Archy and mehitabel

From Academic Kids

The title of this article is incorrect because of technical limitations. The correct title is archy and mehitabel.

archy and mehitabel is the title of a series of newspaper columns written by Don Marquis beginning in 1916. Written as fictional social commentary and intended as a space-filler to allow Marquis to meet the challenge of writing a daily newspaper column six days a week, archy and mehitabel is Marquis' most famous work. Collections of these stories are still sold in print today.

In 1916, Marquis introduced the fictional character "archy" into his daily newspaper column at the New York Tribune. archy (whose name was always written in lower case) was a cockroach who had been a free-style poet in a previous life, and he took to writing stories of his life on an old typewriter at the newspaper office when everyone in the building had left. archy would climb up onto the typewriter and hurl himself at the keys, laboriously typing out stories of the daily challenges and travails of a cockroach. archy's best friend was an alley cat named "mehitabel," and the two of them shared a series of day-to-day adventures that made satiric commentary on daily life in the city during the era of the early 20th century.

Because he was a cockroach, archy was unable to reach the shift key on the typewriter, and so all of his verse was written without capitalization or punctuation. (Writing in his own persona, though, Marquis always capitalized the A in "Archy" and the M in "Mehitabel." As E. B. White wrote in his introduction to "The Lives and Times of Archy and Mehitabel," it would be incorrect to conclude that, "because Don Marquis's cockroach was incapable of operating the shift key of a typewriter, nobody else could operate it.")

Collections of the "archy" stories have been published and re-printed numerous times over the years. The published editions of these stories were originally illustrated by George Herriman, the creator and illustrator of Krazy Kat. Titles in the series include:

  • archy and mehitabel (1927)
  • archys life of mehitabel (1933)
  • archy does his part (1935)
  • the lives and times of archy and mehitabel (1940)
  • archyology (1996)
  • archyology ii (1998)

The last two collections were compiled and published for the first time in the late 1990s.



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