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Book of the Month: George Ade’s Fables in Slang

Book of the Month, Events, Guest Posts, Rare Books

Fables in Slang by George AdeIn addition to the over 7,000 linear feet of archival collections made available for study at the University of Houston Special Collections, we are also proud to offer over 100,000 rare and antique books for use in our reading room. Each month we highlight a text from our collections and what makes it so special.  This month’s selection is contributed by Library Specialist for Liaison Services and Curator for the new Unique Holdings brown bag lecture series, Kristine Greive.

George Ade’s Fables in Slang is a collection of satirical fables with titles like “The Fable of the Martyr who Liked the Job” and “The Fable of the Professor who Wanted to be Alone.”  Originally published in a Chicago newspaper, these tales mock all the personality types of late nineteenth century America. Even better, the fables are thoroughly illustrated in a bold, exaggerated style, and each ends with a sarcastic moral. In “The Fable of the Man who Didn’t Care for Story-Books,” for example, a man decides that contemporary literature is “all a mockery,” describing all the literature he has read and found lacking. The story concludes with the moral that “Only the more Rugged Mortals should attempt to Keep Up on Current Literature.”

All A Mockery

“All A Mockery,” from George Ade’s Fables in Slang, illustrated by Clyde J. Newman.

Read a few of Ade’s fables and you’ll join a group of admirers that stretches back over a hundred years. Ade was enormously popular in the early twentieth century; in fact, the advertisement for his other books in the back of Fables in Slang asserts that “Mr. Ade’s books are too well known to require comment here.” He had influential fans, too: Taft held his first presidential campaign rally at Ade’s home, and Theodore Dreiser so admired Ade’s gift for description he even lifted a passage from his fables for use in the original edition of Sister Carrie. In his book on Ade, Lee Coyle locates a passage in the letters of Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh calling Ade “the greatest living American writer, ” an assertion that, while controversial even then, illustrates the name recognition Ade enjoyed in his time. He may not be as well known today, but Ade is forever being rediscovered, with periodic new editions of his works.

Fables in Slang was also recently discussed in The Last Untapped Resource in Houston, the first brown bag lecture in the Unique Holdings series highlighting rare books in our collection. The next event is April 22 and will feature life science books, ranging from centuries old illustrations of mythological animals to contemporary fine press books. In the meantime, why not come to the Special Collections Reading Room and read some fables? Just ask for call number PS1006.A6 F3 1900.

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