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Then it got *really* dark

I read tonight that the National Trust has acquired another Detmold illustration to put on display at Kipling’s house. The Detmold brothers did a beautiful series of strangely dark illustrations for the Jungle Book 1903, some of which are already on display in a funny little side room at Bateman’s.

I have posted about the Detmolds before. They were twin brothers born in 1883 in Putney, London. They were both very fine artists, particularly of animals. But the thing that always sticks in my head about the Detmolds is this anecdote:

Their local doctor gave them some chloroform to kill the housecat. Which Maurice did. Then he took the remainder of the chloroform and killed himself.

That’s it. That’s all the detail I’ve ever been able to glean from any source, and I have so many questions. Was the cat ill? Did people routinely kill their cats rather than bring them on holiday? I know people were shitty to cats back then, but that seems a bit much. Was Maurice depressed? Could it have been an accident? Or did he — this is my favorite theory — kill the cat and then feel so awful about it afterward that he offed himself?

This was in 1908. The Wikipedia article on Edward doesn’t mention the cat anecdote (Maurice doesn’t even get his own page – I wonder why). I went looking again for an explanation and found this article. I kind of wish I hadn’t.

According to this, the doctor had given them chloroform before to kill stray cats (I don’t like the sound of this) so he wasn’t suspicious when Maurice asked for more. Maurice was later found dead on his bed, a chloroform rag in a bag tied over his head. Nearby was a box with two dead cats in it. So he was…practicing? Seeing if it hurt?

Er, have a good weekend!


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 23, 2024, 7:56 pm

I always thought the National Trust owned all the Detmold illustrations for the Jungle Book.

BTW, the cat’s mouth is smushed in this illustration. Search “Detmold illustrations” for better examples.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: February 23, 2024, 10:13 pm

Ew. Just… Ew.

We have two cats, and they do love their boxes. But not two at once in the same box; they’re quite jealous of their boxes, though boxes are fungible. Even if Dixie just spent the past three hours sleeping in a particular box, once she moves on it doesn’t bother her at all if Killer hops in the box to take it over. Thank goodness for Amazon: we have as many boxes as we need for cat happiness.

If I haven’t mentioned it before here, both cats’ names come from out twisted sense of humor. Killer is a tuxedo cat, and looks like an orca if you squint a bit. And Dixie is all black; black as the ace of spades. I’ve tried to teach her to whistle the tune Dixie but she just can’t seem to get her lips positioned just right. I’ll keep trying, though, because she likes the treats.

Comment from Durnedyankee
Time: February 24, 2024, 8:24 am

@Uncle Al-
if you manage that, get her a top hat and cane and have her learn to whistle, or sing, “The Michigan Rag”.

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