Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

By TS Eliot

Reviewed Jun 25, 2017 on The Litt Review.

This was a thoroughly amusing and ridiculous book of poetry. TS Eliot manages to stuff more cat names and cat praises into octameter than an octopus puts feet on a scale. All of them are stupendously ridiculous.

Of names of this kind I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum
Names that never belong to more than one cat.

Again, all of the poems are silly.

Let it be known that I am not a cat man, and I did not take kindly to the constant derisions of Pekes.

Of course I’m not including Pekes,
And such fantastic canine freaks.

Unnecessary and droll.

Of course, the book’s saving grace is that it was written anonymously, and sent to old friends of TS Eliot, doubtless who enjoyed the reprieve from his overly sentimental and sometimes depressive normal verse. I used to send anonymous postcards from imaginary people in imaginary places, so I understand the creative urge, here. That makes this book OK.

A superb book for reading before bed, over tea, or on the toilet. Or, perhaps, all three. If you actually have a cat, this would probably be more fun, as you could try calling it Mungojerrie and see what happens.


These are words I didn’t know, or don’t use regularly enough to feel comfortable with.

  • raffiish, Undefinable. Probably a misspelling, perhaps intentionally, of raffish, adj, unconventional and slightly disreputable, especially in an attractive manner: his raffish air. And his raffiish crew were sleeping
  • gavotte, n. a medium-paced French dance, popular in the 18th century. They knew how to dance a gavotte and a jig
  • terpsichorean, n. of or relating to dancing. early 19th cent.: from Terpsichore (used in the 18th cent. to denote a female dancer or the art of dance) + -an. Reserving their terpsichorean powers
  • fakir, n. a Muslim (or, loosely, a Hindu) religious ascetic who lives solely on alms. early 17th cent.: via French from Arabic faḳīr ‘needy man.’ His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare

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