Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens
tribe are not of these.
When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.
Limited edition print titled "Mark Twain and Friend" from the Centennial Collection of portrait artist Susan B. Durkee
| ...the person that had took a bull by the
tail once had learnt sixty or seventy times as much as a person that hadn't,
and said a person that started in to carry a cat home by the tail was getting
knowledge that was always going to be useful to him, and warn't ever going
to grow dim or doubtful.
-Tom Sawyer Abroad
A home without a cat -- and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat -- may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?
- Pudd'nhead Wilson
You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does -- but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you'll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it's the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so; it's the sickening grammar they use.
- A Tramp Abroad
One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that
a cat has only nine lives.
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 -- and she was righteously entitled to the high compliment which so often fell from the lips of John T. Lewis -- reluctantly, and as by compulsion, but all the more precious for that:
"Other Christians is always worrying about other people's opinions, but Sour Mash don't give a damn."
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
- Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 2 (2013), p. 216. Dictated 3 September 1906.
I urged that kings were dangerous. He said, then have cats. He was sure that
a royal family of cats would answer every purpose. They would be as useful as
any other royal family, they would know as much, they would have the same virtues
and the same treacheries, the same disposition to get up shindies with other
royal cats, they would be laughably vain and absurd and never know it, they
would be wholly inexpensive, finally, they would have as sound a divine right
as any other royal house. ... The worship of royalty being founded in unreason,
these graceful and harmless cats would easily become as sacred as any other
royalties, and indeed more so, because it would presently be noticed that they
hanged nobody, beheaded nobody, imprisoned nobody, inflicted no cruelties or
injustices of any sort, and so must be worthy of a deeper love and reverence
than the customary human king, and would certainly get it.
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
"That cat will write her autograph all over your leg
if you let her."
- from memoirs of Clemens' secretary Mary Howden which were published in New York Herald, December 13, 1925
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.
- quoted in Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field, Fisher
|One of them likes to be crammed into a corner-pocket
of the billiard table -- which he fits as snugly as does a finger in a
glove and then he watches the game (and obstructs it) by the hour, and
spoils many a shot by putting out his paw and changing the direction of
a passing ball.
- Letter to Mable Larkin Patterson, 2 October 1908
The cat sat down. Still looking at us in that disconcerting
way, she tilted her head first to one side and then the other, inquiringly
and cogitatively, the way a cat does when she has struck the unexpected and
can't quite make out what she had better do about it. Next she washed one
side of her face, making such an awkward and unscientific job of it that almost
anybody would have seen that she was either out of practice or didn't know
how. She stopped with the one side, and looked bored, and as if she had only
been doing it to put in the time, and wished she could think of something
else to do to put in some more time. She sat a while, blinking drowsily, then
she hit an idea, and looked as if she wondered she hadn't thought of it earlier.
She got up and went visiting around among the furniture and belongings, sniffing
at each and every article, and elaborately examining it. If it was a chair,
she examined it all around, then jumped up in it and sniffed all over its
seat and its back; if it was any other thing she could examine all around,
she examined it all around; if it was a chest and there was room for her between
it and the wall, she crowded herself in behind there and gave it a thorough
overhauling; if it was a tall thing, like a washstand, she would stand on
her hind toes and stretch up as high as she could, and reach across and paw
at the toilet things and try to rake them to where she could smell them; if
it was the cupboard, she stood on her toes and reached up and pawed the knob;
if it was the table she would squat, and measure the distance, and make a
leap, and land in the wrong place, owing to newness to the business; and,
part of her going too far and sliding over the edge, she would scramble, and
claw at things desperately, and save herself and make good; then she would
smell everything on the table, and archly and daintily paw everything around
that was movable, and finally paw something off, and skip cheerfully down
and paw it some more, throwing herself into the prettiest attitudes, rising
on her hind feet and curving her front paws and flirting her head this way
and that and glancing down cunningly at the object, then pouncing on it and
spatting it half the length of the room, and chasing it up and spatting it
again, and again, and racing after it and fetching it another smack -- and
so on and so on; and suddenly she would tire of it and try to find some way
to get to the top of the cupboard or the wardrobe, and if she couldn't she
would look troubled and disappointed; and toward the last, when you could
see she was getting her bearings well lodged in her head and was satisfied
with the place and the arrangements, she relaxed her intensities, and got
to purring a little to herself, and praisefully waving her tail between inspections
-- and at last she was done -- done, and everything satisfactory and to her
Being fond of cats, and acquainted with their ways, if I had been a stranger and a person had told me that this cat had spent half an hour in that room before, but hadn't happened to think to examine it until now, I should have been able to say with conviction, "Keep an eye on her, that's no orthodox cat, she's an imitation, there's a flaw in her make-up, you'll find she's born out of wedlock or some other arrested-development accident has happened, she's no true Christian cat, if I know the signs."
- No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger
That's the way with a cat, you know -- any cat; they don't give
a damn for discipline. And they can't help it, they're made so. But it ain't
really insubordination, when you come to look at it right and fair -- it's
a word that don't apply to a cat. A cat ain't ever anybody's slave or serf
or servant, and can't be -- it ain't in him to be. And so, he
don't have to obey anybody. He is the only creature in heaven or earth or
anywhere that don't have to obey somebody or other, including the angels.
It sets him above the whole ruck, it puts him in a class by himself. He is
independent. You understand the size of it? He is the only independent person
there is. In heaven or anywhere else. There's always somebody a king has to
obey -- a trollop, or a priest, or a ring, or a nation, or a deity or what
not -- but it ain't so with a cat. A cat ain't servant nor slave to anybody
at all. He's got all the independence there is, in Heaven or anywhere else,
there ain't any left over for anybody else. He's your friend, if you like,
but that's the limit -- equal terms, too, be you king or be you cobbler; you
can't play any I'm-better-than-you on a cat -- no, sir! Yes, he's your
friend, if you like, but you got to treat him like a gentleman, there ain't
any other terms. The minute you don't, he pulls freight.
- "The Refuge of the Derelicts"
Royal Crown Cola ad from the 1940s featuring Mark Twain's story about his cat in the corner-pocket.
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