The following paragraphs are the editors' comment introducing selections from
Julia Moore in The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse , ed. D. B.
Wyndham Lewis and Charles Lee (London, 1930; repr. New York: Capricorn Books,
Julia Moore (1847-1920)
THE death ten years ago, at an advanced age, of JULIA MOORE, the Sweet Singer of
Michigan, passed almost unnoticed in the American Press, which had welcomed
her poems in 1876 with such jubilation. Mrs. Moore, a farmer's wife, lived all her
life among those spacious rolling pastures (where men are Men) of which a later
native poet has well sung:
"That's why I wish again
That I was in Michigan,
Down on the farm."
Her first volume, The Sweet Singer of Michigan Salutes the Public, afterwards
known as The Sentimental Song Book, was rapturously received, especially by Bill
Nye and by Mark Twain, who admitted much later that it had given him joy for
twenty years; and the appreciations of these and fifty other critics, which the poet
accepted as genuine, did much to make her book a best-seller and send it into three
editions. By 1878, when A Few Choice Words to the Public, with New and Original
Poems, by Julia A. Moore appeared, her vogue had waned, and she published no
more verse. In her preface to this volume she says of its predecessor: "Although
some of the newspapers speak against it, its sale has steadily progressed. Thanks to
the Editors that has spoken in favor of my writings; may they ever be successful.
The Editors that has spoken in a scandalous manner, have went beyond reason. . . ."
And she adds, defending herself against these evil men, that "Literary is a work very
difficult to do," and that poetry from the heart has more power than poetry from the
head. " If all books could be read as I am sure you love to read this one," she says
elsewhere, "there might be less ignorance and crime in the world, and I would be
well paid for the valuable time I have spent in doing good to mankind." A recent
editor, Mr. Walter Blair of the University of Chicago, justly observes that it is high
time for Posterity to pay its debt to Julia Moore.
The Sweet Singer's verse is concerned to a large extent with total abstinence and
violent death -- the great Chicago fire, the railway disaster of Ashtabula, the Civil
War, the yellow fever epidemic in the South. She sings death by drowning, by
smallpox, by fits, accidents by lightning-stroke and sleigh. "Julia is worse than a
Gatling gun," wrote Bill Nye; "I have counted twenty-one killed and nine wounded,
in the small volume she has given to the public." She also greatly relishes normal
infant mortality, especially in cases where the little victim possesses blue eyes and
curling golden hair; but in her celebrations of the centenary of American
independence she strikes the sterner Kipling note more than once. Observe that our
first specimen is a tonic antidote to the dithyrambs of T. Baker and Poet Close, and
that the study of Byron is illuminated by the generous sympathy (Byron's bad
character notwithstanding) of one misjudged poet for another.