FRANCES A. SIMPSON (1857-1926)
EXPORT AGENT, AUTHOR & HISTORIAN
During this period, when Frances was working on her manuscript for Cats and All About Them she was simultaneously trying to fulfil some of the many requests from 'over the herring pond' from various new but strategically important American alliances. The 'Cat Fever', as the new hobby of cat fancying was referred to, had truly taken a grip on the American continent, especially so, after the first show organised along British lines had taken place at Madison Square Gardens, New York, in 1895.
To Mrs. Clinton Locke, she shipped 'Melrose Lassie', (later registered as 'Lockehaven Melrose Lassie'), a blue female born 5th August 1899. 'Lassie' was sired by 'Big Ben' a son of Mrs. Ransome's 'Darius' and her dam was 'Gill' a daughter of the famous 'Ch. Wooloomooloo'. She was particularly well known for her deep eye colour. Frances had earlier purchased 'Lassie' from her breeder Mrs. Mercer, but finally relented and let her go to Mrs. Locke.
Also in the America's, through her connection with Mrs. Collingwood, Mrs. Gotwalts of Pottstown, Pennsylvania had requested that Frances send her a Brown Tabby sired by Frances' Champion male, 'Persimmon'. This resulted in Frances sending her one of her own home-bred 'Brownies', a male named 'Simon Pure', born 27th September, 1901, and out of a female named 'Baronia', herself by 'Ch.Brown Prince'.20
Other strategic alliances in the United States, included Mrs. Clinton Locke, Mrs. W. Eames Colburn. and Mr. Frank L. Norton. In 1901 Frances purchased the cream male ‘Kew Laddie’ and sent him off to Mrs. Locke, then in 1902, she purchased an Orange Tabby male ‘Red Knight’, out of the tortie ‘Torrington Owlet’ sending him off to Mrs. Colburn. 7
A particularly noteworthy export, was the Rev. P.L. Cosway's beautiful blue male, 'Imperial Blue', who featured in both 'Cats and All About Them', in 1902 and in 'The Book of The Cat' in 1903. 'Imperial Blue' was born 30th August, 1900 and was shown very successfully by his owner, winning 2nd at Wakefield in 1901, 2nd at Castleford in 1901, two 3rds at Manchester, and the B.P.C.S special for soundest coloured blue, at Slough in 1901. He appears to have first become the property of Frances Simpson for a time, before finally being exported to Mr. Frank L. Norton of Cazenovia, New York.6
When Cats and All About Them was finally published in 1902, the response from cattists hungry for written material was extremely positive, as it was the first book of note on pedigreed cats since the original work 'Domestic and Fancy Cats' by John Jennings a decade earlier, and the 'cat fancy' had already gone through so many significant changes during that time. It also contained images of recently seen cats that were currently influencing their respective breed varieties.
In compiling it, Frances advices in the preface that, "by arrangement with the Kennel Publishing Company I have been enabled to utilise the paragraphs of Practical Pussyology which have appeared during the last fifteen months in 'Our Cats'...... The object therefore, of this little book is to assist cat lovers to become cat fanciers. I trust that it may be found helpful and instructive."3
The cover design for Cats and All About Them was the work of Mrs. Paul Hardy, a committee member of the Blue Persian Cat Society and listed as one of their Specialty Judges.2
There is little doubt in my own mind that Cassell's, upon reading Frances' original contributions to the columns in Our Cats with her lucid and easily readable style, would have immediately focused on her as a potential writer for their planned The Book of the Cat. They had already produced, the highly successful The Book of the Dog and had witnessed the very great interest taken by the public in works related to domestic animals. So work had already begun on The Book of the Cat.
Amazingly, The Book of The Cat had had its beginnings back in September 1901, when the book was marketed by Cassell's in Fur and Feather. The chapters for The Book of the Cat were also duly published individually, as a monthly series, at the cost of one shilling each, which would have put Frances under immense pressure to be both timely and accurate. This was a 'mammoth undertaking' under any circumstances, but Frances, already in the thick of 'cat fancy culture' a prominent and respected judge, and an entertaining writer with columns appearing in a number of regular publications, was an ideal prospect for the job. It is doubtful whether any other person at the time, would have been as capable of producing such a major work, although while she was actively engaged in so doing, and seeking contributions for it; fellow judges and authors Charles H. Lane and Charles House, were similarly writing their new works, namely Rabbits, Cats & Cavies and Cats: Show and Pet.
The amount of correspondence related to producing such a work, would have been immense and is in itself, evidence of Frances Simpson's extraordinary organizational skills. While writing it, she received numerous small contributions from a variety of sources, such as this one from Mrs. Blake of Chicago, who sent it via the Editor of Our Cats, who duly published the note in her columns:
"Mrs. Blake of Chicago, is the owner of 'Spangle', the famous Tortoiseshell and White female which took two firsts and several specials, the only times shown. She is an imported Angora, and her photograph was sent for publication in 'The Book of The Cat'. Mrs. Blake adds: 'If this reaches Miss Frances Simpson, I would be glad to tell her how much I have enjoyed her new books."23
Following the death of her beloved Brownie, 'Champion Persimmon' Frances had been on the lookout for a suitable son to replace him and in early March of 1903, an opportunity finally came with the purchase of 'Persimmon II'. She placed an advertisement offering the services of the new male at stud, in the 21st March issue of Our Cats which was accompanied by this note:
"Ever since my dear old cat's death I have been on the look-out for a son to take his place. I have at last secured a handsome fellow, with a head and face absurdly like his grand old father. I trust therefore, to keep up the famous strain. On the mother's side he is descended from my Rajah (Brown Tabby) and Mater. Miss Goddard will keep him for me, and he will occupy his father's spacious house, which has been set up in Miss Goddard's garden."23
In either late June or early July of 1903, Lady Marcus Beresford, after much soul-searching, took the decision to downsize her cattery and offered her well-known blue Persian stud cat 'Blue Boy II' to Frances Simpson. This was an offer too good for Frances to refuse. So she immediately made arrangements to have him stay with her confidant and partner in cats, Miss E. Goddard, and he was duly put into joint ownership. Very proud of their lucky purchase, they placed a small stud advertisement, announcing their latest acquisition in the 11th July 1903 issue of Our Cats.
In August 1903, the fully bound volume of The Book of the Cat was completed and readied for distribution. A number of reviews on The Book of the Cat duly followed: this one, published in the 26th September 1903 issue of Our Cats:
"The bound volume of Cassell's Book of the Cat which has been sent to us by the courtesy of the publishers, is a most handsome volume, really marking a epoch in the cat fancy. Each part has been criticised and commented upon as it made its appearance. Suffice it, therefore, to say that in every respect the whole is greater than the parts, and quite exceeds any expectations which may have been raised as the book made its gradual appearance. No cat lover would fail to find it a most fascinating present. The contents are of course, completely up to date, whilst the illustrations, paper, and general get-up and quite exceptional."23
And from the 'Glasgow Herald': -
"A delightful volume for all lovers of the domestic pet. A historical sketch of the cat from the earliest times is followed by lucid - one might even add learned - descriptions of the many breeds of today that find favour with an enthusiastic public. The care of the cat in health and sickness, fashionable catteries and the business of exhibiting, receive full attention. This book is beautifully printed and bound, lavishly illustrated in colour as well as in black and white, and altogether worthy of its graceful and attractive subject."23
For those of us who can look back with the benefit of hindsight, what Frances produced under such a degree of urgency, but with the clear intent of showing the cat fancy in a good light; was in point of fact, the very best possible 'historical' record apart from the information contained in the 'official registers' of both The 'National Cat Club 'and 'The Cat Club'. This one mammoth work puts into a clear, visually compelling and stimulating context, what would otherwise have been a rather dull platter of factual information. Even by today's standards, this would be considered an epic work and the full impact of its presentation has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
By what now seems an amazing coincidence, Harrison Weir's epic work The Poultry Book published by Doubleday in three large volumes, was also released in 1903. It was the culmination of over 20 years work, containing over 30 coloured plates and 350 individual line drawings! The Book of The Cat was a similarly epic work, the first book on cats to contain full page coloured plates of the various breeds and a current up to date history of each. Both these individuals simultaneously gave to the world books which would stand the test of time and both are veritable classics that are highly sought after by collectors to this day.
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