Mr. Cat came to live with George in 1943 as a four-month-old kitten from a New York City pet shop. This podcast cannot do justice to how beautifully written this book is—and the illustrations by Victor J. Dowling are lovely works of art.
The love George has for Mr. Cat, and the charm Mr. Cat offers to George and his friends is heart-melting.
George lived in a 5th floor walk-up somewhere around Madison Avenue and 57th. This is a time before air conditioning. Many shops and work spaces had open doors and bars on the window to let air flow in. It is also a time before foreign manufacturing arrived to the U.S. New York was filled with sew shops and productions houses. They were all over the city with many just off Madison Avenue.
For sport, Mr. Cat would saunter out the window, down the fire escape and into the production shops. Yes, Mr. Cat was well——sort of a petty larcenist. In three-weeks-time he brought George fourteen tape measures!
I found this book at an antique mall somewhere in the 1990s, before I ever really had an interest in cat literature. I remember seeing it on a side table, and picked it up because the cover illustration was so beautiful. Now it’s a book I’ve read several times. George Freedley impresses the reader with how much he loves his cat, and what a significant part Mr. Cat played in his life.
This book is sweet and charming—suitable for an older child to read. For anyone who has ever had a special pet in their lives, it’s a demonstration on how to express this pet into words. One thing I’m enjoying as I read these older books, is the grammar and writing style of these older authors. Today, we rarely run across this level of perfection of the English language. Another book in this style is featured in Episode-002, Charles, The Story of a Friendship (1953) by British author and editor, Michael Joseph.
George Freedley, 1904-1967 was an author, librarian, lecturer, educator, and theatre critic. He began his career at the New York Public Library in the picture collection. He created the theatre collection, and became Librarian-in-Charge. He established the Theatre Library Association. Freedley was a regular columnist for PLAYBILL, and the drama critic, book editor, and feature writer for the Morning Telegraph (New York). His association with the theater kept him in the company of many famous actors and actresses of the time.
Actress, Lillian Gish, 1893-1993, was a frequent guest. She often stopped by his apartment with her sister or friends. There, Mr. Cat would entertain them. Her special relationship with Mr. Cat allowed her to write the foreword for this book.
Mr. Cat was a daily raider of Madison Avenue sewing boutiques, where hats, gloves, and gorgeous clothing were made for many New York City elite. This episode features a scene where Mr. Cat brings Ms. Gish a lovely gift of a black velvet bow.
American comic book artist, Victor J. Dowling (1906- early 1960s, specific date unknown) created the illustrations, which are themselves works of art in the book.
There are actually two Mr. Cat books. The second is titled, More Mr. Cat and a Bit of Amber, Too. We will get to this second book in another podcast.
- Title: Mr. Cat
- Author: George Freedley
- Illustrator: Victor J. Dowling
- Date Published: 1960
- Place: New York
- Publisher: Howard Frisch
One of the best places to locate this book is AbeBooks
Sweet Bea is our featured cat. She voices the sweet, squeaks at the end of the episode. She doesn’t actually “meow”—she has never said a meow! The best way to describe her sound is a light staccato squeak.
Her age is about 5-years-old. Her favorite activity is getting her long hair brushed. Her favorite food is salmon. She lives in my studio in Dallas, Texas.
Bea has FIV-AIDS, and is believed to be Cat Harold-of-God’s mother per a text received by me from a friend that first spotted her. January 21, 2017, “Guss and I just ran into a black and white cat by your studio. There was a small kitten with her, probably 6 to 8-weeks-old. Have you seen them around?”
The kitten did appear at the community food bowl. Bea we did not see until months later. The kitten moved in, and became Harold-of-God. You may follow him on Instagram.
In the middle of this episode, we use the voice of Cat Oscar, because we needed an actual meow.
I hope you enjoy The Literary Catcast. I would love to hear from you. I never plan to have sponsors—this is a work of love. I have no set schedule to release episodes, because as I mentioned the reading is very time intensive, so please subscribe to stay tuned, and tap the 5-stars if you listen on Apple Podcasts.
Cheers to cats, hot tea, excellent writers, and good story telling. Thanks for listening.