"The covers of this book are too far apart" source? (+ Riley)

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 22 12:33:01 UTC 2008

No leads here, but unless it's ONLY about _Red Badge of Courage_, "The
Work [singular] of Stephen Crane" is probably a mass noun, not

On 8/22/08, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:
> Many attribute this quotation to Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?). For instance,
> Yale Book of Quotations cites Bitter Bierce (1929), by C.H. Grattan [p.
> 45-6].
> Grattan gives an inexact and incomplete reference that nonetheless leads to
> an
> introduction by Robert H. Davis in The Work [singular] of Stephen Crane,
> vol.
> 2, p. x-xi (limited ed. 1925). Davis, who knew Bierce, reports that Bierce
> spoke highly of Crane. "That, coming from the brilliant critic who wrote
> that
> classic single-line review, 'The covers of this book are too far apart,'
> encouraged me that I had at least interpreted the fourteenth child of
> Jonathan
> Townley Crane, D.D." This conversation apparently rook place in San
> Francisco in
> September 1895 (p. ix-x)
> A potential lead comes from Carey McWilliams, whose Ambrose Bierce: A
> Biography (1929) p.287 includes the quote. McWilliams (as reported in
> Libraries
> v.34 n.3 March 1929 by Katharine Foster) gave a talk at a Los Angeles
> library
> meeting on Jan. 12 1929: "Mr. McWilliams referred to a short review written
> by
> Ambrose Bierce when he wrote of a slender volume of verse very much to the
> point, 'The covers of this book are too far apart.'"
> Google books offers two iffy leads:
> The Atlantic Monthly - Page 37 (year?)
> by John Davis Batchelder Collection (Library of Congress) - 1857 ... his
> literary philosophy in that most famous of all brief reviews (of course, of
> a realistic novel) : 'The covers of this book are too far apart ...
> [Here, supposedly a novel, not verse]
> The Architectural Forum
> Architecture - 1972 (? google year) Page 21 ... perhaps, that anonymous
> London Times Literary Supplement man (or woman) who once wrote that "the
> covers of this book are too far apart" ? has ever, ...
> [But the excellent bibliography (below) lists no TLS publications]
> Bierce wrote under many pen names and anonymously. Ambrose Bierce: An
> Annotated
> Bibliography of Primary Sources, S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz (1999)
> reflects great research, including his scrapbooks, but (personal
> communication
> from DS) they have not found this quotation in known Bierce publications.
> Dyng to Teach by J. Berman apparently (googlewise) misattributes the quote
> to
> Riley Grannan; The Book of Eulogies by Phyllis Theroux (cited in Berman)
> contains eulogies for Grannan and Bierce, the later with the quote,
> separately.
> (By the way the oft-reprnted 1908 eulogy for Riley Grannan by Herman
> Knickerbocker, plus many other publications on this once-famous gambler,
> suggest he's at least a good fit for "living [or leading] the life of
> Riley.")
> Grannan eulogy (four web pages):
> http://www.nevadaweb.com/ghp/riley1.html
> Any other leads?
> Stephen Goranson
> http://www.duke.edu/~goranson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Mark Mandel

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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