FRANCES A. SIMPSON (1857-1926)
THE LATTER YEARS
When Frances judged at Westminster in 1913, she was by this time in her 56th year. She was still actively breeding cats, judging and exporting and no doubt contributing to as many periodicals as she was able. It is likely that sometime not long after this, she and her brother John, again moved house, this time to 16 Stafford Terrace, Phillimore Gardens, Kensington. It was from this address that the preface to the 1920 edition of Cats for Pleasure and Profit was penned. It was also her address at the time of her death in 1926 and was noted as such on her 'probate' records.
That she was actively still breeding and exporting is confirmed by the sale of a blue Persian male named 'Blue Britisher II', born on 16th September, 1916, bred by Frances Simpson and duly exported to Mrs. W.A. Martel, of Los Angeles, California. It is particularly interesting to note that the sire of 'Blue Britisher II' also named 'Blue Britisher', born on 13th March 1913, and bred by a Mrs. Forrest, was also shipped out to Mrs. W.A. Martel, (Both father and son appearing in Volume 9 of the ACA Register). But this must have happened quite late in the piece, as Frances first bred her own blue Persian male 'Buzz-Buzz' from the elder 'Blue Britisher', and 'Buzz-Buzz' was not born until 17th July, 1919. She then appears to have retained the young 'Buzz' as a future stud, for he appears in the advertising pages of the 1920 edition of Cats for Pleasure and Profit. When that edition went to press, Frances was, by now, 63 years of age. So at the earliest, the elder 'Blue Britisher' could not have left Britain until at least late in 1919 and possibly not until 1920. Volume 9 of the ACA Studbook, was not published until 1923.8
As may be seen by her photograph, holding a Blue Persian kitten, (published in the 1924 edition), the once highly fashionable upper middle class Miss Frances Simpson had adopted the more casual style of the post-war period.3 Sadly, Frances pre-deceased her brother John, on 19th January, 1926. Probate records show that her estate, with effects, amounted to over £11,000. This was not an inconsiderable sum for a single lady who had lived by her own means and clearly had been an effective manager of her own financial affairs. Her brother, John Percy Simpson, lived on at Stafford Terrace until his own death on 21st January 1938.
For the 'Cat Fancy', Frances has left a legacy of many parts. As a feline historian, what would our knowledge of the cats of yesteryear have been without her? It is hard to even imagine it!
And very importantly, without her advocating the breeding of at least three generations of blue to blue, from which sprang the concept, promotion and advancement of the 'pure blue', the Persian breed would not have become the cats 'tour de force' of the twentieth century, that it so clearly did. In her own words with regard to the blue Persian, "we have lived and loved together".
Writing of her passing, at the end of 1926, the effervescent Mr. H.C. Brooke, a life-time contemporary of Simpson, paid tribute to her in the editorial columns of Cat Gossip, in which he wisely described her as "the Fairy God-Mother of the Cat Fancy".21 The writer can only concur with this assessment, for in much the same way that Harrison Weir was the 'Father of the Cat Fancy', Elizabeth Frances Ann Simpson, was the first 'child of the fancy', one that grew to love it with an unsurpassed passion, and in contributing to it for over half a century by pen and word and deed, became its 'Grand Matron'. With the death of Harrison Weir in January 1906, she quickly assumed the role of 'Mother of the Cat Fancy' and with her pen, lovingly continued to sprinkle it with 'magic'.
Harrison Weir said it best, when he wrote in the preface to The Book of the Cat, "Frances Simpson has rendered me her debtor; and others, beside myself, will tender her grateful thanks for her work in the cause of the cat and for the welfare of the fancy."
In closing this file on the indefatigable Miss Simpson, I draw attention to some sage advice given by her in the closing chapter of her first book, Cats, and All About Them (1902). It comes in the form of prose and reads thus:
If you your lips would keep from slips,
A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR:
Frances Simpson died almost exactly 20 years after Harrison Weir. Another 90 years has almost passed since then. This article, on Miss Frances Simpson, is not intended, nor does it claim to be, a full summary of her life's work or achievements. It is but a short, roughly chronological review of her contribution to, and work in and for, the emerging Cat Fancy. This article was rendered in just five very busy days, and all from references close at hand. The life of Miss Simpson, is and will continue to be, of significant interest to cat fanciers, and what this article does attempt to do, is to give a short but clear context and overview of her work and its place in the establishment of the Cat Fancy world-wide. It is a very succinct reminder that with 'an ounce of passion and determination', a great deal can be achieved by just one person with a heart set on so doing.
My personal thanks to Jane Webster, for her preparatory work via Ancestry.com and with other public databases, to find and collate historic documents that assist in the creation of an effective and usable timeline. Thanks to my co-editor, Karen Lawrence, who will exercise her influence on the digital presentation of this work and have the added pleasure of checking the accuracy of the data contained therein! Enjoy!
- John G. Smithson
REFERENCES & CREDITS:
Home | Cats | Gallery | Clubs | People | Artifacts | Articles | Updates | Contact Us
©The CFA Foundation, Inc and The Harrison Weir Collection