69:  Vexations

A black cat (Nero) peeking round a door.Nero came by.  He arrkst if I intended to compose a verse for my late sister and give it out at the Cats’ Field.

I sayt I would not.  I write to joy myself and others, not tell of my private sorrows.

“Then I might,” sayt he. “I’ll think on it.”

Next he sayt, “You’re like to go soon.”

I arrkst him how many winters he’d seen.

“Eight,” sayt he.

I gave him the lie.  I told him he was no kitling when we became akwaynted.  And that was eight or nine winters past.

A ship underwater with fish swimming past.
Tropick waters: a shipwreck with sea monsters.

“True,” he sayt.  “But I’d been at sea.  We sailed in tropick waters where there are no winters.”

I yawned to show my disbelief.

Nero added, “Salt keeps all flesh sound.  I was shipwracked, and swam for my verie life with a host of sea monsters coming hot behind me.  Salt water has preserved me.”

He’s a fickle-tongued fellow.

My little niece (though she be not so little now) has been woeful since her mother went.

She complains of her grown sister, now the barn queen.

Viz, her sister gives her evil looks, and finds fault with all she does.  And her cousins who were once her playfellows have grown unkind.

I sayt, “It’s the way of the world.  When the highest falls, another rises.  And her friends rise with her.  Such is fortune.”

“I will not bide where I’m distained,” sayt she.  “I shall lodge with you.”

I sayt, “That cannot be.  All the places in my household are taken.”

“But,” sayt she, “are you not the highest there?  Can you not do as you list [like]?”

I was shamed then.  In truth, to aid her is my dutie.

“But what of your kitlings?” I arrkst.  “Few born in this house will be left to you.  The queen cats employed here to keep down mice and rats scarce see any of their kits live to be full-grown.”

“Why can’t I be cut as you were?” she arrkst.  “Then I need not be troubled by kits.”

What a wicked fancie.

I sayt, “It’s not possible for a she-cat to be cut and live to tell of it.  Your testes, that the common sort do call your stones, are hid deep within your belly.”

“How know you that?” she arrkst.

“From a learned book that told of men and women.  Certes, we cats are quicker in our wits and our doings than they, but we are like in our bodies.  This book sayt that Nature concealed women’s testes well.  Why?  So that women might not know they’re as well-made as men.  Were women to know that, they’d lose all shame and be even more uppish than they are.”

A young and fluffy black, white, and orange cat.
Gib’s Niece

“I’ve never seen nor heared a book,” sayt she.

I sayt, “Some books tell nowt but lies.  But it come to me that the Queen Cat of Heaven hid she-cats’ stones within their bellies for their greater safety.”

My niece sayt, very sour, “My mother told me that had she been a gib-cat like you, she might have been a poet.”

“Your mother did not know her letters.  How could she have writ?”

“Nero does not know his letters,” sayt she.  “Yet he’s a poet.”

That’s true.

I begin to comprehend why her grown sister and her cousins find her vexatious.


Editor's Note. Small image of a quill pen.The idea that female bodies were designed to convince women of their inferiority appealed to Renaissance anatomists, whose own theories were derived from Hippocrates (BC c.460-c.375), Aristotle (BC 384-322) and Galen (AD 132- c201).

However, feline society is dominated by matriarchs, so Gib provides a different explanation as to why the female testes (i.e. ovaries) are hidden.  But what book is he referring to? 

In 1592 (50: My Observations) Gib announced that he was “learning Italian, as the nobilitie do”.  Presumably, he’d been sitting in on the Earl of Southampton’s conversations in Italian with his tutor John Florio (1553-1625).

John Florio, from the 1611 edition of his Italian & English dictionary.
John Florio, from the 1611 edition of his Italian & English dictionary.

John Florio’s first language manual Florio his Firste Fruites was published in 1578 with a dedication to Elizabeth I’s long-term favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

Around the same time, the Earl of Leicester was among the patients of an Italian doctor Giulio Borgarucci (known as Dr Julio), who became a royal physician.  Dr Julio’s brother Prospero was Professor of Anatomy at Padua, and published Della Contemplazione Anatomica sopra Tutte le Parti del Corpo Umano in 1564.  Dr Julio probably had a copy.

John Florio may have known Dr Julio, so Gib could have heard Florio speak of Professor Borgarucci’s book.

Florio has been suggested as an influence on Shakespeare; he’s sure to have influenced Gib.

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22 thoughts on “69:  Vexations

    • toutparmoi September 1, 2016 / 2:09 pm

      Well, they were on the right track! At least they’d figured out that women supplied some “seed” too, rather than simply acting as plant pots.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Soul Gifts September 1, 2016 / 2:34 pm

        True that. I find this whole storying with Gibs very charming and a fascinating insight into a past era.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Timi Townsend September 2, 2016 / 1:17 am

    Another wondrous post, Denise! I love not the attitude prevalent at the time that women’s parts were inferior to men’s. Has that attitude changed, I wonder? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dornahainds September 2, 2016 / 4:05 am

    Such expressive wit you have conveyed here on such feminine matters. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Robyn Haynes September 3, 2016 / 3:22 pm

    An interesting idea, Denise. I guess she-cats having hidden ‘testes’ for their own safety appeals a little more than the ‘being inferior’ theory.

    Is Gib’s age creeping up on him? I can’t imagine a world without his musings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 3, 2016 / 4:12 pm

      By my calculations Gib’s about 15 by now, and he’s beginning to slow down a little. Perhaps his niece will give him a new interest in life?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Robyn Haynes September 3, 2016 / 4:15 pm

        A love interest do you mean? Incest doesn’t seem to be an issue with cats to my knowledge.

        Liked by 1 person

        • toutparmoi September 3, 2016 / 4:31 pm

          No – a paternal interest. Though I think avuncular is the proper term. Gib isn’t susceptible to female charms.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Robyn Haynes September 3, 2016 / 4:37 pm

            Mmm, you’re right. I haven’t heard tell of any love interests for Gib, that I can recall.

            Liked by 1 person

            • toutparmoi September 3, 2016 / 4:44 pm

              He was, as his little niece observes, “cut” at an early age. Which is just as well, because it left him free to improve his mind and become a poet.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Robyn Haynes September 3, 2016 / 4:46 pm

                Of course! How thick of me. I suppose I just hadn’t expected the neutering of cats in that early period.

                Liked by 1 person

                • toutparmoi September 3, 2016 / 4:48 pm

                  I think it would have been rare, but not unheard of.

                  Liked by 1 person

  4. April Munday September 7, 2016 / 12:23 am

    I hope Gib’s niece will have the sense to learn from him. She seems fairly sensible so far.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 7, 2016 / 9:22 am

      She’s bright, but she makes me uneasy; there’s an edge to her that Gib lacks. Possibly the effect of having been raised by his sister.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. colonialist September 8, 2016 / 7:18 am

    It is a wonder she didn’t point out how unattractive the external versions are, and how much neater it is for them to be internal.
    Hmmm … so a cousin of mine who commutes between UK and South Africa to avoid winters is likely to outlive everyone?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mitchteemley January 1, 2017 / 8:53 am

    I love the extra bits of information you add at the end, Tout. Pretty soon you may be as learned as Gib. ;>) Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

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