William Allen Butler


Quick Reference

(1825–1902), lawyer, teacher, and leader in New York civic affairs, was noted for his biographies, novels, and society verse. His best-known work was the satirical poem Nothing To Wear, published anonymously in Harper's Weekly (1857) and reprinted that year in book form without Butler's authorization. It was so popular that several claimants to its authorship appeared, and it was imitated, parodied, and frequently reprinted in the U.S., England, and France. This satire of Flora M'Flimsy, a society lady who claimed she had nothing to wear to parties, captured the public imagination at a time when social climbers were making themselves strenuously felt. Among the books it inspired were Nothing To Do: A Tilt at Our Best Society (1857) by Horatio Alger, and Nothing To Say: A Slight Slap at Mobocratic Snobbery, Which Has “Nothing To Do” with “Nothing To Wear” (1857) by Mortimer Thomson.

From The Oxford Companion to American Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries