History Press to publish 'feline biography' by Oliver Soden

History Press to publish 'feline biography' by Oliver Soden

The History Press will publish a novel about an 18th-century cat, Jeoffry: The Poet’s Cat by Oliver Soden.

Commissioning editor Simon Wright has acquired world English language rights, including audio and serial rights, from Ian Drury at Sheil Land Associates. The title will be published on 24th September 2020. 

Set in Georgian London, Jeoffry: The Poet’s Cat is described as a "feline biography" which centres around Christopher Smart — a visionary poet and contemporary of Dr Johnson — and his cat. Between 1759 and 1763, Smart wrote the poem "Jubilate Agno" about his feline companion, which inspired the novel.

In Jeoffry, Soden blends historical research and fiction to reimagine the life of the poet's cat. Smart's companion is seen roaming from the theatres and bordellos of Covent Garden to the asylum where Smart was confined for religious mania.

Wright said: “From the moment of submission, I knew that Oliver had written something very special, combining his biographer’s eye for vivid detail with a historical novelist’s gift for imagining what was possible. Aside from paying homage to an unjustly neglected poet, he has created a worthy feline companion to Flush, Virginia Woolf’s imaginative biography of a celebrated cocker spaniel. His unforgettable book will delight lovers of poetry, history and of cats.”

Soden said: “I’m thrilled that Jeoffry will soon have a life outside of my own head. I’ve known Christopher Smart’s poem about his cat since I was a child, and I became sure that a cat could be as enticing a subject for a biographer as any great writer. Jeoffry’s life illuminates so many worlds, admittedly from ankle-height. Writing about him was sheer joy from start to finish, and I hope readers will love him as much as I do.”

Soden previously published Michael Tippett: The Biography (W&N, 2019).