Mrs Delgado

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Mrs Delgado is an old woman living in Venice, in the section of the Jewish Ghetto called Cannaregio. Of mingled Hebrew and Christian descent, she had once possessed the remarkable ability of mastering every language known to man: at the time we meet her however she is both extremely old and extremely mad, and lives frugally in her apartment with fifty cats, subsisting upon the charity of the residents of the Ghetto, upon whom she has some remote claim of kinship.

The Greysteels and their guide, a Signor Tosetti, visit her during their tour of Venice - the Greysteels and Mrs Delgado share a mutual acquaintance, who has provided an introduction and requested they call upon her. The visit is a difficult one, for Mrs Delgado is disinclined for any company other than feline. Somewhat appalled by their experience with her the Greysteels later describe it to Jonathan Strange, who at that time is musing over the notion that magically altering one's perception of reality - or as we may term it more vulgarly, 'going mad' - might enable him to see fairies. In short, it gives him the idea of briefly becoming mad to gain the ability to see the gentleman with the thistledown hair.

In pursuit of this project Strange later gains entry to the old woman's apartment so he may obtain some prized possession of hers for use in his spell to summon madness. He finds the choice is small, for poor Mrs Delgado owns only her tattered gown and a dead mouse. On reflection, Strange chuses the mouse. In return for depriving her of this however he then grants Mrs. Delgado 'her heart's desire' - and at once the lady turns into a cat, which springs up on the windowsill and vanishes into the darkness. [52, 53]


Once again, Mrs Clark's propensity for wordplay is clear from this example:

  • Del = from the
  • Delgado is a quintessentially Spanish name.
  • Gato = cat (Spanish)
  • Gatto = cat (Italian)


Seeing that Mrs Delgado lives with fifty Felis Catus, we can assume that her name (From the Cat) is not so innocently chosen.
And we will conveniently forget that Gado means livestock in Portuguese.

mad woman.jpg

The great French painter Géricault (essentially known for his Raft of the Medusa) was inspired to paint a series of portraits of the insane, with each subject exhibiting a different affliction. Whether or not the woman portrayed here was fond of mice is unknown.