Child Authoress

by Zoë Pollock

In a fine longread, Paul Collins profiles the sad case of one of the first child celebrities, author and prodigy Barbara Follett, who went missing at age 26:

Extraordinary young talents are all the more dependent on the most ordinary sustenance. But instead of a home and a college education, what Barbara Follett got was author copies and yellowing newspaper clippings. This girlwho should have been America’s next great literary womanwas abandoned by the two men she trusted, and her fame forgotten by a public that she never trusted in the first place. Her writings, out of print for many decades, only exist today in six archival boxes at Columbia University’s library. Taken together, they are the saddest reading in all of American literature.

Odd Atlantic archives connection: Follet's father who abandoned her to marry another woman "wrote a peculiar anonymous essay for The Atlantic“To a Daughter, One Year Lost,” in May 1941which expressed muted guilt and amazement: 'Could Helen Hayes be lost for ten days without a trace? Could Thomas Mann? Could Churchill? And now it is getting on toward forty times ten days…' "