Wolcott Gibbs

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Wolcott Gibbs (March 15, 1902 – August 16, 1958) was an American editor, humorist, theatre critic, playwright and author of short stories, who worked for The New Yorker magazine from 1927 until his death. He is best remembered for his 1936 parody of Time magazine, which skewered the magazine's inverted narrative structure. Gibbs wrote, "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind"; he concluded the piece, "Where it all will end, knows God!" He also wrote a comedy, Season in the Sun, which ran on Broadway for 10 months in 1950–51 and was based on a series of stories that originally appeared in The New Yorker.

He was a friend and frequent editor of John O'Hara, who named his fictional town of "Gibbsville, Pa." for him.[citation needed]



Although not a regular member of the Algonquin Round Table, Gibbs was closely associated with many of its leading names, inheriting the job of theatre critic at The New Yorker from Robert Benchley in 1938.[citation needed] Because his years at the magazine largely overlapped with those of the better-known Alexander Woollcott, many people have confused them or assumed they were related. In fact, Gibbs was a cousin of Alice Duer Miller – yet another member of the Algonquin set – but he was not a relative of Woollcott's.[citation needed] On numerous occasions, in print and in person, Gibbs expressed an intense dislike for Woollcott as both an author and as a person. In a letter to James Thurber, in fact, Gibbs wrote that he thought Woollcott was "one of the most dreadful writers who ever existed." Thomas Kunkel asserts in his biography of New Yorker founder Harold Ross, "Genius in Disguise," that a profile of Alexander Woollcott written by Gibbs sparked the disassociation of Woollcott and the magazine.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Gibbs was born to Angelica Singleton (née Duer), a descendant of William Duer, a member of the Continental Congress and signer of the United States Articles of Confederation, and Lucius Tuckerman Gibbs.[citation needed] He was the great-nephew of the chemist Oliver Wolcott Gibbs with whom he shared a first name. Gibbs, however, disdained the "Oliver" and never used it.[citation needed] Gibbs was married three times, on the last occasion to Elinor Mead Sherwin of the Sherwin-Williams paint family. An alcoholic and heavy smoker, he died on Fire Island of a heart attack while reading proofs of his upcoming book, More in Sorrow.[citation needed] His son, Wolcott Gibbs, Jr., known as "Tony," has written extensively about yachting and was an editor at The New Yorker for several years in the 1980s.[citation needed]

Gibbs was a direct descendant of U.S. President Martin Van Buren.[1][2] He was also a direct descendant of Oliver Wolcott Sr., signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington and John Adams. He also descended from the Livingston family and the Schuyler family.[3]

On October 11, 2011, Bloomsbury USA released the anthology "Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs of The New Yorker" (ISBN 978-1-60819-550-3), with a foreword by P.J. O'Rourke.[citation needed]


Incomplete – to be updated


  • Gibbs, Wolcott (November 28, 1936). "Time... Fortune ... Life ... Luce". The New Yorker: 20–25.
Profile of TIME editor Henry Luce, written in a parody of TIME's style.
  • Gibbs, Wolcott (January 1, 1949). "Theatre: Well, Happy New Year Anyway". The New Yorker. 24 (45): 34–37.
Reviews John van Druten's "Make Way for Lucia"; "Oh, Mr. Middlebrook!" at the John Golden Theatre; Jean Kerr's "Jenny Kissed Me" at the Hudson Theatre.
  • Gibbs, Wolcott (January 8, 1949). "Theatre: Giraudoux, Porter, and Guitry". The New Yorker. 24 (46): 48–53.
Reviews Jean Giraudoux's "The Madwoman of Chaillot" at the Belasco Theatre; Cole Porter's "Kiss Me, Kate" at the New Century Theatre; Sacha Guitry's "Don't Listen, Ladies" at the Booth Theatre.
  • Gibbs, Wolcott (January 7, 1950). "Theatre: Miss George, Master White, and Dr. Goldsmith". The New Yorker. 25 (46): 44–46.
Reviews Rosemary Casey's "The Velvet Glove"; Sarett and Herbert Rudley's "How Long Till Summer?"; Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer".
  • Gibbs, Wolcott (January 21, 1950). "Theatre: Eliot and others". The New Yorker. 25 (48): 47–50.
Reviews T. S. Eliot's "The Cocktail Party".
  • Gibbs, Wolcott (February 4, 1950). "Theatre: Miss Hepburn in Arden". The New Yorker. 25 (50): 48–52.
Reviews The Theatre Guild's production of "As You Like It" at the Cort Theatre; Samuel A. Taylor's "The Happy Time" at the Plymouth Theatre; William Berney and Howard Richardson's "Design for a Stained Glass Window" at the Mansfield Theatre.


  • Gibbs, Wolcott (January 15, 1949). "The Life and Death and Life of George Whitehouse". The New Yorker. 24 (47): 24–26.
  • Gibbs Wolcott (1931) "Bird Life at the Pole" William Morrow publisher


  1. ^ Reitwiesner, William Addams. Ancestry of George W. Bush http://www.wargs.com/political/bush.html Accessed April 25, 2015.
  2. ^ Browning, Charles Henry. Americans of Royal Descent: A Collection of Genealogies of American Families Whose Lineage is Traced to the Legitimate Issue of Kings. 1891, Page 121.
  3. ^ Reitwiesner, William Addams. Ancestry of George W. Bush http://www.wargs.com/political/bush.html Accessed March 15, 2016.

Other sources[edit]