CLARKE, Miss Rebecca Sophia, author, born in Norridgewock,
Maine, 22nd February, 1833. She has spent much of her life in her
native town. Miss Clarke is widely known by her pen-name, "Sophia [sic]
May," which she adopted in 1861 and attached to her first story,
published in the Memphis "Appeal." When the story was finished, she
signed her middle name, Sophia, and then said: "Well, I'll call it May,
for I may write again and I may not." Thus the surname was invented
that has become so familiar to American boys and girls. Among her early
productions were some stories for Grace Greenwood's "Little Pilgrim."
She was asked by the editor of the "Congregationalist" to send to that
journal all the stories she might write about "Little Prudy." She
then had no thought of making a book of the stories. William T. Adams,
known as "Oliver Optic," brought them to the attention of Mr. Lee [of
Lee & Shepard], who published them and paid Miss Clarke fifty dollars
for each of the six volumes. These charming stories of "Prudy" and
her aunts, sisters and cousins have been said to be portraits, but
Miss Clarke disclaims any such delineation. The "Prudy" stories are
sold in large numbers every year. In 1891 Miss Clarke published her
last book, "In Old Quinnebasset." She resides with her sister, Miss
Sarah Clarke, who, as "Penn Shirley," is also a successful author.
Miss Clarke's publications, in book form, all issued in Boston, are:
"Little Prudy Stories" (1864-6), six volumes; "Dotty Dimple Stories"
(1868-70), six volumes; "Little Prudy's Flyaway Series" (1871-74), six
volumes; "The Doctor's Daughter" (1873); "Our Helen" (1875); "The
Asbury Twins" (1876); "Flaxie Frizzle Stories" (1876-84), six volumes;
"Quinnebasset Girls" (1877); "Janet, or a Poor Heiress" (1882);
"Drones' Honey" (1887); "In Old Quinebasset" (1891).
A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred-Seventy Biographical Sketches Accompanied by Portraits of Leading American Women in All Walks of Life. Eds. Frances E. Willard and Mary A. Livermore. Charles Wells Moulton, 1893.
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