Dr Johnson's definition from the 1755 dictionary.
CAT - "small furry domesticated carnivorous quadruped. A spiteful or malicious woman."
|Hodge's memorial - Gough Square.|
|The attic room Johnson worked in (17 Gough Street)|
Dr Johnson did most of his work assembling the dictionary, in an attic room at
"Nor would it be just….to omit the fondness which he [Johnson] shewed for animals which he had taken under his protection."
This kindness extended to visiting the fish market in person, in order to select the best oysters for his cat since he didn’t want to put his servants out.
"I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature."
|A stained glass window at 17 Gough Street, showing the great man.|
How do his definitions compare to the modern equivalent?
To PURR - "To murmur as a cat or leopard in pleasure."
PURR - "Make low continuous vibratory sound expressing pleasure."
|"Purr? That's a tough one. Let me sleep on it."|
LAP - "To take up liquid by the tongue as a cat does."
Is it just me, or is Johnson's definition more evocative? The
|"Mouse, did someone say mouse?"|
Dr Johnson 1755
MOUSE - "Small rodent especially shrew or vole: timid, shy or retiring person."
OK, so I might be biased but it seems to me Johnson's almost poetic language when describing cat-related words exemplifies someone who knows, loves and enjoys observing cats.