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:
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.
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."
"Gigantic" hoax? Well, it pales next to Piltdown Man, that's for sure, but maybe it was earthshaking at the time.
Could that have been a play on words? Leo as in lion as in lyin'?