Archive for February 21st, 2011

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Poet, wit

A woman who can come up with bon mots like ‘Brevity was the soul of lingerie,’ or’ Men seldom make pass at girls who wear glasses,’ must have had lively company and will not settle for a house in the suburbs changing diapers or fetching shoes for her ‘man in gray flannel suit.’ Dorothy Parker born of a Jewish father and a Scottish mother was a member of the Algonquin Round Table set. She could hold her own with literary heavyweights like George S. Kaufman, Alexander Woolcott, Ring Lardner, Ogden Nash and the like. She definitely settled down but married thrice, twice to the same man. She wrote copies for Vogue at $10 a week and also reported Spanish civil war, wrote short stories and Hollywood film scripts. She lived to the last, an exception to the general role of a woman as species, ‘short on logic and long on window-shopping’. Before her death she bequeathed most of her estate to Martin Luther King.
Dorothy Parker once bumped into a lady in the doorway of ’21’. She stepped back and motioned for for Dorothy to exit first, saying, “Age before beauty.” Pat came her retort, ”Pearls before swine”as she went out.
Once at the Round Table, Alexander Woolcott called Franklin P. Adam, “You goddamn Christ Killer”. As he had intended the company laughed. Dorothy Parker who was half Jew and who had tried to hide the fact, said nothing. Kaufman taking note of her silence, and in mock fury said, “I’ve heard enough slur on my race. I am now leaving this table, this dining room, and this hotel.” A pause. Looking at Mrs. Parker he added, “and I trust that Mrs. Parker will walk out with me, half- way.”


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In 1856 WM Thackeray the author of Vanity Fair, visited the US for his second series of lectures. In St. Louis in between lectures he took time out to sample the local color. While dining at the Barnum’s Hotel he overheard one Irish waiter telling another in awe,’Do you know who that is?’
‘No’ came the answer.
‘That is the celebrated Thacker!’replied the first waiter gloating in his knowledge.
‘What’s he done?’
‘Damned if I know!’
Benjamin Jowett of Oxford was one of its lions and no visit to Oxford was complete without seeing him. Many out -of- towners had their wish fulfilled to catch a glimpse of the famous professor.
At a time when Jowett was busy translating Plato one found his study overlooked into the Bond Street.
Once he brought in a small crowd of gawks and pointing to the window above and said,’This ladies and gentlemen is Balliol College. One of the holdest in the huniversity, and and famous for its herudite of its scholars. The ‘ead of Balliol College is called the Master. The present Master of the College is the most celebrated Professor Benjamin Jowett, Regius Professor of Greek.’ Pointing to the study windows the Cockney stooped down to take a handful of gravel and said in glee, ‘There’ and he threw the gravel against the panes bringing a livid professor to the window. The ruffian announced proudly,’ladies and gentlemen, the Professor Benjamin Jowett himself!’

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