Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Victorian cat lady

As the Countess de la Torre, Theresa Reviss was up before the Victorian beaks on several occasions for keeping too many animals in her London apartments. Typically,

THE COUNTESS DE LA TORRE AND HER CATS - St James's Gazette, 18 August 1884
The Countess De La Torre, of 38, Pembroke-square, was summoned at Kensington Saturday for disobeying a prohibitory order of the justices do away with number of cats and dogs which she kept in her dwelling-house. In defence the Countess said that seven of her cats had been destroyed and she bad given seven away. She had three cats still, and stray ones came to the house. By direction of the chairman, two officers of the vestry proceeded to the house of the Countess to ascertain the number of the cats and dogs. They found thirteen cats and seven dogs, and the smell in the house was most offensive. The chairman made an order for the Countess to pay 10 shillings a day from the 2nd August, on which day the decision of the justices was confirmed, to the present time. An order was also granted giving permission to enter the house and abolish the nuisance.

If only there had been a 19th century Facebook!

Reviss, allegedly the illegitimate daughter of an actress also named Theresa, had been brought up by the Bullers, an old East India Company family. Charles Buller, a radical Whig politician, who died unmarried in 1848, settled money on her with the "testamentary injunction" to be good. It seems she was anything but. Thackeray, who knew the family, is said to have based the character of Becky Sharp, the anti-heroine of Vanity Fair, on her.

No comments: