This Month's Puzzler
On April 21, 1818, Henry Wheeler Shaw was born in Lanesborough, Massachusetts.
After being expelled from Hamilton College for a sophomoric prank (he removed
the clapper from the college chapel's church bell), he drifted from job to job
for many years before finally settling in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1858, where
he began working as a journalist and writer.
In 1863, at age 45, he adopted a now-famous pen name and began writing aphorisms
and cracker-barrel philosophy in a phonetic dialect. His 1865 "Essa on the Muel"
("Essay on the Mule") became so popular that he moved to New York City to
further his career. He ultimately became one of the era's most popular lecturers
and authors, with books like Affurisms (1865) and Everybody's Friend
(1874). He offered hundreds of home-spun observations on countless
topics—all in his characteristic manner—including these:
"Wit makes yu think, humor makes yu laff."
"Thare iz no pashun ov the human heart that promises so much and pays so little az revenge."
"Human happiness konsists in having what yu want, and wanting what yu have."
When Samuel Clemens—who also wrote under a famous nom de plume—met Shaw in
1869, he quickly became a great fan and once even favorably compared his
aphorisms to those of Ben Franklin. In the final decades of the nineteenth
century, Shaw faded from popularity when phonetic writing fell out of fashion,
but there is no question that he was an extremely talented aphorist. Nowadays,
his phonetically-spelled "affurisms" are generally presented in standard
English, as in this famous example:
"The rarest thing a man ever does is the best he can."
What was Henry Wheeler Shaw's famous pen name? (Answer below)
We're having a soiree June 22. You're invited!
We hope you'll be able to come by the evening of Thursday, June 22 for one of our highly popular after-hours get-togethers. There'll be food, drink, sparkling conversation and discounts on every book in the store. It's from 5:30 to 8, and it's free -- just let us know you plan on attending, OK?