The Art of Biography
Is different from Geography.
Geography is about Maps,
But Biography is about Chaps.

John Stuart Mill
By a mighty effort of will,
Overcame his natural bonhomie
And wrote Principles of Political Economy.

The people of Spain think Cervantes
Equal to half-a-dozen Dantes:
An opinion resented most bitterly
By the people of Italy.

When Alexander Pope
Accidentally trod on the soap
And came down on the back of his head —
Never mind what he said.

The younger Van Eyck
Was christened Jan, not Mike.
The thought of this curious mistake
Often kept him awake.

“I quite realized,” said Columbus,
“That the Earth was not a rhombus,
But I am a little annoyed
To find it an oblate spheroid.”

— Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956) (More.)

Fan Mail

The one-L lama,
He’s a priest.
The two-L llama,
He’s a beast.
And I would bet
A silk pajama
There isn’t any
Three-L lllama.

When Ogden Nash published this poem, a reader pointed out that a large fire in Boston is a three-alarmer.

Nash responded, “Pooh.”

Abbreviated Verse

A man hired by John Smith and Co.
Loudly declared that he’d tho.
Men that he saw
Dumping dirt near his store;
The drivers, therefore, didn’t do.

There is an old cook in N.Y.
Who insists you should always st.p.
Full vainly he’s tried
To eat some that was fried,
But he says he would rather ch.c.

The sermon our pastor Rt. Rev.
Began may have had a rt. clev.,
But his talk, though consistent,
Kept the end so far distant
That we left, since we felt he mt. nev.

— Anonymous

A Novel Defense

G stands for gnu,
Whose weapons of defense
Are long, sharp, curling horns, and common sense.
To these he adds a name so short and strong,
That even hardy Boers pronounce it wrong.
How often on a bright autumnal day
The pious people of Pretoria say,
“Come, let us hunt the–” Then no more is heard
But sounds of strong men struggling with a word.
Meanwhile, the distant gnu with grateful eyes
Observes his opportunity and flies.

— Hilaire Belloc

Payment in Kind

The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher
Called a hen a most elegant creature.
The hen, pleased with that,
Laid an egg in his hat–
And thus did the hen reward Beecher.

— Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Plane Geometry”

‘Twas Euclid, and the theorem pi
Did plane and solid in the text,
All parallel were the radii,
And the ang-gulls convex’d.

“Beware the Wentworth-Smith, my son,
And the Loci that vacillate;
Beware the Axiom, and shun
The faithless Postulate.”

He took his Waterman in hand;
Long time the proper proof he sought;
Then rested he by the XYZ
And sat awhile in thought.

And as in inverse thought he sat
A brilliant proof, in lines of flame,
All neat and trim, it came to him,
Tangenting as it came.

“AB, CD,” reflected he–
The Waterman went snicker-snack–
He Q.E.D.-ed, and, proud indeed,
He trapezoided back.

“And hast thou proved the 29th?
Come to my arms, my radius boy!
O good for you! O one point two!”
He rhombused in his joy.

‘Twas Euclid, and the theorem pi
Did plane and solid in the text;
All parallel were the radii,
And the ang-gulls convex’d.

— Emma Rounds


A tiger, by taste anthropophagous,
Felt a yearning inside his oesophagus;
He spied a fat Brahmin
And growled, “What’s the harm in
A peripatetic sarcophagus?”

— Anonymous