Friday, August 6, 2010

Madmen and Their Cats

Long before Don Draper arrived stylishly on the scene in the TV series Mad Men, there were the original madmen…and their cats. I’m referring to the men who were crazy for felines, among other mad obsessions, and who were often confined to lunatic asylums to be cured.

While following the hype associated with this season’s Mad Men, I thought back to my freshman-year English classes at Wellesley, where I was introduced to the 18th-century English visionary Christopher Smart. To say that he worshipped his cat Jeoffry would be a gross understatement. In his famous poem Jubilate Agno, the noted madman writes of Jeoffry:

For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.

For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he's a good Cat.

For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.

For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.

Could Don Draper and his ace copywriting team have created a better campaign for advertising the virtues of cats? And the following two verses remind me of the ever-dapper and ruthless creative director, the Mad Man himself:

For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.

For he is tenacious of his point.

Don excels as a business force, and the buzz that surrounds him is palpable. I know how Christopher Smart felt when he wrote about Jeoffry, “For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.” With Lucius, the primary object of this Cat Lady’s fixation, I am shocked by a similar high-voltage force of love.

I trust that Don would approve of this snapshot of Lucius striking a pose on a vintage midcentury barstool.

Query of the Day: Do I qualify as a madwoman?

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