The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

February 11, 2016

February 11, 1919

Paul Carus (July 18, 1852 to February 11, 1919) was a German scholar, receiving a doctorate at Tubingen University. He sought to illuminate the relation, unity, of science and religion. Carus emigrated to the US seeking a liberal environment. He became a managing editor at Open Court Publishing Company, whose founder, a rich industrialist, had ambitions similar to his own. He married one of the founder's daughters. Carus continued his own work while editing The Monist, a periodical which published, under his aegis,

scientists like Mach, Boltzmann, and Haeckel,  and scholars like "Veblen, Hilbert, Ostwald, Julian Huxley, Lombroso, and Piaget."  His wife continued his editorship after Carus died and the list of those published under their control is enormously impressive. I am quoting an Oxford University Press article on The Monist, and they list:

C. S. Peirce, John Dewey, Henri PoincarĂ©, Ernst Cassirer, Gottlob Frege, A. O.  Lovejoy, Bertrand Russell, T. S. Eliot, Charles Hartshorne,  and Otto Neurath; all published in The Monist.

Carus was certain that there could be no real conflict between science and religion, that both were evolving and part of that evolution was the vivacity of all parts of the world. Of course, this would include cats. In this example he notices:

If a cat sees a dog approach, it will nimbly climb the nearest tree. The cat knows the dog, the tree, and its own facility in climbing; and the cat's action is determined by the significance of the sense-impressions, which originated under past experiences. The total amount of these memory-structures which enable the cat to interpret present impressions and utilize them for adjusting itself towards the surrounding world is the cat's soul. That the cat jumps toward the tree and not in any other direction is a quality which is not measurable in the scales of the chemist or by the methods of the physicist. It is not a material thing nor is it a force. It is purely a matter of form. That which determines the directions of the cat's motion is the significance of the mental pictures in the cat's mind.

Our quotation is from God: An Enquiry Into the Nature of Man's Highest Ideal and a Solution of the Problem from the Standpoint of Science (1908).

Paul Carus saw any divisions that thinkers propose, like mind and body, phenomena and noumena, mind and matter, just complicated the unity of reality, the joyous oneness, unnecessarily.

In his book Fundamental Problems: The Method of Philosophy as a Systematic Arrangement (1889) Carus points out the unity he sees this way:

"Try all things, hold fast by that which is good;" it is the foundation of the Reformation, which simply illustrated the axiom that every man should be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him; it is the great principle of Descartes; it is the fundamental axiom of modern science.‎

Paul Carus is one of the more accurate of Spinoza's followers. Carus supported C. S. Pierce at a time when that philosopher was not appreciated. 

February 10, 2016

February 10, 1899

Archibald Lampman (November 17, 1861 to February 10, 1899) was a Canadian writer.
Our sketch below quotes either the Encyclopedia Britannica or a source on Canadian biography. 

The Morpeth
[his birth place] that Lampman knew was a small town set in the rolling farm country of what is now western Ontario, not far from the shores of Lake Erie. The little red church just east of the town, on the Talbot Road, was his father’s charge. Lampman was of loyalist stock on both sides of the family. The European roots were German on his father’s side and Dutch on his mother’s, but in the more immediate line of descent both of the poet’s grandmothers were Scottish.

Peter Lampman, the poet’s grandfather, belonged to the third generation of German immigrants who had settled in New Jersey in 1750. After the American revolution the family moved to Upper Canada and established a fruit farm...

[The adult poet] lived in Ottawa, employed in the post office department of the Canadian civil service, from 1883 until his death. .....Lampman was repelled by the mechanization of urban life and escaped to the countryside whenever possible. After being influenced by the craftsmanship and perfection of form of Classical poetry and by the lyrical verse of such English poets as William Wordsworth,.... he wrote nature poems celebrating the beauties of Ottawa and its environs and the Gatineau countryside of Quebec. Some of Lampman’s later poems and essays reflect his socialist beliefs and criticize social injustice and organized religion. ...

In Ottawa on 3 Sept. 1887 Lampman married Maud Emma Playter, 20 years old, daughter of Dr Edward Playter, formerly of Toronto. They had a daughter, Natalie Charlotte, born in 1892. Arnold Gesner, born May 1894, was the first boy, but he died in August. A third child, Archibald Otto, was born in 1898. Finances were strained, and the newlyweds lived for a time with the Playters.

...[Later, when personal turmoil, 
due to publishing difficulties, an extramarital affair and the suffocation of an urban milieu, led to personal turmoil, the] effect on Lampman was to ...push the world, which he had always held at arm’s length, still farther away. His retreat was to nature and the poetry nature engendered. Mercifully, in the year before he died he was tranquil. He was working on one of the finest of his nature poems, “Winter uplands,” in his last days.
Lampman’s world-view was simple. Like many of his fellows he had lost his faith in Christian dogma and institutionalized religion; the shadow of the Cross does not lie upon his poetry. What is left is a burning idealism, a secular but lofty humanism which looks less to the glory of God than to the glory of man’s soul as it journeys towards peace and justice and freedom in a transcendent relation with nature... 

[As a boy Archibald Lampman had gotten rheumatic fever] 
Complications left him lame for four years; and his weakened heart was to be instrumental in his early death...His enduring love was Greek and the Greek masters. He would be translating Homer in the weeks before his death.

The following poem, which we found in The Poems of Archibald Lampman (1900), titled "Falling Asleep"goes this way:

Slowly my thoughts lost hold on consciousness
Like waves that urge but cannot reach the shore:
Once and again I wakened and once more
The wind sighed in, and with a lingering stress
Brushed the loose blinds. Out of some far recess
There came the stealthy creaking of a door
The mice ran scuffling underneath the floor;
And then when all the house stood motionless,
Something dropped sharply overhead; a deep
Dead silence followed; only half aware,
I groped and strove to waken and fell flat;
A moment after, step by step, a cat
Came plumping softly down the attic stair;
And then I turned and then I fell asleep.

These lines are graceful and show an introspective subtlety.  "Falling Asleep" speaks still today  of a believable yesterday. 

February 9, 2016

February 9, 1880

There are writers and then there are "Irish writers." James Stephens (February 9, 1880 to December 26, 1950) was an Irish writer. So Irish that James Joyce contemplated Stephens as a co-author for Finnegan's Wake. So Irish that Stephens could actually speak Irish.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica  Stephens', The Crock of Gold (1912), with its rich Celtic theme, ... established his fame. Like many of his contemporaries, Stephens was greatly affected by the Easter Rising (1916), a rebellion of Irish republicans against the British, and his book The Insurrection in Dublin (1916) remains a classic account.

That Insurrection happened 100 years ago this year. In Stephens' accoount, the damage extended beyond people and buildings:

The continuation of ...[the] story was less
gloomy although it affected the teller

"There is not," said she, "a cat or a
dog left alive in Camden Street. They
are lying stiff out in the road and up on
the roofs. There's lots of women will be
sorry for this war," said she, "and their
pets killed on them."

The Britannia article ends: "Stephens was active in the Irish nationalist movement, but by 1940 he was living in London, where he made frequent radio broadcasts until his death in 1950."

We'll end with this graphic, by Arthur Rackham  for Stephens' Irish Fairy Tales (1920); the story titled "Mongan's  Frenzy."

February 8, 2016

February 8, 1935

Max Liebermann (July 20, 1847 to February 8, 1935) was a German artist. His career as an assimilated German Jew is discussed in an article at the Jewish Museum website, which includes quotes from Mason Klein's catalog  composed for Liebermann's only solo show (2006) in the United States.

The painting below is characteristic of Liebermann's early naturalism. About that stage (not the painting itself)  we read:

In his early Naturalist phase, when his paintings focused on working people and conferred upon them an unprecedented dignity, he shocked some audiences and was called a “painter of filth” and an “apostle of ugliness.” He was frequently attacked as a promoter of Impressionism; in 1905, he was vilified as “anti-national.”

[Klein focuses on] the relationship between stylistic changes in Liebermann’s art and the changing social and political climate in which the artist lived and worked. German-French antipathy, which came to a head militarily in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871) is one example; as a Francophile, he had to combat anti-French bias throughout this period. Another key development was the creation of a unified Germany in 1871, in which a new constitution emancipated Jews and gave them full rights as German citizens. Klein asserts that Liebermann, as a member of a wealthy Berlin Jewish family, exemplified his social class and its embrace of Bildung, or high culture. ...[He] identifies a driving force in Liebermann’s life: “The preservation of these [bourgeois] ideals was more real to him than religion. It also underlay the aesthetic and ideological contradictions inherent in his work—his dream of assimilation and his quest for artistic independence in the name of individualism.”...

Liebermann moved from the early 1890s toward Impressionism. Now he chose to portray leisure scenes from his social class: strolling in the park, sitting in cafés, horseback riding or playing tennis.

In 1898, Liebermann was elected president of the Berlin Secession, an artists’ association promoting modern art and formed as an alternative to conservative exhibition and patronage policies. As its leader, Liebermann was responsible in great part for introducing Impressionism to Germany. “In many ways,” Klein asserts, “he worked to break down the repressive cultural standards of his time.”

This 1921 painting of the Liebermann home in Wannsee is titled "The Flower Terrace in the Wannsee Garden, facing northwest." It illustrates the  impressionism he introduced.

[By] the end of his career, the artist had been accorded honor after honor, culminating in his election as president of the Prussian Academy of Arts. The rise of the Third Reich ended his career, and forced him to awaken from what he termed a “beautiful dream of assimilation.”


February 7, 2016

February 7, 1835

James A. H. Murray, (February 7, 1837 to July 26, 1915) the famous editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, was a family man as well as scholar. He proposed children should be given Anglo-Saxon names. The first nine of his eleven children had names their father insisted come "from Anglo-Saxon history and literature." That meant sons named Harold, "the champion", and Ethelbert, the "nobly bright." Wilfrid and Oswin followed this rule. Ethelbert, was remembered by his family, for among other things the suspicion he had killed a cat, according to Katharine Maud Elisabeth Murray in her Caught in the Web of Words: James A.H. Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary (1977.) This is not elaborated further in her biography.

The children formed their own debating society where they discussed questions like whether someone could be called "educated" if they were not literate  in Latin and Greek. When their father moved the family from London, to Oxford, we learn there were pet doves, and a pet cat to transport.  No mention of dogs but Murray believed in second sight, convinced his life had been saved twice by the appearance of a black dog who disappeared when the danger was over. Ada his wife used homeopathic remedies but the family was robustly healthy in general. And a model in many ways.

February 6, 2016

February 6, 1845

Of Isidor Straus (February 6, 1845 to April 15, 1912) and his wife we read

In the musical "Titanic," the Strauses have the big second- act number, "Still," in which Isidor sings to Ida of their lifelong love affair. In the James Cameron blockbuster movie, the Strauses are shown in their cabin, holding each other as the water rushes in.

Am I the only one who finds Cameron's mucousy sentimentality unwatchable? Fortunately we don't need it to fill in more details about the Strauses.

From the Encyclopedia Britannica we learn

The Straus family originated in Otterberg, Bavaria (Germany), from which Lazarus Straus, the patriarch, immigrated to the United States in 1852. He settled at Talbotton, Georgia, where he was joined by his wife and three sons, Isidor, Nathan, and Oscar Solomon. 

Isidor Strauss made a lot of money as co-owner of Macy's Department Store

His brother Oscar Solomon
[Straus went on to become] ... the first Jewish member of a U.S. cabinet and represented the United States in Turkey under three administrations.

Isidor and Ida Strauss were particularly close as a married couple. Less is known of Ida and so we mention that

Rosalie Ida Blun was born in 1849 in Worms, Germany to Nathan Blun (1815–1879) and his wife Wilhelmine "Mindel" Freudenberg (1814–1868). She was the fifth of seven children .... She emigrated to the United States with her family.

In 1871, Ida Blun married Isidor Straus (1845–1912), a German-American businessman. She and Isidor had seven children together:....

Isidor and Ida Straus traveled with their fifteen-year-old granddaughter Beatrice Straus to Europe in early 1912 aboard the HAPAG liner Amerika. The elder Strauses left their grandchild in Germany and, although they normally traveled aboard German ships only, fatally decided to make their return voyage to the United States on the newly commissioned RMS Titanic....

His gallantry and her fidelity at the end is a touching story and might be true.  A minor aspect of his estate is this bookplate, from which we glimpse his vision of the world.

February 5, 2016

February 5, 1939

Jane Bryant Quinn (February 5, 1939) is a famous writer on financial issues. Her late husband has been described as a dog person, but Jane Bryant Quinn is "unabashedly a cat person." I lost the citation for this post, but the source mentioned her cat Sydney. Sydney was an Abyssinian, and sometimes had to be removed from Quinn's office. Even so Quinn could expand on the importance of her cat:

The fact that you can get on with your life, while the cat is getting on with her life and also presenting all that beauty,... well it is very pleasing. Sydney also pleases my heart. Having her sit next to me, purring, while I pat her and read, is peaceful, warm and comforting.

And we salute Quinn's grace and competence in whatever she addresses.