Edith Wharton (the cat) is Dead

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Today the literary world lost one if its most notable characters. Edith Wharton, Washington College’s famous Literary House Cat, died on Monday, May 17, 2010 in her home, the Rose O’Neill Literary House. She was at least 17 years old.

Edith first came to the Lit House as a kitten–a gift to students who were facing a difficult time–from Kathryn Day, wife of then-Lit House Director and Professor of English Robert Day. She was a regular at Lit House readings, often requiring her own chair with a view of the podium. She enjoyed the company of such literary notables as Toni Morrison, Tim O’Brien, Mary Karr, and Joyce Carol Oates–well, let’s just say she tolerated them. Last year, author Neil Gaiman became her favorite when he shared his salmon sushi with her.

Edith is remembered as being a feisty cat in her youth–she once attacked a visiting Zen Master–but softened into a lap cat as old age set in, preferring to feed on roast beef sandwiches. Though hyperthyroidism and a cancerous tumor in her thigh slowed her in later years, she kept up her attendance at literary events, occasionally sneaking across Rt. 213 to dispatch a bunny.

Edith is survived by generations of student writers who found inspiration and comfort in her enduring presence. She was predeceased by her sister, Agatha Christie of Still Pond, Maryland, in 2009.

Edith will long be remembered–and greatly missed.

Edith Wharton

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