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This is an extract from the American edition of T S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, published in 1939. A whimsical collection of 14 poems about cats written for children, the book shows a lighter side of Eliot’s poetry. ‘Possum’ was also the nickname that Ezra Pound gave Eliot early in their friendship.
The poems, written in rhyming couplets, are partly inspired by the English tradition of nonsense poetry and the work of Edward Lear, whom Eliot admired. This extract corresponds to one of the best-known poems in the collection: ‘Macavity: The Mystery Cat’.
The cover of the 1939 edition, displayed here, contains a drawing by Eliot himself, and subsequent editions of the book have been illustrated by Nicolas Bentley and Edward Gorey.
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was also the inspiration for the well-known musical Cats, with music written by Andrew Lloyd-Webber.
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