"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

When Crazy Cat Ladies Go to War. This court case comes from my beloved "Illustrated Police News" for March 9, 1895:

At the Bloomsbury County Court Judge Bacon heard an amusing case, in which Miss Ursula Cockburn Dickinson sued Mrs. Sarah Clements for the return of £2 2s, the price paid for a sable-coloured Persian cat, which the plaintiff alleged was not equal to warranty.

The plaintiff, who resides at Londesborough Lodge, London Road, Worcester Park, stated that she was very fond of Persian cats, and possessed a very fine female specimen, whom she called by the pet name of Queen May. For some time she (Miss Dickinson) had been desirous of obtaining a companion for the animal, and at the beginning of the present year she saw an advertisement, and, in consequence, wrote to the defendant at Rochester Place, Camden Road, Kentish Town. After some correspondence, it was arranged that she should have a cat for £2 2s, the animal being guaranteed to be a "dark sable tabby Persian stud cat," but Miss Dickinson informed his Honour that, being suspicious that all was not as it seemed, she said she would only take it "on sale or return." To convince her the defendant said she would cut a bit of the fur off the cat's back and send it to her by post. This being done, the plaintiff sent the money and received the cat. To her surprise she found that the animal sent was not a Persian cat at all, but only an ordinary London tomcat. (Laughter.) She wrote to the defendant, accusing her of palming off a sham upon her, and demanded the return of her money. This course, however, was not adopted.

The defendant assured his Honour that the cat sold was a Persian one--sable, tabby, and a male. She would be glad if his Honour could only see the cat. Her husband, a naturalist, had lately died, and she was giving up the business.

The plaintiff called her maid-servant, who proceeded to place on the registrar's table in front of the learned judge three baskets. On the first being opened a magnificent Persian cat stepped majestically out, and was introduced to the judge as Queen May. The second basket was then opened, the plaintiff at the same time remarking as another cat appeared, "This, your Honour, is the miserable specimen she sent me."

The defendant (picking up the rejected cat and balancing it in her hand): Miserable! Yes, it isn't half the cat he was when he left his home.

Plaintiff: What, if it hadn't been for the kindness he has received from me he would have been dead long since.

The third box was then opened, and the occupant, another cat, plaintiff said was an animal caught on the walls--an ordinary London tomcat--and appealed to the learned judge to say whether the defendant's cat was not of the same breed. (Laughter.)

via British Newspaper Archive

His Honour, after inspecting Queen May and her companions, said he did not know very much about cats. He could, however, see that the one sold to the plaintiff was not of Persian breed, and gave judgment for the plaintiff, a decision which was received with applause by a crowded and vastly amused court.

To me, this story ended on a rather tragic note. I heartily dislike people who value pets just by appearance, so even though Miss Dickinson was probably scammed, anyone who refers to any cat as a "miserable specimen" loses my sympathy. Her new cat may not have been a purebred Persian, but I'm sure he had a fine personality, if she had only given him a chance.

I do wonder what happened to this poor rejected cat--as well as that "ordinary London tomcat" they had appropriated as an exhibit. I hope they both found homes worthy of them.


  1. Alas, those rejected cats probably were simply put outside with a pat on the head. The English were known for their kindness to animals but neutering and spaying being what it was then - non-existent, I think, there were probably cats everywhere for the taking.

    But I agree with you. I met all my cats first, and I couldn't not adopt them. I prefer the 'mongrels' - they have the most interesting characters. And as for collecting breeds, look what happened to my foster-cat, Cammie, adopted because of her breed. Now she's back with me.

    1. When I heard about what had happened to Cammie, this story was the first thing I thought of. I'm wary of people who say they only want one particular breed of dog or cat--they usually only want a "show-piece" rather than a companion.


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