Samuel Johnson on Vivisection

An excerpt from my book A Very Fine Cat Indeed; A Dramatic Monologue. Having heard a tale of  cruelty from William Hogarth, Johnson turns to the horrors and futility of vivisection. My book, a monologue in which Johnson talks about his favourite cat, and about his love for animals, is available here

Touching on cruelty to beasts, I met Mr. Hogarth, the painter, at Sam Richardson’s one day. He had drawn a most accurate picture, that he shewed me, of wretches in a street. Some boys had hanged two cats by their tails, upon a lamppost that looked like gibbet. In the street beyond was a high building where a ruffian leered down from an attic. He had tied wings to a cat’s back, and tossed him out the window. The cat could be seen in mid-air, a wretched parody of Icarus, and you could but imagine the terrour that attended his descent.
“Saw you this, Sir?” said I.
“It happened in France, Sir,” said Hogarth, “where they had a Massacre of Cats.”
“Depend on it, Sir,” said I, “There are worse horrors yet, awaiting thy ingenious pencil. Among the inferior professors of medical knowledge, is a race of wretches, whose favourite amusement is to nail cats and dogs to tables and open them alive, to examine whether burning irons are felt more acutely by the bone or tendon; and whether the more
lasting agonies are produced by poison forced into the mouth, or injected into the veins. What is alleged in defence of those hateful practices, every one knows; but the truth is, that by knives, fire, and poison, knowledge is not always sought and is very seldom attained. The experiments that have been tried, are tried again; he that burned an animal with irons yesterday, will be willing to amuse himself with burning another tomorrow. He surely buys knowledge dear, who learns it at the expense of his humanity. It is time that universal resentment should arise against these horrid operations, which harden the heart, extinguish those sensations which give man confidence in man, and make the physician more dreadful than the gout or stone.”

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