Biography of English American Poet Edgar Guest Part 2

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


Edgar Guest (1881-1959)

Until he was given his own column, the most Guest had been paid by the Free Press was $50 per week, a sum that was reduced to $37.50 during the Depression. However, at the height of his fame and activity, he earned over $130,000 a year from his column and from the various enterprises connected with his writing of verse-books, greeting cards, calendars, radio (and, later, television) appearances, and innumerable public speaking engagements, during which he invariably reinforced his audience's values and beliefs, for a handsome fee of course.

Guest became a naturalized American citizen in 1902 and married Nellie Crossman of Detroit in 1906. The couple had two children, Edgar, Jr.--called "Bud" and also a newspaperman by profession--born in 1912, and Janet, born in 1922. Guest shared these (and most other) personal occasions with his public through the verses that he wrote for his column. He was able to extend his private life to his readers because it embodied the very virtues he praised in his verses: love of family, modesty, hard work, sincerity. Devoted to his family throughout his life, he was never involved in any kind of scandal and lived as simply as one could, given his eventually considerable income. He maintained that he was not a poet, but merely a newspaperman who sought to write "the same kind of jingles that James Whitcomb Riley used to write." His devotion to hard work asserted itself when he sought to retire at the age of 50, in 1931. He was ill for a year thereafter and regained his health only when he returned to his old work schedule. His sincerity was apparent to all who attended his public speeches and television appearances, during which he would weep unashamedly at the sentiments his own verses aroused within him.

Guest was pale, short, wiry, and small-boned; he had lively, smiling eyes and graying black hair and usually wore a bow tie and glasses.

His fans and followers were devoted to him. For example, Henry Ford gave him four automobiles as gifts over the years. And illustrative of Guest's conservative nature is the fact that he elected never to invest in his friend Ford's automobile company. This same conservatism helped keep Guest solvent despite the Depression, for he continued to handle his money judiciously.

Edgar A. Guest was a simple but shrewd man who profited and lived well by capitalizing on these qualities.

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