Biography of English American Poet Edgar Guest Part 1

About the English-American poet Edgar Guest, history and biography of the artist who wrote poetry for the common man.


Edgar Guest (1881-1959)

The only poet that Edith Bunker has ever quoted on All in the Family is Edgar A. Guest. This is an excellent barometer of Guest's popularity, influence, and level of artistic achievement. He was "the poet of the plain people," serving up common, homely, bland sentiments seasoned with rhyme and meter which the mass of the population could absorb with minimal strain. Guest's verses are sugar pills dutifully taken by his devoted followers as if they were, instead, a prime source of protein for the brain. His verses praise, support, and uphold all the American virtues and have given our language some of its soundest cliches, including "It takes a heap o'livin' in a house t' make it home."

Born in Birmingham, England, Guest emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 10, in 1891, with his financially destitute parents, Edwin and Julia Guest. They settled in Detroit, where Guest was to spend most of his life. He quit high school after his freshman year. Although only 13, he went to work as a soda jerk. He confessed his desire to be a newspaperman to a bookkeeper at the Detroit Free Press, who promptly got him a job there as an office boy at $1.50 per week.

Guest's career at the Free Press began to gain momentum in 1896. In the years following, he was steadily promoted, rising from office boy to exchange editor to police reporter and, finally, to columnist. His column was originally called Chaff; then it became Blue Monday; and after his verses had brought him fame, it was retitled Edgar A. Guest's Breakfast Table Chat (the Free Press was a morning newspaper when Guest wrote for it). He was first given the column because of the accidental local success of some verses he had written for his own amusement. It began as a weekly column, but eventually became a daily one, syndicated at the zenith of its popularity to approximately 300 newspapers. Having written a verse for every one of his columns. Guest estimated at one point that he had written well over 10,000 verses in all.

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