Reprise: Mrs. Ellis’s copy of Lucile

I got the idea for Leila Ellis to be reading Lucile, on the night the Rebs drove in the pickets at Fort Sanders, from an old copy of the book I inherited from my Mississippi grandmother.

Grandmother’s copy was published in 1888 in a poets’ series by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co. of New York. TYC was regarded as little more than a pirate publisher at the time, according to The LUCILE Project at the University of Iowa.

From the project’s site I determined that Mrs. Parthenia Leila Ellis’s copy of the Owen Meredith poem would have been the Ticknor & Fields 1860 first edition in blue cloth with a gold title and cartouche on the spine. I decided it was a gift from her Alabama mother who bought it in Mobile before the war began and mailed it to Leila’s new home in Knoxville.

According to the Iowa researchers, even the Ticknor & Fields first edition probably would not fetch more today than $15 on eBay, and grandmother’s 1888 edition even less. Still and all, Lucile was a popular poem for many years, selling in one edition or another up until 1938 when it finally went out of paper print.

It’s still available, for free, in HTML format by Project Gutenberg, and for a price in other digital and print-on-demand formats by retailers. Just Google it and you’ll see.

About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
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