I think it is important to give a little background information about Dr. Walter Franklin Prince, Ph.D. who devoted the last two decades of his life to full-time work in psychical research. He had been a Methodist and Episcopalian minister and his church social work had led him to the study of abnormal psychology and psychic research.
In 1925 he founded the Boston Society for Psychic Research and was Executive Officer and Editor until his death. He was the only American, other than William James, to occupy the position of president of the Society for Psychical Research based in London England. He was president in 1930 and 1931.
Starting in 1924 He spent many months investigating Pearl Curran and published in 1927 his findings in a book titled The Case of Patience Worth. When commenting about his investigation of Pearl Curran and Patience Worth he is reported as saying “This is the most important known case of its kind.” And he is often quoted at the end of his investigation of Pearl Curran as stating that “Either our concept of what we call the subconscious must be radically altered, so as to include potencies of which we hitherto have had no knowledge, or else some cause operating through but not originating in the subconsciousness of Mrs. Curran must be acknowledged.”
In February, 1926 Dr. Walter Franklin Prince asked Pearl Curran a large number of questions which according to Dr. Prince “she answered on the spot.” The following are some of Mrs. Curran’s answers as reported in The Case of Patience Worth by Dr. Prince.
When asked about her exposure to literature prior to the appearance of Patience Worth, Pearl said that “As a child I read no poetry except such as was in school readers or given me for declamations.”
. . . I did not read poetry spontaneously. . . .I never had any favorite English poets before 1913. [When Patience Worth was contacted by Mrs. Curran. Had not read Scott (haven’t yet) or Byron. I knew some Moore from singing Irish songs. Don’t know anything about Spenser; can’t name any poem of his. I’ve heard the name “Faerie Queen. “Queen Mab” I know is Shakespeare, but never read it. (Never read any play of Shakespeare—saw two as a child, and suffered during “Comedy of Errors” and went to sleep. Mother taught me a few bits.) Probably Omar Khayyam made the deepest impression.
I don’t know Browning’s or Mrs. Browning’s poetry now . “Childe Harold?”, “Sweet Auburn?”, “Canterbury Tales?”—I don’t know the authors.. . . .”
“I had no favorite American poets—didn’t pay attention to them. I remember reading of Bryant only “Thanatopsis.” I once recited a bit of Whittier about angels in a church (I feel ashamed of my ignorance). Mr. Curran brought Walt Whitman to me. I read a little and didn’t like it. Father was mad because it was given me. I began to like Whitman about four years after I was married, when I heard a poem recited to a musical accompaniment. I adored that poem—but that was all. I know some quotations from “Miles Standish”—never read all of it.
When a girl I read “Black Beauty,” and the Louisa Alcott books. I liked these. I was fourteen or fifteen when my father began to read to me; I didn’t keep still long enough. He read some of Dickens; we had two of his novels. The first real novel I remember reading myself was “uncle Tom’s Cabin,” at about fifteen. I had read Grimm’s and Anderson’s Fairy Tales. I had a hard time reading the narrative part of a story. And I remember reading “Ichabod Crane” in a reader. I only read—anything—a few minutes in a day; might look at a fairy tale or a new book daddy had given me.. . . . ”
“The House of Seven Gables?” I don’t remember the author—Dickens” have seen it, never read it. Author of “Gulliver’s Travels?” Don’t know, nor of “Don Quixote,” “She Stoops to Conquer, “Salome,” “Rasselas,” or “The Rivals.” (I remember a picture about “The Rivals.”) Don Quixote was a poet I think—Spanish?
Later Pearl Curran reported that
“There were no cyclopedias, books on antiquities, ancient customs, histories of literature and the like in father’s house that I remember. I don’t even remember any dictionary until he gave me the four-volume one when I was about eighteen. And I hardly looked at that. After I was married we got the books which had been left with an aunt.
All the books I have had in my own residence I have now; you may see them. I never lived in a house that had a well-stocked library. Never had the dictionary habit; seldom looked into it for any purpose. No, not even for pronounciation or spelling. (I don’t spell right half the time.)
I was never interested in the derivation of words before Patience Worth came, and don’t know Anglo-Saxon and Latin roots—never paid such things attention.
There were one or two English folk or peasant songs among those I sang—modern ones. I sang Moore’s songs. The music I practiced in Chicago was church solos, Faust, a little of Lucia, some German songs and I was taught one Italian one.
No, I never frequented public libraries, never even had a library card until Mr. Curran’s last illness, (John Curran died in June 1922) when we took cards to bring him novels to read. We read very little; liked to play cards and go to movies. We didn’t buy books after marriage. He read “Thanatopsis”—I can almost tell all we read. I have all the books he owned. I don’t think he talked about books after we married. He wasn’t a student and didn’t talk about history; he didn’t know history. All the dialect he was interested in was Irish. Interested in the derivation of words? How could he be when all he read was newspapers and the like?. . . .
I remember only two attempts, except for some valentine single verses, to write poetry , and these were when I was about fifteen. They were poor stuff and my father was amused, though kind.. . . . I never wrote anything in prose but little school compositions.
THE SECRET TEAR
I heard a voice whisper “go out I pray
See how in the garden the fairies did play
So out I went in the fresh summer air
I spied a sweet rose she was passingly fair
But she hung her fair head, and her bright carmean cheek
Could not have been equaled so far as you’de seek.
I lifted her head, in her sad blushing face
Sorrow and sadness, I there seemed to trace
Tis like all the mi tries that seem so deep
Could we at the heart have just one peep
We could tell in a minute why these tears are shed
But go on guessing wee’l have to instead.
I leave it to the reader to decide if the above childhood poem of Pearl Lenore Pollard portends the literary quality to come in the writings of Patience Worth as dictated to Pearl Lenore Curran.