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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A new TS Eliot cat

From the Dominion Post

Cats, the hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, could be set for a new feline character after the discovery of a long-lost poem by TS Eliot.

Fans of the musical, currently playing at the London Palladium, will be familiar with the tales of feline favourites such as Macavity, the mystery cat. But now Cumberleylaude, a gourmet cat with a predilection for salmon, duck and the finest French wines, could be added to the plot, Lord Lloyd-Webber has suggested.

The development comes after the discovery of a new poem by Eliot, who wrote Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats on which the musical is based, written six months before his death in 1965.
Cumberley, the real-life cat that inspired the character, belonged to Anthony Laude, a 20-year-old from Cambridge who invited Eliot round for dinner after corresponding with the writer.

After dining at Laude's home, Eliot, then 75, wrote to thank his host, adding that he "also enjoyed meeting Cumberley, a particularly fastidious eater without doubt, but a dignified and beautiful cat. His character struck me so forcefully that I felt I had to write a few words in honour of him."

Attached to the letter was an 18-line poem telling the story of Cumberleylaude, a "gourmet cat" which roamed the houses on his street looking for the best food. While the creature was desperate for "salmon, or duck, or expensive French wines", Eliot notes he "did very little to earn his dinner and board".

The poet concluded the neighbours' patience would wear thin, and Cumberleylaude would be forced to revert to chasing mice for its dinner. He wrote: "Then monocle and cane he will have to discard / And realise that hunting isn't so hard."

Laude died, aged 60, in 2003, and his copy of the poem was auctioned for charity. However, a carbon copy has been retained by Eliot's estate.

Lloyd Webber aims to bring a production of Cats back to Broadway, and sources close to the impresario said that he had not yet decided whether to change its line-up. Asked whether it could include Cumberleylaude, he said: "We hope that Cats will return to Broadway next year, so who knows?"

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