Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Story of Kaspar the Cat

I love listening to audio books while I'm driving, especially during the hour's drive from Vicksburg to Jackson, which I make at least once a week, if not more. I have been listening to bestselling author David Baldacci's book Deliver Us from Evil, and would like to share a story from the book that I think is interesting.

I checked to see if the story is true, and discovered that, indeed, it is. It is the story of Kaspar the Cat, a longtime resident of the Savoy Hotel in London.

Opened in 1889, the Savoy is one of London's finest hotels, and has long been cherished by the rich and famous for its grandiose Art Deco interiors and its tradition of service and comfort.

The story begins in 1898 when Woolf Joel, a South African guest at the hotel, gave a dinner party to which only 13 were able to attend. He laughed off the old superstition that tragedy would fall upon the first guest to rise from such a gathering, and so the dinner continued. His friends' fears were soon justified however, when Woolf was fatally shot following his return to Johannesburg.

After this incident, the hotel always provided a staff member if a party had 13 guests. However, as some of the dinner conversations were often of a confidential nature, a wooden-eared black cat named Kaspar was conceived to become a convenient 14th guest, a tradition which, as far as I can ascertain, remains to this day.

Kaspar is a sleek three-foot high wooden sculpture created for the hotel during the 1920s by Basil Ionides.

When hosts find their private dinner parties attended by the unlucky number of 13 guests, they can request the pleasure of Kaspar's company as the "14th guest." The handsome cat is seated in a chair, draped with a dinner napkin, and is served each course as though he were one of the diners.

When not attending dinner parties, Kaspar resides inside a glass display case opposite the hotel gift shop.

I've never had the pleasure of visiting London, but if I ever have the opportunity to go, I think the Savoy will definitely be on my list of places to see. It has been closed since December 2007 for extensive renovations, with a reopening date of October 2010. Wouldn't it be fun to be the first to host a dinner party for 13 in the new restaurant, and have the pleasure of meeting and dining with Kaspar. Just imagine the stories he could tell about dining with the rich and famous (including several times with Sir Winston Churchill) ... if only he could talk.


Loui♥ said...

how delightful!
I had never heard this before..
but interesting nevertheless!
I also enjoy the author David Baldacci!
warm sandy hugs!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Janie, how interesting about Kaspar. I would be interested to hear those conversations involving Churchill.


Sheila :-)

racheld said...

I don't think I've ever read Baldacci, but Kaspar is certainly a good ambassador. And what a fun evening it would be, with His Regal Highness occupying the 14th chair, conversing with the guests.

(Though I DO fear that, contrary to proper etiquette, most of the conversation would be ABOUT him).

What a graceful depiction of feline beauty!

Carolyn said...

What an interesting story! Makes me want to read the book to see how Kaspar fits into the plot.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

What a fun story! Thanks for sharing with us!

Sheila (TCW) said...

I would love to have been privy to some of the conversations at these dinner parties, especially with Churchill. Sounds like an interesting book!