A Funeral for a Theatrical Cat: 1887

Drury Lane Theatre

Drury Lane Theatre

A Discriminating Cat

On Tuesday morning a mournful procession, headed by the fireman of the theatre, crossed the stage of “Old Drury.” The fireman was closely followed by four stalwart men, who bore on their shoulders a miniature coffin. Behind them came the mourners. The members of the country company who were using the stage for the purpose of rehearsal were astounded. In reply to their inquiries they learned that poor old “Pickles” was about to be buried in the adjoining yard. “Pickles” was a very favorite cat in the theatre and every one at once recognized the propriety of the ceremony, for “Pickles” and Drury Lane Theatre have for many years been inseparable. ”Pickles” was at one time induced to become a public performer, being brought in on a pie by Mr. Harry Payne, the clown, but as Mr. Payne now says, nobody after that first two nights was able to catch that cat in time for the performance, although it habitually turned up at the wings to see what its understudy made of the part. Another amusing reminiscence of the deceased cat is that during the run of a nautical melodrama, it calmly walked across the raging waves, as though they had been merely painted on canvas. “Pickles” is supposed to have come to his death by tackling a poisonous rat. However that may be, “Pickles” is greatly regretted by all who ever performed at Drury Lane, as a cat who could pick out a success from a failure, an actor from an amateur, and who would show its appreciation of those pieces and performers he approved of by attending their rehearsals and studiously avoiding those of people he had found wanting. Evening Standard

The Salt Lake [UT] Herald 18 March 1887: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil regrets not being able to find a photograph or engraving of this discriminating creature, perhaps in the role of “Puss in Boots,” in the popular pantomime. One wonders if Pickles was a black cat, the traditional lucky mascot according to theatrical superstition. The theatre cat, in addition to keeping down vermin, was a staple of stories about cats walking onstage at inopportune moments or predicting a long run for a production, such as this New York theatrical feline:

An unexpected debutante on the opening night of the season at the Empire Theatre in New York last Monday was the appearance of a splendid black cat. Being an Empire Theatre cat it was well trained, and instead of wandering about distractedly to the discomfort of actors and audience, it immediately ran to one of the stage boxes, gracefully cleared the railing, and remained long enough to be stroked by one of the women occupants, and then quietly disappeared. The actors were all delighted, because they consider a black cat a sign of good luck and a double assurance of a successful season. Boston [MA] Herald 2 September 1900: p. 31

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


4 thoughts on “A Funeral for a Theatrical Cat: 1887

  1. Pingback: The Black Cat Elemental: 1870s | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

  2. Pingback: Black Cat Tales: 19th century | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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