I’m not so sure if I like my cat. Maybe it’s the breed, she’s a Persian, supposedly a breed that’s aloof in temperament, she seems only to take though. ‘Animal lovers et activists’ have these hysterical ideas about animals, like all of them are walking embodiments of the Buddha. I don’t think so, they’re individuals, as different as you and I. You can’t deny their inherent innocence, and I love animals, but some of them are just plain annoying. Still. At least she can’t talk.
I have a book on my table, all the time, ‘The Complete Poems & Plays’, TS Eliot. This is, one of the two or three things, I have left, of one of my dearest friends, who killed himself five years ago. This poem is from there.
Gus: the Theatre Cat Gus is the Cat at the Theatre Door. His name, as I ought to have told you before, Is really Asparagus. That's such a fuss To pronounce, that we usually call him just Gus. His coat's very shabby, he's thin as a rake, And he suffers from palsy that makes his paw shake. Yet he was, in his youth, quite the smartest of Cats - But no longer a terror to mice and to rats. For he isn't the Cat that he was in his prime; Though his name was quite famous, he says, in his time. And whenever he joins his friends at their club (Which takes place at the back of the neighbouring pub) He loves to regale them, if someone else pays, With anecdotes drawn from his palmiest days For he was once a Star of the highest degree- He has acted with Irving, he's acted with Tree. And he likes to relate his success on the Halls, Where the Gallery once gave him seven cat-calls. But his grandest creation, as he loves to tell, Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell. 'I have played', so he says, 'every possible part, And I used to know seventy speeches by heart. I'd extemporise back-chat, I knew how to gag, And I knew how to let the cat out of the bag. I knew how to act with my back and my tail; With an hour of rehearsal, I never could fail. I'd a voice that would soften the hardest of hearts, Whether I took the lead, or in character parts. I have sat by the beside of poor Little Nell; When the curfew was rung, then I swung on the bell. In the Pantomime season, I never fell flat, And I once understudied Dick Whittington's cat. But my grandest creation, as history will tell, Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.' Then, if someone will give him a toothful of gin, He will tell how he once played a part in East Lynne. At a Shakespeare performance he once walked on pat, When some actor suggested the need for a cat, He once played a Tiger- could do it again- Which an Indian colonel pursued down a drain. And he thinks that he still can, much better than most, Produce blood -curdling noises to bring on the Ghost. And he once crossed the stage on a telegraph wire, To rescue a child when a house was on fire. And he says: 'Now these kittens, they do not get trained As we did in the days when Victoria reigned. They never get drilled in a regular troupe, And they think they are smart, just to jump through a hoop.' And he'll say, as he scratches himself with his claws, 'Well, Theatre's certainly not what it was. These modern productions are all very well, But there's nothing to equal, from what I here tell, That moment of mystery When I made history As Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.'