BtC 10/22. On to the Second Part

Previously on Beware the Cat: In part one Mr Streamer tells his friend of a time he was lodging at a printers. After being kept awake by howling cats he is told tales by people in the house of magical cats. After the stories, Mr Streamer has gone to bed still thinking about the extraordinary stories of cats, witches and werewolves.

Layer 1: framing narrative spoken by Baldwin

Layer 2: main narrative spoken by Streamer

In the second major section of the book, Mr Streamer goes from a passive (and easily distracted) narrator to an active protagonist.

Because there are not Layer 3 narrators in this section, the text is dominated by Mr Streamer’s strange style of speech. There are a lot of (apparently wrong) astrological references and anything that can be named with a classical allusion is. Once you get into the rhythm of his language it is really funny.

Mr Streamer is an Ignatius J Reilly like figure ( ) convinced by strange ideas and obsessed with a misplaced faith in classical thinkers.

The howling cats on the roof of Aldersgate and the ideas from the stories he was told now combine to form an obsession, which lead him to do the strangest things.


I had not been long in this contemplation when the cats, whose crying the night before had been cause of all that which I have told you, were assembled again in the roof of Aldersgate where the dead men’s quarters were set up. After the same sort of actions as they did the night before ; one sang in one tune, then another in another, and even such another service as my Lord Chappell upon the scaffold sang before the king. They observed no musical chords, neither diateparrian, diapentic, or diapason ; and yet, one cat, groaning as a bear does when dogs are let slip at him, sang out so low and so loud a base that, in comparison of another cat which crying like a young child squealed out the shrieking treble, it might be well accounted a double diapason.

So that I might see better the cause of that assembly and by their gestures perceive part of their meaning, I went softly into a chamber which had a window that looks onto the Aldersgate roof. In the dark standing closely, I viewed through the trellis as well as I could all their gestures and behaviours, and I promise you it was a thing worth marking, to see what countenances, yes, and what order was among them.

One cat, which was a mighty big one, grey haired, brisk bearded, and having broad eyes which shone and sparkled like two stars, sat in the midst, and on either side of her sat another, and before her stood three more. One mewed continually, except when the great cat groaned, and whenever the great cat was done groaning, this mewing cat began again, first stretching out her neck, as it were making beckonings to them which sat. Often in the midst of this cat’s mewing all the rest would howl forth then hush again as if they were laughing at something which they heard the other cat declare.

I watched them from ten until it was twelve o clock. At this time, whether it was a vessel in the kitchen below, or some board in the printing house I cannot tell, but something fell with such a noise that all the cats ran up upon the house. Then I, fearing lest any of them looking to see what had fallen might find me there, I ran into my chamber quickly. Finding my lamp still burning I set me down upon my bed, and thought upon the doings of those cats. By and by I deemed that the grey cat, which had sat in the middle, was the chief, and sat as judge among the rest, and that the cat which continually mewed declared some matters or made account to her of something.

I was caught with such a desire to know what the mewling cat had said, that I could not sleep at all that night, but lay about devising by what means I might learn to understand them. Calling to mind what I had read in the works of Albertus Magnus on a way to be able to understand birds voices, I ought in my library for the like book, and greedily read it over. While reading I came to a passage that stated “Si vis voces avium intelligere,”

Lord, how glad I was to find this! When I had thoroughly marked the description of the medium, and considered the nature and power of everything there in, and how and upon what it wrought, I devised how with part of those things and addition of others, with like virtue and operations, to make a medicine to serve my purpose.