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When Grandmama Fell Off the Boat
When Grandmama Fell Off the Boat

When Grandmama Fell Off the Boat

The Best of Harry Graham


160 Pages, 5.5 x 8.5

Formats: Cloth

Cloth, $16.95 (US $16.95) (CA $22.95)

Publication Date: November 2009

ISBN 9781873329412

Rights: US & CA

Sheldrake Press (Nov 2009)

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"When Grandmama fell off the boat, And couldn't swim (and wouldn't float), Matilda just stood by and smiled. I almost could have slapped the child."When Grandmama Fell off the Boat is an anthology of the humorous verse of Harry Graham, one of the early 20th century's wittiest writers. Graham made his name as the author of Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, published in 1898 under the pseudonym Col. D. Streamer (he was a Coldstream Guard). He went on to become a successful writer of stage-show lyrics, and in 1923 had five smash-hit musicals running simultaneously in the West End of London. His work was published not only in England but also in America, where he was credited with introducing "sick" verse. The Times in its 1936 obituary compared him with Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, and W. S. Gilbert, an epitaph that has stood the test of time. Graham's secret is his ability to relate common episodes with a sardonic twist. A father irritated by his crying infant finds peace and quiet by popping him in the Frigidaire and a man whose wife elopes with the chauffeur despairs of ever starting the car. His callous and quotable rhymes became the table talk of a generation, influencing emerging writers such as W. H. Auden, George Orwell, and Agatha Christie. Although the ever popular Ruthless Rhymes was republished in 1996, When Grandmama Fell Off The Boat remains the only comprehensive selection of Graham's verse, compiled with the help of his daughter, Virginia. It contains Graham's best work: his sharpest satire, his most readily remembered lines, and his humor at its darkest. This authorized anthology is elegantly designed, and the text is complemented by delightful and amusing period illustrations by Fish, Fougasse, and Ridgewell.

Author Biography

Harry Graham (1874-1936) was an establishment figure who didn't quite fit the mold. He started off conventionally enough with Eton, Sandhurst and the Guards, but the irrepressible entertainer in him kept bursting out, and by 1910 he had become a full-time writer. He was engaged to the American actress Ethel Barrymore, great aunt of Drew Barrymore, but she added him to her list of spurned suitors, among them Winston Churchill. Four years later Graham married Dorothy Villiers.