Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Hodge your bets

In Gough Square in the City of London stands the above statue to Hodge, Dr Johnson's cat (whose ears, I can't help but feel, are actually just a little too big). I first met this Hodge around Christmas time, one year, when he had a collar of tinsel, and a pleasingly festive air. He stands, on a plinth, outside Dr Johnson's house, on which is written "HODGE a very fine cat indeed belonging to SAMUEL JOHNSON", repeating a quotation attributed to him in in James Boswell's Life of Johnson. Dr Johnson is supposed to have said of his pet "He is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed."

There is something deeply humanising about hearing about how famous historical figures interacted with their animals, and indeed the names they gave to them. Hodge is a great name for a cat, but I think that I slightly prefer the name given by Edward Lear to his tubby tabby cat - Foss. I have also always liked the story about Hodge, again told by Boswell, that Dr Johnson would go out himself to buy oysters for his cat, rather then make is servants do it, so that they wouldn't dislike Hodge for having been put to extra work.

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