Did ever you hear of the Brighton cats? No? Well, that is strange, for they are very famous fellows, I assure you. If you were to go to Brighton, in England, you would soon know all about them. They are trained pussies, and they are not only very good actors, but, what is more pleasant still, they seem to enjoy their own performances very much. Their master loves them dearly, and every day they jump up on his shoulders, and, rubbing their soft cheeks against his beard, purr gently, as if to say, “Ah, master dear, if it were not for you, how stupid we should be! You have taught us everything.” Then the master laughs and strokes them, before he sets them at work. At last his quick command is heard— “Pussies, attention!”
Down they jump, their eyes flashing, their ears twitching and eager, their very tails saying— “Aye, aye, sir.”
“Pimpkins, to work!”
Pimpkins is a painter: that is, he has learned to hold palette brushes and mall stick in one paw, and a brush in the other, which you’ll admit is doing very well for a pussy. With his master’s help, he is soon in position, perched upon a stool and painting away for dear life on the canvas before him. There is always a very queer-looking picture on the easel unfinished, and pussy daubs away at it when visitors are by; but when asked whether he did it all or not, he keeps very still, and so does his master.
Meantime the two other pussies, whom we must know as Tib and Miss Moffit, obeying a motion from the master, seat themselves at a table, and begin a lively game at chess. The chessmen stand in proper order at first, and both pussies look at them with an air of unconcern. Soon Tibs moves his man. Then Miss Moffit moves hers. On comes Tib again, this time moving two men at once. Instantly Moffit moves three. The game now grows serious. Moffit’s men press so thickly on Tib’s that suddenly he gives all of them a shove, and Miss Moffit is check-mated! Then Tib is grand. Leaning his elbows on the table, and tipping his head sideways, he looks at Moffit until she fairly glares.
After this all the pussies are, perhaps, requested to wash for their master. And they do it, too, in fine style, though, when they are through, Tib and Pimpkins generally squabble for a bath in the tub, while Miss Moffit hangs the clothes on the line to dry.
After work comes play. Miss Moffit and Pimpkins have a little waltz, and Tib slides down the balusters. Sometimes Tib amuses himself by drawing the cork from his master’s ale bottle. And then if the foaming ale happens to be unusually lively, it makes a leap for Tib, and Tib rubs his nose with his paw for half an hour afterward.
Are they ever naughty? Yes, indeed. But even then their good master is gentle with them. He never whips them, but simply looks injured, and orders them to “do penance.” Poor Tib and Moffit,—for they generally are the naughty ones— how they hate this! But they never think of such a thing as escaping the punishment. No, indeed; they jump upon a chair at once, and, shutting their eyes, stand as you see them in the picture, two images of misery, until their master says they may get down.
We have had these pictures of the Brighton cats carefully copied from photographs that were taken from life not many weeks ago. The photographs are very sharp and clear, showing every feature distinctly, with just the least blur at the tips of the tails, where they wriggled a little. When you think how hard it is for real persons not to laugh or to move while having a photograph taken, you will understand how wonderful the Brighton cats are, to be able to stand perfectly quiet in these difficult positions, from the time when the photographer takes the brass cap from the front of the camera until he puts it on again, and sets them free.
“They’re too wise to be right,” said an old apple-woman one day, as she looked at them. “It’s onnatural—cuttin’ about and actin’ like Christians as they do.”
Tib stood on his hind legs at this, and Miss Moffit shook paws with Pimpkins—as well she might.
St. Nicholas: A Monthly Magazine for Boys and Girls, Volume 1, No. 2, December 1873
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil only wishes that her staff were half as well-trained as the Brighton cats.
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.