In response to:
Twice-Told Tale from the April 23, 1987 issue
To the Editors:
The jingle that Francis Russell supplies in his review of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys [NYR, April 23]—
A whiskey glass
And Toodle’s ass
Made a horse’s ass
Of Honey Fitz—
appears on close reading to be a possibly bowdlerized version.
Without any special knowledge, I suggest that the original, like many simple verses, had an A-B-A-B rhyme scheme, in which case there is an almost automatic ending for the second line to make it rhyme with the fourth. The second line would also benefit from the resulting alliteration.
Although no less vulgar, the version I am postulating would actually have been less disrespectful of the reputation of the woman whom Mr. Russell elegantly describes as “over-bosomed.” But that is not an argument in its favor.
Lawrence Heyl, Jr.
Nyack, New York
Francis Russell replies:
The uneven rhyming and the sprung rhythm of the Toodles verse probably derive from The Rubáiyát. Boston culture is bound to rub off on its politicians. Where else would a ward boss be known as the Mahatma? In any case Honey Fitz was not a man for half-measures.
October 8, 1987