Guest, Edgar Albert

Guest, Edgar Albert (1881 - 1959)


Born in Birmingham, England, on August 20, 1881, Edgar A. Guest settled with his family in Detroit in 1891. Starting in 1895 as a copy boy at the Detroit Free Press, Guest worked his way up as police reporter, exchange editor, and verse columnist. His first, weekly column, "Chaff," began in 1904 and eventually became the daily "Breakfast Table Chat," which was ultimately syndicated to 300 newspapers throughout the United States. His fourth volume of poetry, A Heap o' Livin', reputedly sold more than one million copies. He broadcast weekly from Chicago on NBC radio from 1931 to 1942. (For example, in the 1937-38 season his program, "Edgar Guest in Welcome Valley," was sponsored by Household Finance on Tuesdays from 8:30 to 9:00 p.m. and ran on 18 stations.) In 1951 NBC broadcast his "A Guest in Your Home" on television. On June 28, 1906, Guest and Nellie Crossman married. They had two children. Guest was a Mason, a member of the Episcopal church, and a lifelong golfer. Late in life Guest was given several honorary degrees, notably by the University of Michigan in 1955. Guest authored over 20 volumes of poetry. At his death on August 5, 1959, he was affectionately called "the poet of the people" because he wrote of everyday family lives with deep sentimentality. He was thought to have penned over 11,000 poems in his lifetime, many of them in fourteeners, which have been neglected by major poets for centuries. The Detroit Public Library holds information about his writings, and the Central Michigan University's Clarke Historical Library and University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library house his papers and manuscripts. Academic anthologies usually omit his works, possibly because in them he unashamedly wears his heart on his sleave and leaves little room for multiple interpretations. Possibly his best-known poem is "It Couldn't be Done." His Collected Verse appeared in 1934 and went into at least 11 editions. A biography was published by Royce Homes in 1955. For a brief life, see The National Cyclopædia of American Biography, 44 (New York: James T. White, 1962): 246-47. Here follows a list of Guest's volumes (known to me), in chronological order:

  • Home Rhymes (Detroit: H. R. Guest, 1909). brief PSA 0024155 Robarts Library
  • Breakfast Table Chat (Detroit, 1914).
  • Just Glad Tidings (1916).
  • A Heap o' Livin' (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1916). PS 3513 U45 H4 York University Library. An electronic copy may be found at the Project Gutenberg Web site
  • Just Folks (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1917). PS 3513 U45J77 1917 Robarts Library. An electronic copy may be found at the Project Gutenberg Web site
  • Over Here (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1918). Reissued as Poems of Patriotism (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1922). PS 3513 U45 P6 York University Library.
  • The Path to Home (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1919).
  • Sunny Songs (London: T. F. Unwin, 1920).
  • A Dozen New Poems (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1920).
  • When Day is Done (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1921).
  • All That Matters (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1922). PS 3513 U45 A8 York University Library
  • The Passing Throng (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1923). PS 3513 U45 P27 York University Library
  • Rhymes of Childhood (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1924).
  • Mother (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1925, 1948).
  • The Light of Faith (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1926).
  • You (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1927).
  • Harbor Lights of Home (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1928). LE G9363ha Robarts Library
  • Poems for the Home Folks (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1930).
  • The Friendly Way (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1931).
  • Picture-poems (St. Paul: Brown and Bigelow, 1931).
  • Selected Poems by Edgar A. Guest, Radio Station WIBO (Chicago: J. Thomas, 1931).
  • Life's Highway (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1933).
  • Collected Verse (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1934). Canadian edition; Toronto: Copp Clark, 1945; Copp 0368 Fisher Library. At least 11 editions to 1946.
  • All in a Life-time (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1938). PS 3513 U45A78 1970 York University Library
  • Today and Tomorrow (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1942).
  • Living the Years (Chicago: Reilly and Lee, 1949).
Given Name
Edgar Albert
Family Name
Birth Date
August 20, 1881
Death Date
August 5, 1959
  • Journalist

Literary Period
Literary Movement