God of De­sire? Oh, you can call him Dan

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - CELIA STOREY

Daniel Cupid is not a celebrity, not in 2019. But back in the day, Cupid had a first name, and it was Dan.

If we didn’t al­ready know this, we could catch a clue from the All Over Arkansas col­umn pub­lished on the Arkansas Gazette’s ed­i­to­rial page 100 years ago Sun­day.

“The flu is bad again in Man­ning with both old and young. But Cupid has cer­tainly hit the young­sters of the fry­ing size a hard blow here.”

— Man­ning Cor­re­spon­dent of

the Spark­man News Ob­sta­cles don’t stop lit­tle Dan. All Over Arkansas was a daily hu­mor … hmm. Make that “at­tempted hu­mor” col­umn — hu­mor in home­o­pathic doses. Ev­ery day it snipped a score of clip­pings from the na­tive press and reprinted them, usu­ally with com­ment.

It was, to quote a man adept at mak­ing en­e­mies of ev­ery­one, C.L. Ed­son (1881-1975), the only lo­cal news in a Gazette crammed with As­so­ci­ated Press and cliche shipped by mail from a New York press syn­di­cate. (Read Ed­son’s hi­lar­i­ous and in­sult­ing 1923 pro­file of the state, “Arkansas: A Na­tive Pro­le­tari­ate,” on Page 355 here: arkansason­line.com/211ed­son.)

The syn­di­cate pro­vided mat­ter that had been prepped for a “metropoli­tan poly­glot booboisie” and thus was “as Greek when laid be­fore the Arkansas rus­tic,” Ed­son opined, adding that All Over Arkansas was “the one col­umn for which the peo­ple took the paper.”

All Over Arkansas was un­signed by its well-known au­thor, the gre­gar­i­ous Fred Heiskell. It ap­peared di­rectly above C.T. Davis’ Jes’ Ram­blin’ Roun’ po­etry col­umn, and of­ten went to war

with it.

It’s fun imag­in­ing why Heiskell picked out the par­tic­u­lar items he quoted. Maybe he was wav­ing at his friends.

“We need a mar­shal to look af­ter our street stock. Some pig is go­ing to wan­der in front of an auto some fine morn­ing, and com­mit suey-cide, or ‘Old Pide’ will steal a dish-rag out of some kitchen, and choke to death, to say noth­ing of other ac­ci­dents that might hap­pen. Some self-sac­ri­fic­ing cit­i­zen should come to town’s aid and take the job men­tioned.”

— Sheri­dan Head­light (My guess is the Head­light knew a poem about a pig of a pied breed and was pok­ing fun at lo­cal di­alect with “Pide.”)

In some cases the rea­son for se­lect­ing a par­tic­u­lar item is so ob­vi­ous Heiskell didn’t bother to add his wit. Some things were self-sat­i­riz­ing.

“Ralph Hud­son is up and go­ing again af­ter shoot­ing him­self through his foot dur­ing the hol­i­days.”

— Union Cor­re­spon­dent of the Boone County

Head­light Here are a few of the col­umn’s bet­ter sal­lies from the week of Feb. 11, 1919. For clar­ity, I have bold­faced the quote and put Heiskell’s re­marks in ital­ics.

Wi­ley Daniel is go­ing to fence his farm. He has one post set up and one roll of wire set up against the post.

— Sul­phur Springs Cor­re­spon­dent of the Boone

County Head­light And he has the nec­es­sary air in which to string the wire.

An air­plane flew over this com­mu­nity Sun­day and fright­ened our chick­ens nearly to death. They ev­i­dently thought it the big­gest hawk they had ever seen.

— Roland Ridge Cor­re­spon­dent of the Boone

County Head­light Just be­tween us now. Were only the chick­ens fright­ened?

Our young friend Henry Yea­ger did a wise thing re­cently by choos­ing Miss Susie McKin­ney for a wife

and they have gone to house­keep­ing.

— Ozark Demo­crat-En­ter­prise Lady, you have been en­dorsed.

Won­der where Clo­vis Edge and Fi­nis Raper went Sun­day?

— Snookum Val­ley Cor­re­spon­dent of the Grand

Prairie Her­ald Maybe those is boys went down to the was neigh­bor­hood.

Mose Jarratt pur­chased a new pair of shoes last week and said he was not go­ing to stink them up with sul­phur, even if he did catch the flu.

— South Her­mitage Cor­re­spon­dent of the War­ren

Ea­gle-Demo­crat You’re right, Mose. Good shoes de­serve bet­ter than that.

It won’t be long un­til the reg­u­lar Satur­day night dance will turn into a moon­light ’pos­sum hunt or wa­ter­melon party.

— Pine Bluff Graphic Nix. Nix. Pos­sum and wa­ter­melon do not ripen in the same sea­son.

We haven’t heard from the dance given by Charles Short Fri­day night, there­fore can’t say whether it was an old-time dance or not. For the ben­e­fit of those that do not know the usual cus­toms of an old-time dance at Moun­tain Val­ley will say that a per­son may get off with a black eye or two and maybe an ear knock down or his neck chewed or some other slight ca­su­alty. But a lot of the good old time has passed with John Bar­l­ey­corn.

— Moun­tain Val­ley Cor­re­spon­dent of the Hot

Springs New Era We judge from this that so­ci­ety ed­i­tors in Moun­tain Val­ley cover the hos­pi­tals.


The Spark­man News item stopped me. “Lit­tle Dan” seemed to re­fer to Cupid, and it did. I found many sim­i­lar ref­er­ences in the ar­chive. So where did Dan Cupid go, and more to the point, where did he come from?

Chart­ing the name “Dan Cupid” with the Google tool Ngrams, which rakes through “lots of books,” it ap­pears Dan Cupid, name, took wing circa 1595, about the same time sculp­tors be­gan to rep­re­sent the lit­tle god as a winged, bow-tot­ing baby. There­after the name lay low un­til 1730, 1759 and 1798. Then it rose and un­du­lated, re­main­ing very, very slightly in com­mon use through the Ngram cut­off

date 2008.

Three guesses who in­voked Dan Cupid in the 16th cen­tury?

This wim­pled, whin­ing, pur­blind, way­ward boy,

This Sig­nor Ju­nior, gi­ant dwarf, Dan Cupid,

Re­gent of love-rhymes, lord of folded arms,

Th’anointed sov­er­eign of sighs and groans …

The above is from, who else, Wil­liam Shake­speare in Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595).

In 1919, Dan Cupid was an in­fre­quent and yet fa­mil­iar fig­ure in the pop­u­lar press, used to sell tires as well as cho­co­late. My guess is his fame was helped along by hu­morists like Charles Trum­bell Gril­ley, who per­formed on Chau­tauqua cir­cuits and had a hit with his 1907 col­lec­tion of verses Jin­gles of a Jester:

Have you heard of that lit­tle fly, sly lit­tle man, Dan Cupid by name, or diminu­tive Dan?

A marks­man or hunter whose one aim in life is to change youth and maid into hus­band and wife.

And then there was the briefly best-sell­ing Cupid’s Cy­clo­pe­dia, which was avail­able in Lit­tle Rock. This dic­tio­nary of gen­der-ob­sessed as­ser­tions is, by mod­ern stan­dards, sub­stan­dard stuff. See it for your­self: arkansason­line.com/211cu­pid.

Part of the cur­rency of the name in the 20th cen­tury, though, is surely due to the brief ca­reer of an ac­tor named Daniel Cupid who strut­ted and fret­ted on­stage in the 1930s and ’40s.

And then there was Dan Cupid, horse, sired by Na­tive Dancer, horse. Dan Cupid, horse, had a mildly suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a stud an­i­mal, pro­duc­ing Sea-bird, a real goer. This Dan Cupid was French and once met Queen El­iz­a­beth while she was in France. Pho­tos of that en­counter can be found on­line, the lit­tle queen un­usu­ally ca­sual but hold­ing her typ­i­cal hand­bag, the large an­i­mal’s hindquar­ters leav­ing the scene. See arkansason­line.com/211cheval.

But none of that has any­thing to do with what was in the news­pa­per on Feb. 11, 1919. (Sigh.) So much of my la­bor, so lov­ingly lost. Drat you, Dan Cupid.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette

Cupid takes a bow in this ad from the Feb. 6, 1913, Arkansas Gazette.

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