A Game of Rat and Mouse

One of Dalrymple’s two new pieces at the New English Review is a paean to the humble mouse. Conceding that his affection for the creature is “largely based upon ignorant sentimentality”, he can’t help but admire many aspects of their nature: bravery, for one.

They seem always to be, if I may so put it, underdogs: in a perpetual state of fear, no doubt justified. When I see one quivering in a corner I wish to protect it rather than add to the already considerable number of its enemies – cats, owls, hawks, weasels, snakes and so forth. My wife, far from climbing onto a chair and screaming, feels the same; and I think of a line from Christopher Smart, the mad Kit Smart with whom Dr Johnson would ‘as lief prayed as with anyone else,’ about the mouse in his poem Jubilate Agno (Rejoice in the Lamb):

For the mouse is a creature of most excellent valour…

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