Friday, April 5, 2013

In Memoriam: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

The Official Spokescat of JASNA Syracuse has left us. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu died this morning after a brief illness, in the arms of your Regional Coordinator and her Regency Beau, the humans she owned for thirteen happy years. In medical attendance were Dr. Eric Davis and the devoted staff of Lyndon Veterinary Clinic in Fayetteville--her friends and admirers, as well as health care providers.

Although Lady Mary certainly never let her humans forget who the real head of the household was (in her heyday, her 5 a.m. breakfast call rivaled General Tilney’s “Dinner to be on table directly!”), she gave as little trouble and as much enjoyment as any of us--human or feline--can expect to do in this life. She also took her duties as Official Spokescat seriously, serving as muse for several blog posts and always posing cooperatively for photographs. Noblesse oblige, worthy of the lovely “aristocat” she was.

It is a long-standing tradition in Austenworld that Jane Austen did not care for cats. This seems to be based on the fact that no cats are mentioned in any of the major works, whereas dogs play supporting roles in Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey. However, your RC would like to point out two appreciative mentions of felines in the Letters.

First, JA took a moment in a 1799 letter to Cassandra from vacation lodgings in Bath (the final move to Bath was not made until 1801) to note “a little black kitten runs about the Staircase” as a feature in the Austen family party’s being “exceedingly pleased with the House.” Second, and more significantly, JA actually compared herself to a cat in a later message to Cassandra: In an 1813 letter from brother Edward Knight’s grand estate at Godmersham, she made several inquiries about domestic economy at home in Chawton, and concluded with this observation: “My present Elegancies have not yet made me indifferent to such Matters. I am still a Cat if I see a Mouse.”

Bon voyage, Lady Mary.  And may the Mice be plentiful.

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