One of Dane County's talented people was Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919),
who grew up on a farm in the Town of
Westport. Ella was Wisconsin's most popular (and certainly most prolific) poet.
After Ella became a published author at the age of 14, there was no
keeping her down on the farm. In 1896, "Poems
of Passion" made her famous after Charles Dana of the New York Sun criticized the book as "immoral." The public
promptly rushed to buy it... and Ella wrote Dana a thank you letter.
She had a glamorous and exciting life. She travelled around the world,
had an audience with the Pope, and was presented at
Buckingham Palace. Her circle of friends included Luther Burbank and Jack London. William Randolph Hearst sent her to Europe to cover the funeral of Queen Victoria.
Her syndicated advice column for the Hearst newspapers became her pulpit for preaching morality and good manners to a
Her forty books never won the acclaim of literary critics. Today her
poems are all but forgotten, except for her most famous
Laugh, and the world laughs with you,
Weep, and you weep alone.
1.Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Easy Street at County I. Wisconsin's most famous poet. DCHS marker.