Sunday, August 10, 2008

On Cats, Writing and Dickens

I have been trying to write all day long, every time I get on a roll, I see a tan tabby stretch herself across the keyboard. Or swipe my hand with a wayward paw.

I have to drop everything to play with her, groom her, lavish her with love.

It reminds me of Charles Dickens' cat, William. Dickens, like me loved cats. (What is it with writers and cats anyway?)

It seems Dickens adopted or found a cat. He and his wife took it in, and it became his favorite cat. Dickens named it William, after Shakespeare.

But then one day as Dickens was hard at work writing he realized something was wrong. William was in the same room as him, on the floor, giving birth to kittens.

It was then William became Wilhemina.

Wilhemina shared a special bond with Charles Dickens. If you go to his house, a stone throw's away from Russell Square in London, you can see where Dickens lived with his most favorite cat. You can see the desk where he wrote daily. And if you are real good, you can get close enough to see tiny marks on the desk. Marks made from a cat's claws.

It seems that when Wilhemina wanted attention, or thought Daddy Dickens had been writing too long, she would raise an elegant paw and scratch the desk. Or jump up on the desk and blow out the candle.

There has been a lot said lately on animals and mood. I have been fortunate that the two cats I have had in my life were more aware of my moods than I was. They knew when I was ill and would do things to prevent me from cycling all the way down.

Maybe Holly knows I should be off this thing today and wants some love. Like Dickens cat did.

And if you are ever in London, check out the statue of Hodge in front of Dr. Johnson's house. It's the only statue of a cat I can personally think of other than the cats engraved on the statue in front of Betsy Ross' house in Philadelphia.

Hodge, was preening and grooming one night as Dr Johnson was talking to Bosworth, his biographer. When asked about Hodge, Johnson replied "He's not the best cat I ever had, but he is a good cat indeed".

A good cat indeed. A good friend. Miracles in fur that purr and meow.

addendum - I have added a picture of my former cat to the web site.


Ana Luíza said...

I've liked "William" after Shakespeare!
When Nell - a dog -(yep! it's because of the movie but it was not me who gave her this name) came she used to pee behind the chair while I was on the computer and didn't give her attention.
Now she hardly enter the room where I work.
She hates this room.
She only pees on the right place and has patience to wait.
She is amazing and understands my moods.
I love her dearly but sometimes she has to wait too long.
Poor dog!

Larry said...

Well, I'm a dog and specifically dachshund guy myself (look at the name of my blog!), but you're right, it doesn't fit the literary image compared to a feline.

I mean, just take T.S. Eliot if no one else ...

susan said...

Ana, I didn't know you had a dog!

Larry your Schumi sounds beautiful.

But maybe its because writers by nature are loners, cats gravitate to dogs.

Dogs are more outgoing.

Hemingway had cats. Six toed ones, and they just got their own cat cam.

Gianna said...

I've got two cats both of whom sit on my lap (at different times) while I write on my computer...

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