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Famous Poem

Laugh and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.

These lines first appeared in Solitude, a poem printed in the February 25, 1883 issue of the New York Sun. The author was Ella Wheeler, a Wisconsin-born journalist and poet, who received $5 for her work. The poem was published again in May of that year in a collection of Miss Wheeler’s called Poems of Passion.

The collection was a great financial success. To her dismay, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, (now married) found the poem, word for word, in a book by John A. Joyce, published in 1885. The poem had a different title, Laugh and the World Laughs With You, but Joyce claimed it as his own.

Mrs. Wheeler offered $5,000 for any printed version of the poem dated earlier than her own. Neither Joyce nor anyone else ever produced one, but he continued to reprint the poem as his own until he died in 1915. As a final irony, he had the two famous lines chiseled on his tombstone in Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, DC. Since that time, however, publishers have given credit where credit seems to be due—to Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

Bits and Pieces, February, 1990, pp. 5-6