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, 1963).


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.