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Lucky black cat

September 3, 2008 | By Roberta Beach J. | 4 comments
Category: In Memoriam

Does the name Dr. Samuel Johnson ring a bell? It was in his London house he created the first English dictionary. Built in 1700, the house at 17 Gough Square is still standing. The dwelling attracts visitors from around the world. One reason is Hodge - Johnson's favorite cat.

Hodge ruled the roost. He was allowed to climb on Johnson's lap whenever he pleased and he'd get petted and have his tail stroked. As Johnson toiled on the mammoth writing project, the feline (whom he termed “a very fine cat”) kept him company. Johnson resided in the house for 11 years, but it's not documented how many years Hodge lived there.

The beloved black cat was fed oysters - plentiful and inexpensive in those days. Johnson also owned another feline, a white cat named Lily, but she stood in the shadow of his obvious favorite.

When old Hodge was near death, Johnson went out and found a catnip-like plant (called valerian) so the cat's last hours on earth would be bearable. It was no secret how much Johnson doted on Hodge. In fact, the poet Percival Stockdale penned An Elegy on the Death of Dr. Johnson's Favourite Cat.

Even in modern times, Hodge is not forgotten. In 1997, the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Roger Cook, unveiled a bronze statue in Hodge's honor. The metal cat sits on a dictionary and visitors adorn Hodge's neck with ribbons. Sculptor Jon Buckley modeled the statue on his own kitty, Henry.

The house at 17 Gough Square has been restored and is now a museum and it's not unusual for visitors to leave a fish or mouse for Hodge. For good luck, people also drop coins in the sculpted oyster shell at Hodge's feet.
Comments (4)
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Roberta Beach J.
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Roberta Beach J.
5 years ago

All our cats probably wish us to toss fish at their feet!

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Carol L.
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Carol L.
5 years ago

I love this post, this is as it should be-

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