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In Chapter 2 of I Am a Cat (full text of this and preceding chapters available here), the cat makes reference to a particular "western novel" in order to draw an analogy with his master:

“Ah, and who were the women?” enviously my master asks. At first glance my master usually looks cold and hard; but, to tell the truth, he is by no means indifferent to women. He once read in a Western novel of a man who invariably fell partially in love with practically every woman that he met. Another character in the book somewhat sarcastically observed that, as a rough calculation, that fellow fell in love with just under seven-tenths of the women he passed in the street. On reading this, my master was struck by its essential truth and remained deeply impressed. Why should a man so impressionable lead such an oysterish existence? A mere cat such as I cannot possibly understand it. Some say it is the result of a love affair that went wrong; some say it is due to his weak stomach; while others simply state that it’s because he lacks both money and audacity. Whatever the truth, it doesn’t much matter since he’s a person of insufficient importance to affect the history of his period. What is certain is that he did enquire enviously about Coldmoon’s female fiddlers.

(emphasis mine)

Is there a real "Western novel" being referred to here, and if so, what is it? I'm always curious about little intertextual references like this, and it'd be a shame if it turned out to be an idea the author had made up out of whole cloth.

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I doubt this refers to a specific novel. It sounds to me like it references western literature, generally. If it referenced a specific book, I suspect he would have provided more details to indicate what actual novel he meant.

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    The words "that fellow fell in love with just under seven-tenths of the women he passed in the street" are rather specific. Do you have any other reasons to believe that the author didn't have any specific book in mind? Is there anything else you know about Natsume Soseki or about the novel that would strengthen your case? – Tsundoku Oct 20 at 18:48
  • You "doubt", you "suspect". Can you provide anything to back this up? – Chenmunka Oct 21 at 8:50
  • @Tsundoku: I think you've taken the passage more literally than the author ever intended. – Ria Oct 21 at 15:30
  • The intent of my comment was not that the book being referenced (if it is a specific one) literally has a character who "fell in love with just under seven-tenths of the women he passed in the street". If the author had a specific book in mind, one of its characters should fall in love rather easily and frequently. – Tsundoku Oct 21 at 15:33
  • @Chenmunka: not the internet. if you knew me in person and spent a day with me and knew how large a part literature, literary theory and writing technique plays in my life, I think you'd respect my opinion more. I don't know a lot of things. electronics, mechanics, the stock market... all mysteries to me. do I know about literature, though? yes, I do. you may or may not believe me (I suspect that you will not) but I thought I would say so for my own sake. – Ria Oct 21 at 15:35
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The novel may be "The Inimitable Jeeves" by P.G. Wodehouse. It concerns mainly the events associated with a secondary character, Bingo Little, who falls in love with almost all the women he meets. He is the target of scorn from the principle character, Bertie. From memory, I believe he makes the reference regarding seven-tenths of women.

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  • Nice catch! I checked through the text of the book and didn't find any references to seven-tenths specifically, but there are a lot of jibes from Bertie about Bingo's lovaholic nature, including: "I’m bound to say that there are things about him that could be improved. His habit of railing in love with every second girl he sees is one of them; and another is his way of letting the world in on the secrets of his heart." (emphasis mine) – Rand al'Thor Aug 10 '18 at 19:59
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    How could it be the 'Inimitiable Jeeves' when that book was written around 20 years after 'I am a cat?' The book it refers to would have to be an extremely famous book of western literature as those would have been the only ones known to Japanese at the time. It must be something like Don Quixote or Casanova. – Cato Cross Oct 19 at 19:36
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    I have downvoted this answer because The Inimitable Jeeves was written in the 1920s, almost two decades after I Am a Cat. – Tsundoku Oct 19 at 20:13

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