Tag Archives: “archy and mehitabel”

Famous for Creating… What?

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I’m in a mood for comedy today, which is a good mood. A little later we plan to watch Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. But first, a little excursion into the unpredictable vagaries of fame.

Don Marquis (1878-1937) was a newspaper columnist, playwright, and author of many books. He is best remembered for his stories of “archy,” a cockroach, who had been a poet in a past life and now sought to carry on by jumping headfirst onto the keys of Mr. Marquis’ typewriter at night, while the human members of the household slept. Archy’s writings are all in lower case because he has no way of operating the shift key. His sidekick is “mehitabel the alley cat,” who used to be Cleopatra, and his antagonist is “freddie the rat,” formerly a rival poet who now tries to steal archy’s material.

These were still popular when I was a boy, and for all I know, are still popular today. During Marquis’ lifetime they were tremendously popular–by far the most popular fiction that he ever wrote.

Which was not what he’d intended!

In Don Marquis’ own words, “It would be one on me if I should be remembered for creating a cockroach character.”

Life can turn out pretty funny sometimes.


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