England’s professional rat-catching community produced at least two instructive books during the Victorian years.
Studies in the Art of Rat-Catching, by Henry C Barclay, went on sale in London in 1896. Avowedly educational, it’s also a rambling entertainment that finishes up with this jolly sentiment: “I have heard from half a dozen head-masters of schools that they find the art of rat-catching is so distasteful to their scholars, and so much above their intellect, and so fatiguing an exercise to the youthful mind, that they feel obliged to abandon the study of it and replace it once more by those easier and pleasanter subjects, Latin and Greek”. Two years later, Ike Matthews, in Manchester, published his Full Revelations of a Professional Rat-Catcher after 25 Years’ Experience….
So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.