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Joy of the Worm

In response to:

In the Desert, Prime Time from the February 9, 2006 issue

To the Editors:

In John Leonard’s “In the Desert, Prime Time” [NYR, February 9] we have, as too often happens, a misquoting of our Founding Thinker, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Leonard (or Moody) has Emerson saying to a woman trying on a new shroud, “I wish you joy of the worm.” Funny, but not directly Emerson.

The reference comes from Emerson’s memorial essay on his treasured Aunt Mary, mentor of his youth and strong spiritual influence. The actual quote is,

Her friends used to say to her, “I wish you joy of the worm.” And when at last her release arrived, the event of her death had really such a comic tinge in the eyes of every one who knew her, that her friends feared they might, at her funeral, not dare to look at each other, lest they should forget the serious proprieties of the hour.

Much funnier.

Richard Geldard

New York City

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