Search - List of Books by James Whitcomb Riley
"When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck." -- James Whitcomb Riley
James Whitcomb Riley (October 7, 1849 — July 22, 1916) was an American writer and poet also known by the pseudonyms Jay Whit, Benjamin F. Johnson, and Uncle Sidney. During his lifetime he was titled the Hoosier Poet, National Poet, and Children's Poet. He began his career in 1875 writing verses in nineteenth century Hoosier dialect for the Indianapolis Journal. His poems tended to be humorous or sentimental, and of the approximately one thousand poems that Riley published, over half are in dialect. Riley's style was significantly influenced by Robert Burns, to whom he was compared by many critics.
Total Books: 549
Initially finding it difficult to earn an income as a poet, Riley gradually rose in national prominence during the 1880s through his reading tours. He traveled a circuit with humorist Edgar Wilson Nye and author Douglass Sherley, holding shows and sharing the stage with other well known talents including Samuel Clemens. Regularly struggling with his alcohol addiction, Riley never married or had children, and was involved in a scandal in 1888 when he became too drunk to perform. He became more popular in spite of the bad press he received, and as a result extricated himself from poorly negotiated contracts that limited his earning; he quickly became very wealthy.
Riley became a bestselling author beginning in the 1890s and earned a steady income from royalties. His children's books were illustrated by the popular illustrator Howard Chandler Christy. He continued to hold occasional reading shows until 1910 when a stroke paralyzed his right arm; afterward he read only at civic events until his 1916 death. His death made national news and his bier was attended by thirty-five thousand; he is buried at the highest point in Indianapolis at the top of Crown Hill Cemetery.
Riley's chief legacy was his influence in fostering the creation of a midwestern cultural identity. Along with other writers of his era, he helped create a caricature of midwesterners and formed a literary community that rivaled the established eastern literati in popular works. During his lifetime he met and befriended many bestselling Indiana authors including Booth Tarkington, George Ade and Meredith Nicholson. Riley achieved a level of fame during his own lifetime that has remained unmatched by other American poets during their own lifetimes. He was honored with annual Riley Day celebrations in many part of the United States and was regularly called on to speak at national civic events. There are many memorials dedicated to Riley, including the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children.