Nancy Luce
February 21, 2009 10:56 AM   Subscribe

A "singular creature, whose secluded life and remarkable eccentricities have long made her an object of peculiar interest” is described in the 1876 A guide to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. This woman, Nancy Luce (c 1814 to 1890), published books of poems and information about her chickens. Her first book was Poor Little Hearts and her second was A complete edition of the works of Nancy Luce ... containing God's words--Sickness--Poor little hearts--Milk--No comfort--Prayers--Our Savior's golden rule--Hen's names, etc. Here’s part of Poor Little Hearts and here’s Lines composed by Nancy Luce about poor little Ada Queetie and poor little Beauty Linna, both deceased ... . A sad poem – “I hope I never shall have a hen, to set so much by again ... “ is quoted in this account of a visit to her grave. She put up a gravestone (NYT, 1873) to one of her hens, Tweedle Dedel Bebbee Pinky.

Luce’s papers were sold by the town authorities to pay her burial expenses, and are now at Brown University Library. The papers were used by Walter Magnes Teller in his biography, Poor I: The Life and Works of Nancy LuceNYT review.

There are several pictures of her: with one hen; with two hens; sitting outside her house; sitting in the doorway of her house; and what looks like a postcard of her and her house. Luce has become important in the local history and tourism of Martha’s Vineyard. There is a tradition of putting model chickens on her grave. Artist and gallery owner Ruth Adams says she is inspired by Luce – here’s a small image of her sculpture of Luce. Other artists have also used Luce as a starting point; Jennifer Langhammer’s Broken Hearted puts lines from one of Luce’s poems on an egg, and Victoria Marks makes her own chicken books.

During her life, however, Luce’s relationship with tourism was more difficult. Although she made her living from tourists, and the 1876 guide says “It is always best to go with a party: the fun is apt to be proportionately greater,” it doesn’t sound like much fun for Luce. The poet and printmaker Daniel Waters, who has made a linocut of Luce, quotes a letter she wrote in 1879 saying she was “murdered alive”: see his poem The Hag of Tiah’s Cove.
posted by paduasoy (12 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, final link should be The Hag of Tiah's Cove. It's about three quarters of the way down the page.
posted by paduasoy at 11:01 AM on February 21, 2009

paduasoy, I think I love you. *settles in to read*
posted by jokeefe at 11:23 AM on February 21, 2009

Some of Nancy Luce's verse is included in the anthology Very Bad Poetry, which I recently gave to a friend for her birthday. Full of coq au vin, fine booze, and general high spirits, we decided to read aloud selections from that book. This turned out to be a terrible idea. After a while some of us started to feel quite unwell, and one guest in particular was looking distinctly gray and traumatized. Does what it says on the tin, that one.

One of us read about Ada Queetie and Beauty Linna. About two-thirds of the way through, the woman reading exclaimed, "Wait a minute... is this about a chicken? This is about a chicken!" We weren't sure whether to be relieved or not.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:23 AM on February 21, 2009

An 1875 edition of The Complete Edition of the Works of Nancy Luce seems to be online here in readable fashion. Probably not complete if she lived for 15 more years?
posted by with hidden noise at 12:14 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

...paging Mudpuppie....
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 12:14 PM on February 21, 2009

Thank you, with hidden noise! I was sorry not to be able to find something like this. The site about her papers says that The Complete Edition ... was published in 1871, 1875 and 1888, but I don't know how different each edition was.
posted by paduasoy at 12:21 PM on February 21, 2009

Later that night, Homer is crying at the dining room table, taking
bites out of Pinchy's dead body while the family is watching.

Homer: [eating, crying] Oh, man, that's good. [sob] Pass the
Bart: Are you gonna eat that all by yourself?
Homer: Uh-huh. Pinchy would've wanted it this way. My dear, sweet
Pinchy. [takes a bite] No more pain where you are now, boy.
[rips him in half and sucks out the meat inside]
Oh, God, that's tasty! I wish Pinchy were here to enjoy
[takes more bites] Oh, Pinchy ...
posted by sourwookie at 12:24 PM on February 21, 2009

Good post topic! I've seen some of the little chicken tombstones at the Vineyard Historical Society Museum.
posted by Miko at 2:25 PM on February 21, 2009

Oh, those photographs are too good to be true! Flagged as fantastic!
posted by steef at 3:39 PM on February 21, 2009

If you like this, you really need to see the "Natural History of the Chicken." It was a trip.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:36 PM on February 21, 2009

best of the web, indeed. thank you this is teh awesome.
posted by lapolla at 1:58 AM on February 22, 2009

Now we know whose shoulders Dee Mirich was standing on.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:08 AM on February 22, 2009

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