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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Carolyn Wells (1862–1942)

The A B C of Literature

A IS for Anthony Hope,

Who gives to his fancy free scope;

In turret and tower

His characters cower,

Or make hairbreadth escapes by a rope.

B is for bashful James Barrie,

From the land of the kilt and Glengarry;

We’ve read him to date,

And his next we await,

For we wonder whom Tommy will marry.

C is for colorful Crane,

Who has a phenomenal brain;

His language amazes,

He writes in blue blazes,

And his verses are really insane.

D is for R. Harding Davis,

And jolly good stories he gave us;

Van Bibber will do,

And Gallagher, too,

But from his war-notes the saints save us.

E is for George Egerton,

Whose “Keynotes” were rather good fun;

But her themes pathologic,

And terms pedagogic,

Are things the young persons should shun.

F is for Frances Burnett,

Who revels in plain epithet;

Her people of quality,

Though given to jollity,

Are the worst that we ever have met.

G is for Mr. Grant Allen,

Who pours out his views by the gallon;

His books are improper,

But he’s a Hill-topper,

So he fears not the critic’s sharp talon.

H is William Dean Howells,

As wise as the wisest of owls;

The subject of jokes

Of frivolous folks,

At which he good-naturedly growls.

I is for Ian Maclaren,

Who knows about Moses and Aaron;

But in stories and tales

He signally fails,

For of artistic interest they’re barren.

J is for jimp Henry James,

Who expounds lofty motives and aims

With sentences long

And arguments strong,

And the most unpronounceable names.

K is for capable Kipling,

Who, though he’s accounted a stripling,

Writes stories and rimes

Right up to the times

About loving and fighting and tippling.

L is for lean Andrew Lang,

Who recently saw, with a pang,

That a man up in Maine

Stole the work of his brain,

And he gave him a lengthy harangue.

M is Maurice Maeterlinck,

Whose dramas are graveyards in ink;

Abstract, esoteric,

Symbolic, hysteric—

To read him would drive us to drink.

N is for noxious Nordau,

Who pictures the terrible wo

In store for the race

Since we’ve fallen from grace,

And surely the Doctor should know.

O is for Miss Olive Schreiner,

Whose writings grow finer and finer;

She certainly seems

To be given to dreams

Of which she’s the only diviner.

P is for Popular Parker,

Who writes of the North, where it’s darker;

His “Pretty Pierre”

Is drawn with great care,

But to “Valmond” he isn’t a marker.

Q is for quick-witted “Q,”

At home on a staff or a crew;

With vigor and skill

He handles a quill,

Or paddles his well-loved canoe.

R is for Richard Le Gallienne,

Who really deserves a medallion

That his “Fancies” and “Quest”

Were never suppressed;

But they ought to be writ in Italian.

S is for sad Sarah Grand,

Who marital happiness banned;

Her public she vexes

With problems of sexes

Which most of us can’t understand.

T is for terse Thomas Hardy,

Whose works we with wonder regard. He

Has written for years,

But it somehow appears

His moral convictions were tardy.

U is for dear Uncle Remus,

To praise him ’twould surely beseem us;

We’ve contracted a habit

Of quoting Br’er Rabbit,

Or poor old Br’er Wolf in extremis.

V is for Victoria Crosse,

Who wouldn’t be much of a loss,

For her “Woman Who Wouldn’t”

Or Couldn’t or Shouldn’t,

Is nothing but driveling dross.

W is Mrs. Ward,

By whom we are awfully bored;

“Robert Elsmere” we stood,

And “Marcella” was good,

But when “Tressady” came we were floored.

X is the author unknown,

Who signs any name but his own;

And though nobody claims

“The Descendant” and “James,”

In their pages good writing is shown.

Z is for Zangwill the Zealous,

Of whom our own critics are jealous,

But in epigram keen,

Free from malice or spleen,

Those foreigners seem to excel us.