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Clerihew Day

Edmund Clerihew Bentley, commonly known as E.C. Bentley, was born on today's date in 1875. He was a British writer known for clerihews: four-line biographical poems of a comedic nature and an AABB rhyme scheme. The subject of the poem is usually named in the first line, and other characteristics of the poem are its clumsy rhythm and irregular number of accents.

Bentley came up with his first clerihew at the age of 16, while in a science class. It was about a chemist named Sir Humphry Davy and was later published in 1905 in Biography for Beginners. The clerihew is as follows:

Sir Humphry Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

Bentley followed this clerihew collection with More Biography in 1929 and Baseless Biography in 1939. Clerihews Complete, released in 1951, included all of his works.

One of his most well-known clerihews was about Christopher Wren:

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, 'I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul's.'

Bentley's work influenced many other writers, who went on to write clerihews themselves. Some of them include W.H. Auden, Dorothy Parker, George Starbuck, Sir Francis Meynell, and Clifton Fadiman. On Clerihew Day, the clerihews of Bentley are read, as well as of these authors. People also write their own clerihews.

How to Observe

Celebrate the day by reading and writing clerihews. Pick up some of Bentley's clerihew books, such as Biography for Beginners. You could also read some clerihews written by other authors, such as W.H. Auden, Dorothy Parker, George Starbuck, Sir Francis Meynell, and Clifton Fadiman. If you wish to write your own clerihews, perhaps you could pick friends, family members, or others you know as subjects. You could also write clerihews about famous or important individuals.

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