In February 1747, Selima the tabby fell into a Chinese blue and white porcelain tub in Walpole’s house in London’s Mayfair and never returned to dry land. The poem by Thomas Gray, “Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold-fishes,” was written as her mock epitaph.
Here is the true history of the event, and a look at the sparkling social and cultural life of the period. It is beautifully illustrated with Richard Bentley’s original series of designs for the poem, William Blake’s wonderful watercolors of some fifty years later, and the unpublished color illustrations produced in the 1940s by the noted children’s book illustrator Kathleen Hale, of Orlando the Marmalade Cat fame.
Frayling's essays add scholarly gravity balanced with a true love of the literature of Walpole, Gray, Johnson, and their contemporaries. Each set of illustrations emphasizes different aspects of the brief, clever, and charming poem with whimsical drawings and lively characterizations.
— Bloomsbury Review
Charmingly illustrated history of one of the best-loved and best-titled poems.
— Entertainment Weekly
Sir Christopher Frayling is the author of numerous books, including The Yellow Peril and Ken Adam Designs the Movies.