Frederic Ogden Nash was born in a suburb of New York and was raised in various East Coast cities where his father’s business moved. He completed high school in Newport, Rhode Island, and spent a year at Harvard before financial pressures drove him to seek work. He held a series of jobs in New York—teaching, selling, and writing advertising copy—before landing a job in publishing with the firm of Doubleday. He began writing humorous poems in 1929, contributing them to the daily newspaper column written by Franklin P. Adams.
Nash’s light humor was a tonic for hard times, as the United States entered a decade of economic depression. In 1930, he sold his first poem to The New Yorker, averse comment on the war on “smut” recently waged by a senator named Smoot. Senator Smoot came from Utah (commonly abbreviated Ut.), but the endless stream of rhymes came from Nash. Soon he was a regular contributor to The New Yorker, where he appeared alongside great humorists such as James Thurber and S. J. Perelman. He was paid the princely sum of one dollar a line for his verses. Before long he was ready to collect a treasury of Nash; he wanted to call it a “trashery of Nashery,” but his publishers found a more conventional title for this highly unconventional writer.
Nash married in 1931, after having published a first volume of poetry, and enjoyed a happy family life as the father of two loving daughters. After a second volume...
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