Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Leading Untidy Lives

The Goops Goops and How to Be Them : A Manual of Manners for Polite Infants Inculcating Many Juvenile Virtues, etc.

by Gelett Burgess.

Amazing to think this book is still in circulation and being bought a century after Burgess wrote it. It's not just the humor of the book, though that is a strong attraction. What makes it so memorable is its hypnotic rhythm, rather similar to the one we used for learning our multiplication tables or the alphabet:

The Goops they lick their fingers
And the Goops they lick their knives
They spill their broth on the tablecloth --
Oh, they lead untidy lives!

Mr. Burgess' life had its untidy moments: after graduating with a degree in engineering, he taught for a time at Berkeley. However, this career of "unseemly dignity" came to an abrupt end when he toppled a statue on campus that he considered an eyesore. Having thus improved the landscape aesthetically, he was requested by the administration to move on. Which he did.

He gave us a number of cultural delights: to him is attributed the "blurb." Supposedly he assigned credit for some of the effusive praise on one of his books' covers to one "Miss Belinda Blurb." And to him belongs the immortal quatrain:

I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.

In addition to his cultural flair, Mr. Burgess also founded the first Boys' Club, this one in San Francisco.

However, it is a particular trick of his youth which would put him in line as a possible patron saint of bloggers, to wit:

At 15, he took advantage of a practice of The Boston Transcript, of printing hard-to-find poems for readers who ask for them, by having a friend write and ask them to locate one of Burgess's own writings. When the paper couldn't find the work (or, for that matter, anyone who'd ever heard of it), Burgess graciously supplied a copy — and that's how he first got into print.

Mr. Burgess would have loved the hat tip, wouldn't he just?


At 4:11 PM, Blogger Baron Bodissey said...

Then there's:

A Party
by Laura E. Richards

On Willy's birthday, as you see,
These little boys have come to tea.
But, oh! how very sad to tell!
They have not been behaving well.
For ere they took a single bite,
They all began to scold and fight.

The little boy whose name was Ned,
He wanted jelly on his bread;
The little boy whose name was Sam,
He vowed he would have damson jam;
The little boy whose name was Phil
Said, "I'll have honey! Yes--I--Will!"

The little boy whose name was Paul,
While they were quarrelling, ate it all.

At 8:21 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I had forgotten about "The Goops." Thanks for a reminder of better days.

At 12:47 AM, Blogger Headmistress, zookeeper said...

We love the Goops. Our 7 and 9 year olds request them regularly.


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