So how did the cat get dragged into this saying, and by whom?
Many people attribute this to Benjamin Franklin, based on a rather racy letter to a friend in June of 1745, wherein he praises the merits of an older lover versus a younger one:
“…it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one.
And as in the dark all Cats are grey….”
And while it's true this was the first known use of the term in the USA, it appeared over a hundred years earlier in the classic Spanish novel, Don Quixote:
"…it may be that Sancho the squire will get to heaven sooner than Sancho the governor. ‘They make as good bread here as in France,’ and ‘by night all cats are grey’ … for when we go to our graves we all pack ourselves up and make ourselves small, or rather they pack us up and make us small in spite of us, and then — good night to us."
But you need to go back yet another hundred years to arrive at its earliest known use in print.
|John Heywood, public domain|
Heywood gathered proverbs and wrote plays in his spare time. One such book published in 1546 was a 200+ page collection of proverbs … on the topic of marriage!
Inside A dialogue of the effectual proverbs in the English tongue concerning marriage, Heywood writes,
“To take lack of beauty but as an eye sore,
the fair and the foul by dark are like store;
when all candles be out all cats be grey.”
We'd like to tell you our research ended there, but we did find one reference that claims the saying was included in a book of proverbs compiled by Dutch Renaissance humanist and theologian Desiderius Erasmus - published 10 years earlier (1536).
As the book, entitled Adagiorum chiliades (or "Thousands of proverbs") is considered by some to be the most monumental collection of proverbs and sayings ever assembled, we won't argue the point.
But after some pretty long searches we gave up on trying to find the exact quote.
Of course this might possibly be hindered by the fact it was written in Latin and we're only fluent in English and Kittenese!
By the way...
Allie is of the opinion that "all cats are grey in the dark" implies that all Fashionable Felines are of the grey persuasion.
Faraday and Maxwell are actually a bit afraid to argue the point with her.
The Proverbs of John Heywood, John Heywood, 1546. Edited, with notes and introduction, by Julian Sharman. London, George Bell and Sons. York Street, Covent Garden, 1874. Page 13.
A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America. Schiff, Stacy, 2005. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0805066330. Page 236.
Swarthmore College Social Sciences page, Swarthmore, PA