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Of Modern Books

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               (A Pantoum)

Of making many books there is no end,
   Though myriads have to deep oblivion gone;
Each day new manuscripts are being penned,
   And still the ceaseless tide of ink flows on.

Though myriads have to deep oblivion gone,
   New volumes daily issue from the press;
And still the ceaseless tide of ink flows on—
   The prospect is disheartening, I confess.

New volumes daily issue from the press;
   My pile of unread books I view aghast.
The prospect is disheartening, I confess;
   Why will these modern authors write so fast?

My pile of unread books I view aghast—
   Of course I must keep fairly up to date—
Why will these modern authors write so fast?
   They seem to get ahead of me of late.

Of course I must keep fairly up to date;
   The books of special merit I must read;
They seem to get ahead of me of late,
   Although I skim them very fast indeed.

The books of special merit I must read;
   And then the magazines come round again;
Although I skim them very fast indeed,
   I can’t get through with more than eight or ten.

And then the magazines come round again!
   How can we stem this tide of printer’s ink?
I can’t get through with more than eight or ten—
   It is appalling when I stop to think.

How can we stem this tide of printer’s ink?
   Of making many books there is no end.
It is appalling when I stop to think
   Each day new manuscripts are being penned!


Source: She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century (University of Iowa Press, 1997)
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Of Modern Books

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  • A prolific turn-of-the-century writer of poems, mysteries, children’s literature, parodies, and other humorous pieces, Carolyn Wells was born in Rahway, New Jersey. When she was six, Wells experienced hearing loss caused by scarlet fever, but went on to graduate as high school valedictorian and study humanities and science independently under the mentorship of friends.
    Wells’s early publications appeared in Britain’s Punch and The Lark, published by editor and leading nonsense-verse writer Gelett Burgess of San Francisco. Wells collected her early nonsense verse in Idle Idyls (1900). Her 1902 publication, The Nonsense Anthology, became her most famous.

    Wells authored over 75 mystery and detective stories. Her Technique of the Mystery Story (1913, 1929) remains a well-regarded study on the genre. She also wrote stories for youth and is credited for establishing the first humor anthology. A few years before her death in New York City, she published an autobiography, The Rest of My...

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