• July 2020
    M T W T F S S
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Writer Anecdotes

In our series of writer anecdotes, today we have different writers instead of just one. Enjoy!

T. S. Eliot (1888 –1965)

Publisher Robert Giroux once asked Eliot whether he agreed with the widely held belief that most editors are failed writers. Eliot pondered for a moment, then said, “Yes, I suppose some editors are failed writers —but so are most writers.”

Isaac Asimov (1920–1992)

Once an editor rejected a story of Isaac Asimov and called it “meretricious.” The word is from the Latin meretrix, meaning “prostitute,” so that the implication was that Asimov was prostituting his talent and was writing a bad story that would get by on his name alone because he was too lazy to write a good one. (Later the story was sold elsewhere and received considerable acclaim.)

Swallowing his annoyance, Asimov said mildly, “What was that word you used?”

Obviously proud at knowing a word he felt Asimov didn’t know, the editor enunciated carefully, “Meretricious!”

Whereupon Asimov replied, “And a Happy New Year to you.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1888–1953)

Hawthorne’s son, Julian, was also a writer and father and son were frequently mistaken for each other. “Oh, Mr. Hawthorne, I’ve just read The Scarlet Letter, and I think it’s a real masterpiece,” gushed a lady to whom Julian Hawthorne had just been introduced. “Oh, that,” said Julian, shrugging modestly, “that was written when I was only four years old.”

Robert Frost (1874–1963)

After a dinner party Robert Frost and the other guests went out onto the veranda to watch the sunset. “Oh, Mr. Frost, isn’t it a lovely sunset?” exclaimed a young woman.

“I never discuss business after dinner,” Frost replied.

Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)

A newspaper to which Kipling subscribed published by mistake an announcement of his death. Kipling wrote at once to the editor: “I’ve just read that I am dead. Don’t forget to delete me from your list of subscribers.”

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Writer Anecdotes – Mark Twain

Mark Twain (1835-1910), often called “the father of American literature”,  ismark twain one of the most noted and popular authors of all times. He is known for his keen wit and humor, and is extensively quoted.

Following are some interesting anecdotes:

* * *

One day during a lecture tour, Mark Twain entered a local barber shop for a shave. This, Twain told the barber, was his first visit to the town.

“You’ve chosen a good time to come,” he declared.
“Oh?” Twain replied.
“Mark Twain is going to lecture here tonight. You’ll want to go, I suppose?”
“I guess so…”

“Have you bought your ticket yet?”
“No, not yet.”
“Well, it’s sold out, so you’ll have to stand.”
“Just my luck,” said Twain with a sigh. “I always have to stand when that fellow lectures!”

* * *

Among his volumes of fan mail, Twain often found photographs of men claiming to be his double. By way of reply, he would send the following form letter:

“My dear Sir, I thank you very much for your letter and your photograph, In my opinion you are more like me than any other of my numerous doubles. I may even say that you resemble me more closely than I do myself. In fact, I intend to use your picture to shave by. Yours thankfully, S. Clemens.”

* * *

Mark Twain did much of his writing in bed, irrespective of the time. One day, his wife entered the bedroom to inform him that a reporter had arrived to conduct an interview.

When Twain made no effort to get out of bed, she intervened: “Don’t you think it will be a little embarrassing,” she rhetorically remarked, “for him to find you in bed?” “Why, if you think so, Livy,” Twain rhetorically replied, “we could have the other bed made up for him.”

* * *

One day during his tenure as the editor of a small Missouri newspaper, Mark Twain received a letter from a reader who had found a spider in his paper. He wondered whether this portended good or bad luck.

“Finding a spider in your paper,” Twain replied, “is neither good luck nor bad. The spider was merely looking over our paper to see which merchant was not advertising so that he could go to that store, spin his web across the door, and lead a life of undisturbed peace ever afterward.”

* * *

One night a group of Mark Twain’s friends in New York, having recognized the date as that of his birth, decided to send him a suitable greeting. Unfortunately, the globe-trotting traveler was away and no one knew where he might be reached. After some deliberation, a letter was simply sent off with the address: “Mark Twain, God Knows Where.” Several weeks later a letter arrived from Twain: “He did.”

* * *

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Writer Anecdotes – George Bernard Shaw

george bernard shawThe famous playwright, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), is known to have possessed great wit and a wonderful sense of humor. Here are some interesting anecdotes:


The celebrated dancer Isadora Duncan once wrote to George Bernard Shaw declaring that, given the principles of eugenics, they should have a child together.

“Think of it!” she enthused. “With my body and your brains, what a wonder it would be.”

“Yes,” Shaw replied. “But what if it had my body and your brains?”

 * * *

 MGM studio chief Samuel Goldwyn once attempted to purchase the film rights to several of George Bernard Shaw’s plays. After protracted bargaining over the terms, Shaw elected not to sell. “The trouble is, Mr. Goldwyn,” he drily declared, “you are interested only in art and I am interested only in money.”

 * * *

 George Bernard Shaw was once asked by a manufacturer of electric razors to endorse their new product – by shaving off his trademark beard. Shaw explained that, like his father before him, he had grown a beard for a very good reason:

“I was about five at the time,” Shaw recalled, “and I was standing at my father’s knee whilst he was shaving. I said to him, ‘Daddy, why do you shave?’ He looked at me in silence, for a full minute, before throwing the razor out of the window, saying, ‘Why the hell do I?’ He never did again.”

 * * *

 While conversing with George Bernard Shaw and his wife one day, the writer Patrick Mahony asked Mrs. Shaw how she had dealt with her husband’s innumerable, and often persistent, female admirers.

“After we were married,” she began, “there was an actress who pursued my husband. She threatened suicide if she were not allowed to see him.” Shaw, of course, had denied her the privilege. “And did she die of a broken heart?” Mahony asked. “Yes, she did,” Shaw’s wife replied. “Fifty years later.”

* * *

On his ninetieth birthday, George Bernard Shaw was visited by Scotland Yard’s celebrated Detective Fabian. To mark the occasion, Fabian suggested that Shaw’s fingerprints be recorded for posterity.

Incredibly, so faint were Shaw’s prints that no impression could be made. “Well,” Shaw playfully declared, “had I known this sooner I should certainly have chosen another profession!”

* * *

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Writer Anecdotes – Oscar Wilde

Just like I’m sharing my collection of writer quotes with you, I’d also like to share my collection of writer anecdotes. Anecdotes are short interesting or amusing biographical accounts of incidents or situations. And this is precisely why I like anecdotes about writers – since they are taken from a writer’s real life, they reveal a lot about his personality and nature.


oscar-wilde-2-tI’ll start off with Oscar Wilde (1856-1900), the poet, novelist, playwright, and essayist – and above all, a master of unsurpassed wit and wisdom. Even George Bernard Shaw, another writer who also possessed great wit, had this to say about Oscar Wilde – “incomparably the greatest talker of his time — perhaps of all time”.


  • A publisher once asked Wilde to make some changes to one of his plays. Wilde refused. He said, “Who am I to tamper with a masterpiece?”


  • Frank Harris, editor of the Saturday Review, once hosted a gala dinner at the Cafe Royal. Much to the discomfort of the guests, Harris himself dominated the conversation. At last, Oscar Wilde, prompted by Harris’s boast about the many fine homes to which he had been invited, interrupted the host. “Dear Frank, we believe you. You have dined in every house in London,” he remarked. “Once.”


  • Once while on a lecture tour to the U.S., Oscar Wilde was asked by a customs officer in New York whether he had anything to declare. “No, I have nothing to declare,” Wilde replied, “except my genius.”


  • Oscar Wilde was once asked what he was ‘working at’. Wilde replied, “At intervals.”


  • Oscar Wilde was once buttonholed by an American admirer. “Wonderful man, Columbus!” the man exclaimed. “Why?” asked Wilde. “He discovered America,” the man explained. “Oh, no,” Wilde replied, shaking his head, “it had often been discovered before, but it had always been hushed up.”


More anecdotes to follow in future posts.


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