Meet T.S. Eliot's Lost Cat, Cumberleylaude

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If you’ve seen the musical Cats, you might be familiar with the fanciful book of verse on which it’s based—Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. The collection follows the antics of a group of charismatic felines, including a mysterious thief named Macavity, a contrarian tom named The Rum Tum Tugger, and the magical Mr. Mistoffelees.

Now, The Guardian reports that Eliot once created another colorful cat: Cumberleylaude, a “Gourmet Cat” with a predilection for “salmon, duck, or expensive French wines.”

Eliot invented Cumberleylaude after having dinner with a friend named Anthony Laude in 1964. In a thank-you note, Eliot expressed his appreciation for the meal, and said he felt inspired to create a new character: “Cumberley, a particularly fastidious eater without doubt, but a dignified and beautiful cat.” 

Eliot ended up jotting down three verses of six lines, which described the cat and its persnickety palate: “With care he chooses his place to dine, / And dresses accordingly, if he has time,” Eliot wrote. “The best is only fit for the best he opines, / When he wants salmon, or duck, or expensive French wines."

The poem was never published, and it was later found inside a book after Laude died in 2003. It was sold along with the letter on eBay in 2006, although Eliot reportedly also kept his own copy.

Just this past week, the poem was finally printed for the first time in The Sunday Times. It will also be included in a new edition of Eliot’s work, published by Faber & Faber on November 5. But will Cumberleylaude ever get the chance to preen and prance on a Broadway stage?

“We hope that Cats will return to Broadway next year—so who knows?” Andrew Lloyd Webber, who apparently learned of the poem’s existence in 2008, told The Sunday Times.

[h/t The Guardian, The Sunday Times]