I’m combing through newspaper reviews right now, and if I stopped to chuckle at every funny advertisement and article, I’d never get done, but I couldn’t resist these two gems. The first is a sort of turn-of-the-century cleanse, which promises to aid the “millions of little suckers” that line your intestines:
You see, the food is Nourishment or Poison, just according to how long it stays in transit.
I like that they “are purposely put up like candy” for discretion and ease of use. I’m sure there were no ill effects when the kids found them and ate the whole box.
And then there’s Anheuser-Busch’s Malt-Nutrine, “For Insomnia.” And yeah, I’ll buy that this probably does help with insomnia. Calling it “liquid food” seems a bit of a stretch, though.
Malt-Nutrine is a liquid food, not a drug, and may be used continuously without danger of forming a habit.
A letter from Upton Sinclair to Henry Wysham Lanier, editor of the Review of Reviews:
March 21, 1925
My dear Lanier:
It has been so long since we met that perhaps you have forgotten me. I am reading your magazine with interest; it was a fine idea and deserves success, but I note in your selections a great excess of the literature of contentment with the world as it is. I think you ought to give the discontented a wider hearing, and I take the liberty of sending you a copy of “The Cry for Justice”, in which you will find a great mass of selections and references to books which you have overlooked.
Citation: MS Am 800.52 (231), Houghton Library, Harvard University
I’m into my fourth week reading correspondence between editors, publishers, and writers, and I’ve read so many well-phrased rejection letters that I generally tune them right out. But the combination of diplomacy and sheer wordiness of this one caught my attention:
November 6, 1901
We are sorry to say in reply to your letter of the 2nd addressed to the Riverside Press that we cannot feel sufficient confidence in our ability to make a success of your book to warrant us in asking you to take the trouble to submit it to us.
We thank you, however, for bringing the matter to our attention, and we are
Yours very truly,
Houghton, Mifflin & Co.
Though not a shining example of concision, I remain impressed with the tactfulness with which the letter basically says, “Not only do we not want to publish your book, we don’t even want to read it.”
Citation: MS Am 2030 (214), Houghton Library, Harvard University
From Frank Norris to Walter Hines Page, concerning a letter that Norris’s landlord evidently sent to Page (Norris’s publisher):
My Dear Mr. Page:
The old beast that wrote you I had forgotten to pay my rent will I hope die a sudden and violent death and fry on a particularly hot grid.
The last I heard from him was that he was hoping to sublet my old apartment so that I would not have to pay September’s rent. Very naturally I waited to hear from him again. And then he knifes me.
Well I sent him his damn money to day and may it perish with him.
Citation: MS Am 1090 (792), Houghton Library, Harvard University
From the Walter Hines Page papers: WHP records “Typical Tar Heel Specials.” Most are uninteresting, with these exceptions (all misspellings sic. The document is undated, but if I had to guess, I’d say the late 1880s):
Trespasers will take notice that they will be persecuted to the fullest extent of the law by one mongrel dog which aint never been over friendly to strangers and one double barl shot gun which aint loaded with no sofy pillars. Dam if I aint getting tired of this here helraisin on my property.
A notice found on an old shop door in Anson county: The copartnership heretofore resisting between me and Mose Skinner am this day resolved, and them what owe the firm will settle with me and them what the firm owes will settle with Mose,
Citation: MS Am 1090.3, Houghton Library, Harvard University