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Gary Theall An Abbeville Authoress

By Gary E. Theall


Was Abbeville authoress Mrs. Ophelia Cook Jones wrongfully deprived of the credit for composing the much-loved poem, "What My Lover Said"?

I came across the following article while researching the microfilms of the old issues of the Abbeville Meridional:

Abbeville Meridional 10-13-1888:

An Abbeville Authoress.

The following special from New York to the Picayune, of the 9th instant, will no doubt prove a surprise to those of our readers who are unaware of the literary talent of the lady mentioned.  She has not written very extensively, but the products of her pen have been praised for their finest and high order of merit:

The New York Sun publishes today a note from Mrs. O. C. Jones, from Abbeville, Vermilion parish, La., and beneath it the popular poem entitled, "What My Lover Said."
Mrs. Jones states that she sent this poem anonymously to the New York Evening Post twenty-five years ago; that since then it has been attributed to Horace Greeley and other writers, and she now claims the honor of its composition.


The Meridional did not publish the poem.  My curiosity having been piqued, I searched for the poem and found it in An American Anthology, 1787-1900 (Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed., 1900):


1182. What My Lover Said
By Homer Greene
By the merest chance, in the twilight gloom,
  In the orchard path he met me; 
In the tall, wet grass, with its faint perfume,
And I tried to pass, but he made no room,
Oh, I tried, but he would not let me.
So I stood and blushed till the grass grew red,
With my face bent down above it,
While he took my hand as he whispering said—
(How the clover lifted each pink, sweet head
To listen to all that my lover said,—
Oh, the clover in bloom, I love it!)

In the high, wet grass went the path to hide,
And the low, wet leaves hung over;
But I could not pass upon either side,
For I found myself, when I vainly tried,
In the arms of my steadfast lover.
And he held me there and he raised my head,
While he closed the path before me,
And he looked down into my eyes and said—
(How the leaves bent down from the boughs o'erhead,
To listen to all that my lover said,—
Oh, the leaves hanging lowly o'er me!)

Had he moved aside but a little way,
I could surely then have passed him;
And he knew I never could wish to stay,
And would not have heard what he had to say,
Could I only aside have cast him.
It was almost dark, and the moments sped,
And the searching night wind found us,
But he drew me nearer and softly said—
(How the pure sweet wind grew still, instead,
To listen to all that my lover said,—
Oh, the whispering wind around us!)

I am sure he knew, when he held me fast,
That I must be all unwilling;
For I tried to go, and I would have passed,
As the night was come with its dew, at last,
And the sky with its stars was filling.
But he clasped me close when I would have fled,
And he made me hear his story,
And his soul came out from his lips and said—
(How the stars crept out where the white moon led,
To listen to all that my lover said,—
Oh, the moon and the stars in glory!)

I know that the grass and the leaves will not tell,
And I 'm sure that the wind, precious rover,
Will carry my secret so safely and well
That no being shall ever discover
One word of the many that rapidly fell
From the soul-speaking lips of my lover;
And the moon and the stars that looked over
Shall never reveal what a fairy-like spell
They wove round about us that night in the dell,
In the path through the dew-laden clover,
Nor echo the whispers that made my heart swell
As they fell from the lips of my lover.

This is a beautiful poem even upon first reading, but I found that the more I studied the poem, the more I came to admire it.  Let me share some of my analysis.

The poem falls into the category of lyric poetry, as do all other poems that do not fall into a special category such as sonnet, epic, limerick, etc.  The setting of the poem is an orchard path at twilight, and the perspective is through the eyes and thoughts of a passionate young woman.  In fact, anyone who did not know whether the poem were written by a man or by a woman would most probably assume that a woman had penned it.  The title of the poem arouses one's curiosity and makes the reader eager to know what the lover said.  But strangely enough, the grass and clover, the leaves, the wind, the moon and stars learn what her lover said, but the reader never does.  In my opinion, this gives the poem an air of intrigue that adds to its charm.

The poem is an outstanding example of the use of "personification," which is the attribution of human characteristics to non-human things.  Thus, the phrases "The clover lifted each pink, sweet head, to listen to all that my lover said"; "How the leaves bent down from the boughs o'erhead, to listen to all that my lover said"; "How the pure sweet wind grew still, instead, to listen to all that my lover said"; and "How the stars crept out where the white moon led, to listen to all that my lover said";  all personify non-human things.

The first four stanzas each contain eleven lines, which is unusual.  The rhyme scheme (pattern of rhyming words at the ends of the lines) for the first four stanzas is consistent:  ABAAB CDCCCD (for example, in the first stanza:  gloom, met me, perfume, room, let me, red, above it, said, head, said, love it).  The final stanza is totally different from the preceding four stanzas in that it contains twelve lines and changes the rhyme scheme to ABAB ABBA ABAB.

The meter of the poem is also worth analyzing.  In poetry analysis, labels are attached to groups of syllables depending upon the number of syllables and upon where the accent falls.  Thus, one unaccented syllable followed by one accented syllable is called "iambic," while two unaccented syllables followed by an accented syllable is called "anapestic."  Four accents per line is called tetrameter, and five accents per line is called pentameter.  As every schoolchild learns, Shakespeare's plays are written in iambic pentameter.  The first four stanzas of "What My Lover Said" are primarily a combination of anapestic and iambic tetrameter (with some exceptions), while the final stanza is almost exclusively anapestic tetrameter.  If the poem is read with the meter exaggerated, the rhythm is almost musical.

The final stanza is a "grand finale" in the sense that it brings together everything that has gone before—grass, leaves, wind, moon, stars, and clover.  The rhyme scheme changes, the meter changes, and the poem culminates in a powerful statement of the profound effect of the lover's words on the reluctant young woman.  This poem is obviously the product of a poet of extreme talent.  To fit such a beautiful poem into the pattern established in the first stanza, while telling such an intriguing story, is no small accomplishment.

Who was Mrs. O. C. Jones of Abbeville?  We know very little about her.  From the following articles we glean that she had a private school in Abbeville:

Abbeville Meridional 4-30-1892:
Mrs. O. C. Jones will give a school exhibition on Friday, May 6th at the French Hall.  There will be a May pole dance, and crowning of the May Queen, besides an interesting programme.  Let everyone attend.
Abbeville Meridional 9-17-1892:
Mrs. O. C. Jones' private school for boys and girls opened last Monday with a good attendance, and as she is an excellent teacher we hope her school will be well patronized.

Mrs. Jones also contributed poetry to the Meridional, but this was some thirty years after she allegedly wrote "What My Lover Said."  After one of the poems, she signed her full name, "Ophelia Cook Jones."  The later poems are, in my opinion, nowhere near the quality of "What My Lover Said."  If she was the author of that poem, she had in the meantime lost her youthful passion and extraordinary talent.

So, did Mrs. Jones write "What My Lover Said?"  In researching this question, I found a reference to a book entitled Famous Single Poems and the Controversies Which Have Raged Around Them (Burton Egbert Stevenson, Harcourt, Brace and Company, N.Y. 1923), which included "What My Lover Said."  The book presents poems that are famous, such as "A Visit From St. Nicholas" and "Casey at the Bat," and that are attributed to poets who are known for only one great poem (single poems).  After each poem, the author discusses the controversies as to authorship.  Wondering whether Mrs. Jones might have been mentioned in connection with the controversy concerning the authorship of "What My Lover Said,"  I resolved to obtain a copy of the book, which I was successful in doing even though it had long been out of print.

The book presents the poem, followed by a lengthy discussion by the editor, Burton Egbert Stevenson, as to how the poem came to be attributed to Homer Greene.  The poem was first published November 19, 1875, in the New York Evening Post followed by the initials "H.G."  The most famous person with those initials at the time was Horace Greeley, a newspaper man who had died three years before the poem was published, but who nevertheless was assumed by the editors who circulated the poem to be the poet.  On December 8, 1880, Homer Greene wrote a letter to the Evening Post in which he claimed that he wrote the poem in the fall of 1875 while he was a student at Union College and sent it to the Evening Post with the title, "What Her Lover Said."  He signed his full name, but the editor changed the title to "What My Lover Said" and reduced his signature to his initials, which is how the poem came to be attributed to Horace Greeley.  He also claimed that thereafter he had "seldom been favored with the smiles of the Muses" and that they had "abandoned" him; that is, he had lost his ability to write poetry.  The editor of the Evening Post who received the poem in 1875 confirmed that he was the person who had changed the title and reduced the signature to the initials, and that he had received it from Homer Greene, not from Horace Greeley.

The matter seemed to be settled, but then a claim was made that the poem had been authored by Colonel Richard Realf, who had committed suicide in 1879.  This claim was quickly disposed of, when the conservator of Realf's writings stated that he believed he was in possession of virtually everything of any worth that Realf had written, and that there was nothing similar to "What My Lover Said" in that collection.

It was at this point that Mrs. Jones entered the controversy.  Stevenson writes (pp. 304-12):

With this second claimant thus effectively placed hors de combat, Mr. Greene might well have supposed that his laurels were secure, but he had yet to cope with a feminine aspirant to his wreath—the most persistent of them all, and the one who proved most difficult to dispose of.  She entered the field with the following astonishing letter to the New York Sun:

Abbeville, Vermilion Parish, La.
To the Editor of the New York Sun:
About twenty-five years ago I sent the subjoined poem anonymously to the New York Evening Post.  Since then I have seen it extensively copied, as originating from your paper, and attributed to Horace Greeley.  Of course I felt much complimented; but as the true author is yet unknown to fame I think it would be but tardy justice to render honor to whom honor is due by republishing the poem under my signature.
Mrs. O. C. Jones.

Accompanying the letter was a copy of "What My Lover Said," which the Sun obligingly republished, with Mrs. Jones's name attached.  At about the same time she had written a similar letter to the New Orleans Times-Democrat, which had also printed the poem with her name signed to it, and from these two sources it started on its newspaper travels once again, this time credited to the Abbeville candidate.

Mrs. Jones soon discovered, no doubt considerably to her surprise, that her rival claimant was not the deceased Horace Greeley, who could say nothing, but a very much alive Homer Greene, whose friends quickly rallied to his defense.  Such papers as were familiar with the evidence came at once to Mr. Greene's support, and a few of them treated Mrs. Jones with a disrespectful hilarity which, as appeared subsequently, was very galling to her proud Southern spirit.  It was suggested, among other things, that if the people of Vermilion Parish had not been so busy painting the town red [a reference to vermilion being the name of a reddish color] they would have known that this particular controversy had been settled long before, and that if Mrs. Jones wanted to claim something that was still in doubt she should have entered her name for "Beautiful Snow," or "Solitude," or "There Is No Death."

There were, however, a considerable number of romantic males who felt their chivalrous instincts stirred by this feminine appeal for justice, and who leaped, pen in hand, to the support of Mrs. Jones, though they must have deplored the fact that her name was not more picturesque.  Among her most doughty champions was J. Andrew Boyd, who occupied an editorial position on the Wilkesbarre (Pa.) News-Leader.  He started proceedings by writing Mrs. Jones "in the interest of justice alone and very pointedly asked her if she really was the author" of the poem in question, stating that "Mr. Homer Greene also claimed it as a child of his own brain."

"Most assuredly I wrote the poem," Mrs. Jones replied promptly, "else I should never have had the audacity to claim it as my own.  Passionately fond of poetry, I scribbled from my earliest recollection, publishing but little, as I wrote only for my own amusement, shyly concealing my penchant for verse and usually selecting a far-off paper for publication, and unfortunately, with the innocence and thoughtlessness of youth, sent the poetical waif to an anti-southern paper.  Several northern sages, having so long monopolized it, of course will not admit that the true author was a little rebel lassie 'Way Down South in Dixie.'"

To any one familiar with the literature of such controversies, this letter would have been all-revealing, for it is the invariable boast of literary impostors that, scorning the commercial side of literature, they never write for publication, but only for their own amusement.  Even to Mr. Boyd the letter left something to be desired, so he wrote again, asking for further details and enclosing a copy of a letter from Mr. Homer Greene telling when and where he had written and published the poem, and stating that this latest development of the controversy rather amused him.  This brought forth a long reply from the southern song-bird, of which only a part need be quoted.

"Would that my fiery southern blood," she writes, "flowed as icily regularly as Mr. Greene's, then I should only feel 'amused' instead of exceedingly annoyed by the cruel sarcasms allowed by the liberty of the press.  The poem has been compared to 'a rose-bud fresh with morning dew-drops,' and my keenly sensitive nature is pricked and torn by its thorns. . . .

"I composed the verses just before the surrender of the conquered banner during a vacation spent at Port Barre, La.  There was quite a romance connected with them; a vanished dream; for 'whom first we love, you know, we seldom wed.'  I only told an actual occurrence in the simplest rhyme imaginable, for my lover was no myth, but an Apollo wearing a rebel uniform of gray.

"The poem itself will plead for me to every impartial critic for it is essentially a woman's poem and could only have emanated from a woman's soul, inspired by her first shy love. ...

"The poem was really sent for publication immediately after the cessation of hostilities.  I was a mere slip of a girl, shy as a fawn, and only ventured to show my verses to my brother and an old bachelor cousin, now dead, who advised me to send them to a northern paper. . . .

"In ante-bellum days there was no prouder name than mine, but I shared the financial wreck of the South.  Frightened, widowed, and defenseless at having aroused such a hornet's nest by daring to assert that the true author of 'What My Lover Said' was an obscure lassie 'Away Down South in Dixie,' I appeal to the chivalry of my native land to shield me from their stings."

The appeal was not in vain.  "What more can be said?" asks Mr. Boyd.  "Does not Mrs. Jones's statement touch every point at issue in the controversy?  Her letter is explicit, straightforward, and to my mind carries conviction with it."  The New York Sun was also convinced and said so editorially.  So, no doubt, were all the other chivalrous defenders of the shy Southern lassie.

Mr. Greene, meanwhile, had offered to present his home at Honesdale, which he valued at $15,000, to any one who could prove that the poem had been published anywhere prior to its appearance in the Evening Post in November, 1875.  Mrs. Jones's partizans claimed that she had won the prize, and that the house should be turned over to her forthwith; but Mr. Greene's friends asked for a little more evidence, and another Southern woman, living at Raleigh, N. C., took her pen in hand to make some caustic observations.

"Mrs. Jones brings no proof whatever into court," she wrote in a letter to the Sun, which was still warmly espousing Mrs. Jones's cause.  "Her unsubstantiated word, however excellent her personal worth, can not outweigh facts and dates.  It may seem to her refined sensibilities somewhat narrow to have an equivocal auditor.  Yet she should ask no more and no less consideration than is accorded other writers, even though doomed to live amid the fragrance of the magnolia and the melody of the mockingbird 'Away Down South in Dixie.'"

Mrs. Jones, however, had finally been pinned down to the definite statement that the poem had been sent by her to the New York Evening Post in 1865, and, under the direction of the indefatigable Mr. Boyd, a careful search was made of the files of the Post for 1864, 1865 and 1866.  The result must have been a severe blow to him, for the poem could not be discovered.  He laid this result before Mrs. Jones, who replied cheerfully that she "was under the impression that it was the Evening Post, but if the files for that year had been examined without success, possibly it was not published there."

And then she proceeded to recount another romance, previously unmentioned, with a "handsome young lieutenant" of the Union army, who had been detailed to guard her home.  "I, being a hot-headed patriotic little rebel," she writes, "treated him with lofty disdain, withered him with a glance of scorn, for was he not wearing the blue?  However, we gradually became more social, until quite a flirtation ensued; we read poetry together and talked nonsense as young folks have from time immemorial.  I even showed him some of my rhymes; he pretended to fancy 'What My Lover Said' so much that he copied it as a keep-sake and carried it off.  [The italics are Mrs. Jones's.]  I cannot even recall his name, but perhaps this may account for the mystery connected with the verses.

"I plead not guilty to the charge of plagiarism," she concludes, "and if my innocence is never proved, I implore, at least, the benefit of a doubt, if only that and nothing more.  The sage of Highland Cottage [Mr. Greene] may twine my laurel leaf with his proud chaplet, and as my own bread-winner I hope to retire once more into peaceful obscurity."

And as a final proof that she really wrote "What My Lover Said" she sent to Mr. Boyd a sequel, inspired by the same romance.  This sequel is entitled "A Twilight Dream," and the first stanza is as follows:


Hand clasped in hand mid the clover we walked,
In the gloaming long ago;
The moonbeams kissed the peach blooms pink,
Coquettishly peeping to and fro.
How the stars blinked in the calm azure sky,
How the moon smiled down with inquisitive eye,
While the sweet south wind came prying by,
And the still hours of the night drew nigh,
Yet hands clasped in the orchard path we walked,
And—zoe mou, sas agapo—fondly talked

Poor Mrs. Jones!  Driven to her last defense, with her back against the wall, she had fallen into the trap which has proved fatal to so many plagiarists—she had tried to prove that she had written something she didn't write by producing something she did write, with the usual result, which was merely to show her utter inability to distinguish poetry from doggerel.  It was too much; her partizans, the New York Sun included, realized that the game was up, and most of them said so.  As for Mrs. Jones, she slipped into that peaceful obscurity which she had craved and never afterwards emerged.

Having presented the evidence that he wanted to present, Stevenson comes down on Mr. Greene's side, but can it be said that the matter has been proved conclusively?  Far from it; I would like to reargue Mrs. Jones's case.  Let us begin by analyzing Stevenson's arguments in favor of Mr. Greene and against Mrs. Jones.

First, Stevenson is clearly biased.  His choice of words when describing Mrs. Jones shows an unmistakable prejudice.  He quotes without criticism Mr. Greene's supporters' disrespectful and irrelevant comments that "if the people of Vermilion Parish had not been so busy painting the town red," and that she should claim the authorship of some poem whose authorship was still in doubt.  Their minds were obviously closed to the possibility of Mr. Greene being the plagiarist.  If there were any corresponding disrespectful comments about Mr. Greene, Stevenson does not present them, nor does he criticize these unfounded comments.  When Stevenson says of Mrs. Jones's supporters that "they must have deplored the fact that her name was not more picturesque," he demonstrates his contempt for Mrs. Jones based solely on her name.  At another point, he calls her "the southern song-bird."  Can such a man be regarded as an impartial judge?

Secondly, Stevenson states flatly that it is the "invariable boast of literary impostors" that they claim to have written only for their own amusement and never for publication.  This statement is absurd.  Franz Kafka, regarded today as a great writer, wrote only for his own amusement.  His works were not published until after his death.  Are we to believe that he did not write the works attributed to him just because he wrote them for his own amusement?  Conversely, are we to believe that commercially successful authors are incapable of plagiarism?  Stevenson's argument falls under the well-known logical fallacy that one cannot generalize from a few particulars.  Furthermore, Mrs. Jones stated that she had submitted some of her poetry for publication, which is exactly the same thing that Mr. Greene claimed.  In fact, she claimed that she had sent "What My Lover Said" for publication in 1865, so Stevenson's argument that Mrs. Jones never wrote for publication is a misstatement of fact.  Stevenson's argument has no merit.

Thirdly, Stevenson was greatly impressed with Mr. Greene's wager of his home.  However, Mr. Greene's wager was not that he would give his home to anyone who could prove that he did not write the poem (a wager that he may have been afraid to make), but only that he would give his home to anyone who could prove that the poem had been published before he published it.  He would probably not have made this wager unless he was already certain of its outcome.  Mrs. Jones claimed that she sent the poem in for publication in 1865, but does not say that it was actually published.  She did not seem to know whether it had been published.  It is certainly within the realm of possibility that it was not, and that somehow the copy she sent to the Evening Post eventually found its way to Mr. Greene, who published it as his own ten years later, believing that the "anonymous" author would never be heard from.  (Greene was only twelve years old in 1865, and was twenty-two in 1875.)

Fourthly, Stevenson states that Mrs. Jones, by submitting a sample verse, had "fallen into the trap which has proved fatal to so many plagiarists" by submitting a poem that Stevenson describes with the demeaning word "doggerel."  While admittedly the one verse quoted by Stevenson is not on the same level as "What My Lover Said," whether it is doggerel is a matter of opinion.  Why did Stevenson not include the other verses—perhaps because he did not consider them to be doggerel?  Why does Stevenson fail to mention that Mr. Greene submitted nothing?  In fact, in Mr. Greene's first letter claiming authorship, he was careful to give the premeditated excuse that the Muses had left him and that he was no longer capable of writing poetry—no doubt fearing a demand that he demonstrate his poetic ability.  Which is more likely the act of a plagiarist, producing a specimen, or claiming that one is unable to produce a specimen because the Muses have abandoned him?  On this point, neither of the claimants ever again produced poetry on the level of "What My Lover Said," yet Stevenson convicts Mrs. Jones of plagiarism simply because she submitted a specimen he regarded as doggerel, while Mr. Greene admittedly was incapable even of submitting doggerel.  Stevenson was wrong in automatically granting this point to Mr. Greene.

Fifthly, Stevenson puts great stock in the fact that the files of the Evening Post for 1864, 1865, and 1866 did not contain a copy of the poem.  No doubt Mr. Greene already knew that or he would not have risked his home on it.  Stevenson never questions whether or how Mr. Greene could have known this.  Of course, if the poem had been removed from the files sometime between 1865 and 1875, it would no longer be there in 1888.  The absence of the poem from those files in itself proves nothing.

Stevenson does score points against Mrs. Jones when he questions her credibility.  At first she claimed that the poem was inspired by a youthful love affair with a Confederate soldier, then later claimed it was actually a Union soldier.  Inconsistent statements certainly damage credibility, and on this point Mrs. Jones can justifiably be faulted.  I also personally find that her credibility suffers when she states, "I only told an actual occurrence in the simplest rhyme imaginable."  As shown by the above analysis, the poem is anything but "the simplest rhyme imaginable."  Was she being modest, or was she truly ignorant of the poem's complexity?

Now let us see what arguments Stevenson could have made for Mrs. Jones if he had so chosen.

First, her strongest point, without a doubt, was stated by Mrs. Jones herself as follows:  "The poem itself will plead for me to every impartial critic for it is essentially a woman's poem and could only have emanated from a woman's soul, inspired by her first shy love."  I, for one, agree with that statement.  When Homer Greene sent the poem in for publication, he used the title "What Her Lover Said," and an editor changed it to coincide with the language of the poem to "What My Lover Said."  Why would Mr. Greene have used the third person for the title and the first person for the poem?  If he wanted to write a poem with the title he gave it, shouldn't the first lines have been, "By the merest chance, in the twilight gloom,  In the orchard path he met her"?  Isn't it at least arguable that he changed the title in an attempt to make it appear that it was written by a man because otherwise it would be perfectly obvious to anyone who read it that it was, as Mrs. Jones says, "essentially a woman's poem"?  If so, the editor foiled his scheme by changing the title back to what it obviously should have been—yet the poem still came to be attributed to Mr. Greene.

Secondly, although Mrs. Jones was inconsistent in her explanations of her inspiration, the poem is absolutely consistent with her last statement on the point.  Consider the resistance of the young woman to the advances of the lover:

And I tried to pass, but he made no room,
Oh, I tried, but he would not let me.
. . . .
And he knew I never could wish to stay,
And would not have heard what he had to say,
Could I only aside have cast him.
 . . . .
I am sure he knew, when he held me fast,
That I must be all unwilling;

Why would the young woman have resisted her "lover" so strongly unless some taboo were in play?  Flirtations of a young southern girl with a Union soldier during the Civil War were certainly taboo, and the poem takes on a deeper meaning and makes greater sense if this was in fact its motivation.  On a first reading, one is struck by the extreme reluctance of the young woman to hear what her lover said, even though in the end it made her heart swell.  Stevenson simply ridicules Mrs. Jones's inconsistent statements, which he is entitled to do, but he never explores the plausibility of any of her statements, nor does he ask nor answer the question, "What was Mr. Greene's inspiration for the poem?"  As far as we know from reading Stevenson's analysis, Mr. Greene had no inspiration.

Thirdly, if the true inspiration were a Union soldier, that would explain why Mrs. Jones sent the poem to an anti-southern paper, and why she sent it anonymously.  Although it may have been unlikely that anyone could have ascertained from a careful reading of the poem that it was inspired by a taboo relationship between a southern girl and a Union soldier, she most likely would not have been willing to take the chance.

Fourthly, why did Mrs. Jones wait until 1888 to make her claim?  It is clear that she did not marry the "lover," and that she did marry someone else.  At the time of the controversy, she states that she is widowed and is her own bread-winner.  It seems likely that she would not have made the claim of authorship during her husband's lifetime if the poem were the result a youthful forbidden affair about which her husband probably knew nothing.  While I do not know the date of Mr. Jones's death, this could explain why she waited so long.

Fifthly, Mrs. Jones stated that the soldier copied the poem and took it with him.  This was a second possible explanation as to how Mr. Greene may have obtained it.  Who was the soldier, and did Mr. Greene have any connection with him?  Stevenson has nothing to say on this point.

After the passage of so much time, it is unlikely that we will ever be able to prove conclusively who wrote "What My Lover Said."  The facts and the arguments have been presented, and the readers will have to judge for themselves.  In a civil court case, the burden of proof is a mere preponderance of the evidence—is it more likely than not that Homer Greene wrote the poem, or is it more likely than not that Mrs. Jones wrote it?  Mrs. Jones wrote, "I plead not guilty to the charge of plagiarism, and if my innocence is never proved, I implore, at least, the benefit of a doubt, if only that and nothing more."  If Mrs. Jones is looking down on all of this, I would like for her to know that I, for one, enthusiastically give her "the benefit of a doubt."

Gary E. Theall