Anne Cabot Wyman explains the book’s title in her introduction:
Whenever I think of my father, he reminds me of the clever, vanishing cat in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Cat that Walked by Himself,” part of his 1902 collection for children, Just So Stories.
Of all the animals that came to the Cave Woman for shelter and food, only the Cat refused to become her servant, reserving the right to roam. “He will kill mice,” Kipling writes, “and he will be kind to Babies when he is in the house, just as long as they do not pull his tail too hard. But when he has done that, and between times, and when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him. Then he goes out to the Wet Wild Woods or up the Wet Wild Trees or on the Wet Wild Roofs, waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone.”
My father was just like that.
Kipling’s Cat tells the true story of Jeffries Wyman: Boston Brahmin, scion of Harvard, brilliant scientist, accomplished artist and grieving widower who left his children behind in pursuit of science, knowledge, and discovery of self. His daughter and “keeper of the flame,” Anne Cabot Wyman, takes us on his global pilgrimages from the inner sanctum of Boston’s elite to the far reaches of the mountains of Japan; from life alongside the Eskimos of Alaska to the embassies and back streets of Paris, Cairo and Rome.
A complex, charismatic man, discoverer of “allostery” and pioneer of blood research, Jeffries Wyman is portrayed in a most unusual way by the daughter he left in Massachusetts, to be raised and educated by relatives, elite boarding schools and her own wits. It is a story compelling, sad, funny, endearing and outrageous, from the eyes of Anne, writer and artist in her own right, now 80, willing to tell all.
Read advance praise of Kipling's Cat in the Reviews Section.
Kipling's Cat is available from the Harvard Book Store.
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Note: View the vibrant watercolor paintings featured in this book in the art slide show section!