Who’s Lucy Larcom? In 1846, she would’ve been a 20-year-old maiden living in the state of Massachusetts (where Emerson lived as well). She was most famous for later writing a book called, A New England Girlhood. However, from 1835-1845, she was still living a hard life of work in the mills and her only real escape was writing articles and poems for a small paper issued by her sister, Emeline.
With this added information, Jazmin Mae started researching the handwriting of Lucy Larcom and she successfully found a match for the letter “s” (the same letter that she determined before was not done by Emerson’s hand). This is where it gets interesting!
We believe that Lucy Larcom wrote the words for the poem “Mountain & Squirrel” with her own hand (see comparison below) in the back of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Elocution Philosophy book. But why?
It is a known fact that in 1843, after reading one of her poems, Lucy’s writing attracted the attention of John Greenleaf Whittier, an avid poet against slavery with whom she developed a life-long friendship.
Also, during 1843, John Greenleaf Whittier was announcing the triumph of a party that he founded in 1839 called the “Liberty Party” saying, “Liberty party is no longer an experiment. It is vigorous reality, exerting… a powerful influence.” Whittier also unsuccessfully attempted to convince Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to join the party.
So, what’s the connection? It has been said that Ralph Waldo Emerson lacked structure in his poetry, even though he considered himself to be a poet and we believe that Lucy was called upon to help him write this poem because Lucy, on the other hand, had impeccable poetic structure. It stands to reason that these two could have become acquainted through their mutual friend, John Greenleaf Whittier. With that said, during the years of 1845 (the year this Elocution Philosophy book was printed) and 1846 (the year Emerson published his book of poems), Emerson would’ve had the opportunity to seek out the help of this admirable, young lady that John Greenleaf Whittier spoke so highly of, in terms of her writing. We can also see that this poem “Mountain & Squirrel” is in accordance with Lucy’s poetic structuring skills and that it is done EXACTLY as it is printed in Emerson’s poem book. Minus two exceptions:
The original title “Mountain & Squirrel” was replaced with the name “Fable,” and the word “mind” was changed to “things.”
Therefore, we believe that Lucy Larcom penned this particular poem, and that it was changed afterward, by way of a pencil, by Ralph Waldo Emerson himself! Mainly because we have determined that the penciled-in word “things” is not Lucy’s handwriting at all. Her “h”s have a distinct looping that can been seen in every aspect of her handwriting. On the other hand, this word “things” does not. Instead, it sort of bumps along between the “t” and the “h.” Also, who else would’ve changed that word?
The correction from “mind” to “things” in pencil is NOT Lucy Larcom’s handwriting:
By 1847, Lucy Larcom was long gone from the state of Massachusetts for the first time in her life after leaving with her sister and husband to live in Illinois. Also, it appears that she claimed this book about Elocution Philosophy as her own in April of that same year, 1847. Now, our question is, why did she write her name in this book in 1847 even though she penned this poem in 1845 (the book’s copyright date) or 1846 (the year the poem was published by Emerson)? Surely, if it belonged to her during that time, she would’ve written her name in it before she penned a famous man’s poem in the back of it!
This is what keeps us guessing and makes us thoroughly interested in this topic! We even went so far as to read through some of her writings about Ralph Waldo Emerson in her books, Life, Letters and Diary and The Poetical Works of Lucy Larcom, both of which were published after his death, in hopes of finding out more about their relationship back when this poem was handwritten in our book.
Meanwhile, Ralph Waldo Emerson left the United States for a speaking tour in Europe in the years 1847 and 1848. For that reason, we believe that these two famous poets spent time together in the year or years before they both moved apart in 1847.
So, what do we have here? A rough draft poem, handwritten by Lucy Larcom with a possible correction in pencil by Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is a significant find that we felt must be shared with the world. We hope that you enjoyed this information as we have presented it, and perhaps it sparks some curiosity in yourself as to how this famous poem “Fable” by Ralph Waldo Emerson came to be. We intend to continue looking into this, and will post about any further discoveries that we make.
Please feel free to check any of our facts. If you have any questions or comments, you may email PrintFromVintage@gmail.com.
Discovered, researched, and presented by Jazmin Mae & ConStancE MaE.