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Horace Walpole's Cat Hardcover – 2 Nov 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd; 1 edition (2 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500514917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500514917
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 0.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 524,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'A light-hearted and beautifully written tribute to a cat, its owner and his friends' --Contemporary Review

'A charming book ... for the cat-lover, social historian or bibliophile' --House & Garden

'A delightful piece of literary research that touches on several artistic liaisons ... charmingly illustrated'
--Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times

'Frayling has turned out one of the most elegant books I've reviewed ... beautiful to handle ... unbelievably modest in price ... clearly his research is impeccable'
--Birmingham Post

'A delightful celebration of 18th-century manners'
--Good Book Guide

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 May 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This larger-than-A4-sized book takes the death of Horace Walpole’s cat as the starting point for an exploration of the man, the cat, and cultural reactions to the poetic death of the feline. I suppose the best way to enlighten the potential purchaser of this volume is to summarise the contents of each of its nine chapters.

The first explores the relationship between Dr Johnson and his cat, Hodge; the second does the same with Horace Walpole and his Florentine dog, Patapan. It is not until the third chapter that Selima appears, the book’s eponymous heroine. And it is here, perhaps, that an idea of the discursive nature of Christopher Frayling’s text might be demonstrated. His chapter starts with Walpole’s house in St James’s, before then going on to discuss the cat but via a popular play of the time, Scottish Jacobitism, chinoiserie, goldfish, porcelain, and Oliver Goldsmith. As one would expect of someone with his wide interests and art-historical background, Frayling’s writing is sophisticated but he wears that sophistication lightly. His is the very opposite of a dry and heavy text.

Thomas Gray’s ‘Ode on the Death of Selima’ is the subject of chapter four; chapter five looks at Richard Bentley’s drawings to accompany the published poem; whilst the sixth returns to Johnson and his unflattering critique of both poem and poet.

Chapter seven contrasts Gray’s poem with those of Christopher Smart’s celebration of Jeffry the cat in his 1760 ‘Jubilate Agno’: “For he is of the tribe of Tiger”. William Blake’s watercolours are reproduced in colour in chapter eight. Frayling tells us that Blake used Gray’s ode “as a springboard for his own individual interpretation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amy Alexander on 5 Mar. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very special and fascinating book - and by no means just for cat-lovers. Anyone witrh a flickering of interest in Walpole's writings wll love it too. Written with Fraylings usual style, intelligence and wit.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
That darn cat. 30 April 2013
By M. Kenny - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have ever read, or heard reference to, Thomas Gray's poem "Ode on a favorite cat drowned in a tub of gold fishes" and wondered about the cat, this is the book for you. In about 80 pages of text Christopher Frayling has included information to answer all your questions. When I first read the poem I thought the cat was Gray's but as the title states the cat was Horace Walpole's and Frayling explains how the poem came to be written. He gives a biographic sketch of Walpole and his contemporaries, including Gray. He also covers the three sets of illustrations of the poem (including them in the book), Richard Bentley's contemporary set, William Blake's from about 50 years later and Kathleen Hale's from 1944. Blake's are from a private book of illustrations of Gray's poems and not published publicly (a limited edition facsimile of this book is being published by the Folio Society this month), Hale's were never published either so this is a nice extra. There are also illustrations of the "tub" in which the poor cat met it's maker as well as portraits of the principles of the story.
All in all a very enjoyable book on a rather sad occurrence.
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