Monday, December 12, 2016

Mark Twain and Litter-ary Cats

Mark Twain loved cats. He once said, “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.”



DEAR SIR: -- There is nothing of continental or inter-national interest to communicate about those cats. They had no history; they did not distinguish themselves in any way. They died early--on account of being overweighted with their names, it was thought. SOUR MASH, APPOLLINARIS, ZOROASTER, and BLATHERSKITE, -- names given them not in an unfriendly spirit, but merely to practice the children in large and difficult styles of pronunciation. It was a very happy idea. I mean, for the children.


I had a great admiration for Sour Mash, and a great affection for her, too. She was one of the institutions of Quarry Farm for a good many years. She had an abundance of that noble quality which all cats possess, and which neither man nor any other animal possesses in any considerable degree -- independence. Also she was affectionate, she was loyal, she was plucky, she was enterprising, she was just to her friends and unjust to her enemies.

Indeed she was just that independent of criticism, and I think it was her supreme grace. In her industries she was remarkable. She was always busy. If she wasn't exterminating grasshoppers she was exterminating snakes -- for no snake had any terrors for her. When she wasn't catching mice she was catching birds. She was untiring in her energies. Every waking moment was precious to her; in it she would find something useful to do -- and if she 
ran out of material and couldn't find anything else to do she would have kittens. She always kept us supplied, and her families were of choice quality. She herself was a three-colored tortoise-shell, but she had no prejudices of breed, creed, or caste. She furnished us all kinds, all colors, with that impartiality which was so fine a part of her make. She allowed no dogs on the premises except those that belonged there. Visitors who brought their dogs along always had an opportunity to regret it. She hadn't two plans for receiving a dog guest, but only one. She didn't wait for the formality of an introduction to any dog, but promptly jumped on his back and rode him all over the farm. By my help she would send out cards, next day, and invite that dog to a garden party, but she never got an acceptance. The dog that had enjoyed her hospitalities once was willing to stand pat.
- Autobiography of Mark Twain 

The Bambino Story
Testimonial from Clara Clemens, Mark Twain's daughter:
In the early autumn Father rented a house on Fifth Avenue, corner of Ninth Street, number 21, where he, Jean, the faithful Katie, and the secretary settled down for the winter. I was taken to a sanatorium for a year. During the first months of my cure I was completely cut off from friends and family, with no one to speak to but the doctor and nurse. I must modify this statement, however, for I had smuggled a black kitten into my bedroom, although it was against the rules of the sanatorium to have any animals in the place. I called the cat Bambino and it was permitted to remain with me until the unfortunate day when it entered one of the patient's rooms who hated cats. Bambino came near giving the good lady a cataleptic fit, so I was invited to dispose of my pet after that. I made a present of it to Father, knowing he would love it, and he did. A little later I was allowed to receive a limited number of letters, and Father wrote that Bambino was homesick for me and refused all meat and milk, but contradicted his statement a couple of days later saying: "It has been discovered that the reason your cat declines milk and meat and lets on to live by miraculous intervention is, that he catches mice privately." - My Father, Mark Twain by Clara Clemens

Testimonial from Katy Leary, Mark Twain's servant:

Mr. Clemens borrowed a kitten one time, called Bambino, from Clara, who had him in the sanitarium, and had trained him to wash his own face in the bowl every morning -- which shows that he was a very smart little cat. He used to have this kitten up in his room at the Fifth Avenue house and he taught it to put out a light, too. He had a tiny little lamp to light his cigars with at the head of the bed, and after he got all fixed and didn't want the light any more, he taught that cat to put his paw on the light and put it out. Bambino would jump on the bed, look at Mr. Clemens to see if he was through with the light, and when Mr. Clemens would bow twice to him, he'd jump over on to that table quick, and put his little paw right on the lamp! Mr. Clemens was always showing him off; he did that for a lot of people that come there to call. 

Mark Twain Has Lost a Black Cat.
From the New York American.

Have you seen a distinguished looking cat that looks as if it might be lost? If you have take it to Mark Twain, for it may be his. The following advertisement was received at the American office Saturday night:

A CAST LOST - FIVE DOLLARS REWARD for his restoration to Mark Twain, No. 21 Fifth avenue. Large and intensely black; thick, velvety fur; has a faint fringe of white hair across his chest; not easy to find in ordinary light.

One night he got kind of gay, when he heard some cats calling from the back fence, so he found a window open and he stole out. We looked high and low but couldn't find him. Mr. Clemens felt so bad that he advertised in all the papers for him. He offered a reward for anybody that would bring the cat back. My goodness! the people that came bringing cats to that house! A perfect stream! They all wanted to see Mr. Clemens, of course. 

Two or three nights after, Katherine heard a cat meowing across the street in General Sickles' back yard, and there was Bambino--large as life! So she brought him right home. Mr. Clemens was delighted and then he advertised that his cat was found! But the people kept coming just the same with all kinds of cats for him--anything to get a glimpse of Mr. Clemens! - A Lifetime with Mark Twain by Mary Lawton

Kitty doesn’t quite have the hang of washing up yet.
Awww Monday : Cat Tax

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