We have a black feral cat named Gala, who lives on our back deck. Vicki brings her in on most evenings to be stroked and played with by the fireplace, along with our indoor cats Cider and Banner. Samuel Johnson, author of the first dictionary of the English language in 1759, lived and worked on Gough Square, just off London’s Fleet Street, where we visited while researching an essay on him for the Chicago Literary Club. His favorite cats were Hodge and lily. Hodge, also a black cat,  became quite famous, and is immortalized by a statue of him, opposite Johnson’s house on the square.

(from Wikipedia) Boswell also noted how Johnson went out to purchase valerian to ease Hodge’s suffering as death approached.[3] Although Hodge was not Johnson’s only cat, it was Hodge whom he considered his favourite. Hodge was remembered in various forms, from biographical mentions during Johnson’s life to poems written about the cat. On his death, Hodge’s life was celebrated by an elegy by Percival Stockdale. In this poem the phrase “sable furr” indicates that Hodge was a black cat; also, the fact that Stockdale was Johnson’s neighbour from 1769 onwards suggests that Hodge was alive at that time.

…Who, by his master when caressed, warmly his gratitude expressed, and never failed his thanks to purr, whene’er he stroked his sable fur.[3]

Today he is remembered by a bronze statue, unveiled by the Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1997, outside the house in Gough Square he shared with Johnson and Barber, Johnson’s black manservant and heir.[4] The statue shows Hodge sitting next to a pair of empty oyster shells atop a copy of Johnson’s famous dictionary, with the inscription “a very fine cat indeed”.Hodge’s statue stands just in front of Boswell House, across the square from Johnson’s, pictured below, and below that is the view of the square Johnson had himself (2nd floor, 2nd window from the left), while writing his great dictionary, and presumably, stroking Hodge, his cat. 

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