The Mark Twain Papers & Project - Exhibit - Mark Twain Takes on Art - "Cat Having a Fit"


"Cat Having a Fit"

Joseph Mallord William Turner's Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying: Typhon Coming On, commonly referred to as The Slave Ship, completed in 1840, shows the painter's use of brilliant color and atmospheric effects, elements that would later influence the Impressionists. Panegyrized by John Ruskin as the "noblest sea . . . ever painted by man," the Slave Ship was ridiculed by other critics, one of whom called it a "gross outrage on nature." Mark Twain's assessment, penciled in the notebook he kept in 1878, was succinct: "Slave Ship—Cat having a fit in a platter of tomatoes."
      The Mark Twain Papers includes some 50 notebooks kept by Mark Twain between 1855 and 1910. Thirty of these notebooks, through 1891, have been published in three volumes by the Mark Twain Project and the University of California Press.

Turner's Slave ShipMT's notebook
J. M. W. Turner, Slavers throwing overboard the dead and dying... (The Slave Ship). 1840.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Scan by Mark Harden.

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