Wednesday 8 July 2009


Some of you will know that I spent last winter working on a book about Darwin's relationship with his dogs, which was warm, passionate, and ended up with the beloved pets making an appearance in some of his most important books. 

I am at a Darwin conference this week (which means I get to loiter in lobbies next to Richard Dawkins and weirdly, Ian McEwan) thinking a lot about animals, humans, parenthood, love, affection, loyalty and evolution. In which context I found out that Arabella Sock had lost one of her two darling cats, Luka. 

I am really sad for her. In a sort of tribute mood, I found this section from my book, which is what I would like to be like myself, really. Darwin wasn't especially a cat person, which is what makes it even sweeter. 

"Whilst dogs were always Darwin’s favourites, Henrietta Darwin wrote of her father’s tolerance towards her own pets,

'He cared for all our pursuits and interests, and lived our lives with us in a way that very few fathers do… He had no special taste for cats, but yet he knew and remembered the individualities of my many cats, and would talk about the habits and characters of the more remarkable ones years after they had died.'

Darwin saw each animal as having its own separate being, its own 'individuality'. His celebration of Henrietta’s remarkable cats suggests, just delicately, that if we had asked Darwin if cats had souls, he might have answered, as much as any other creature does." 


Arabella Sock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arabella Sock said...

Sorry, deleted my own comment there.

I was just talking to friends this morning about when an adored pet dies you feel it should be headline news and shouted from the rooftops. I'm glad to see that my lovely Luka left his little pawprint in other people's lives as well as mine.

As for souls I would always describe Luka as having the happiest of them.
I have had a cat that was timid, a worrier, and now little Hebe who is skittish and has funny obsessions. All of them so loved and cherished for their individual ways.

Anonymous said...

Cats are always their own person, if you see what I mean
I've just got a book which tells you how to deal with them.
About 30 years too late of course.
I will order your book Emma.
Went to Regent's park zoo last week and it was full of Darwin information everywhere
So interesting - although I know zoo visting is frowned upon, I have checked out several and reported those where I felt iffy.
Is it a bad thing to do, or shpiuild we go and check things?

Mark D said...

What a fabulous post. About time too if I may make so bold, your blogging has been missed