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.

October 3, 2015

October 3 , 1967

Ivan Brunetti (October 3, 1967) has done a number of New Yorker covers. This cartoonist was born in Italy, studied at the University of Chicago, and now considers Chicago his home. Home though, only in a superficial sense, he is famously insecure. A writeup from the Chicago Tribune mentions his

... knowing self-effacement.... The introduction to his 2006 collection, "Misery Loves Comedy," was written by a social worker. But the angst is no joke. He doesn't think much of himself, his talent, his appeal. Which is ironic, considering that during the past two decades he has gone from being the acerbic underground artist behind the insanely harsh comic "Schizo" to, recently, a well-regarded editor (of Yale University Press' best-selling, two-volume "An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories"), an acclaimed New Yorker magazine illustrator and one of Columbia College's professorial stars. He's taught there since 2006......

Our Brunetti cat is a detail in a cover he did for the December 15, 2014 New Yorker. It's a thumbnail for copyright reasons but you can see a bigger copy here.

This very charming cartoon shows two rooms differently decorated for the holidays. There is a reversal of expectation wherein the the messy Victorian decor, which has a cat in it, belongs to an unfashionable guy.

[About Brunetti] ... Francoise Mouly, the longtime art director of The New Yorker, said, "Let's put it this way — Ivan will never be comforted in life." She said it in her native French lilt, with the breeziness of tone and the bluntness of meaning we associate with the French. But without malice or sarcasm, only lament and concern. There is no comforting Ivan Brunetti.

She should know. She works with him, and, though
The New Yorker is famous for rejecting submissions from both the established and the unknown, in the several years Brunetti has been designing covers and full-page comic strips for her, Mouly has yet to turn down "a Brunetti," as she calls the cartoonist's work.

October 2, 2015

October 2, 1879

Wallace Stevens (October 2, 1879 to August 2, 1955) never met or even corresponded with T. S. Eliot. They neither were Bohemians. They were pleased at their appearances in the business mirror. According to Harold Bloom

Stevens said that he and Eliot were “dead opposites,” and he lampooned the Anglo-Catholic Brahmin from St. Louis as one of “the lean cats of the arches of the churches.”

Apparently Stevens meant by this that Eliot did not epitomize the uniqueness of the American achievement. I would distinguish the two in that, Eliot conveys a message, but Stevens presents a world full with meaning, without allowing that to be precisely stated.

Even so, who cares if you are burdened with messages, if you have cats.

October 1, 2015

October 1, 2004

We know who this is

These photos all appeared in Harper's Bazaar I believe, including those below from the set of Funny Face.

and we have cats too (still Audrey)

And the photographer is also obvious: Richard Avedon (May 15, 1923 to October 1, 2004).

September 30, 2015

September 30, 1887

General Stefan Dembinski (September 30, 1887 to March 27, 1972) was his title in the second World War. General Dembinski was a Polish calvary officer in both wars. He gained a reputation for bravery in both wars. His wife Maria (September 29, 1900 to November 22, 1984) also escaped to England as World War II progressed. In England he functioned as Head of the Military Cabinet of the President of the Republic of Poland (from October 1941 to 1947).

He was a very brave man, but he was not a fool. He did not return to Poland when the war was over.

He did donate an art collection to the National Museum in Warsaw after the war.

At the link above we learn Dembinski was

...... Honored with the Virtuti Militari Cross and four times with the Cross of Valour, he was also a knight of the French Legion of Honor and of many other Polish and foreign decorations.

General Dembiński combined virtues of a brilliant officer, patriot, teacher and community worker with his passion for art and collecting. He managed to collect over two thousand prints and albums. Aside from such masterpieces as prints by Lucas van Leyden, Cornelis Cort, Carraccis, Hollar, Bartolozzi, Earlom and graphics from the School of Rubens, the collection comprises works by less known artists, bearing testimony, however, to Dembiński’s expert knowledge of European art. Among these are works on the themes of animals, mythology, landscapes, genre and portraits. Such a big and diverse set gives an idea of the achievements of European graphic art from the 16th to the 19th century, showing characteristics of different schools (for example fine English mezzotints from the 18th century) and pointing to the collector’s fields of interest. This collection, structured and organised by fixed criteria, was given by General Stefan Dembiński
[to] the National Museum in Warsaw in 1957 and has remained since then the most generous post-war donation to the Museum as far as old graphics are concerned.

Here is a picture of one of the prnits referenced above.

The attribution is:

Marcus De Bye (De Bie) (1639 – ok. 1690) after Paulus Potter (1625 − 1654)
Lion, 1664
Etching, paper, 16,2 x 21,4, cut

Further it says there is a "red ink signature on the reverse with the monogram: St.D." And it only now occurs to me to wonder where the collection itself was, and this print of a noble old lion, during the war.

September 29, 2015

September 29, 2010

Georges Charpak (March 8, 1924 to September 29, 2010), a Polish physicist, received the Nobel Prize in 1992. With his Jewish family he arrived in France in 1931, and the son worked in the resistance til the Vichy government caught him and handed him over to the Germans. He spent the last year of the war at Dachau. He married Dominique Vidal in 1953 and they had sons and a daughter. He worked as a physicist at Cern from 1959 until 1991. According to his British Who's Who article, he "in 1968 invented [the] multiwire proportional chamber (linked to computers) for detecting particles in atom smashers."

Charpak co-authored Megawatts and Megatons: The Future of Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons (2002). Here we learn about the pets left behind when Chernobyl was evacuated. No pets were rescued, they were all left behind at Chernobyl. This was because they had probably been outside and had extra radioactivity accumulated in their fur. The authors state:

The cats, with their tails straight up, stared at their masters with an imploring look, meowing pathetically; and dogs of many breeds were whining ...

Our physicist was not very observant of cats. If such a scene transpired the felines were complaining about their food. It is quite understandable that pets were left behind. I would have just liked some followup on their situation.

September 28, 2015

September 28, 1803

Prosper Merimee (September 28, 1803 to September 23, 1870) was many things besides a famous writer: collector, translator, historian, and occupant of the government post Inspector-General of Historical Monuments. One biographer, Sylvia Lyon, in The Life and Times of Prosper Merimee (1948) mentions his fondness for cats. He liked sketching them and even following them on the rooftops of Paris.

Britannica says regarding his literary contributions:

[One hoax he wrote] was La Guzla (1827), by “Hyacinthe Maglanowich,” ballads about murder, revenge, and vampires, supposedly translated from the Illyrian. ...[This work]   deceived even scholars of the day.

Mérimée’s passions were mysticism, history, and the unusual. Inspired by the vogue for historical fiction established by Sir Walter Scott, he wrote
La Jacquerie (1828), 36 dramatic scenes about a peasant insurrection in feudal times, and the novel La Chronique du temps de Charles IX (1829), concerning French court life during war and peace.
He was not fond of Napoleon III...., and never became a wholehearted courtier. His letters to Sir Anthony Panizzi, principal librarian of the British Museum and his closest friend in Mérimée’s old age, have been described as a “history of the Second Empire.” They were published posthumously as
Lettres à M. Panizzi: 1850–70 (1881).

Prosper Merimee translated Gogol, Pushkin, and Turgenev from Russian to French, and should be more than a name which bobs behind Anglo humanities.  Certainly a study needs to be written discussing the horror genre in the 19th century, from an interdisciplinary perspective,  and Merimee has a place in it. 

September 27, 2015

September 27, 1792

George Cruikshank (September 27, 1792, to February 1, 1878), was, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, an:

English artist, caricaturist, and illustrator who, beginning his career with satirical political cartoons and later illustrating topical and children’s books, became one of the most prolific and popular masters of his art.

His father was Isaac Cruikshank (1756?–1811), a popular illustrator and caricaturist. In 1811, when George was still in his teens, he gained popular success with a series of political caricatures that he created for the periodical The Scourge, a Monthly Expositor of Imposture and Folly. This publication lasted until 1816, during which time Cruikshank came to rival James Gillray, the leading English caricaturist of the preceding generation. For the next 10 years Cruikshank satirized with fine irreverence the political policies of the Tories and the Whigs.

“Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney” [Credit: Mary Evans Picture Library]

Although Cruikshank continued to publish political cartoons in periodicals and separately until about 1825, he began to do book illustrations as well in 1820. In these he showed his more genial side. It is estimated that he illustrated more than 850 books, and he was one of the first artists to provide humorous, spirited illustrations in books for children. ....Cruikshank published a number of books himself, notably his serial The Comic Almanack (1835–53). In the late 1840s he became an enthusiastic propagandist for temperance, publishing a series of eight plates entitled The Bottle (1847) and its sequel, eight plates of The Drunkard’s Children (1848)....

Britannica used Cruikshank's illustration for Dickens's Oliver Twist, (1838) and specifically (above) that of "mr. bumble and mrs corney taking tea."

John Wardroper in 1992 revealed a larger picture of Cruikshank's life.  Cruikshank's obituary as Punch wrote it, includes this description:'There never was a purer, simpler, more straightforward or altogether more blameless man. His nature had something childlike in its transparency.'

His having a mistress, and eleven children, in another household a few blocks from the home with his wife, does not actually contradict the quote, but then and now, most people would assume it did.

Here is some of the story:

....'OH, WHAT will become of my children?' The words spoken on his deathbed by the artist George Cruikshank would sit well in a novel by his old friend Charles Dickens.

The children, however, came as a surprise to his wife Eliza. She had none - and his long-dead first wife had had none either. ....

[As it had transpired when Cruikshank was 61,] 
Adelaide [the Cruikshanks' maid] became pregnant. Despite what Mrs Snaith [her great grandniece] calls 'a strong affection' between Eliza [Mrs. Cruikshank] and Adelaide, the maid would not reveal that Cruikshank was the father: and a pregnant maid had to go.

However, Cruikshank set her up in a house about two minutes' walk away, ....and thus a young woman who might otherwise have ended on the streets became ostensibly the wife of a mature gentleman, 'George Archibold'.

...... So what did Eliza do when, bending over the deathbed in February 1878, she learnt that George had a swarm of children by the maid of whom she had been so fond? She went round to Augustus Street, says Mrs Snaith: but not to play the outraged wife. For the first time in nearly a quarter of a century she saw Adelaide, and insisted on helping the mother of her late husband's children. Cruikshank had made some provision for them, but Eliza nobly added to it.

'She would do anything for them,' says Mrs Snaith - even helping to send the girls to finishing schools....

So we have another, edifying, Victorian story.  And that is what I think it is, a story that may have some elements of truth in it.