Sunday, September 25, 2011

Portrait of a mad cat woman

You never know the minute ... a sentence, a paragraph, a photo, a poem or a curious snippet stumbled upon in a blog can spark the idea for a picture. Well, that's how it works for me anyway. Just a small piece of information can set me off.

One of my favourite blogs is Georgian London - that's www. - where a recent post, a contemporary obit, caught my eye:

"An Eccentrical Lady"

Died, 16th January 1792, at her house, Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, Mrs Griggs. Her executors found in her house eighty-six living and twenty-eight dead cats. A black servant has been left 150 pounds per annum, for the maintenance of herself and the surviving grimalkins.

The lady was single, and died worth 30,000 pounds. Mrs Griggs, on the death of her sister, a short time ago, had an addition to her fortune; she set up her coach, and went out almost every day airing, but suffered no male servants to sleep in her house. Her maids being tired frequently of their attendance on such a numerous household, she was induced at last to take a black woman to attend and feed them. The black woman had lived servant to Mrs Griggs many years, and had a handsome annuity given her to take care of the cats."

So here is my take on the eccentrical Mrs Griggs, a mad cat woman of the eighteenth century.
Hope her cats were indeed "maintained" after her demise.


  1. Love your initial written inspirations. This obit is timeless. A friend of mine has a soft heart for orphan kitties but objects to her self-described image of 'mature lady with many cats.' Seems that classic relationship started long ago!

  2. What an amazing story! Eighty six cats! No actually, one hundred and fourteen! You would need a maid to look after them. Love to hear what inspires you.

  3. I've just spent a delightful time catching up with your blog. Your portraits are absolutely wonderful and I love the stories that go along with them!

  4. Belated replies, multiple. Thank you for your comments one and all.
    I do love reading about these obscure personalities and imagining their lives. I think I must be going back to my theatrical design roots at last!
    Women sharing their houses with dozens of cats is such a perrenial modern day news story but is obviously something that has been going on through the ages.