The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

January 30, 2016

January 30, 1866

Gelett Burgess (January 30, 1866 to September 18, 1951) American writer and funny guy, is said to have invented, the word "blurb." Burgess was part of the literary San Francsico scene in the 1890s. He introduced French modern art to Americans in an essay, "The Wild Men of Paris." His kind of humor can be seen in the title of his satirical "The Rubaiyat of Omar Cayenne" (1904).

Burgess wrote a spoof of Thomas Gray's poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1751). His send-up  is not just silly, it is gracefully done: the first line  plays off the sentiment and meter of the original. Gray starts off: 

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day.

Burgess's spoof starts: "The tea-bell tolls for Nell to pass the tray"

Perhaps you thought Mel Brooks thought up the joke of "
The 2000 Year Old Man"  In fact that honor goes to Gelett Burgess in his "The Maxims of Methuselah" (1907).

Here's the first page of Gelett Burgess's The Cat's Elegy:

This can be compared with the first lines of Gray's famous poem:

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

The cover of Burgess's book --- 

The story comes from an era before the sentimentalization of pets. It is kind of sad.  If you want the full (13 page) book,  here it is.

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