The belief in reincarnation is not confined to Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. One Victorian resident of Walworth told about how when relatives died, she found their cats bore a remarkable resemblance to their previous owners. JAN BONDESON recounts here as many of the details of Miss Vint’s strange obsession as he could find out.
The eccentric London spinster Miss Vint and her extraordinary cats were in the newspapers in October 1892.
The elderly Miss Vint, who lived in a little cottage at Eden Gardens, Walworth, and was known for her belief in the transmigration of souls, freely demonstrated her eight cats to the journalist.
They were all sturdy, contented-looking animals, well looked after by Miss Vint and her domestics.
Miss Vint had always been very fond of her Devonshire grandmother. This ancient lady was very odd-looking, with a large wart on her nose, and eyes of different shades of grey.
She was very nervous, and since the grating of a lucifer-match sent her into hysterics, she adhered to the old-fashioned flint-and-steel way of making light.
One day, Miss Vint was distraught to hear that this strange old lady had expired, at a very advanced age.
The very same day, she found a tiny kitten on her doorstep, and brought it inside.
Examining the animal, she was astonished to see that it had a wart on its nose, and that its eyes were different shades of grey.
When Miss Vint struck a match, it gave a squeal of terror.
Having added her reincarnated grandmother to the household, Miss Vint kept looking for other family members in feline form.
Her sister Minnie had been the beauty of the family, with large blue eyes, and a fondness for pink dresses.
After she had died, Miss Vint found a pretty blue-eyed white kitten for sale at a street stall, with a frilly pink ribbon around its neck.
‘Sister Minnie’ was still alive in 1892, and Miss Vint introduced her to the journalist – a handsome, large white cat, who was very fond of her mistress.
Not long after, Miss Vint’s eldest brother Micah, a very obese character, died after being hit on the head by a brick dropped from a building site.
The day after, Miss Vint saw some street ragamuffins throwing stones at a very fat cat!
She belaboured them with her umbrella and rescued the cat.
‘Brother Micah’ was also formally introduced to the journalist: a stout, whiskerless cat, who disapproved of locomotion and liked to drink large saucers of cream.
The black sheep of the Vint family had been her brother Job, who had lived a dissolute life before going abroad as a sailor; his last letter to his sister had been sent from Persia.
After it had been rumoured that Job had been lost at sea, Miss Vint found a half-drowned Persian cat in her water-cistern.
She saved the cat and took care of it, but ‘Brother Job’ showed her little gratitude, being a most disreputable cat, with a fondness for philandering.
The only person he was fond of was the cat’s meat man, and he ignored the comfortable bed Miss Vint had provided for him, preferring to sleep in the dustbin.
Disbelievers in reincarnation, the journalists thought Miss Vint as mad as a hatter, albeit harmless and kind.
Sinisterly, they wrote that if she had possessed a fortune, her grasping relatives would surely have had her committed into an asylum, to get their hands on her money.
But fortunately for her, Miss Vint had an income of just a little more than a £100 per annum, and she could remain in her little Walworth cottage, living contentedly with her feline family.
The story of Miss Vint and her Reincarnated Cats originated in The Daily Telegraph before spreading to various other London and provincial papers.
When I did some research to find out Miss Vint’s first name, and to verify the story, it turned out that no such lady resided in Walworth at the time of the 1881 and 1891 censuses; nor was there any record suggesting that a Job or Micah Vint ever existed.
But surely, the honest London journalists could not have invented the story – or could they?
This is an extract from Jan Bondeson’s book Strange Victoriana (Amberley Publishing 2018).
Picture: Miss Vint and her Reincarnated Cats, from the Illustrated Police News, October 8, 1892
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