Monday, 12 December 2011

For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry

The wonderful Spitalfields Life blog does it again! I know of this poem, written around 1760 by Christopher Smart, but I had no idea that he probably wrote it while confined inside the St Luke's Hospital for Lunatics, where he was first described as 'curable' and later as 'incurable'. This institution, according to 'the gentle author' of the blog, stood where the CoOp and Argos are today, on Old St.

The post tells the sad story of Smart's life, and publishes the whole heart-warming poem.  The gentle author wonders whether Smart, known to many as 'Kit', might have seen an image of himself in Jeoffry which may have helped him rise above the 'tyranny of his circumstances'.  Certainly we can all relate immediately to the poem.  The blog post is at:

Paul Bommer, a friend of 'the gentle author' of Spitalfields Life, has produced a beautiful and witty poster, parts of which are shown here, illustrating every line of the poem (see  If anyone very generous wants to give me the perfect Christmas present, this is it!

Note that Bommer has put the cat into a frame alongside a bust of Montaigne (the main inspiration for Optimistic but Sceptical).  This is a coincidence, but absolutely appropriate, for one of Montaigne's most famous quotations is:  'When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is not amusing herself with me more than I with her.'   He was clearly also a close observer of cats, and would I'm sure have been very amused by Smart's poem.  There's an interesting book to be written on humanists and cats: or perhaps a bigger one on the different animal companions preferred by different kinds of philosopher.  Did Diderot have a cat?  We know Nietzsche was moved, possibly to madness, by the sight of a horse being whipped.  Did Kant take a dog with him when he went on his walks in Konigsberg at exactly the same time every day?

Any more information on this vital question will be very gratefully received, and published here.  In the meantime, look up Spitalfields Life, read For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry, and glow inside....while shedding a sad tear for Kit Smart.



  1. Just had a little cry about Christopher and his cat. Marvellous! Thank you ... from an ex-denizen of Old Street.

  2. Glad you like Jeoffry.
    The placing of Monataigne was not purely coincidental....

  3. Hello Mr G Author, I meant that for me the appearance of Montaigne in the poster was a coincidence, because his work is an inspiration for this blog - in a real sense I think his essays are similar to a blog. The cat link for me is a bonus! Spitalfields Life is terrific - how do you manage to produce such interesting stuff so regularly? Is there more than one of you? I live in north Hackney, on land that was probably once part of Thomas Cromwell's kitchen garden, near the Lea Bridge Roundabout. Would it be part of your remit to write about Tudor civil servants living in Hackney? Seasonal greetings and best wishes for 2012!