Publication Date: 06/10/2020 ISBN: 9780750995672 Category:


Oliver Soden

Publisher: The History Press Ltd
Publication Date: 06/10/2020 ISBN: 9780750995672 Category:




Jeoffry was a real cat who lived 250 years ago, confined to an asylum with Christopher Smart, one of the most visionary poets of the age. In exchange for love and companionship, Smart rewarded Jeoffry with the greatest tribute to a feline ever written. Prize-winning biographer Oliver Soden combines meticulous research with passages of dazzling invention to recount the life of the cat praised as ‘a mixture of gravity and waggery’. The narrative roams from the theatres and bordellos of Covent Garden to the cell where Smart was imprisoned for mania. At once whimsical and profound, witty and deeply moving, Soden’s biography plays with the genre like a cat with a toy. It tells the story of a poet and a poem, while setting Jeoffry’s life and adventures against the roaring backdrop of eighteenth-century London.

Publisher Review

Protagonist of the most anthologised section of the mad poet Christopher Smart's Jubilate Agno, the eccentrically spelled ginger tom now takes a fresh lease of fictionalised life in this jeu d'esprit ... It's at once a sly introduction to Christopher Smart and the literary milieu of 18th-century London ... and a cat's-eye view of 18th-century social history - from the brothels and theatres of central London to the treatment of mental illness ... It has a good deal, too, to tell the reader about cats ... But it also poses the implicit question of how fictional biographies are in any case ... All biographies adopt points of view, make suppositions, put fictional flesh on the bones of the facts the record gives us; and their test is how persuasively they do so. This one does so with great panache and not a little of the writerly flourish -- Sam Leith * The Spectator * Inspired by Flush, Virginia Woolf's "biography" of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's dog, Soden's book is a witty, charming semi-fictional biography of the cat that kept Smart company in the madhouse -- Tristram Fane Saunders * Daily Telegraph * I greatly enjoyed this book ... Oliver Soden has found a really vivid "ground-level" way to capture Georgian London, and as soon as Smart comes on the scene a most moving chemistry develops between the cat who has no words and the poet who is adrift in them -- Ann Wroe, author of Francis Jeoffry: The Poet's Cat is an engrossing recreation of eighteenth-century London at its grittiest, from brothels to insane asylums, as seen through the eyes of a famous cat. The blend of scrupulous scholarship with imaginative invention is wonderfully effective -- Leo Damrosch, author of The Club Mr Soden's delightful, insinuating book curls around your thoughts and tickles you with its whiskers ... Soden jokes that if Jubilate Agno is a magnificat (a song of praise to God), the Jeoffry verses are a magnifi-cat. His own magnifi-cat recreation, bound in cloth-covers and sporting a Gainsborough kitty, would make a fine stocking filler - silk, buckled or gartered * The Economist * Oliver Soden has done for Christopher Smart's cat Jeoffry what Virginia Woolf did for the Brownings' dog, Flush. Except he's made a much better job of it. This is a beautifully written, wise and wonderfully entertaining account of loyalty and the meaning of biography. Smart's cat was indeed a magical being, and Oliver Soden has plucked a wealth of literary art from the cat's life and from Smart's unforgettable vision. I intend to give a copy to everybody I like -- Andrew O'Hagan, author of Mayflies An absolute classic ... Oliver Soden combines the originality of wit and concept found in Virginia Woolf's Flush with an intimate portrayal of the humanity of a cat that T.S. Eliot understood so well. I found myself so gloriously moved and entertained by Jeoffry who has leapt purring and stretching, hunting and curling his way into my heart -- Juliet Nicolson, author of A House Full of Daughters A bracing and heartfelt scamper through Georgian London, and the life of a much-loved cat - like Jeoffry himself, this delightful book is an irresistible mixture of 'gravity and waggery'. With its supporting cast of eighteenth-century luminaries such as Handel, Dr Johnson and the bloated brothel-keeper Mother Douglas, this is a carefully researched and beautifully imagined feline biography -- Emily Brand, author of The Fall of the House of Byron A heart-lifting delight; I absolutely loved it. A triumph -- Alexandra Harris, author of Weatherland This is an intensely poignant portrait of a celebrated cat. Jeoffry's tale is both simple, in its feline perspective of eighteenth-century life, and complex, in its vivid detail, so expertly and engagingly marshalled. It is told with vibrant pace and energy, embraces shocking violence and exquisite tenderness, and is bejewelled with a rich cast of cultural luminaries. As we follow the irresistible subject towards and through his interaction with the poet who would give him his immortality, we smell the streets and the confined spaces, we suffer the blows, we weep the tears. This beautifully written and highly affecting book is a must-read for lovers of poetry, of the eighteenth century, and of cats -- Jane Glover, author of Handel in London Simply unforgettable ... Oliver Soden has written a little masterpiece ... The life and times of Jeoffry, the cat described in Smart's famous poem, are imagined here by Soden in one of the most beautiful and haunting books of recent times. This is a book to savour, reflect upon, and give to friends ... It is beautifully written. It is gentle. It is full of historical detail and whimsy, in more or less equal measure. It is a complete treat ... a lovely, enchanting piece of work -- Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Jeoffry is the greatest cat in the English language, and here are his life and times, wittily and deftly imagined, entwined with a memoir of Kit Smart, lunatic and poet, and the London he shared with Samuel Johnson and his cat Hodge. An inspired and original tale -- Hilary Mantel, author of The Mirror and the Light

Book experts at your service

What are you looking for?

A recommendation
Something specific
  • Mr B's Recommendation Station
  • Fill in the three questions below, along with your name and email address, and our book experts will be in touch soon with their personal recommendations
  • I'm after something specific
  • Tell us about the book, author or subject you're looking for, along with your name and email address and our book experts will be in touch as soon as possible