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THERE are persons deficient in the stuff which makes intellect, just as there are individuals born without some particular sense. Incapable of originating ideas, because impenetrable to the impressions whence ideas come, they have memories instead of minds. They retain words: and, in giving them utterance, depend upon accident for the justice of their application.
One of these human parrots was present the other day, when Mr. C---- said, “ Such an one cannot last ; his physical force is quite gone.” A few days afterwards, the parrot, in quoting the observation, remarked, “ C. says he cannot live much longer, for his physic is out.”
It is truly astonishing how little talent suffices to get on in the world. The instinctive cunning observable in children and animals, is equal to the wants and desires of the individual; and the unideal babble and animal vivacity of the parrot, pass for information and agreeableness : while genius and feeling, obstructed at every step by dulness and prejudice, or revolted at the meanness and littleness which thwart them, stop short in the first stage of their route, and recoiling on themselves, too often live unknown and unbenefited by the world they enlighten and amuse.
In old family portraits, the ladies are painted with birds or animals as the accessories of the pic
Such playthings were, in fact, the great resources of our female ancestors, whose uneducated minds, and unsocial position (when there were neither books nor assemblies) threw them upon dogs, monkeys, parrots, and cats, as a refuge from ennui. Fondness for animals arises out of the idleness of barbarism, as the tolerance of the various nuisances they occasion does from its coarseness. It is not, however, the less true, that the playful kitten, with its pretty little tigerish gambles, is infinitely more amusing than half the people one is obliged to live with in the world.
I have observed, that all domestic animals are more amiable and intelligent on the continent, than with us: it may be they are better treated ; for nothing tames like kindness. The fine breed of Angola cats, so common in the South of Italy, is a proof of the assertion ; they are much caressed and attended to, and are as intelligent and as attachable as dogs. The first day we had the honour of dining at the palace of the Archbishop of Taranto, at Naples, he said to me, “ You must pardon my passion for cats (la mia passione gattesca), but I never exclude them from my dining-room, and you will find they make excellent company."
Between the first and second course, the door opened, and several enormously large and beautiful cats were introduced, by the names of Pantalone, Desdemona, Otello, and other dramatic cognomina. They took their places on chairs near the table, and were as silent, as quiet, as motionless and as well behaved, as the most bon-ton table in London could require. On the bishop requesting one of the chaplains to help the Signora Desdemona to something, the butler stept up to his lordship and observed, “Desdemona will prefer waiting for the roasts.” After dinner they were sent to walk on the terrace, and I had the honour of assisting at their coucher, for which a number of comfortable cushions
were prepared in the bishop's dressing-room. The Archbishop of Taranto, so well known through Italy as the author of many clever works, has also produced one on cats, full of ingenuity and pleasantry.
On my return from Naples, and during our second happy residence in Milan (the remembrance of which is now clouded and embittered by the horrible fate of those superior beings, who were the cause of that return and that residence), I happened to mention my observation on the sensible character of the animals of the south of Italy, and of the douceur and intelligence of the archbishop's beautiful Desdemona; when the young and gifted author of “ Francesca da Rimini” (who now lies buried in his living tomb—an Austrian carcere duro), related to me the story of a
passione gattescu,” which had recently occurred in a neighbouring village, perfectly illustrative of my hypothesis where it is :
66 Il Gatto del Cimitero.”
THE CAT OF THE CEMETERY.
A BEAUTIFUL peasant girl of the village of Monte-orsano, in the Brianza, had obtained a sort of melancholy celebrity by an infliction, which frequently struck her down to the earth, in the midst of the village festival, or church ceremony, where her beauty and piety were the boast and the edification of her village friends. Every physician in Lombardy, every saint in the calendar, had been applied to, on behalf of Clementina ; and vows and offerings had been made in vain, to cure, what was incurable, a confirmed epilepsy. If the saints, however, were negligent, Clementina had one friend, whose vigilance never slumbered. It was her cat ; which not only shared her bed and her polenta, but followed her in her walks and devotions, from the vineyard to the altar.
The first time that Mina saw her young mistress