Thursday, December 3, 2015

Isaac's Love for Cats

Emerson helping with my blog
Mark Twain, Isaac B. Werner, and I have in common our appreciation for the character of cats.  In our marriage, my husband and I have been owned by five cats, all of whom found us.  Prince found my husband at the college farm where he worked when we were in college.  Remington decided that our dog Abbey needed a playmate, and mewed to be found.  Black Kitty and Jacob found us when I put out milk for their wild mother cat in an unsuccessful attempt to tame her. (I didn't know she had kittens--they stayed, she didn't.)  Emerson flagged us down from the side of the road by pretending to be a tiny kitten lost on a freezing night (instead of the 4 or 5 year old Tom cat our veterinarian says he is).  Obviously Emerson is a literary cat, and after seeing last week's blog, he suggested that I do a follow-up this week about Mark Twain and Isaac Werner's particular affection for cats.
New York Herald

Isaac was known throughout his community for his love of cats.  One of his journal entries involved his disgust with a neglectful mother cat who left the box behind the stove that he had provided for her and her kittens.  When Isaac found the cold, apparently dead kittens the next morning, he fired up the stove and wrapped the kittens in a towel and placed them on the door of the warming oven in an attempt to revive them.  He was successful with only one of the kittens.  Unfortunately, even bringing the mother and her kittens into the house and providing them with a box behind the stove was not enough to keep them from freezing when strong winds pushed the cold air inside his house at night after the fire died down.  Many early settlers suffered from frost bite inside their crude homes.  

One of Isaac's journal entries documents a visit by my great grandparents, Aaron & Susan Beck, who came looking for a kitten to adopt.  The cartoon at above-left was published in the New York Herald on December 13, 1925 to accompany the memoirs of Clement's secretary Mary Howden.  The caption reads "That cat will write her autograph all over your leg if you let her."

Mark Twain's love for cats of legendary.  He wrote, I simply can't resist a cat, particularly a purring one.  They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course.  

The portrait at right is by Connecticut portrait artist Susan Drake.  To see more of her work you may visit her website at and see some of the famous people she has painted.  Her studio is called The Lobster Pot, the name given by Twain to the property when he owned it at the turn of the last century.  If you are lucky enough to consider having her do your portrait, you may find out how to reach her at that same site.

Twain admitted "Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not of these."  Certainly he and Isaac would have hit it off well, for Twain also declared "When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction."  

Two of Twain's passions!
In a letter dated October 2, 1908, Twain wrote to Mable Larkin Patterson about two of his passions--cats and billiards.  "One of them likes to be crammed into a corner-pocket of the billiard table...and then he watches the game (and obstructs it) by the hour, and spoils many a shot by putting out his paw and changing the direction of a passing ball."

Well known for his own yarns, Twain admitted his awareness that a falsehood will travel forever with countless re-tellings when he said, "One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives."  

Some people resent the occasional indifference shown them by their cat, but Twain regarded that as one of the breeds most admirable qualities.  "Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash.  That one is the cat.  If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat."  --from Twain's Notebook, 1894

Who says cats aren't loving?
Legend has it that there are 'cat people' and 'dog people,' but if that is so, some of us are exceptions to that rule and love both.  Since I have shared with you the names of all our cats, it seems only fair that I mention our two dogs as well.  First came Lady, a beautiful black and tan mixed-breed, small spaniel, who took care of us through college, the Air Force, and my husband's career start and my law school.  Then came Abbey, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel who became Remington the cat's best buddy (but only when no one was looking!) 

Frankly, we have found both our cats and our dogs to be loving companions--although I confess that training a full-grown Tom cat is proving next to impossible.  We have, however, taught him that he shouldn't be doing what he is going to do anyway! 

1 comment:

The Blog Fodder said...

I know about frozen kittens from my youth. Always sad.
My friend Rob says Dogs have owners; cats have staff. I can vouch for that. Ours want in and out all night. Good thing I am old and have to get up anyhow.