Goatview Farm - The Saint Report www.goatview.com

 

October 4

James Whitcomb Riley, the Hoax,
and The Riley Festival

Today through the 7th, Greenfield, Indiana, celebrates the birth of The Hoosier Poet, James Whitcomb Riley, with a Riley Festival. Looking at the Riley Festival website, I ran across this:

Riley’s participation in a gigantic hoax was a low point in his career—but it caught the attention of the Indianapolis Journal who soon offered Riley a writing job. There, his poems met with instant success.

A gigantic hoax??? I swear, someone must go through textbooks with a fine tooth comb in order to weed out these interesting little nits of information. I never heard of this hoax before.

Saints celebrating feast days today include Saint Francis of Assisi (patron saint of merchants, animals, animal welfare societies, and ecology; founder of the Franciscans and the Poor Clares), Saint Ammon, and Saint Petronius.

Celebrating birthdays today: Alvin Toffler (1928), Susan Saradon (1946).

Born today but no longer celebrating: Damon Runyan (1884-1946).

Of course, Greenfield wasn't going to sully its site with any elaboration on that area of its hero's life, so I packed my virtual bags and headed for the Information Superhighway where dishing dirt has become an art form. Sure enough, it was easy to find.

Apparently Riley had been suffering from some rejection letters and decided to prove that he wasn't lacking in ability--he was simply lacking fame-- and that what a poem needed in order to be published was a famous author. He then wrote a poem, "Leonainie," and presented it as a long-lost Poe. The article says that Riley was "unmasked" as the true author, but I am sure he outed himself in order to say "told you so." At any rate, he was fired from the job he held at that time but was soon reaping the rewards of infamy at the Journal, where he published his famous "Out to Old Aunt Mary's" and "When the Frost is on the Punkin."

Leonainie

Leonainie -- Angels named her;
And they took the light
Of the laughing stars and framed her
In a smile of white;
And they made her hair of gloomy
Midnight, and her eyes of bloomy
Moonshine, and then brought her to me
In the solemn night.

"Gigantic" hoax? Well, it pales next to Piltdown Man, that's for sure, but maybe it was earthshaking at the time.

***

Leonainie? Could that have been a play on words? Leo as in lion as in lyin'? Leonainie/inane?

 


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