Hodge's History of Cats

I wrote a while back about making a book about cats for Dr Johnson's House Trust. It's now complete and available to purchase directly from Dr Johnson's House, Gough Square or on their online shop. 'Hodge's History of Cats' covers cat and pet-keeping from the medieval and early modern period to the height of the eighteenth century, a moment of profound change for our relationship with animals, and particularly cats. It's hard to believe today, in the age of the internet and Instagram cat, but for many years cats were hated and ill-treated by people who feared their traditional connection with witchcraft and the devil. Only with the increasingly swaggering confidence of eighteenth-century man's colonial expansion did people start to normalise pet- and cat-keeping as a normal aspect of (mostly middle-class) life.

This book explores how cats were conceptualised and treated in the eighteenth century, when they were increasingly the companions of intellectual and literary giants such as Horace Walpole, Christopher Smart, William Cowper, Jeremy Bentham and, of course, Samuel Johnson, whose cat 'Hodge' has his own statue outside the museum dedicated to his owner in Gough Square. It's illustrated throughout with details from contemporary Hogarth engravings, my own drawings of the House, and printers' devices drawn from the book collection at the House, which includes several books owned by Dr Johnson himself.

I hope he'd be pleased.

Written, illustrated, designed and typeset by Kirsten Tambling; available for purchase through Dr Johnson's House Trust

Adam and Eve

I was asked to write an 'ekphratic response' to a painting of my choice in the Courtauld Gallery this week, which is not the sort of writing I've ever really done before. I chose Cranach's Adam and Eve (below) and I really had to force myself not to research it to within an inch of its life before I dared write anything. Interestingly, when I'd finished and set myself free to research, I realised that I'd actually spotted most of the things in the Courtauld catalogue listing just by looking at the picture really carefully (the only one I didn't get was the roebuck drinking from the stream, which is apparently a common metaphor for the Christian soul's longing for God).

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