A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 09, 2017
“A grave twenty-three inches long” (a newspaper column)

American humorist and journalist Don Marquis (1878-1937) was one of New York City’s first and most famous of newspaper columnists. He wrote the column “Sun Dial” for The Evening Sun in 1912, and then, in 1922, he wrote “The Tower” and, later, “The Lantern” for the New York Tribune (renamed the New York Herald Tribune in 1924).

“Confessions of a Reformed Columnist,” by Don Marquis, was printed in The Saturday Evening Post on December 22 and 29, 1928. In the last part, Marquis confessed to the stress of being a newspaper columnist:

“I was nervously ill; it became an obsession with me that I must quit or die. I got to seeing that column as a grave, twenty-three inches long, into which I buried a part of myself every day—a part that I tore, raw and bleeding, from my brain. It became a nightmare.”

Marquis’ description of a daily newspaper column as “a grave twenty-three inches long” became well known with other newspaper columnists.


Wikipedia: Don Marquis
Donald Robert Perry Marquis (/ˈmɑːrkwɪs/ mar-kwis; July 29, 1878 in Walnut, Illinois – December 29, 1937 in New York City) was a humorist, journalist, and author. He was variously a novelist, poet, newspaper columnist, and playwright. He is remembered best for creating the characters “Archy” and “Mehitabel”, supposed authors of humorous verse. During his lifetime he was equally famous for creating another fictitious character, “the Old Soak,” who was the subject of two books, a hit Broadway play (1922–23), a silent movie (1926) and a talkie (1937).
(...)
Career
Marquis began work for the New York newspaper The Evening Sun in 1912 and edited for the next eleven years a daily column, “The Sun Dial”. During 1922 he left The Evening Sun (shortened to The Sun in 1920) for the New York Tribune (renamed the New York Herald Tribune in 1924), where his daily column, “The Tower” (later “The Lantern") was a great success.

Google Books
The Saturday Evening Post
Volume 201
December 29, 1928
Pg. 64 (“Confessions of a Reformed Columnist” by Don Marquis):
I was nervously ill; it became an obsession with me that I must quit or die. I got to seeing that column as a grave, twenty-three inches long, into which I buried a part of myself every day—a part that I tore, raw and bleeding, from my brain. It became a nightmare. Finally Mr. Ogden Reid, the proprietor of the Tribune, seeing that I really couldn’t go on, and was not being stubborn about it, very kindly canceled my contract, which still had three years to run, and I went away from there.

Within two months I wanted to do a column again, and was able to, and I’ve had to fight against the craving ever since.

28 February 1947, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, Walter Winchell syndicated column, pg. 30, col. 3:
Don Marquis’ definition of a colyum as “a grave 23 inches long” has often been quoted. The paragraph containing these words offers a vivid description of the last stages of acute colyumities: “I was nervously ill; it became an obsession with me that I must quit or die. I got to seeing that column as a grave 23 inches long, into which I buried a part of myself every day—a part that I tore, raw and bleeding, from my brain, It became a nightmare.”

Google Books
O Rare Don Marquis:
A Biography

By Edward Anthony
Garden City, NY: Doubleday
1962
Pg. 350:
I was nervously ill; it became an obsession with me that I must quit or die. I got to seeing that column as a grave, twenty-three inches long, into which I buried a part of myself every day— a part that I tore, raw and bleeding, from my brain. It became a nightmare. Finally Mr. Ogden Reid, the proprietor of the Tribune, seeing that I really couldn’t go on, and was not being stubborn about it, very kindly canceled my contract, which still had three years to run, and I went away from there.

Within two months I wanted to do a column again, and was able to, and I’ve had to fight against the craving ever since.

5 September 1971, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “Inside the Inquirer: An Incurable Itch Needs to Be Aired” by John McMullan, pg. 7, col. 1:
Writing a daily column just possibly is the toughest job in the world.

Don Marquis, who used to churn out one for a New York paper in the days when daily meant seven days a week, began to look on the space occupied by his efforts as a 22-inch graveyard that had to be filled every 24 hours.

28 February 1982, Sunday Herald-Leader (Lexington, KY), “Publisher’s Notebook: Some new donors will add their blood to this column” by Creed Black, pg. D7, col. 3:
DON MARQUIS, who pioneered in the column business with his “Sun Dial in the New York Sun in 1912, found the discipline even more demanding.

“I got to seeing that column as a grave, 23 inches long, into which I buried a part of myself every day—a part that I tore, raw and bleeding, from my brain,” he eventually said. “It became a nightmare.”

So he stopped writing it, although he later admitted that “within two months I wanted to do a column again.”

28 April 1997, Atlanta (GA) Constitution, “Memoirs of a potent pen” by Rheta Grimsley Johnson, pg. D1, col. 1:
Royko’s been writing his column for 34 years. Multiply those years by 7, like you would a dog’s age. The late columnist Don Marquis once said, “I got to seeing that column as a grave, 23 inches long, into which I buried part of myself every day.” And Red Smith wrote: “It’s as easy as opening a vein, and letting the words bleed out, drip by drip.”

Google Books
E.B. White:
The Emergence of an Essayist

By Robert L. Root
Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press
1999
Pg. 32:
Marquis gave up writing a daily column in 1925; even though he felt that, in the two and a half years of “The Lantern” in the New York Tribune, “I did better stuff than I’d ever done before,” eventually “I got to seeing the column as a grave, twenty-three inches long, into which I buried a part of myself every day—a part that I tore, raw and bleeding, from my brain. It became a nightmare.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMedia/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Thursday, November 09, 2017 • Permalink