Recently William Dorian commented on a recent post about evidence of Patience Worth having lived in England during the 1600s. Mr. Dorian was a friend of Eileen Curran, daughter of Pearl Curran and Eileen was able to share her remembrances of her mother and Patience Worth with Mr. Dorian. Part of his comment to me was that Eileen recalled that Patience Worth said that, as a Puritan woman she was not allowed to put pen to paper. That sounded about right to me but I wanted to research a little bit about Puritanism before I thought there was any validity to what Patience reportedly said. As it turned out, after a cursory review of several articles about Puritanism it seemed to be true that the formal education of Puritan girls was very limited. More than 60 percent of them could not even write their own name. Most of their education focused on reading the Bible and apparently after about age 5 their education consisted of learning household chores including needlework, spinning yarn, cooking, gardening, obeying their husbands and producing and raising children. They may have learned a little arithmetic and writing as part of their duties of keeping track of household expenses but creative writing was not taught nor expected of Puritan girls. (Limited availability of paper and ink in 17th century Puritan society may also have been factor preventing rustic girls from becoming creative writers.) Boys continued in school with the goal of entering University, provided of course that their family had the means and status to send them for further study,
Now why is this minor detail significant in the Patient Worth/Pearl Curran story? Well, first of all, Dr. Stephen Braude, Ph.D. in his book Immortal Remains used it as a reason that the Patient Worth persona may have in fact been a secondary personality of Pearl Curran hidden deep in her subsconscious mind to be brought forth whenever Patience Worth was called upon to ‘perform’. One of his reasons for conjecturing that opinion was because, if there were a real Patience Worth living in England in the 1600s why didn’t she write her novels, poems and aphorisms at that time? Why didn’t she leave a ‘treasure trove’, so to speak, of her work? Why don’t we have evidence today by serendipitously finding her writings hidden somewhere in England ?
Well, considering the above comment from Patience, if we can bring ourselves to believe William Dorian and his second-hand information from Eileen Curran—Pearl Curran’s daughter, then Eileen’s comment that Patience Worth had said that she, as a Puritan girl, was not allowed to put pen to paper and furthermore, if we entertain Worth’s documented comment that ‘What wench ever itched for a pen when she had a tongue to wag’, then, I think we have a reason why Patience Worth did not leave behind a literary portfolio written in the 1600s.
And of course, if the real Patience Worth were a frustrated closeted Puritan female writer living in the 1600s, wouldn’t that provide a strong motivation to find a way, even if it took another lifetime, to sing out an unending stream of literary masterpieces through her ‘willing harp’, Pearl Curran?
Perhaps Dr. Braude might want to reconsider his comment that the lack of an extant collection of writings from Patient Worth from the 1600s is evidence that she probably was not a real person.
I think there is another relevant point to make concerning Patience as a Puritan. If children ( and adults) were expected to be well-versed in the Bible, even to the extent that they had to memorize large portions of it and that reading the Bible was the primary, if not the only formal education Puritan girls got: and, that as mothers their duty was to teach the Bible to their children as well as to strictly follow the teachings found therein, then, wouldn’t it be reasonable to think that Patience Worth would have been well acquainted with biblical lore? Patience Worth, not Pearl Curran knew the Bible well and could easily use that knowledge in writing the detail found in The Sorry Tale, her biblical epic. The Bible was probably the one thing that Patience Worth knew the most about.
Pearl Curran was, as an adult, an Episcopalian by default who although she went to several Christian denominations as a child stated that both she and her parents did not attend church regularly and although a Bible was found in Pearl Curran’s house, she did not claim that she studied it intently. (Walter Franklin Prince who listed all books found in the home of Pearl Curran during his investigation of the Case of Patience Worth found a Bible stored away in an upstairs closet with a few other books covered with dust.) Perhaps Pearl could be described as a ‘fair-weather Christian’ who occasionally attended church but, in Pearl’s case, she went in her adult life to sing in the choirs, not to listen to the sermons. Could it be that all of the detail found in the biblical story The Sorry Tale written by Pearl Curran as dictated by Patience Worth really came from the conscious mind of Patience Worth and not the subconscious mind of Pearl Curran?
It was Patience Worth as a Puritan who had the detailed biblical knowledge to write The Sorry Tale, not Pearl Curran.