Dead Cats

Lifeless cats have been from time immemorial suggestive of foolish

hoaxing, a parcel being made up, or a basket with the legs of a hare

projecting, directed to some one at a distance, and on which the charge

for carriage comes to a considerable sum, the fortunate recipient

ultimately, to his great annoyance, finding "his present" was nothing

else but "a dead cat." Dead cats, which not infrequently were cast into

the streets, or accidentally killed there, were sometimes used as

objects of sport by the silly, low-minded, and vulgar, and it was

thought a "clever thing" if they could deposit such in a drawing-room

through an open window, or pitch the unfortunate animal, often crushed

and dirty, into a passing carriage; but "the time of times" when it was

considered to be a legitimate object to use was that of either a borough

or county election, cats and rotten eggs forming the material with which

the assault was conducted in the event of an unpopular candidate for

honours attempting to give his political views to a depreciatory mob

surrounding the hustings. An anecdote is recorded in Grose's "Olio" of

Mr. Fox, who, in 1784, was a candidate for Westminster, which goes far

to show what dirty, degrading, disgusting indignities the would-be

"people's representative" had to endure at that period, and with what

good humour such favours of popular appreciation, or otherwise, were


"During the poll, a dead cat being thrown on the hustings, one of Sir

Cecil Wray's party observed it stunk worse than a fox; to which Mr.

Fox replied there was nothing extraordinary in that, considering it was

a 'poll cat.'"

This is by no means the only ready and witty answer that has been

attributed to Mr. Fox, though not bearing on the present subject.

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