London: Burns & Oates, Ltd, 1908. Item #03114
Cats in Irish Folklore
[WAIN, Louis, Illustrator]. HANNON, John. The Kings and the Cats. Munster Fairy Tales for Young & Old. London: Burns & Oates, Ltd., 1908.
First edition. Quarto (9 7/16 x 6 3/4 inches; 240 x 171 mm.). xiv, 78 pp. Including monotone frontispiece and ten full-page monotone plates.
Publishers red cloth, front cover ruled and lettered in gilt, spine lettered in gilt, plain endpapers. spine ends a little worn, slight staining to upper cover and light marginal foxing, otherwise an excellent copy of this extremely unusual Louis Wain title.
"Once upon a time there were two kings in Ireland, the King of the South and the King of the North. They were great kings entirely, and they were always going to battle with their soldiers to see which of them was the best man. For seven years at a time they fought like cats, and for seven years at a time they fought like dogs, and neither of them could win at all, they were each of them so strong. There was a wise old woman of Wicklow Hills who was making good pishogues (white witchcraft) all this time in hare cave near the middle part of Ireland…" The Kings and the Cats, and the Wise Old Woman of the Wicklow Hills, pp. 11-31.
This is a fascinating little book with very unusual and atypical drawings by Louis Wain. The frontispiece The Wise Old Woman of the Wicklow Hills depicts a witch looking over her cauldron whilst two cats, one black and one white, look on… is at first glance more in the style of the Victorian artist, Sidney Sime. In fact throughout this volume only one of the eleven illustrations Little Fiss and the Wicked Enchanted Bull (facing p. 40) is remotely similar to the Louis Wain that we all love, admire and enjoy.
The kingdom of Munster is in the South of Ireland with Limerick in the north and Cork in the south.