Sunday, July 29, 2007

Oh, HEPPY Birthday, Don Marquis.

Today in 1878 newspaper columnist, playwright, and short-story writer Don Marquis was born in Walnut, Illinois.

[[I discovered Marquis’ Archy and Mehitabel because of my love of Krazy Kat creator George Herrriman, who did lovely illustrations for several of the books—text is by peter campbell—]]

While Krazy Kat is certainly Herriman’s great work, he is also noted for his wonderfully appropriate renderings of “Archy & Mehitabel.” archy was a talking cockroach and Mehitabel was an alley cat. Due to a tragic mishap of destiny, archy, once a great poet, was reincarnated as a roach, but maintained the poet’s soul, which he poured out in verse each night by hopping from key to key on Mr. Don Marquis’ rusty old typewriter. Archy told stories about Mehitabel the cat, Freddy the Rat, and other denizens of the garage he lived in. Since he couldn't manage the shift key, his verse was relatively unadorned by punctuation.

Don Marquis, the man fortunate enough to have archy living in his garage, was born Donald Robert Perry Marquis. He lived from 1878 until 1937 in the small town of Walnut, Illinois. He was an author and a playwright, and he published archy’s poems in a column he wrote for such distinguished newspapers as the New York Sun and the New York Tribune. All told, three volumes of archy’s poetry were published, one posthumously (for Mr. Marquis, that is—archy, apparently, lives on).