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August 21, 2010 5:48 PM   Subscribe

Although Fables in Slang were written in 1899, they describe people who are clearly recognizable today. Partly because of his style, though, George Ade (1866-1944) is forgotten as H.L. Mencken predicted he would be. From 1890 to around the close of WWI, Ade was widely known within the US as a humorist and playwright.

During Ade's early career the United States was changing from an agrarian to an industrial society. Fables in Slang grew from Ade's experience on the Chicago Morning News where he wrote a column. The Fables are satires of uplifters, bumpkins, faux sophisticates, and con men. They made his reputation and not a little of his fortune. He bought 2400 acres of land in Indiana, built a house and a golf course, and went freelance. On a lark he went to Asia in 1900, and his experience there led him to write The Sultan of Sulu, An Original Satire in Two Acts [.pdf]. It is a broad lampoon of United States colonialism. (There was, and is, a real Sultan of Sulu, but Ade never met him.)

Ade's works include several following volumes of the Fables, eight more plays, and a number of smaller essays and short stories. His career started to decline around 1915.

Ade is one of the namesakes of Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium, which he endowed with land and funds. He joined Sigma Chi at Purdue in 1887 and wrote its creed in 1929.
posted by jet_silver (6 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Oh wow thanks. Into the commonplace book with this for sure and certain.
posted by kipmanley at 6:30 PM on August 21, 2010

Wow - synchronous! I was just reorganizing bookshelves tonight and came across the book by which I discovered George Ade: 40 Modern Fables, a parody of Aesop-style fables loaded down with early 20th-century slang and social commentary. I got it at a library book sale, and read, it, laughing nonstop, over the next day or so, nonstop.

His wit is incredibly sharp and modern. He could have written for Spy, or the Daily Show. I was quite surprised to "discover" him, because he is a virtual unknown these days - and there's no justifying that. His witty style rivals Mark Twain's, but the urban, early Modern settings ring so familiar to today's reader.

Just wanted to register my enthusiasm for this great post topic - now off to explore your links. Thanks!
posted by Miko at 7:31 PM on August 21, 2010

Also, I didn't know he was from Indiana, and that's darned interesting. Indiana has produced probably more than its fair share of satirists/humorists - Jean Shepherd, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ade, too.
posted by Miko at 7:38 PM on August 21, 2010

That's terrific!
posted by carping demon at 8:07 PM on August 21, 2010

This is neat, thanks for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:39 PM on August 21, 2010

I have a book at work - can't remember the author, damn it - but I believe it was called Tales from Brown County, also by an Indiana comic author, published around 1890, I think. The humor was in its folksiness, very different in effect than Ade's slang. (Brown County, east of Indiana University, is better known for its Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival these days.)
posted by kozad at 7:05 AM on August 22, 2010

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