The secretive nature of cats makes them famously difficult to study. For decades, researchers have struggled to piece together a cultural database of firsthand feline accounts from years past. That could all be changing now, thanks to an unprecedented find.
A team of feline archaeologists have recently struck gold in the form of dozens of written documents and photographs dating to as early as 1701. "It's a tremendous discovery," said Catrick Clawson, a historian who was not involved in the find. "This collection can shed light on what life was like for 18th century cats. This was a time when many cats were awaiting their husbands' return from sea, and they documented their personal lives and experiences through photographs, letters, and poems. We will likely be learning new things from this discovery for years to come."
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Though it may be years before each item is cataloged, the research team has shared a few of their extraordinary finds thus far.
1. "As the days drag on, I find my taste for frippery diminishing; and I would at once abandon the lace curtains and exquisite vases but for a glimpse of sails on the horizon."
-Margaret Whiskerton, 1783
2. Portrait of a Seaman's Wife, c. 1790
Photographer and subject unknown.
3. "The physician encourages daily sunbathing, of course. Says it helps the loneliness. I do admit, I do take pleasure in having a sunny window all to myself."
-Pawlina Baker, 1764
4. Autumn Afternoon (Waiting), 1791
Self-portrait, Catherine Clawford.
5. "Far away are thee, my love/and days do slowly pass/my only comforts are the blooms/you planted in the grass."
-Meowgaret LeChat, "Letter to Furrnando," 1782
6. "The Rain is a Scourge Upon My Soul (and I Dare Not Get My Paws Wet)." 1801
Self-portrait, Belinda Tabbysworth.
7. "...and I have grown to hate this window, where we once sat and watched the birds together, and which I now gaze wearily out of, watching the world go by."
8. "The simple boredom of being alone on these cold winter days has overcome me, and I have taken to pacing the windowsill, scarcely remembering to use the litterbox."
-Daphne Felidae, 1754
9. "Golden Sunlight: Yet a Dreadful Day." 1797
Photograph of Caterina von Værhår, taken by Jacqueline Purrdue.
10. "Oft do I reach a paw in search of you/yet my toe beans grasp only air."
-Francis NeufVies, "Widow's Lament," 1803
11. "I cannot bear to hang new curtains, threadbare as the old ones are, for fear a thicker fabric may block the moment of the ship's arrival."
-Pawtricia de la Bateau, 1799
12. "A Window to the Sea." Oil paint. 1783.
Artist and subject unknown.
13. "The rains have come again, and I worry endlessly for you. Are your paws dry? Is your fur soggy and dank? I pray the sun to shine upon the vessel, and your crew be bless'd with sunbeams to lie upon."
-Catalie Bellerose, 1761
14. Untitled, c. 1780
Photograph of Miaoux Deschamps, photographer unknown.
15. "Winter Vista (Loneliness and Salmon)." 1715
Self-portrait, Abigail Litenkatt.
16. "The attic window affords an excellent vantage point for watching the horizon. The children believe I have been stricken land-mad*, and insist I take my Churu in the parlor."
-Charlotte Félis, 1749
- "Land-mad" or "land madness" was a term given to those awaiting a husband's return from sea who experienced a particular kind of melancholia while sitting at their windows.