A learned former colleague in journalism, knowing of my interest in Keats, Thoreau and literary biography in general, has asked to contribute a guest post. This is a first at Anecdotal Evidence, so please give a warm St. Patrick’s Day welcome to Myles na Gopaleen:
“It is a considerable time since I related an anecdote from the life of John Keats. Here is one at last.
“When the poet was eighteen he decided to make a journey to the American continent to pick up some of the potatoes that even the brazenest fraud can garner by lecture-touring. In Boston he met a pretty lady, fat and forty, but beautiful with the bloom of cash and collateral. The poet instantly laid siege, praised her expensive fancy hats, and called her his Dark Lady of the Bonnets. She accepted his advances after a fashion, but made no move to buy him a pair-in-hand, and would not consent to meet him anywhere but in the local park by day. Desperate with greed, he decided to stake all on a bogus offer of marriage. The lady’s reply was peculiar.
“`Have you ever read the works of our great writer, Thoreau?’ she asked.
“`Never heard of the lad,’ Keats said.
“`Well, you are hearing about him now,’ said the lady. `I happen to be his wife.’
“`So what?’ asked the poet.
“`How could I marry you if I already have a husband?’
“`Easy,’ replied the great wit. `Why not get a divorce a mensa et thoreau?’”
[My friend is a product of the old Irish educational system, schooled in at least three languages. It might be useful for American readers without benefit of Latin to know that “a mensa et thoro” (literally, “from board and bed”) signifies a legal separation.]
After proofreading today’s post and finding himself pleased with the results, Myles has asked if he might contribute another Keats-related anecdote, and I have gratefully agreed:
“In New York’s swank Manhattan lives blond, smiling, plump James Keats, descendant of the famous poet John. No lover of poetry, James Keats is director of the million-dollar dairy combine Manhattan Cheeses and ranked Number Three in the Gallup quiz to find America’s Ten Ablest Executives. James lives quietly with slim dark attractive wife, Anna, knows all there is about cheeses, likes a joke like his distinguished forbear. Wife Anna likes to tell of the time he brought her to see the Louis-Baer fight.
“`He just sat there roaring “Camembert! Camembert!”’
“If the joke doesn’t interest you, do you derive amusement from this funny way of writing English? It is very smart and up-to-date. It was invented by America’s slick glossy Time and copied by hacks in every land. For two pins I will write like that every day, in Irish as well as English. Because that sort of writing is taut, meaningful, hard, sinewy, compact, newsy, factual, muscular, meaty, smart, modern, brittle, chromium, bright, flexible, omnispectric.”
[The Best of Myles, Walker and Company, 1968. Myles died on April Fools’ Day 1966.]