Dubbed ‘Queen of Chicago’ by her intimates, Gertrude Abercombie was a mid 20th Century bohemian, saloniste, jazz devotee and Surrealist painter. The weekly salons she held with her second husband, the music critic Frank Sandford, in a large house in Hyde Park neighbourhood of Chicago, was frequented by such jazz luminaries as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan and Dizzie Gillespie, who was a particularly close friend.
The improvisational techniques of be-bop certainly seemed to have influenced her paintings, which feature a small number of elements and motifs repeated throughout her career in an unusual and innovative manner. Cats, snail shells, owls, doors, leafless trees and a solitary female figure, always a hypercritical self portrait, frequently recur against a somber night sky barely lit by the distant moon. The mood is usually mysterious and elusive with occasionally a hint of Southern Gothic, however Design for Death, which apparently was Charlie Parker’s favourite painting is quietly chilling in its representation of a staging for a lynching.
When asked why she painted in the Surrealist manner, Abercrombie stated, “Surrealism is meant for me because I am a pretty realistic person but don’t like all I see.”
Below are a selection of artworks from throughout Abercrombie’s career, hopefully some people will like her re-arrangements of reality as much as I do.
Although Louis Wain’s psychedelic and abstract cat designs that he created during the last fifteen years of his life, while confined in a psychiatric institution, show many of the hallmarks that characterise Art Brut, namely elaborate detailing, obsessive symmetry and the horror vacui (fear of empty space); he was formally trained and was for a number of years one of the foremost commercial artists of Edwardian England, illustrating over a hundred books and releasing a highly successful annual of cats for over a decade.
Cats were Wain’s main subject throughout his career, from the naturalistic early studies through the large-eyed anthropomorphic cats strolling around on two legs playing golf and smoking cigars at the height of his success, to the brilliant ceramic Futurist cats before the final period of hallucinated decorative splendour.
The affectation and centrality that cats held for Wain was born out of a personal tragedy. At 23 the young artist had married his sister’s governess, Emily Richardson, who was ten years older, which was the cause of considerable scandal at the time. Shortly into their marriage Emily began to suffer from breast cancer; during her illness her main source of solace and comfort came from Peter, a stray black and white cat they had rescued on a rainy night. At Emily’s urging Louis began sketching Peter, drawings that were soon published and made Wain an very much in-demand illustrator, an event Emily unfortunately didn’t live to see.
Although Louis Wain’s work was hugely popular he lacked financial acumen so when he was initially institutionalised in 1924 it was in the pauper’s ward of Springfield Mental Hospital in Tooting, South London. When it was discovered that one of England’s most beloved illustrators was languishing there, a widely publicised appeal was launched and supported by such figures as the writer H.G Wells and the Prime Minister, and he was transferred to Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark, London and eventually to the relatively pleasant Napsbury Hospital in Hertfordshire, which had a large garden and a colony of cats.
The actual nature of Wain’s mental illness is the matter of debate, it has been suggested either adult-onset schizophrenia or Asperger’s Syndrome. His work was presented in supposedly chronological order by the psychiatrist Walter Maclay as an example of the creative deterioration of schizophrenics; a specious narrative that needless to say I totally disagree with. The abstractions represent a different, experimental aspect of Wain’s cat oeuvre, not a decline.
Below are examples of Wain’s cat drawings from throughout his career, with greater emphasis on the acid cats of the later period.
The cat arrived a few days after my father disappeared. The pouring rain weighed down my already overloaded backpack as I walked home from the bus stop after school. I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t notice the bedraggled black cat at the top of the cul-de-sac until I had almost tripped over him. I bent down to stroke him and then, of course, he followed me home. Since there was no question of leaving him outside in that weather, I let him in. I called out for Dad just in case he had returned but there was no answer.
As if he knew the way, the cat went straight for the kitchen. Guessing that he must be hungry and thirsty, I filled a bowl with water and set it down for him. Then, after digging around in the cupboards, I retrieved a can of buried kippers.
While I watched him devour the fish, I noticed that he was collarless and on the skinny side. I didn’t have the heart to throw him out, even though Mum wouldn’t be happy. Unlike Dad, she had no time at all for animals. Nevertheless, much to my surprise, she hardly put up a fight when I said that I wanted to keep the cat for good.
“I want nothing to do with it,” she had said. “You’ll have to do everything yourself.”
Maybe she wanted to spare my feelings, though I think she was just too tired to resist. She did refuse to drive me to the pet shop, however. I had to improvise with an old paint tray and newspaper for the night. After dinner she asked me what I was going to call him.
“Edward,” I replied.
She didn’t say anything; she didn’t have to because disapproval was written all over her face. Edward is my father’s middle name.
Mother was convinced that Dad had run out on us, leaving behind only debts, worry and heartache. I knew that whatever his faults he would never do that me. She said that it was time I faced the facts. I was old enough to see things for what they were.
I didn’t tell her that Dad had already returned in a different form. It was pointless; she would have carted me down to the psychiatrist straight away. There, she would explain to the good doctor, the history of mental illness in the family (Dad’s side) and how the recent distressing events had caused me to have a breakdown.
I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when I realized beyond a doubt that my father had returned as the black cat, but this awareness had steadily grown in me day by day. The very fact that Edward made his appearance so soon after Dad was last seen could, I suppose, be dismissed as mere coincidence, but I shared with my father the conviction that there was no such thing. Besides, it made perfect sense in a way. My father always had a certain cat-like quality about him. He certainly seemed happier in his new form. All the seemingly contradictory traits of his personality were absolutely natural in a cat. As a human, his idleness, punctuated with sudden bursts of concentrated activity would draw comment. Yet this was the very essence of the feline nature. The friendly warmth that could turn in a moment into arrogant aloofness confused and alienated people, but was thought of as charming in a pet. Undoubtedly it was a little mad, but then all cats are mad.
I had soon fattened him up, bought him a fancy collar and generally just spoilt him. Mother, true to her word, had nothing to do with him at all. She had, in fact, taken an active dislike to him, shooing him away every time he came near. I bore the reproach for the cat hairs on the couch.
Mother feared and therefore hated animals. And yet, when I was younger, Dad had insisted on keeping pets in the house, mainly cats but also dogs, despite her disapproval. The presence of the cat in the house undoubtedly served as an unpleasant reminder. Any mention of Dad had become strictly verboten, but I wasn’t about to re-christen Edward. Every time I called out his name, I could see her heart harden a little more against me.
As the year wore on, my mother and I spoke a little less each day. Really, we had one subject to discuss but as we already knew and disagreed with the other’s opinion, we kept silent on the matter. Edward was always waiting for me at the front door when I arrived home. First thing, I would feed him and then hurriedly complete the chores Mother had set for me before going to my room to do my homework. Edward always followed and would curl up in my red moon chair while I sat at my desk. If I was stuck on a particularly difficult question, I would ask him. He would look at me knowingly in the
manner of all cats, but of course, remained silent. I missed Dad’s explanations even if
he would digress and give lengthy lectures on all kinds of unrelated subjects. Almost everything was twisted to fit into his own eccentric worldview. You would always have to ask again what the answer was. Now, he could only appear wise.
I would stay in my room, reading or listening to music until I had to eat dinner or to cook, if it was my turn. Mother insisted that we eat at the table. Out of politeness, I would ask about her day at work, to which she always replied in monosyllables. Then she would ask me about school and I’d respond in kind. After that she would proceed to critique my housework or my attitude, particularly what she referred to as my adolescent sullenness. At first, I rose to the bait, but soon I realized that these were arguments I had no hope of winning. While all this was going on, Edward kept hidden in a corner so as not to antagonize Mother. For if she caught sight of him, she would scream at me to get that bloody cat out.
After doing the dishes, I would say goodnight to Mother, invariably ensconced in her chair, watching TV while nursing a gin and tonic. Some nights she never made it to bed. Edward would reappear and be waiting at my bedroom door. However, he always stayed outside until I was changed for bed before coming in to settle down in his chair. I would say ‘goodnight’ and ‘love you’ and although he never responded, his mere presence was answer enough.
Then, just as I had gotten used to the rather strange state of affairs that existed in our household, Mother brought home a new boyfriend and everything changed.
She had obviously sought out the complete opposite of Dad. Rather than handsome, vain, unpredictable, broke, quick-tempered and fond of a good laugh, the new boyfriend was plain, stable, comfortably well off, even-keeled and serious, or to neatly sum up in a word: dull. Dull as dishwater and a governmental accountant to boot. I am still at a loss to understand the attraction. There was nothing appealing about his thinning, mousey brown hair, that narrow, pinched face, the thick glasses perched precariously on an unremarkable nose.
Even the fact —or perhaps even more because of it— that he didn’t drink, smoke, swear or gamble made me wary. Dad always said that you are never to trust a man without a vice. Dad had also told me to beware of men with small feet and the new boyfriend had, even for a man of such moderate stature, uncommonly dainty feet.
And interestingly, the new boyfriend was immediately at odds with Edward. In fact, he seemed physically afraid of the cat. Edward would arch his back and hiss and the boyfriend would in turn flinch and draw back. Although this obviously afforded me some amusement, I wished Edward would behave, as I was concerned as to the new boyfriend’s plans. His symmetrical centre parting and the crease lines around his mouth were suggestive of a cruel vindictive nature. I’d sometimes catch him staring though those ugly bifocals at Edward while he slept. Seeing that queasy, unpleasant smile stretch his thin lips, I would involuntarily shiver. The fact was that I did not know what was to become of Dad and me if they were to carry on.
The worst of it was that Mother assumed a triumphant air. As if the fact that she had a new boyfriend vindicated her and enabled her to behave like a petty tyrant. Before she had been harsh but after that she became merciless. The number of chores multiplied daily. She criticized me constantly. The ban on mentioning my father was lifted but only to denigrate him and myself in turn.
We had a fierce argument about the boyfriend. She warned me that I had better start being nice to him. I told her that I had no intention of being nice to him; he wasn’t my father, after all. She said that it was a pity he wasn’t because then I might be a decent human being. Instead, I was the daughter of a worthless bastard and as a result, what could you expect but a crazy ungrateful bitch? I slapped her face, hard, and ran upstairs to my bedroom where I locked myself and Edward in. Mother banged on the door calling me horrible names and promising to bring down all kinds of punishment upon my head. Eventually she gave up, but it was hours before I was able to sleep. All the while, I talked quietly to Edward of my fears.
A new day brought a change of tactics from Mother, now suddenly all conciliatory. I sensed that something was up and had my suspicions confirmed when she announced that we would be going to the boyfriend’s house for dinner and to spend the night. I started to object, but Mother stopped me and said that it wasn’t up to debate.She said she expected me to be at my very best, as tonight was an important night. I agreed but asked about Edward. This question shattered her pretence of calm.
“The cat will be fine for one night!” she snapped. “If only you would show the same consideration for me as that cat then we wouldn’t have these ridiculous problems.”
I didn’t bother to respond to such a stupid comment. Rather, I said goodbye and began my walk to the bus stop.
All day long I was in a state of dread over the forthcoming dinner. I had been to the boyfriend’s ostentatious pile before. It was utterly detestable. Mother’s cooing and sighing over the absurd antiques and useless collections of figurines and curiosities only heightened my distaste for the place. I was sorely tempted to move the ornaments on the shelves a fraction of an inch or knock over a drink on the coffee table, anything to shatter the illusion of order that the boyfriend obviously went to great lengths to present to the world.
Mother was already getting prepared for the evening when I arrived home from school. She had left work early especially for the occasion. Anxious to avoid confrontation, I ignored the stinging remark that I should dress proper for once. The evening was going to be long and difficult enough as it was without starting off on the wrong foot. So like a dutiful daughter, I put on my knee length black skirt (the dressier of the two that I owned), a white blouse and the strands of pearl Mother bought me for my last birthday. After studying myself in the mirror I sighed. I looked like Mother going on a job interview. By the disdain in Edward’s eyes as he turned away, it was obvious that he didn’t approve either. There was nothing for it, however.
In the car, I kept silent and just watched the lights of the passing cars be consumed by the darkness in the wing mirror. Mother, of course, was harping on her favorite theme —her only theme— of me being my father’s daughter and consequently, a constant source of disappointment.
The boyfriend was eagerly awaiting our arrival and had prepared a veritable feast (his very words). As I nibbled smoked salmon canapés, I nervously wondered what could possibly be the occasion? The unbearable sense of foreboding grew after we sat down to dinner. I thought it odd that Mother was sticking to Coke, as she was never one to turn down a glass of wine. She and the boyfriend gazed at each other with eyes shining in happiness. A happiness I neither shared nor understood. After the main course, the boyfriend said that they had some news that they wanted to share with me.
‘Oh, really, what is it,’ I answered, trying unsuccessfully to sound enthused. I abandoned all pretense as their revealed their announcement.
Mother had just found out she was pregnant. We were to move into the new boyfriend’s dreadful home, by the end of the month. “For the space,” she explained.
Inconceivably, Mother thought I would be delighted to have a new baby brother or sister. I felt on the verge of throwing up. Gathering myself, I asked, “Can I bring Edward?”
They looked at me in pity now that they were assured of victory, as they shook their heads and said no.
“Unfortunately, cats can’t possibly be around newborns,” Mother said. “But we’ll try to make sure he goes to a good home, a more suitable place.”
The subject was dropped. After that they talked of their bold, future plans between themselves —a future in which it seemed I was a mere afterthought— until I excused myself. I made my way to the alien bedroom which would soon be mine. Here I was to spend the night.
I couldn’t settle; all I could think was that I was soon to be separated from Dad for a second and final time. When I did finally sleep, I dreamt of green eyes glowing accusingly in the absolute darkness.
(Special thanks to Dr. M. Sorick for editorial advice and support).
On a trip to Rome I visited the Balthus retrospective at the Scuderie del Quirinale. Although frequently included in books on Surrealism, Balthus was never affiliated with the Surrealists. However as an art world insider he was friends with several prominent figures including the sculptor Giacometti and the writers Artaud and Bataille. More importantly he shared with Surrealism a preoccupation with the oneiric state and the same literary influences, particularly Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Lewis Carroll’s Alice books.
The exhibition includes the 14 remarkable ink illustrations for Wuthering Heights. Emily Bronte’s classic was much admired by Bataille and Bunuel, who filmed his own idiosyncratic version set in Colonial Mexico as well as quoting the novel at length in his excellent autobiography My Last Sigh. It is not hard to see why the novels would appeal to the Surrealists with its tempestuous romanticism and its insistence on the primacy of childhood and nature against civilisation and maturity. And, of course, it is the culmination and pinnacle of the Gothic novel which Breton placed above all other literature in the Manifestos. Balthus perfectly captures the intense and sombre atmosphere of the novel which he clearly identified closely with as his Heathcliff is also a self-portrait.
The influence of Alice is even more marked. The exhibition includes several witty anthropomorphic drawings and absurdist caricatures that show the influence of both Tenniel’s illustrations and the Alice books. However it is the unsettling, decidedly ambiguous paintings of young girls often sleeping and frequently observed by slyly inscrutable cats that spanned his career that show the depth of the fixation with Alice. In 1933 Balthus painted Alice Dans le miroir and a quarter of a century later he returned to Alice to paint Golden Afternoon.
Balthus paintings have aroused considerable controversy for their subject matter and its not hard to see why. A previous exhibition was titled Cats and Girls and that neatly sums up his twin obsessions. However saccharine sounding there is nothing cutesy about Balthus eerily frozen and silent domestic universe. The knowing cats, that together with the very young girls that populate his paintings appear to be stand ins for the artist; after all he was the self proclaimed King of Cats, therefore placing himself squarely within the frame of his paintings, adding a further disturbing voyeuristic subtext.
Although ostensibly a children’s nonsense tale, Edward Lear’sThe History of the Seven Families of Lake Pipple-popple manages to convey in its fourteen very brief chapters humour, bathos, absurdity, pathos and ultimately the dizzying pull of destiny and the tragic inevitability of fate, all with extravagant wordplay and dazzling inventiveness.
The History of the
Seven Families of the
In former days — that is to say, once upon a time, there lived in the Land of Gramblamble, Seven Families. They lived by the side of the great Lake Pipple-popple (one of the Seven Families, indeed, lived in the Lake), and on the outskirts of the City of Tosh, which, excepting when it was quite dark, they could see plainly. The names of all these places you have probably heard of, and you have only not to look in your Geography books to find out all about them.
Now the Seven Families who lived on the borders of the great Lake Pipple-popple, were as follows in the next Chapter.
THE SEVEN FAMILIES
There was a Family of Two old Parrots and Seven young Parrots.
There was a Family of Two old Storks and Seven young Storks.
There was a Family of Two old Geese, and Seven young Geese.
There was a Family of Two old Owls, and Seven young Owls.
There was a Family of Two Old Guinea Pigs and Seven young Guinea Pigs.
There was a Family of Two old Cats and Seven young Cats,
And there was a Family of Two old Fishes and Seven young Fishes.
THE HABITS OF THE SEVEN FAMILIES
The Parrots lived upon the Soffsky-Poffsky trees, — which were beautiful to behold, and covered with blue leaves, — and they fed uponfruit, artichokes, and striped beetles.
The Storks walked in and out of the Lake Pipple-popple, and ate frogs for breakfast and buttered toast for tea, but on account of the extreme length of their legs, they could not sit down, and so they walked about continually.
The Geese, having webs to their feet, caught quantities of flies, which they ate for dinner.
The Owls anxiously looked after mice, which they caught and made into sago puddings.
The Guinea Pigs toddled about the gardens, and ate lettuces and Cheshire cheese.
The Cats sate still in the sunshine, and fed upon sponge biscuits.
The Fishes lived in the Lake, and fed chiefly on boiled periwinkles.
And all these Seven Families lived together in the utmost fun and felicity.
THE CHILDREN OF THE SEVEN FAMILIES ARE SENT AWAY
One day all the Seven Fathers and the Seven Mothers of the Seven Families agreed that they would send their children out to see the world.
So they called them all together, and gave them each eight shillings and some good advice, some chocolate drops, and a small green morocco pocket-book to set down their expenses in.
They then particularly entreated them not to quarrel, and all the parents sent off their children with a parting injunction.
‘If,’ said the old Parrots, ‘you find a Cherry, do not fight about who should have it.’
‘And,’ said the old Storks, ‘if you find a Frog, divide it carefully into seven bits, but on no account quarrel about it.’
And the old Geese said to the Seven young Geese, ‘Whatever you do, be sure you do not touch a Plum-pudding Flea.’
And the old Owls said, ‘If you find a Mouse, tear him up into seven slices, and eat him cheerfully, but without quarrelling.’
And the old Guinea Pigs said, ‘Have a care that you eat your Lettuces, should you find any, not greedily but calmly.’
And the old Cats said, ‘Be particularly careful not to meddle with a Clangle-Wangle, if you should see one.’
And the old Fishes said, ‘Above all things avoid eating a blue Boss-woss, for they do not agree with Fishes, and give them pain in their toes.’
So all the Children of each Family thanked their parents, and making in all forty-nine polite bows, they went into the wide world.
THE HISTORY OF THE SEVEN YOUNG PARROTS
The Seven young Parrots had not gone far, when they saw a tree with a single Cherry on it, which the oldest Parrot picked instantly, but the other six, being extremely hungry, tried to get it also. On which all the Seven began to fight, and they scuffled,
and guffled, and bruffled,
and screamed, and shrieked, and squealed, and squeaked, and clawed, and snapped, and bit, and bumped, and thumped, and dumped, and flumped each other, till they were all torn into little bits, and at last there was nothing left to record this painful incident, except the Cherry and seven small green feathers.
And that was the vicious and voluble end of the Seven young Parrots.
THE HISTORY OF THE SEVEN YOUNG STORKS
When the Seven young Storks set out, they walked or flew fo fourteen weeks in a straight line, and for six weeks more in a crooked one; and after that they ran as hard as they could for one hundred and eight miles: and after that they stood still and made a himmeltanious chatter-clatter-blattery noise with their bills.
About the same time they perceived a large Frog, spotted with green, and with a sky-blue stripe under each ear.
So being hungry, they immediately flew at him, and were going to divide him into seven pieces, when they began to quarrel as to which of his legs should be taken off first. one said this, and another said that, and while they were all quarrelling the Frog hopped away. And when they saw that he was gone, they began to chatter-clatter:
more violently than ever. And after they had fought for a week they pecked each each other all to little pieces, so that at last nothing was left of any of them except their bills,
And that was the end of the Seven young Storks.
THE HISTORY OF THE SEVEN YOUNG GEESE
When the Seven young Geese began to travel, they went over a large plain, on which there was but one tree, and that was a very bad one.
So four of them went up to the top of it, and looked about them, while the other three waddled up and down, and repeated poetry, and their last six lessons in Arithmetic, Geography, and Cookery.
Presently they perceived, a long way off, an object of the most interesting and obese appearance, having a perfectly round body, exactly resembling a boiled plum-pudding, with two little wings, and a beak, and three feathers growing out of his head, and only one leg.
So after a time all the Seven young Geese said to each other, ‘Beyond all doubt this beast must be a Plum-pudding Flea!’
On which they uncautiously began to sing aloud,
‘Wherever you be,
‘O come to our tree,
‘And listen, O listen, O listen to me!’
And no sooner had they sung this verse then the Plum-pudding Flea began to hop and skip on his one leg with the most dreadful velocity, and came straight to the tree, where he stopped and looked about him in a vacant and voluminous manner.
On which the Seven young Geese were greatly alrmed, and all of a tremble-bemble: so one of them put out his great neck, and just touched him with the tip of his bill, — but no sooner had he done this than the Plum-pudding Flea skipped and hopped about more and more and higher and higher, after which he opened his mouth, and, to the great surprise and indignation of the Seven Geese, began to bark so loudly and furiously and terribly that they were totally unable to bear the noise, and by degrees every one of them suddenly tumbled down quite dead.
So that was the end of the Seven young Geese.
THE HISTORY OF THE SEVEN YOUNG OWLS
When the Seven young Owls set out, they sate every now and then on the branches of old trees, and never went far at one time.
And one night when it was quite dark, they thought they heard a Mouse, but as the gas lights were not lighted, they could not see him.
So they called out, ‘Is that a Mouse?’
On which a Mouse answered, ‘Squeaky-peeky-weeky, yes it is.’
And immediately all the young Owls threw themselves off the tree, meaning to alight on the ground; but they did not perceive that there was a large well below them, into which they all fell superficially, and were every one of them drowned in less than half a minute.
So that was the end of the Seven young Owls.
THE HISTORY OF THE SEVEN YOUNG GUINEA PIGS
The Seven young Guinea Pigs went into a garden full of Gooseberry-bushes and Tiggory-trees, under one of which they fell asleep. When they awoke, they saw a large Lettuce which had grown out of the ground while they had been sleeping, and which had an immense number of green leaves. At which they all exclaimed:
‘Lettuce! O Lettuce!
‘Let us, O let us,
‘O Lettuce leaves,
‘O let us leave this tree and eat
‘Lettuce, O let us, Lettuce leaves!’
And instantly the Seven young Guinea Pigs rushed with such extreme force against the Lettuce-plant, and hit their heads so vividly against its stalk, that the concussion brought on directly an incipient transitional inflammation of their noses, which grew worse and worse and worse and worse till it incidentally killed them all Seven.
And that was the end of the Seven young Guinea Pigs.
THE HISTORY OF THE SEVEN YOUNG CATS
The Seven young Cats set off on their travels with great delight and rapacity. But, on coming to the top of a high hill, they perceived at a long distance off a Clangle-Wangle (or, as it is more properly written, Clangel-Wangel), and in spite of the warning they had had, they ran straight up to it.
(Now the Clangle-Wangle is a most dangerous and delusive beast, and by no means commonly to be met with. They live in the water as well as on land, using their long tail as a sail when in the former element. Their speed is extreme, but their habits of life are domestic and superfluous, and their general demeanour pensive and pellucid. On summer evenings they may sometimes be observed near the Lake Pipple-popple, standing on their heads and humming their national melodies: they subsist entirely on vegetables, excepting when they eat veal, or mutton, or pork, or beef, or fish, or saltpetre.)
The moment the Clangle-Wangle saw the Seven young Cats approach, he ran away; and as he ran straight on for four months, and the Cats, though they continued to run, could never overtake him, — they all gradually died of fatigue and of exhaustion, and never afterwards recovered.
And this was the end of the Seven young Cats.
THE HISTORY OF THE SEVEN YOUNG FISHES
The Seven young Fishes swam across the Lake Pipple-popple, and into the river, and into the Ocean, where most unhappily for them, they saw on the 15th day of their travels, a bright blue Boss-Woss, and instantly swam after him. But the Blue Boss-Woss plunged into a perpendicular,
circular depth of soft mud,
where in fact his house was.
And the Seven young Fishes, swimming with great uncomfortable velocity, plunged also into the mud quite against their will, and not being accustomed to it, were all suffocated in a very short period.
And that was the end of the Seven young Fishes.
OF WHAT OCCURRED SUBSEQUENTLY
After it was known that the
Seven young Parrots,
and the Seven young Storks,
and the Seven young Geese,
and the Seven young Owls,
and the Seven young Guinea Pigs,
and the Seven young Cats,
and the Seven young Fishes,
were all dead, then the Frog, and the Plum-pudding Flea, and the Mouse, and the Clangel Wangel, and the Blue Boss Woss, all met together to rejoice over their good fortune.
And they collected the Seven Feathers of the Seven young Parrots, and the Seven Bills of the Seven young Storks, and the Lettuce, and the other objects in a circular arrangement at their base, they danced a hornpipe round all these memorials until they were quite tired: after which they gave a tea-party, and a garden-party, and a ball, and a concert, and then returned to their respective homes full of joy and respect, sympathy, satisfaction, and disgust.
OF WHAT BECAME OF THE PARENTS OF THE FORTY-NINE CHILDREN
But when the two old Parrots,
and the two old Storks,
and the two old Geese,
and the two old Owls,
and the two old Guinea Pigs,
and the two old Cats,
and the two old Fishes,
became aware by reading in the newspapers, of the calamitous extinction of the whole of their families, they refused all further sustenance; and sending out to various shops, they purchased great quantities of Cayenne Pepper, and Brandy, and Vinegar, and blue Sealing-wax, besides Seven immense glass Bottles with air-tight stoppers. And having dome this, they ate a light supper of brown bread and Jerusalem Artichokes, and took an affecting and formal leave of the whole of their acquaintance, which was very numerous and distinguished, and select, and responsible, and ridiculous.
And after this, they filled the bottles with the ingredients for pickling, and each couple jumped into a separate bottle, by which effort of course they all died immediately, and become thoroughly pickled in a feew minutes; having previously made their wills (by the assistance of the most eminent Lawyers of the District), in which they left strict orders that the Stoppers of the Seven Bottles should be carefully sealed up with the blue Sealing-wax they had purchased; and that they themselves in the Bottles should be presented to the principal museum of the city of Tosh, to be labelled with Parchment or any other anticongenial succedaneum, and to be placed on a marble table with silver-gilt legs, for the daily inspection and contemplation, and for the perpetual benefit of the pusillanimous public.
And if ever you happen to go to Gramble-Blamble, and visit that museum in the city of Tosh, look for them on the Ninety-eighth table in the Four handred and twenty-seventh room of the right-hand corridor of the left wing of the Central Quadrangle of that magnificent building; for if you do not, you certainly will not see them.