Once I pinpointed what appears to be the earliest printing of a Little Willie rhyme, I decided to focus on researching that one poem.
Within mere minutes of this new research angle, I found the delightfully gruesome A Chamber of Horrors with Profane Passages. While not nearly as horrifying as the title suggests, this small publication contains three poems that Little Willie fans will immediately recognize — even though two of them feature miscreants with names other than Willie.
The only poem in this collection to feature a child named Little Willie is the same poem that was published the prior year (1895) in Dean Hole’s A Little Tour Of America (“Little Willie from the mirror / sucked the mercury all off…”).
Here are the other two poems that Little Willie fans should recognize:
Susan poisoned her grandmother’s tea;
Grandmamma died in agonee.
Susan’s papa was greatly vexed,
And he said to Susan: “My dear, what next?”
Here’s a link to the Little Willie version.
“Where’s your brother, Margaret, tell?”
“Ma, I pushed him into the well.”
“Why, I thought you loved him dearly;
Very cross of you, Margaret, really.”
And here’s the Little Willie version.
A Chamber of Horrors was published in 1896 which is two years before the publication of Harry Graham’s Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes. So, while my contemporaries are busy praising and blaming Mr. Graham for his twisted British influence on gentle American writers, I say Americans deserve the praise and blame in equal share.
I have, for the purpose of this web site, chosen to include only the verses from this book that most reflect the character and refinement of Little Willie poems. You can read the book in its entirety at books.google.com (WARNING: this books does contain racially offensive material.)
Horrified reading to all who visit.