Biography of Carolyn Wells
Carolyn Wells (June 18, 1862–March 26, 1942) was an American author and poet (born in Rahway, New Jersey, the daughter of William E. and Anna Wells.She died at the Flower-Fifth Avenue Hospital in New York City in 1942.
She had been married to Hadwin Houghton, the heir of the Houghton-Mifflin publishing empire founded by Bernard Houghton. Wells also had an impressive collection of volumes of poetry by others. She bequeathed her collection of Walt Whitman poetry, said to be one of the most important of its kind for its completeness and rarity, to the Library of Congress (New York Times, Apr. 16, 1942).
After finishing school she worked as a librarian for the Rahway Library Association. Her first book, At the Sign of the Sphinx (1896), was a collection of charades. Her next publications were The Jingle Book and The Story of Betty (1899), followed by a book of verse entitled Idle Idyls (1900). After 1900, Wells wrote numerous novels and collections of poetry.
Carolyn Wells wrote a total of more than 170 books. During the first ten years of her career, she concentrated on poetry, humor, and children's books. According to her autobiography, The Rest of My Life (1937), around 1910 she heard one of Anna Katherine Green's mystery novels being read aloud and was immediately captivated by the unravelling of the puzzle. From that point onward, she devoted herself to the mystery genre. Among the most famous of her mystery novels were the Fleming Stone Detective Stories which—according to Allen J. Hubin's Crime Fiction IV: A Comprehensive Bibliography, 1749–2000 (2003)—number 61 titles.
Today, however, she is best known for her light verse, particularly for several classic limericks, including this one:
A canner exceedingly canny
One morning remarked to his granny:
“A canner can can
Any thing that he can
But a canner can’t can a can, can he?”
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Carolyn Wells Poems
The Poster Girl's Defence
It was an Artless Poster Girl pinned up against my wall, She was tremendous ugly, she was exceeding tall; I was gazing at her idly, and I think I must have slept,
There lived in ancient Scribbletown a wise old writer-man, Whose name was Homer Cicero Demosthenes McCann.
The Two Friends
A Spider and a Centipede went out to take a walk; The Centipede said frankly, 'I will listen while you talk,
Two shall be born the whole world wide apart, And speak in different tongues, and pay their debts In different kinds of coin; and give no heed Each to the other's being. And know not
A Bicycle Built For Two
There was an ambitious young eel Who determined to ride on a wheel; But try as he might, He couldn't ride right,
The Erratic Rat
There was a ridiculous Rat Who was awfully puffy and fat. 'I'll carry,' he said, 'This plate on my head,
Ten Christmas presents standing in a line; Robert took the bicycle, then there were nine. Nine Christmas presents ranged in order straight;
An April Joke
Oh, it was a merry, gladsome day, When the April Fool met the Queen of May; She had roguish eyes and golden hair,
The 4.04 Train
'There's a train at 4.04,' said Miss Jenny; 'Four tickets I'll take. Have you any?' Said the man at the door: 'Not four for 4.04,
The Mercury's Plaint
I don't know why I'm slandered so, If I go high,--if I go low,-- There's always some one who will say, 'Just see that mercury to-day!'
The Two Bears
Prince Curlilocks remarked one day To Princess Dimplecheek, 'I haven't had a real good play For more than 'most a week.'
An Alphabet Zoo
A was an apt Alligator, Who wanted to be a head-waiter; He said, 'I opine In that field I could shine,
A Great Lady
This is the Queen of Nonsense Land, She wears her bonnet on her hand; She carpets her ceilings and frescos her floors,
The Pirate Poodle
Once there was a Pirate Poodle, And he sailed the briny seas From the land of Yankee Doodle Southward to the Caribbees.
A Bicycle Built For Two
There was an ambitious young eel
Who determined to ride on a wheel;
But try as he might,
He couldn't ride right,
In spite of his ardor and zeal.
If he sat on the saddle to ride
His tail only pedalled one side;
And I'm sure you'll admit