When I found a listing in a 1911 Catalogue of Copyright Entries for a book called “Little Willies,” I knew I had to have it.
A “booklet” devoted to Little Willies? And published in 1911? What wonders would such a book behold?
Not many, actually.
While I’m delighted to have finally acquired a copy, I didn’t find much new material. In fact, of the twenty-six “Little Willies” included, I had already seen earlier versions/publications of twenty of them.
I suspect that the remaining six were also previously published and I just haven’t found them (yet).
There’s no author (or editor) in this book. Not even the name of a “compiler.” It appears that the publisher just “re-purposed” some existing quatrains and changed all the starring characters to “Little Willie” in order to have some sense of “theme” for this little book.
But while I found the content disappointing, I can’t dismiss that in the world of Little Willies research, this is an important publication. To my knowledge, it is the first time that “Willie” was the star of every page.
As newspapers in the early 1900s commonly used “Little Willie” as a generic label for all little boys, I don’t believe this book is the sole reason this type of verse came to be known as “Little Willies.”
But I’m guessing it played a part.
I’ve added the published Little Willies to this site and, where appropriate, I’ve linked them up to the earlier version of the same verse.
Enjoy these not-so new bits of gruesome.
01. Little Willie with a thirst for gore,
02. Willie heard his sister scream,
03. Willie saw some dynamite,
04. Into the cistern little Willie
05. Willie found a great big pitcher –
06. Willie and three other brats,
07. Willie got some Japalac,
08. Willie saw a buzz-saw buzz
09. Willie with a fearful curse,
10. Little Willie had a mirror,
11. Willie in the cauldron fell, –
12. Willie poisoned Auntie’s tea,
13. Willie, dressed in best of sashes,
14. Willie on the railroad track –
15. Willie pushed his Aunt Elizer
16. Willie scalped his baby brother,
17. Willie put a pin in sister’s eye,
18. Willie fell down the elevator,
19. Willie dropped a worm that wriggled
20. “If conscience speaks when I am wrong,”
21. Into the family drinking well
22. From the spring poor Willie had to
23. Little Willie for a frolic,
24. Willie stopped a cable car
25. Willie, while the ice was thin,
26. Baby’s in the ice-cream freezer,