HISTORY, ROMANCE AND...CATS!
Grace Elliot leads a double life as a vet by day and author of intelligent historical fiction by night. Grace is an avid reader and believes that smart people need to read romance - as an antidote to the modern world!
Grace is also obsessed by all things feline.
A big welcome today to fellow Regency author, Jean Hart Stewart! I'm so excited to have another historical romance author visiting...and an animal lover to boot! I hope you enjoy Jean's post and please leave a comment at the end.
Author -Jean Hart Stewart.
Asking me to write about the Regency period is like opening the flood gates, so beware! I purely love the Regency period and everything about it. Clothes, language, the prissy morals demanded of the women (as least the so-called good women) and the passions boiling under the surface. Men definitely didn’t have to follow the same rules, while a woman was ostracized for the slightest misstep.
I got hooked on Pride and Prejudice when I was fourteen and it’s still my favorite book of all time. I’ve collected copies through the years, whenever I could find one I craved in a used or new book store and have a few whose illustrations are gorgeous. They’re my treasures, and I can hardly wait ‘til my granddaughter, now 11, is old enough to appreciate them.
So I love to write about that period. Not only the people, but their love of animals fascinate me. Dogs, cats, and horses romp through the books. In For Love is New, an influential character is the dog, Boney. He’s shown on the book cover, since he’s so important to the plot. He’s named Boney because he latched onto the hero and followed him home from MarleybonePark. His name causes complications, since the very dastardly villain thinks it’s a derogatory nickname for his man he adores, Napoleon, and is one of the reasons he lets his cruelty lose on the hero and heroine.
Wellington is probably the best known hero of that era. Studying his life was a revelation to me. When he was younger his mother thought him hopeless, and publicly stated she expected nothing of poor Arthur. His family sent him to India to get him out of the way. While there he started on the road to eclipsing his other successful brothers and becoming a Duke. He married too young and out of a mistaken feeling of obligation to a girl he never truly loved. As a result, although he had two sons, he quite publicly displayed a long list of gorgeous mistresses. Since he was Wellington, and living in that time of men getting away with almost anything, it didn’t matter.
His wife played on his sense of duty to get him to marry her. I wonder if she ever regretted it.
A fascinating time period. Do ask me any questions you have. I’d love to answer them…
"For Love is New" - blurb.
Lord Christian Cherne, recently invalided out of the Penninsular Army, is looking forward to the pleasures of London. He has one duty to discharge before he searches for a mistress. He must offer his protection to Lady Juliet Sloan. Paul Sloan was killed in battle, leaving Christian a horrifying letter of his sadistic treatment at the hands of Roger Gullis. To his dismay, Christian finds Gullis sitting in Lady Juliet’s parlor when he comes to call. All his plans must now concentrate on keeping Juliet safe. Christian further suspects Gullis of being a traitor and his fears for Juliet increase.
Juliet is attracted, but suspicious of which man is the traitor. As attraction between Juliet and Christian grows, Gullis turns cruelly vengeful.
Will Juliet and Christian be able to thwart Gullis’ plans to help bring Napoleon back to power, even as he finds wicked retribution for his rejection by the two lovers he has come to hate?
"For Love is New" - excerpt.
London, January 2, 1815
“You’re as antsy as a debutante at her first ball, Christian. What in bloody hell is wrong with you?”
Christian threw his best friend an apologetic smile.
“I’ve spent three dammed days at the War Ministry and finally agreed to take an occasional job for them. I didn’t want to do even that. I don’t want to be tied down in any way. Any way at all. And now I must fulfill one last unwanted obligation and call on a certain Miss Juliet Sloan.”
Delaney whistled long and low. “Not really a hardship, my friend. I’ve never met her, but she’s reputed to be a beauty.”
Christian snorted. “I don’t care about getting tied up with a virtuous woman, Delaney, no matter how beautiful. All during this damnable war I dreamed about getting home. I want to start living the life of a carefree bachelor, and all I get is more obligations thrown at me. I want to sample every wicked pleasure London has to offer. Virtuous women are not on the list.”
Delaney laughed out loud at this uncharacteristic outburst.
“Satan’s bones, but you’re really stirred, aren’t you? Make your damned duty call and get it over with.
Thank you so much Jean, for joining us here today. 'For Love is New' sounds just my sort of read and I wish you every success. Reading about 'Boney' I just could help posting this cute shaggy dog photo above - forgive the indulgence but he's just so cute!
As Jean said she'd love to share her love of the era so if you have any comments please leave them below.
American born, British based artist, James Abbott Whistler (1834 - 1903) famed for paintings such as ‘Arrangement in Grey and Black, the Artist’s Mother’ (yes, the picture in the first Mr. Bean movie!) and OldBatterseaBridge, was an animal lover. Whistler owned a tortoiseshell cat, but his favorite pet was actually his French poodle.
One day the poodle was taken ill and in a panic Whistler called out an eminent ENT surgeon of the day. Arriving at Whistler’s address, the distinguished doctor was horrified to find the patient wasn’t human but canine! Begrudgingly he examined the animal and prescribed a course of treatment.
But the next day the doctor got his revenge when he sent Whistler an urgent summons. Thinking it was news of his favorite dog’s condition the great artist dropped everything and hurried over. He was greeted warmly by the doctor with the words;
‘Ah good morning Mr. Whistler, so good of you to call so promptly. I needed to see you urgently about the repainting my front door.’
As a veterinarian I’m constantly surprised by the resilience of the feline species. This week alone a 17 year old cat with kidney failure successfully underwent major dental attention, a stray cat lost a leg but was eating the same night and a kitten fell 40 feet with barely a scratch to show for it! Its no wonder cats have a reputation for having nine lives - which set me wondering about where the saying originated.
Research into this fable led me to ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians believed in 9 ‘great gods’ or ENNEAD, which sounds as if we are getting close to the spot! So who or what is the Ennead and where did they come from?
In the beginning there was ATUM-RA – or ‘Cat god of the setting sun.’
Now Atum-Ra begat:
Shu (Air) and Tefrut (Moisture)
Who in turn begat:
Earth and Nut (Sky)
Who in turn begat:
Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys.
In total with Atum-Ra this makes 9 gods.
A religious text dated between 945 – 715 BC records;
“I am one becomes two,
I am two who becomes four
I am four who becomes eight,
And I am one more besides.”
The text is alluding to Atum-Ra being the embodiment of nine gods, or one creator who has nine lives. Indeed, it is now thought some of the multitude of cat statues found in excavations from ancient Egypt, are not representations of pet cats or the cat goddess Bastet, but of Atum-Ra. Several of these statues show a cat bearing a sun disk on their head, or bearing a scarab beetle (the symbol for the sun), consistent with Atum-Ra.
Fascinating isn’t it that the culture of an ancient civilization can be so firmly embedded in our own world today?
Do you have a story of a cat surviving against the odds? Why not share it here?
[CONGRATULATIONS TO JENNIFER - who is the winner of the $20 Amazon voucher - LOVE GIVEAWAYS BLOG HOP. Jennifer has been notified and her voucher sent and I'd like to say a BIG thank you to every who took the time to enter. Grace ]
Last week we looked at how, in Victorian times, a cat’s reluctance to take medicine might help keep her alive. This week, we consider some of the remedies commonly inflicted on these poor, unsuspecting animals.
Now as any cat owner knows, it’s perfectly normal for a cat to vomit from time to time. However if the vomiting became excessive, one Victorian remedy was to:
“Mix half a teaspoon of salt in two teaspoons of water then dose the cat with this emetic to clear the stomach of toxins.”
Please do NOT follow this advice; it is incredibly dangerous and akin to poisoning your pet. Felines are adapted to a carnivorous, and therefore, low salt diet. Their kidneys are not designed to process salt and giving a salt emetic in this way could lead to renal failure (I suppose one hope is that the cat vomits before any of the salt can be absorbed across the stomach wall.)
Now if the hapless Victorian cat was suffering from excessive malaise and lethargy, the answer was:
‘A small dose of brimstone, keep the cat warm and fed on light biscuit spread with butter.’
Oh dear. Brimstone is another name for sulfur; the element used in gunpowder, matches, insecticides and pesticides. Although skin ointments contained sulfur were effective against ringworm and skin afflictions, they worked mainly by cauterization…not the best idea then to make a cat swallow brimstone…
Fits and Delirium.
Charles Ross in his 1868 book ‘Chit Chat Book of the Cat’ defines a cat with delirium as having:
“An uneasy restlessness and wildness of eye. In a bad case the cat may rush around with staring eyes and throw himself at a window.”
[Reminds me of Gromit, my hunting cat when I tried to keep him indoors for his own safety during a firework display!]
“Slightly slit one ear with a sharp pair of scissors in the thin part of the ear.”
I suppose the one good thing about this advice is that it doesn’t involve poisoning the cat, but wait…oh no! Mr Ross goes on to say:
“Or a good alternative is a salt water emetic.”
Presumably this works because the cat is too weak from kidney failure to be delirious any more – or perhaps I’m being cynical!
NEXT WEEK: Where the superstition of a cat having nine lives came from.
There is a saying in the veterinary world, ‘A cat is not a small dog.’
This refers to the fact that feline physiology is very different to canine, and it’s definitely NOT appropriate, at best, and dangerous at worst, to give smaller doses of dog drugs to cats. Felines lack some of the enzymes necessary to break up common drugs, leading to liver damage and death. Up until the 20 or 30 years, cat medicine as a science was in its infancy and this meant that the commonest option when treating a sick cat was to give it a scaled down dog remedy.
Perhaps the one thing that saved many cats from being made considerably worse by their well intentioned but misplaced efforts of their owner was the cat’s reluctance as a species to swallow pills and potions.
This description of pilling a cat dates from the 1860’s and it seems little has changed.
“Have ready a large cloth and wrap the patient therein, wisping the cloth round and round her body, so that every part of her, except the head, is well enveloped. Any one may then hold it [the cat] between their knees, while you complete the operation [giving the pill] Put on a pair of stout gloves, and then with a firm hand open the animal’s mouth wide!”
Charles Ross 1868.
However Mr. Ross also writes of an easier way to medicate a cat, but this method requires planning and forethought.
“Seriously speaking a lady who is kind to her domestic pets will have no trouble in giving them medicine. When they are kittens, they should be taught to lie upon their backs, and in this attitude with the head rasied, the physic is easily enough administered.”
“A sick cat, too, does not fly from those for whom it has an affection; on the contrary I have always known cats to come for sympathy to those who nurse and feed them.”
This makes me wonder if modern cats are the same species as their Victorian forebears! No cats of my acquaintance will co-operate just because its good for them.
And finally, some good advice.
“Administer the physic with a teaspoon, if liquid and be most careful when the dose has been given to gently wash from the cat’s face or breast any drop of the stuff that has fallen there, so that she may not find the nasty taste lingering about her when she goes to clean herself, as otherwise she has the unpleasantness of the physic long after the doses have been discontinued.”
In next week’s post the ‘remedies’ used in Victorian times are discussed….and I shudder.
You may have twigged by now that I'm a bit of a cat fanatic. I love them for their independance, their honesty and sheer cute furryiness. But centuries ago, when times were tough a pet was expected to earn their keep, and as such had a value. In Medieval times cats were valued as catchers of mice and even had a price according to their skill, as laid down in the 10th century Welsh ‘Law of Hywel Dda.’
‘The value of a kitten from the night it is born until it opens its eyes, one legal penny;
And from then until it kills mice, two legal pence;
And after it kills mice, four legal pence,
And at that it remains for ever.
Her properties are to see and hear and kill mice.’
Although Old English Law stated cats and dogs were:
‘Not property, being base by nature,’
the medieval Welsh Dimetian Code laid down that if a husband and wife separatede and their chattels needed to be divided;
‘The husband takes the cat if there were only one, it there were others then they are taken by the wife.’
No comment is made about what happens to the children of the marriage!