One of the chief ornaments of the Court of St. James', in the reign of Charles II., was "La Belle Stewart,"afterwards the Duchess of Richmond, to whom Pope alluded as the "Duchess of R." in the well-known line:
Die and endow a college or a cat.
The endowment satirised by Pope has been favourably explained by Warton. She left annuities to several female friends, with the burden of maintaining some of her cats - a delicate way of providing for poor and probably proud gentlewomen, without making them feel that they owed their livelihood to her mere liberality. But possibly there may have been a kindliness of thought for both, deeming that those who were dear friends would be most likely to attend to her wishes.
Mr. Samuel Pepys had at least a gentle nature as regards animals, if he was not a lover of cats, for in his Diary occurs this note as to the Fire of London, 1666:
"September 5th. - Thence homeward having passed through Cheapside and Newgate Market, all burned; and seen Antony Joyce's house on fire. And took up (which I keep by me) a piece of glass of Mercer's chapel in the street, where much more was, so melted and buckled with the heat of the fire like parchment. I did also see a poor cat taken out of a hole in a chimney, joining the wall of the Exchange, with the hair all burned off its body and yet alive."
Dr. Jortin wrote a Latin epitaph on a favourite cat: *