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''Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'' (1939) is a collection of whimsical light poems by T. S. Eliot about feline
psychology Psychology is the scientific study of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of conscious and unconscious phenomena, including feelings and thoughts. It is an academic discipline of immense scope, crossing the boundaries betwee ...
and
sociology Sociology is a social science that focuses on society, human social behavior, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and aspects of culture associated with everyday life. It uses various methods of empirical investigation ...
, published by
Faber and Faber Faber and Faber Limited, usually abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in London. Published authors and poets include T. S. Eliot (an early Faber editor and director), W. H. Auden, Margaret Storey, William Golding, Samuel ...
. It serves as the basis for
Andrew Lloyd Webber Andrew Lloyd Webber, Baron Lloyd-Webber (born 22 March 1948), is an English composer and impresario of musical theatre. Several of his musicals have run for more than a decade both in the West End and on Broadway. He has composed 21 musicals, ...
's 1981 musical ''
Cats The cat (''Felis catus'') is a domestic species of small carnivorous mammal. It is the only domesticated species in the family Felidae and is commonly referred to as the domestic cat or house cat to distinguish it from the wild members of ...
''. Eliot wrote the poems in the 1930s and included them, under his assumed name "Old Possum", in letters to his godchildren. They were collected and published in 1939, with cover illustrations by the author, and quickly re-published in 1940, illustrated in full by Nicolas Bentley. They have also been published in versions illustrated by Edward Gorey (1982), Axel Scheffler (2009) and Rebecca Ashdown (2014).


Contents

The contents of ''Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'', along with the names of the featured cats where appropriate, are: * " The Naming of Cats" * "The Old Gumbie Cat" ( Jennyanydots) * " Growltiger's Last Stand" * "The Rum Tum Tugger" * "The Song of the
Jellicle Jellicle cats are a fictional type of feline from T. S. Eliot's 1939 light poetry book ''Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats''. Jellicle cats were first mentioned in Eliot's 1933 poem "Five-Finger Exercises" and later developed in ''Old Poss ...
s" * " Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer" * "
Old Deuteronomy Old Deuteronomy is a character in T. S. Eliot's 1939 ''Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'' and its 1981 musical adaptation, '' Cats''. He is a wise and beloved elderly cat, further serving as the Jellicle patriarch in the musical. The role of Ol ...
" * " (Of) The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles (Together with Some Account of the Participation of the Pugs and the Poms and the Intervention of the Great Rumpus Cat)" * " Mr. Mistoffelees" * " Macavity: The Mystery Cat" * " Gus: The Theatre Cat" * "Bustopher Jones: The Cat about Town" * " Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat" * "The Ad-dressing of Cats" * "Cat Morgan Introduces Himself" (added in the 1952 edition)


Adaptations

In 1954, English composer Alan Rawsthorne set six of the poems in a work for speaker and orchestra entitled ''Practical Cats'', which was recorded soon afterwards, with the actor Robert Donat as the speaker. At about the same time another English composer, Humphrey Searle, composed another narrated piece based on the poems, using flute, piccolo, cello and guitar. This work, ''Two Practical Cats'', consists of settings of the poems about Macavity and Growltiger. The best-known musical adaptation of the poems is
Andrew Lloyd Webber Andrew Lloyd Webber, Baron Lloyd-Webber (born 22 March 1948), is an English composer and impresario of musical theatre. Several of his musicals have run for more than a decade both in the West End and on Broadway. He has composed 21 musicals, ...
's musical ''
Cats The cat (''Felis catus'') is a domestic species of small carnivorous mammal. It is the only domesticated species in the family Felidae and is commonly referred to as the domestic cat or house cat to distinguish it from the wild members of ...
'', which was premiered in the West End of London in 1981 and on Broadway in 1982. It became the longest-running Broadway show in history until it was overtaken by another musical by Lloyd Webber, ''The Phantom of the Opera''. As well as the characters found in the book, ''Cats'' introduces several additional characters from Eliot's unpublished drafts, most notably Grizabella. The musical was adapted into a direct-to-video film in 1998. A feature film adaptation of ''Cats'' was released on 20 December 2019. As of December, 2019, the feature film's production cost was $100 million but only grossed $38.3 million globally, yielding an approximate $70 million loss.


Cultural references

In the film ''Logan's Run'', Logan and Jessica meet an old man in the ruins of the United States Senate Chamber during their search for Sanctuary. The Old Man has many cats and refers to the poem "The Naming of Cats", explaining that each cat has three names: one common, one fancy and one that only the cat knows. Later the Old Man refers to one cat in particular, "Gus", short for "Asparagus", and goes on to recite parts of "Macavity: the Mystery Cat". The British rock band
Mungo Jerry Mungo Jerry are a British rock band, formed by Ray Dorset in Ashford, Middlesex in 1970. Experiencing their greatest success in the early 1970s, with a changing lineup always fronted by Ray Dorset, the group's biggest hit was " In the Summer ...
derived their name from the book's poem " Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer".


Comparable work

On 5 June 2009, ''
The Times ''The Times'' is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title ''The Daily Universal Register'', adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. ''The Times'' and its sister paper '' The Sunday Times'' ...
'' revealed that in 1937 Eliot had composed a 34-line poem entitled "Cows" for the children of Frank Morley, a friend who, like Eliot, was a director of the publishing company Faber and Faber. Morley's daughter, Susanna Smithson, uncovered the poem as part of the
BBC Two BBC Two is a British free-to-air public broadcast television network owned and operated by the BBC. It covers a wide range of subject matter, with a remit "to broadcast programmes of depth and substance" in contrast to the more mainstream an ...
programme ''Arena: T.S. Eliot'', broadcast that night as part of the BBC Poetry Season.Arena: TS Eliot – Cows, unpublished poem, revealed at bbc.co.uk
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References


General references

* *Larsen, Janet Karsten (1982) "Eliot's Cats Come Out Tonight", ''Christian Century''. May 5, 1982, p. 534.


External links

* *T.S. Elio
''Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats''''Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats''
at the British Library
''Cats'' at AndrewLloydWebber.com
{{DEFAULTSORT:Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats 1939 poetry books British poetry collections Fictional cats Poetry by T. S. Eliot Cats (musical) Faber and Faber books