My Cat Toro and Samuel’s Hodge

Toro is a very fine cat indeed

Since I don’t like the word “pet,” I won’t say it when I refer to my two-year-old tabby, tom Toro, a family member. Toro pays a portion of his rental fee and is a controller of rodents in our dilapidated humble apartment we long to escape. But that’s another story, and this story I am going to unravel is for Toro.

Toro before entering the clinic

It was that time again to get Toro’s annual physical exam, also required for his Hills prescription Urinary care food. So we took a trip to the vet at Little Tokyo, and all’s well that ended well. His weight was steady at 11 pounds, the same as the last year (what an excellent dieter he is!). He got his FVRCP, FelV, and nails done and was proven generally healthy. What a relief because I had been concerned about his taking more naps than usual and tired expressions with half-cast eyes. The doctor told me that it was customary for cats to show such symptoms as they grew bigger. So albeit my mom thinks that I am overly concerned about Toro’s otherwise fine status quo, aren’t we all concerned about the general well-being of our flurry fur babies?

Samuel Johnson and Hodge

It all makes me think of the story of Samuel Johnson and his cat Hodge. Samuel Johnson, one of the greatest men of letters from 18th century England and the author of A Dictionary of the English Language, had his beloved sale-furred cat Hodge, who was immortalized in literary works and as a bronze statue outside his guardian’s once resident abode. We first come to know of Johnson’s cat Hodge thanks to his lawyer friend and biographer James Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Johnson used to go out to buy Hodge’s favorite food, oysters. He refused to let his loyal and faithful Jamaican-born master-servant Francis Barber because he felt that it would be degrading to Francis to do such errands for him. But I like to think that it was more affection toward Hodge, whom he called thus: “He is a very fine cat, very fine indeed.” When Hodge was nearing to cross the rainbow bridges due to his old age, Johnson would get valerian, an herbal painkiller extracted from the flower to lessen his fur baby’s pain. But the end of Hodge wasn’t lost in the inner circle of the ether, for his life was memorialized in ‘An Energy on the Death of Dr. Johnson’s Favorite Cat’ by Percival Stockdale, published in 1778:

The general conduct if we trace
Of our articulating race,
Hodge’s, example we shall find
A keen reproof of human kind.

Samuel Johnson is one of my most admirable literary persons because of his humanist rules of thought articulated in his mastership of the English language. Hence it gives me a feeling of kinship with his love of Hodge. His affection for Hodge felt genuinely caring and familial, which was never mawkish or superficial. So, likewise, my cat Toro is a muse of my writings: whimsical, independent, intelligent, and affectionate. Sometimes, I wonder if Toro is really a little boy bespelled a tom. Well, what more can I say? Toro is a very fine cat, very fine indeed.

Hodge’s bronze statue was inaugurated in 1997 by Sir Roger Cook, the then-Lord Mayer of London. Note the oyster at his paw as his eternal token of Johnson’s affection.

All Things to All People: on the importance of education by Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) was something of a daring noble rebel. If the name does not ring a bell to you at first blush, the name “Robinson Crusoe” will dawn on you with the popular images of the character and his faithful servant Man Friday constellated in film and animation firmaments. Defoe’s timeless classic Robinson Crusoe popularized the form of English novel along with Samuel Johnson’s epistolary novel Pamela in the canon of English literature. A writer conscientious as well as prodigious, Defoe did not hesitate to put his credo into actions by wielding his pen across paper. His bounteous works were in fact used as his arsenal of intellectual arguments against the ills of the society he did not fail to notice in all aspects of everyday life, such as the mistreatment of women, the poor, and those whose beliefs did not conform to the Church of England in his time. Defoe was neither an intellectual snob nor a hypocrite; in fact, he was not afraid of speaking his mind in a most poignantly cogent way as manifested in this short prose “Charm School for Women” from his essay on The Education of Women (1719) in which Defoe pillories canonical discrimination against women as grave injustice against humanity.

Defoe believes that it’s a lack of education that makes a woman proverbially turbulent, clamorous, and uncouth by comparing the soul in the body to a rough diamond that must be polished to its most naturally brilliant luster in order that its true beauty is manifested, just as the soul is thus distinguished from nondescript melee or even brutes. Defoe criticizes that men make women brutes by preventing them from being made wiser by dint of denying them the advantage of education because of the fear that the new enlightened womanhood will vie with the manhood in their improvements. Defoe then suggests that women be taught languages, especially French and Italian with a special focus on a subject of history so as to make them understand the affairs of the world and how they swing and thus wise.

In my point of view, such emphasis on the study of history strikes the chords with John Milton’s provident observation that: “Poetry makes us witty, but history makes us wise.” Knowledge of history enables you to realize a commonality between the bygone eras and our time in the discovery of truth of human nature across a great divide of time and space, so that we may learn from the past and use the knowledge as to better the world in our time, which will be an ongoing cultural enterprise so long as the human race exists. The universality of truth in satisfaction of reason and the cyclical nature of human affairs have been manifested in the Holy Writ as follows: “There is no new thing under the sun” and “Old things are become past; and lo! All things are become new.”

Defoe’s viewpoints of women’s education is far from patronizing or condescending in the capacity of a sympathetic or lenient master deigning to address to his maids. On the contrary, he speaks as an altruistic, eager academic who feels for the pathetic states of women deprived of the privileges of education that will do a world of wonder to womanhood if equitably given. He avers that proper education will teach women the proper management of their natural wits, so that they will prove to be very sensible and retentive. Therefore, to withhold women from the crown of education is injustice itself, which in my opinion also goes against Christian charity in terms of sharing what you already have with those who do not in order to double the joys and cut the misery in halves. Moreover, the refined women’s souls as a result of education are the grist to the mill of society with more culturally refined and publicly civil-minded individuals. In light of Defoe’s provocatively humanistic perspectives on the education of women that does not smack of flagrant political ideology to gain popularity of womankind and his beautiful allusion of a woman’s soul to a rough diamond in its primordial form, this brief treatise on the importance of education of women is an illuminating read worth the noting with a nod.