themes & topics       CLERIHEWS



A clerihew is a humorous pseudo-biographical quatrain, rhymed as two couplets. This light verse form was created in 1890 by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875- 1956). Bentley, who is mainly remembered for his classic detective story Trent's Last Case,  first started writing clerihews with his friend, G.K. Chesterton, as a diversion from school work. The first collection of clerihews was published in 1905, and soon the verse form was named after the author's name.


Keep in mind the clerihew form and pattern
(a)  quatrain (four lines) (b) rhymed as two couplets :aabb
(c) name of the subject usually ends the first line (or, less often, the second line)

(a) Sir Humphrey Davy (name first)
(a) Abominated gravy.
(b) He lived in the odium
(b) Of having discovered sodium. 

Here are some examples of clerihews. Whose bio is it?

E. C. Bentley
Mused while he ought to have studied intently;
It was this muse
That inspired clerihews. 

- Michael Curl

James Joyce
Had an unusually loud voice;
Knightly knock eternally wood he make
Finnegans Wake.  

- Michael Curl  

Cecil B. De Mille,
Rather against his will,
Was persuaded to leave Moses
Out of 'The Wars of the Roses'.

- Nicolas Bentley

Dante Alighieri
Seldom troubled a dairy.
He wrote the Inferno
On a bottle of Pernod. 

- Edmund Clerihew Bentley

The people of Spain think Cervantes
Equal to half-a-dozen Dantes;
An opinion resented most bitterly
By the people of Italy.  

- Edmund Clerihew Bentley

The meaning of the poet Gay
Was always as clear as day,
While that of the poet Blake
Was often practically opaque. 

- Edmund Clerihew Bentley 



  I doubt if King John
Was a sine qua non.
I could rather imagine it
Of any other Plantagenet.  

- Edmund Clerihew Bentley

Alexander Selkirk
Was too grand for hotel work.
He informed a maid
That he was monarch of all he surveyed.  

- Michael Curl  

Now it's your turn...

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