Pets throughout history: Dickens's crow and Michel de Montaigne's on cats

Letters and extracts both new and old
October 7, 2020
1570: Michel de Montaigne writes in his essay, An Apology for Raymond Sebond, about his cat: “When I play with my cat who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me? We mutually divert one another with our play. If I have my hour to begin or to refuse, she also has hers.”

1791: Dr Johnson and his cat, Hodge, described by James Boswell: “I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature… I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr Johnson’s breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying, ‘Why yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this;’ and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, ‘but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed.’”

1841: Charles Dickens had a talking raven called Grip, who appears as a character in Barnaby Rudge. Shortly after completing the novel, Dickens wrote to his friend, the illustrator Maclise: “You will be greatly shocked and grieved to hear that the Raven is no more. He expired to-day at a few minutes after twelve o'clock, at noon. He had been ailing for a few days. Yesterday afternoon he was taken so much worse that I sent an express for the medical gentleman, who promptly attended and administered a powerful dose of castor oil. He recovered so far as to be able, at eight o’clock, to bite Topping [the coachman]. His night was peaceful. This morning, at daybreak, he appeared better, and partook plentifully of some warm gruel. Toward eleven he was so much worse that it was found necessary to muffle the stable knocker… On the clock striking twelve he appeared slightly agitated, but he soon recovered, walked twice or thrice along the coach-house, stopped to bark, staggered, exclaimed Halloa old girl! (his favorite expression) and died. He behaved throughout with decent fortitude, equanimity and self-possession.”