A B C D E F
G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!


Text on one page: Few Medium Many
(This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)









LORDS
OF THE HOUSETOPS
THIRTEEN CAT TALES




_BOOKS BY
CARL VAN VECHTEN_

INTERPRETERS
IN THE GARRET
THE MUSIC OF SPAIN
THE MERRY-GO-ROUND
MUSIC AND BAD MANNERS
THE TIGER IN THE HOUSE
LORDS OF THE HOUSETOPS
MUSIC AFTER THE GREAT WAR




WITH A PREFACE BY
CARL VAN VECHTEN


_C'est l'esprit familier du lieu;
Il juge, il préside, il inspire
Toutes choses dans son empire;
Peut-être est-il fée, est-il dieu._

CHARLES BAUDELAIRE.




NEW YORK ALFRED · A · KNOPF MCMXXI


COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY
ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


_These stories I have collected to amuse
Avery Hopwood_




ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


Thanks are due to the following authors and publishers for permission to
use the stories contained in this book:

Harper and Brothers and Mrs. Mary E. Wilkins Freeman for _The Cat_, from
_Understudies_ (copyright 1901 by Harper and Brothers).

Houghton Mifflin Co., for _Zut_, from _Zut and Other Parisians_
(copyright 1903 by Guy Wetmore Carryl).

E. P. Dutton and Co., for _A Psychical Invasion_, from _John Silence_.

Doubleday, Page and Co., and Booth Tarkington for Gipsy, from _Penrod
and Sam_ (copyright 1916 by Doubleday, Page and Co.).

Harper and Brothers and the Mark Twain Estate for _Dick Baker's Cat_,
from _Roughing It_ (copyright 1871-1899 by the American Publishing Co.;
copyright 1899 by Samuel L. Clemens; copyright 1913 by Clara
Gabrilowitsch).

Harper and Brothers for _Madame Jolicoeur's Cat_, from _From the South
of France_ (copyright 1912 by Harper and Brothers).

George H. Doran Co., for _A Friendly Rat_, from _The Book of a
Naturalist_ (copyright 1919 by the George H. Doran Co.).

The Four Seas Co., and Peggy Bacon for _The Queen's Cat_, from _The
True Philosopher_ (copyright 1919 by the Four Seas Co.).

Houghton Mifflin Co., for _Calvin_, from _My Summer in a Garden_
(copyright 1870 by Fields, Osgood and Co.; copyright 1898 by Charles
Dudley Warner; copyright 1912 by Susan Lee Warner).




PREFACE


In the essay and especially in poetry the cat has become a favourite
subject, but in fiction it must be admitted that he lags considerably
behind the dog. The reasons for this apparently arbitrary preference on
the part of authors are perfectly easy to explain. The instinctive acts
of the dog, who is a company-loving brute, are very human; his
psychology on occasion is almost human. He often behaves as a man would
behave. It is therefore a comparatively simple matter to insert a dog
into a story about men, for he can often carry it along after the
fashion of a human character.

But, as Andrew Lang has so well observed, literature can never take a
thing simply for what it is worth. "The plain-dealing dog must be
distinctly bored by the ever-growing obligation to live up to the
anecdotes of him.... These anecdotes are not told for his sake; they are
told to save the self-respect of people who want an idol, and who are
distorting him into a figure of pure convention for their domestic
altars. He is now expected to discriminate between relations and mere
friends of the house; to wag his tail at _God Save the Queen_; to count
up to five in chips of fire-wood, and to seven in mutton bones; to howl
for all deaths in the family above the degree of second cousin; to post
letters, and refuse them when they have been insufficiently stamped; and
last, and most intolerable, to show a tender solicitude when tabby is
out of sorts." The dog, indeed, for the most part, has become as
sentimental and conventional a figure in current fiction as the ghost
who haunts the ouija board or the idealistic soldier returned from the
wars to reconstruct his own country.

Now the cat, independent, liberty-loving, graceful, strong, resourceful,
dignified, and self-respecting, has a psychology essentially feline,
which has few points of contact with human psychology. The cat does not
rescue babies from drowning or say his prayers in real life;
consequently any attempt to make him do so in fiction would be
ridiculous. He has, to be sure, his own virtues. To me these are
considerably greater than those of any other animal. But the fact
remains that the satisfactory treatment of the cat in fiction requires
not only a deep knowledge of but also a deep affection for the sphinx of
the fireside. Even then the difficulties can only be met in part, for
the novelist must devise a situation in which human and feline
psychology can be merged. The Egyptians probably could have written good
cat stories. Perhaps they did. I sometimes ponder over the possibility
of a cat room having been destroyed in the celebrated holocaust of
Alexandria. The folk and fairy tales devoted to the cat, of which there
are many, are based on an understanding, although often superficial, of
cat traits. But the moderns, speaking generally, have not been able to
do justice, in the novel or the short story, to this occult and lovable
little beast.

On the whole, however, the stories I have chosen for this volume meet
the test fairly well. Other cat stories exist, scores of them, but
these, with one or two exceptions, are the best I know. In some
instances other stories with very similar subjects might have been
substituted, for each story in this book has been included for some
special reason. Mrs. Freeman's story is a subtle symbolic treatment of
the theme. In _The Blue Dryad_ the cat is exhibited in his useful
capacity as a killer of vermin. _A Psychical Invasion_ is a successful
attempt to exploit the undoubted occult powers of the cat. Poe's famous
tale paints puss as an avenger of wrongs. In _Zut_ the often
inexplicable desire of the cat to change his home has a charming
setting. Booth Tarkington in _Gipsy_ has made a brilliant study of a
wild city cat, living his own independent life with no apparent means of
support. I should state that the ending of the story, which is a chapter
from _Penrod and Sam_, is purely arbitrary. Gipsy, you will be glad to
learn, was not drowned. He never would be. If you care to read the rest
of his history you must turn to the book from which this excerpt was
torn. There seem to be three excellent reasons for including Mark
Twain's amusing skit: in the first place it is distinctly entertaining;
in the second place Mr. Clemens adored cats to such an extent that it
would be impertinent to publish a book of cat stories without including
something from his pen; in the third place _Dick Baker's Cat_[1]
celebrates an exceedingly important feline trait, the inability to be
duped twice by the same phenomenon. It is interesting to record that
Theodore Roosevelt liked this yarn so much that he named a White House
cat, Tom Quartz.


[1: Those who have attempted to form anthologies or collections of
stories similar to this know what difficulties have to be overcome.
The publishers of Mark Twain's works were at first unwilling to
grant me permission to use this story. I wish here to take occasion
to thank Mrs. Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch and Mr. Albert Bigelow
Paine for their successful efforts in my behalf. I am sure that the
readers of this book will be equally grateful.]


Thomas A. Janvier's narrative reveals the cat in his luxurious capacity
as a treasured pet, and Mr. Alden's story is a good example of the kind
of tale in which a friendless human being depends upon an animal for
affection. There are, of course, many such, but in most cases dogs are
the heroes. _The Queen's Cat_ is a story about an ailurophobe, or a
cat-fearer, and his cure. Mr. Hudson's contribution is fact rather than
fiction. I have included it because it is delightful and because it is
the only good example available of that sort of story in which a cat
becomes friendly with a member of an enemy race, although in life the
thing is common. Mr. Warner's _Calvin_, too, certainly is not fiction,
but as it shares with Pierre Loti's _Vies de deux chattes_ the
distinction of being one of the two best cat biographies that have yet
been written I could not omit it.

There remains _The Afflictions of an English Cat_ which, it will be
perceived by even a careless reader, is certainly a good deal more than
a cat story. It is, indeed, a satire on British respectability, but we
Americans of today need not snicker at the English while reading it, for
the point is equally applicable to us. When I first run across this tale
while preparing material for my long cat book, _The Tiger in the House_,
I was immensely amused, and to my great astonishment I have not been
able to find an English translation of it. The story, the original title
of which is _Peines de coeur d'une chatte anglaise_, first appeared in
a volume of satires called _Scènes de la vie privée et publique des
animaux_, issued by Hetzel in Paris in 1846, and to which George Sand,
Alfred de Musset, and others contributed. The main purpose of the
collaboration was doubtless to furnish a text to the extraordinary
drawings of Grandville, who had an uncanny talent for merging human and
animal characteristics. The volume was translated into English by J.
Thompson and published in London in 1877, but for obvious reasons _The
Afflictions of an English Cat_ was not included in the translation,
although Balzac's name would have added lustre to the collection. But in
the Victorian age such a rough satire would scarcely have been
tolerated. Even in French the story is not easily accessible. Aside from
its original setting I have found it in but one edition of Balzac, the
_OEuvres Complètes_ issued in de luxe form by Calmann-Levy in 1879,
where it is buried in the twenty-first volume, _OEuvres Diverses_.

Therefore I make no excuse for translating and offering it to my
readers, for although perhaps it was not intended for a picture of cat
life, the observation on the whole is true enough, and the story itself
is too delicious to pass by. I should state that the opening and closing
paragraphs refer to earlier chapters in the _Vie privée et publique des
animaux_.



Pages: | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | Next |

N O P Q R S T
U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.