubles are not enough for thee
My just despair will end my woe I fear.
Meow, meow, flow, flow my tears.
Despite the natural hostility,
That Heaven imprints in our hearts at our birth,
Cochon disarmed my austerity,
For him I lost for my reputation for harshness.
Miaou, meow, flow, flow my tears.

Grisette, blush for your foolish grief.
Grisette, blush for your foolish grief.

No, it is not enough to simply cry
My lover's death demands my own.
Let's die for my illustrious Cochon:
To the wandering spirits of lovers I will be a sacrifice.
No, it is not enough to to simply cry
My lover's death demands my own.

So, unkind, barbaric queen it's not enough
That you betray your duty.
But through a passion strange enough,
Just as your rival's death rekindles hope in me,
I must now be forced to see
You prepare more pain to punish me for my love.
Fear that paw.... ah! my reason strays, enough!
I'm shivering..... I die....

MARMUSE, to Mimy.
Good night.

MARMUSE, to Grisette.
He's a devil when something raises his ire,
Do not expose yourself to his flaming wrath.
When he invites you to satisfy his inner fire.
But Cochon had no other qualities
Than to by both a hero and by Grisette be adored.

That hero's choice was author of my fatal weakness.
And for my lover by his own pain he's sorely pressed.
My dear Cochon, the most handsome of all dogs.
Miaou, miaou.

Such a plague of miaous.
Oh you beauty so capricious,
Be a little less precious.
Ridicule follows closely on the heels of fashion,
That collection of wonders,
This Cochon, your beloved,
His tail was docked, as too were his ears.
He was, 'tis said, saved from the Marseilles sewer,
Named "Pig" for his appearance,
So much did he that filthy beast resemble.
Breathed from his mouth a fearful smell,
Which could be smelled a hundred paces all around.
A disteller's discerning eye was all that's left.
Apart from that he was the handsomest dog in the world.

Grisette: No, Cochon was made to inflame my heart, }
Chorus: No, Cochon was made to injure the heart.     }

Throughout the course of his whole life,
There was no day, without exception,
That he did not harbour the sincere desire
To always devour someone.
Capons, partridge, down his deep gullet he hurled,
Without him bothering to chew them.
No caress or benefactions moved him.
Apart from that he was the handsomest dog in the world.

Why do you dare deliver such blows to my heart?
Ah! what horrors, and what blasphemy!
Slanderous tomcats, fear me,
Fear my extreme fury,
Tremble and shake before me.
You, divine Venus, from whom I am descended,
Come here to defend my rights
Give me tenderness and take revenge divine -
Punish these roof dwellers
For their brutal insolence,
For they offend a gentle child of thine.

We don't fear the Goddess's revenge.
In Egypt on the Nile's banks she dwelt,
And took a tomcat for her husband then.
So with the Goddess we're acquainted well,
Stop invoking the lovely Goddess,
Grisette, return to your own species,
Your destiny will be much sweeter.

Grisette, return to your own species,
Your destiny will be much sweeter.

It's for Cochon alone that I have tenderness,
Though you might have a thousand times more envy,
It's still for him alone that I have interest.

Grisette, return to your own species,
Your destiny will be much sweeter.

You need not be mad nor a fool,
To love a paramour who's dead and gone.
Humans all are in accord,
And we learn also at their school
That the absentee is always wrong.

She's already gone, ungrateful wretch,
She has fled my burning flame.
Cruel kitty, stop! I call your name -
Grisette, Grisette, Grisette.

Grisette, Grisette, Grisette.
Stop, stop, cruel Cat, Grisette!


(sitting astride the guttering)
Tender tomcat, let her go,
Your misfortune in a while will end.
I swear by my bow, and by my mother Goddess.
That constancy is just a pipe-dream,
And Grisette will weary soon enough of grieving.

Love, please believe us, by God we'll be avenged.