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.

July 30, 2014

July 30, 1898

Henry Moore (July 30, 1898 to August 31, 1986) was the son of a miner and he also worked with earthen materials. His huge bronze sculptures have resulted in his being called the leading English sculptor of the last century. 

His art has occasionally been reduced back to it's component parts, when thieves steal multi-ton sculptures with the idea of selling them for scrap metal.  This was the fate of 

.... a piece called Sundial and also the bronze plinth of another work from the grounds of the Henry Moore Foundation in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire. The sculpture [valued at half a million pounds] had been sold for just £46 but, fortunately, was recovered. 

The thieves were jailed, according to The Daily Telegraph for December 5, 2012. Some pieces are still missing like the one pictured below, 

.... stolen from open-air sculpture park in Scotland Standing Figure taken from Glenkiln Sculpture Park in Lincluden Estate, which also features works by Rodin and Epstein...

[E]stimates [are] that metal thefts were costing the UK economy £770m a year.

"Standing Figure" (1950) is seven feet tall and valued at 3 million pounds, and has been missing almost a year. 

The Tate no doubt is keep close guard on the Moore lithograph pictured below. 

This is titled "Woman Holding Cat" and was created between 1949-1951.  The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography mentions that Moore's feminine portrayals are often matronly looking, and that Moore explains this by referencing his own mother. 

Here is a key cat detail of the above paper based art. 

July 29, 2014

July 29, 1994

Moldova is one of the countries that announced its independence form the USSR in 1991. Though landlocked the country is close to the Black Sea. It was not until July 29, 1994 that a new constitution was adopted by Moldova.

Like many small countries philately contributes to the national budget of Moldova.

Birman from Moldova cats set, 2007

July 28, 2014

July 28, 1804

Ludwig Feuerbach (July 28, 1804 to September 13, 1872) was a German philosopher. His book The Essence of Christianity was first published in 1841 and an English translation appeared in 1855. In this book Feuerbach argues that all our ideas about god are just a reflection of our own human nature. He is a very good writer and his arguments easy to follow, or maybe that reflects the translator, who happened to be the woman who would soon write Adam Bede, Marian Evans.

Our excerpt is from Feuerbach's major book, which we have already cited.

Creation, .... the creative, cosmogonic fiat is the tacit word, identical with the thought. To speak is an act of the will; thus, creation is the product of the Will: as in the Word of God man affirms the divinity of the human word, so in creation he affirms the divinity of the Will: not, however, the will of the reason, but the will of the imagination—the absolutely subjective, unlimited will. The culminating point of the principle of subjectivity is creation out of nothing.'' 
Creation out of nothing is the highest expression of omnipotence: but omnipotence is nothing else than subjectivity exempting itself from all objective conditions and limitations, and consecrating this exemption as the highest power and reality: nothing else than the ability to posit everything real as unreal—everything conceivable as possible: nothing else than the power of the imagination, or of the will as identical with the imagination, the power of self-will...

Creation out of nothing, is identical with miracle, is one with Providence; for the idea of Providence— originally, in its true religious significance, in which it is not yet infringed upon and limited by the unbelieving understanding—is one with the idea of miracle. The proof of Providence is miracle.... Belief in Providence is belief in a power to which all things stand at command to be used according to its pleasure, in opposition to which all the power of reality is nothing. Providence cancels the laws of Nature; it interrupts the course of necessity, the iron bond which inevitably binds effects to causes; in short, it is the same unlimited, all powerful will, that called the world into existence out of nothing. ....

But we nowhere read that God, for the sake of brutes, became a brute—the very idea of this is, in the eyes of religion, impious and ungodly; or that God ever performed a miracle for the sake of animals or plants. On the contrary, we read that a poor fig-tree, because it bore no fruit at a time when it could not bear it, was cursed, purely in order to give men an example of the power of faith over Nature ;—and again, that when the tormenting devils were driven out of men, they were driven into brutes. It is true we also read: "No sparrow falls to the ground without your Father;" but these sparrows have no more worth and importance than the hairs on the head of a man, which are all numbered.

Apart from instinct, the brute has no other guardian spirit; no other Providence, than its senses or its organs in general. A bird which loses its eyes has lost its guardian angel.

... It is true that religious naturalism, or the acknowledgment of the Divine in Nature, is also an element of the Christian religion, and yet more of the Mosaic, which was so friendly to animals.—But it is by no means the characteristic, the Christian tendency of the Christian religion. The Christian, the religious Providence, is quite another than that which clothes the lilies and feeds the ravens. The natural Providence lets a man sink in the water, if he has not learned to swim; but the Christian, the religious Providence, leads him with the hand of omnipotence over the water unharmed.

.....Providence has relation essentially to men, and even among men only to the religious. "God is the Saviour of all men, but especially of them that believe." It belongs, like religion, only to man; it is intended to express the essential distinction of man from the brute, to rescue man from the tyranny of the forces of Nature. Jonah in the whale, Daniel in the den of lions, are examples of the manner in which Providence distinguishes (religious) men from brutes. If therefore the Providence which manifests itself in the organs with which animals catch and devour their prey, and which is so greatly admired by Christian naturalists, is a truth, the Providence of the Bible, the Providence of religion, is a falsehood; and vice versa. What pitiable and at the same time ludicrous hypocrisy is the attempt to do homage to both, to Nature and the the Bible at once I How does Nature contradict the Bible! How does the Bible contradict Nature! The God of Nature reveals himself by giving to the lion strength and appropriate organs in order that, for the preservation of his life, he may in case of necessity kill and devour even a human being... 

[T]he God of the Bible reveals himself by interposing his own aid to rescue the human being from the jaws of the lion...Providence is a privilege of man. It expresses the 
value of man, in distinction from other natural beings and things; it exempts him from the connexion of the universe. Providence is the conviction of man of the infinite value of his existence....

...... [H]ence the beneficent consequences of this faith, but hence also false humility, religious arrogance, which, it is true, does not rely on itself, but only because it commits the care of itself to the blessed God. God concerns himself about me; he has in view my happiness, my salvation; he wills that I shall be blest; but that is my will also: thus, my interest is God's interest, my own will is God's will, my own aim is God's aim,—God's love for me nothing else than my self-love deified.

Thus when I believe in Providence, in what do I believe but in the divine reality and significance of ... my [own] being?

..... Consequently, the belief in God is nothing but the belief in human dignity...
belief in the absolute reality and significance of the human nature. 

Perhaps there is too much repetition above: I was really interested in the way this guy twisted religion to prove atheistic conclusions.  This is a very influential book in modern history. 

Feuerbach's influence on Marx is much noted: the former shifted Hegel's focus on mind to materialism,  while retaining Hegel's vision of man as a embodying within himself a powerful culmination of history. Feuerbach's view of 'subjectivity' precedes the modern view of man's interiority as a source of uncertainty, and without remembering this, Feuerbach's use of that word does not make much sense. Atheism of course is a possibility throughout history, but here Feuerbach uses logic without regard for extant mysteries to create atheism as a triumphant dialectical progress from theism. All this had an invigorating effect simply because of its cleverness, rather than any cogency.  And notice Feuerbach's emphasis on the word as powerful in itself, without concern for the reality to which the word points -- can we trace an effect here on 20th century analytic philosophy? 

July 27, 2014

July 27, 1929

Jean Baudrillard (July 27, 1929 to March 6, 2007) is one of the 20th century French thinkers who makes American commentators sputter. It is as if the academic lapdogs are happy to bark at anyone who dares speak of the obviousness of that which is invisible. The American thinkers are happy to be on the chain of binary thought and find sterility an acceptable price to pay for staying safely away from any friable edges of being.

Here's an example of Baudrillard's writing from The Uncollected Baudrillard (2001), an essay titled "Utopia: The Smile of the Cheshire Cat."

Utopia has been suspended in idealism by a century and a half of triumphant historical dialectical practise.  Today it begins in its rigorous indefiniteness to supplant all revolutionary definitions and return all the models of the revolution to their bureaucratic idealism.

Utopia is the non-place, the radical deconstruction of all the places of politics. It affords no privilege to revolutionary politics. 

Which is to say an ideal,  having played out its bloody possibilities in the last century, this imprint of an ideal --the motivating idea of an ideal -- that allowed such horrors has remained as a powerful semblance still-- even because its actualizations have sorted out the confusions in the apprehension of an historical dialectic formulation.  

Utopia is the smile of the Cheshire cat...this smile which floats in the air...some time after the cat has disappeared. This smile into which the Cheshire cat disappears, ... is itself mortal.

What Jean Baudrillard is trying to isolate by analyzing it,  is a moment of historical change. Pretending such subtleties do not exist is not an intellectual  response.  

Here is a summary of his ideas should anyone want to pursue the thought of this French philosopher.

July 26, 2014

July 26, 1938

Leave us dawdle today around an English garden, labeled historic. The pictures below are from Easton Lodge, part of the estates of the wealthy and beautiful heiress. Daisy, Countess of Warwick (December 10,  1861 to July 26, 1938).

Probably the drawing above shows the estate before the 1847 fire which was quite destructive. The photos below are from the restored estate, a National Trust property, and I cannot ascertain precisely where the west wing of the mansion is. That is of interest to us since Daisy Warwick at the end of her life lived in the west wing of the estate. Here is how the website puts it:

In 1918, another fire severely damaged the Jacobean wings of the house. The fire is thought to have been started by one of the Countess’ pet monkeys.....the Countess, having been widowed in 1924, eventually moved into the West Wing where she remained with her beloved animals until her death in 1938.

Here are some pictures of a restored Easton Lodge at Little Easton, Great Dunmow, Essex-

Her ONDB biographer sums up the picture we now have of the Countess:

Daisy Warwick has received a mixed press. Treated as a minor figure of fun by labour historians, she has been dismissed as 'ridiculous or hypocritical or both' ...Her earlier manifestation, as a society beauty and mistress of the prince of Wales, had by the late twentieth century become a glamorous tale of romance in high society rather than one of squalid adultery. She was the subject of a scholarly biography, published in 1967, which attempts to understand the entirety of her extraordinary career. Disorganized and contradictory, hazy about the truth, enthusiastic and passionate, she flitted from lecture platform to newspaper column, from cause to cause; but despite considerable pressure to conform she never wavered in her belief in the virtues ....of socialism.

Her scandalous political attitudes have overshadowed the countess's extreme love for animals. Here is how her biographer Margaret Blunden sketches Daisy's last years.
In The Countess of Warwick: A Biography (1967). Blunden quotes from an article published in the late 1930s  by the Daily Express, about the Countess:

The countess lives at the Lodge in strict economy, surrrounded by peacocks, homeless ponies, pigeons, numerous Persian cats, and an assortment of dogs.

Here is the younger Lady Frances, Countess of Warwick, called 'Daisy':  

July 25, 2014

July 25, 1844

Thomas Eakins (July 25, 1844 to June 25, 1916), one of the great American artists, had the support of a comfortable middle class family throughout his life. In fact, at the Eakins family home in Philadelphia, Thomas had the entire fourth floor for his studio. His father put in writing that

Thomas Eakins will have the right to bring to his studio his models, his pupils, his sitters and whomsoever he will, and both Benjamin Eakins [his father] and Thomas Eakins, recognizing the necessity and usage of professional secrecy, it is understood that the coming of persons to the studio is not to be the subject of comment or question by the family.

This quote was quoted in the book Thomas Eakins: Art, Medicine, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-century Philadelphia written by Amy Beth Werbel (2007). And that is also where we found out that the painting below was of this same family home. The gentleman standing is Eakins' father, Benjamin.

Thomas Eakins
Les Joueurs d’echecs” (1876) by Thomas Eakins (1844-1916),  is done in oil on wood. 

Here is another painting that features chess players. It is by Charles Bargue (1825 -1883) Eakins was obsessed with getting each detail accurately.  We may wonder if the dog below was present on the French terrace. We cannot wonder if the cat on the carpet of the Eakins family home was gray.

Charles Bargue 1825 1883 The Chess Game

July 24, 2014

July 24, 1916

The life of Mary Reynolds (1891 to September 30, 1950) was a bright slender flame in the last century. Our information is mainly from an article by Susan Godlewski. The child of wealthy parents in Minneapolis, she graduated from Vassar and married on July 24, 1916, the son of a St. Louis judge. Her brief  marriage was ended by the war. With her widow's pension and a modest income from a trust fund, she went to Paris, Paris of the 1920s. And immediately apparently fit right in. Her circle was the avant garde surrealists and the next two decades were spent supporting their work. She collaborated with her long time lover Marcel Duchamp sometimes on the bookbinding she practiced. Her artistic talent was modest. 

Her character was of an inexplicable metal. Described by her friends as quiet, Mary Reynolds refused multiple opportunities to escape Paris after the Nazis took control. Duchamp had left already and importuned her from New York to get outof France and join him. Her brother sent her tickets. She stayed to work with the Resistance. 

After seeing the trucks of soldiers around her house though, she knew her circle had been compromised. She was actually not at home, when they came, and she finally left Paris. Some of her adventures are mentioned in Godlewski's article. She got to New York. 

After the war was over, she wanted to return to her home in Paris. Marcel Duchamp wanted to stay in New York. She had had many cats in Paris, and Duchamp is said to have hoped, that a stray she adopted in New York would be a tie to keep her there with him.  But she returned to Paris without the famed artist. Her ill-health though brought him to her bedside in a few years and Duchamp was with her at the end.