Before we move on to our next Wednesday special series, here’s a recap…
This famous cat, belonging to lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-84), is memorialised outside his former home in Gough Square.
Johnson was known for his fondness of this particular cat – his biographer James Boswell, reports, for example: “I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr Johnson’s breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail.”
According to Boswell, Johnson told him that while he had had finer cats, Hodge – who is believed to have been a black cat – was a “very fine cat indeed”. Such was the cat’s renown that poet Percival Stockdale wrote an Elegy on The Death of Dr Johnson’s Favourite Cat.
This statue to Hodge was erected in 1966 by then Lord Mayor of London, Sir Roger Cook. The work of Jon Bickley (who apparently modelled Hodge on his own cat Thomas Henry), it depicts Hodge sitting on top of Johnson’s famous (and massive) dictionary and next to some empty oyster shells (the latter a reference to Johnson’s habit of feeding oysters to Hodge – while this wasn’t unusual, Johnson’s going out himself to fetch them himself – lest his servants resent Hodge – was).
The monument, which has Hodge looking towards his former home, features a plaque which has Johnson’s quote about Hodge – “a very fine cat indeed” – as well as his famous quote about the city in which they lived – “Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Dr Johnson’s former house and workplace at number 17 Gough Square, where he lived for 11 years, is now a museum.
OK, there’s a plethora of monuments in London which depict animals including well-known Animals in War Memorial in Park Lane. But in this series we thought we’d take a look at some of the less well-known monuments or those that are a little off the beaten track.
First up, it’s Dick Whittington’s cat – sometimes portrayed as male cat called Tommy – who can be seen sitting atop what’s called The Whittington Stone at the foot of Highgate Hill in London’s north.
The Grade II-listed monument, the base of which dates from 1821 and was restored in 1935, is said to mark the spot where Whittington, who was said to be about to give up on life in the city after failing to make his fortune and, with his cat in tow, was making his way home to Gloucestershire, heard the famous Bow Bells of London ring out and apparently say to him “Turn Again Whittington! Thrice Lord Mayor of London!”.
Which he did and which become true, apparently thanks to his cat whom he sold for a fortune in gold to someone from a rat-infested land, usually referred to as the Kingdom of Barbary.
Of course, Sir Richard Whittington, while known by many through Christmas pantomimes, was a real person who lived in the 14th and 15th centuries (and was indeed Mayor of London three times) but whether he actually had a cat remains a matter of conjecture.
The sculpture of the cat, made of polished black Kellymount limestone, is the work of Jonathan Kenworthy, and was only added to the top of the stone in 1964.
There is apparently a belief that if the Whittington Stone is ever removed or any harm befall it, it is an omen of disaster.
WHERE: Highgate Hill, near the intersection with Magdala Avenue (nearest Tube station is Archway); WHEN: Anytime; COST: Free; WEBSITE: No.
The first to be unveiled was a now Grade II-listed bronze bust of Sullivan in 1903. Located at the northern end of Victoria Embankment Gardens, it is the work of Sir William Goscombe John and, along with the bust which sits atop a pedestal, the monument features a scantily clad female muse leaning against the pillar in apparent grief.
Sheet music, a mandolin and a Pan mask all lie in a heap beside her – the discarded props of Sullivan’s profession – and on the side of the plinth are inscribed some lines from his work, The Yeoman of the Guard: “Is life a boon? If so, it must befall that Death, whene’er he call, must call too soon” (the same lines are inscribed on the sheet music).
The bronze memorial plaque to Gilbert, meanwhile, was unveiled in 1915, four years after his death. It’s attached to Charing Cross Pier on the downstream side of Hungerford Bridge and, the work of Sir George Frampton, shows Gilbert in profile relief flanked by figures of Comedy and Tragedy.
Gilbert is accompanied by an inscription which reads: “His foe was folly & his weapon wit”. A shield underneath bears a Latin inscription which translates as “I would rather die than change”.
The location of the memorials is not coincidental – the career of Gilbert and Sullivan was closely associated with the nearby Savoy Theatre, where many of their works were premiered thanks to its owner Richard D’Oyly Carte – he’s also commemorated in a memorial opposite the entrance to the Savoy nearby.
This Sunday marks 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall so we decided it was a fitting time to mention the fragment of the wall which accompanies the bronze statue of former US President Ronald Reagan in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair.
The plaque also features quotes from President Reagan – including the famous line from his 1987 Brandenburg Gate speech, “Mr Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall” – and other figures including former UK PM Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev as well as information about the wall itself.
In a dedication to the president, it further reads: “Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States of America, was a principled fighter for freedom. With a clear vision and will, he gave hope to the oppressed and shamed the oppressors. His contribution to world history in the 20th century, culminated in his determined intervention to end the Cold War. President Reagan has left a lasting legacy as a campaigner for global peace.”
The memorial was unveiled on 4th July, 2011, outside the US Embassy by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, to mark the 100th birthday of the former president. Among those present at the unveiling of the statue were then Foreign Minister William Hague and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
There are also larger sections of the wall outside the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth and in the National Army Museum in Chelsea (closed for redevelopment until 2016).
For more on London’s monuments, check out Andrew Kershman’s aptly named London’s Monuments.