Have you ever opened the refrigerator only to find your milk had disappeared? You may have been a victim of Macavity the Mystery Cat. This anti-hero is sly, deceptive, intelligent, and impossible to track down. He is responsible for every devious crime from cheating at cards to stealing jewels. Macavity is the kind of mastermind that has even the brightest detectives at Scotland Yard scratching their heads.
Macavity the Mystery Cat by T.S. Eliot
Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw–
For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime–Macavity’s not there!
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no on like Macavity,
He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime–Macavity’s not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air–
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!
Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly doomed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square–
But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!
He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s.
And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair–
Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!
And when the Foreign Office finds a Treaty’s gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scap of paper in the hall or on the stair–
But it’s useless of investigate–Macavity’s not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
“It must have been Macavity!”–but he’s a mile away.
You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macacity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibit, or one or two to spare:
And whatever time the deed took place–MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!
The Mind Behind Macavity
Macavity the Mystery Cat made his debut in 1939. The poem Macavity the Mystery Cat was published in a book of poetry for children by T.S. Eliot called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Eliot was inspired by the many cats he owned to write this set of poems for his godchildren. At first Macavity was not very popular and Eliot speculated that Macavity was a bit too sophisticated of a criminal for the young audience. Macavity was styled after Professor Moriarty of the Sherlock Holmes novels. In The Adventure of the Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes describes Professor Moriarty as follows:
“Oh, he’s a mastermind, a thief, a crook with a fine mathematical brain: an abstract thinker linked with many unsolved crimes, the most heinous of illegal activities. Yet he remains a sketchy figure, hidden behind a smokescreen of respectability; doing little himself, while systematically making fancy, elaborate plans for his agents.
Oh, we dare not underestimate such skill or malevolence. I can relate frequent instances when he has been the suspect, yet I have no concrete evidence which may prove any connection with him and knavery in the case.
Ah, frankly, Watson, if I were to beat him, I swear that I’d rejoice and rest easy!
He has a scraggy physique, with tatty hair, sunken shifty eyes: he slouches. His face protrudes forward, and oscillates from side to side in the strangest reptilian fashion. Aye, Watson, I’m keenly aware of the facts: that archenemy, my foe, is evading capture, at liberty to commit dastardly deeds; is stealthily active everywhere but never seen to misbehave, and my, how he seems to vanish!”
Macavity the Mystery cat is now considered a classic and recommended reading for children ages 11-12 and older.
Cats The Musical
In the 1980’s T.S. Eliot’s book spawned a musical named Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Cats follows the book of poetry very closely. Macavity continues in his devious ways by kidnapping Old Deuteronomy.