'An inspired and original tale ... Jeoffry is the greatest cat in the English language' Hilary Mantel
'Simply unforgettable ... one of the most beautiful and haunting books of recent times' Alexander McCall Smith
'A heart-lifting delight; I absolutely loved it. A triumph' Alexandra Harris Jeoffry was a real cat who lived 250 years ago, confined to an asylum with Christopher Smart, one of the most visionary poets of the age. In exchange for love and companionship, Smart rewarded Jeoffry with the greatest tribute to a feline ever written. Prize-winning biographer Oliver Soden combines meticulous research with passages of dazzling invention to recount the life of the cat praised as ‘a mixture of gravity and waggery’. The narrative roams from the theatres and bordellos of Covent Garden to the cell where Smart was imprisoned for mania. At once whimsical and profound, witty and deeply moving, Soden’s biography plays with the genre like a cat with a toy. It tells the story of a poet and a poem, while setting Jeoffry’s life and adventures against the roaring backdrop of eighteenth-century London.
About the Author
Oliver Soden is a writer and broadcaster. His first book, a biography of the composer Michael Tippett, was a Book of the Year in the Observer, Times Literary Supplement and Spectator. It was shortlisted for the Elizabeth Longford Prize and won a Somerset Maugham Award and the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Storytelling. Soden’s essays and reviews have appeared in a wide variety of publications including the Guardian, Literary Review and Art Newspaper. He grew up in Bath and Sussex, and lives in London.
"A book to cherish." —A Book of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement
Jeoffry is the greatest cat in the English language, and here are his life and times, wittily and deftly imagined, entwined with a memoir of Kit Smart, lunatic and poet, and the London he shared with Samuel Johnson and his cat Hodge. An inspired and original tale --Hilary Mantel, author of The Mirror and the Light
Simply unforgettable ... Oliver Soden has written a little masterpiece ... The life and times of Jeoffry, the cat described in Smart s famous poem, are imagined here by Soden in one of the most beautiful and haunting books of recent times. This is a book to savour, reflect upon, and give to friends ... It is beautifully written. It is gentle. It is full of historical detail and whimsy, in more or less equal measure. It is a complete treat ... a lovely, enchanting piece of work --Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
An absolute classic ... Oliver Soden combines the originality of wit and concept found in Virginia Woolf's Flush with an intimate portrayal of the humanity of a cat that T.S. Eliot understood so well. I found myself so gloriously moved and entertained by Jeoffry who has leapt purring and stretching, hunting and curling his way into my heart --Juliet Nicolson, author of A House Full of Daughters
"It’s at once a sly introduction to Christopher Smart and the literary milieu of 18th-century London ...and a cat’s-eye view of 18th-century social history... IAll biographies adopt points of view, make suppositions, put fictional flesh on the bones of the facts the record gives us; and their test is how persuasively they do so. This one does so with great panache and not a little of the writerly flourish." Sam Leith, Spectator
"Soden’s delightful, insinuating book curls around your thoughts and tickles you with its whiskers." Economist
"Oliver Soden has done for Christopher Smart’s cat Jeoffry what Virginia Woolf did for the Brownings’ dog, Flush. Except he’s made a much better job of it. This is a beautifully written, wise and wonderfully entertaining account of loyalty and the meaning of biography. Smart’s cat was indeed a magical being, and Oliver Soden has plucked a wealth of literary art from the cat’s life and from Smart’s unforgettable vision. I intend to give a copy to everybody I like." Andrew O'Hagan, author, Mayflies
"Both whimsical and profound" — Catster Magazine