Horace Walpole and the Angora Cats

A contemporary literary of Samuel Johnson was Horace Walpole, the younger son of the British Primer Minister.

He wrote essays, novels, poetry and gardening, but until today he is most remembered for his letters, printed in many volumes he exchanged more than 1,600 letters with Marie Du Deffend, who, in spite of being blind, administered one of the most important saloons of the Paris Society.

The marchioness Du Deffand loved angora cats, and many of her letters where about the virtues and the beauty of this breed. She offered Walpole a pair of these animals, although it is unknown if he accepted.

Walpole was also who communicated to the marchioness the death of Selima, the cat of his friend Thomas Gray. The sad end of Selima in a fish bowl was the theme of a famous poem of Gray.

Eccentrics and Cats
The English philosopher Jeremy Bentham was one of the most eccentric cat lovers of the XVIII Century.

He had many cats, each one of them responded to its human name with its correspondent treatment, for example, reverend doctor John Langbourne.

When Bentham had guests to diner, these would be stunned when they were taken to the dining room in which there were several cats sitted at the table and who each was presented one by one.

Faithful Companions
Hodge, Selima, the reverend doctor John Langbourne and the anchorman cats of the marchioness Du Deffand are clearly domesticated cats, from which it may be deduced that, at least in the intellectual circles, at the middle of the XVIII Century, it was usual to have cats as domestic companions in a saloon than to have them hunting rats on the exterior. There was also interest for the different breeds. In 1756, the count of Buffon, a French naturalist, illustrated five breeds of cats, including the angora, in his histoire naturelle. This happened a few years before from when the marchioness du Deffand wrote Walpole about her angora cats. Some rich masters loved their cats so much that they had them in mind in their wills.

When the second duke of Montague died in 1749, he left part of his fortune to several cats. As he had no heirs or near family, no one questioned his will. The case of the French harpist Dupuy was less fortunate. When she left most of her possessions to her two cats, a long battle began at the courts of justice, which ended with the nullification of the will.

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