In the 1840s, Youth’s Companion
included a section titled “Variety”: anecdotes and snippets of information
that didn’t fit elsewhere; many were copied from other periodicals.
“Touching Expression” wasn’t credited, but may have been a standard:
“Fanny Fern” uses a version of this anecdote as the kernel for
“The Partial Mother,” in series one of
Fern Leaves from Fanny’s Portfolio (1853).
“Fanny Fern” ’s essay was aimed at
thoughtless adults. “Touching Expression” may have been intended for adults,
given that at this time
was a family periodical, but the theme of the pathetic and woefully put-upon
child has always appealed to young readers.
[Variety] “Touching Expression” (from Youth’s Companion, July 19, 1849; p. 48)
A certain lady had two children, girls, both young and nearly of the
same age. But the older one, by some whim or accident, possessed all the
mother’s affections; there was none for the younger, nothing but harshness.
Very lately the mother fell sick, and was confined to her bed. While lying
there she heard gentle steps approaching it. “Is that you, my
child?” said the sick woman. “No mamma,” naively and softly said the
resigned one, “it’s only me.”