Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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RILEY, James Whitcomb, poet, born in Greenfield, Indiana, about 1852. He acquired a knowledge of men and a taste for a wandering life by travelling with his father, an attorney, and early left school and adopted the calling of a vagabond sign-writer, sometimes simulating blindness in order to attract custom. For some time he performed in a theatrical troupe, and became proficient in recasting plays and improvising songs. About 1875 he began to contribute to the local papers verses in the western dialect, which he found more popular than serious poetry. He exhibited his imitative powers also by writing a short piece called "Leonainie," which many literary critics were deluded into accepting as a poem of Edgar A. Poe. He finally obtained regular employment in the office of the Indianapolis "Journal," and in that paper, and latterly in the magazines, he has published numerous dialect and serious poems. His collected works are " The Old Swimmin'-Hole, and 'Leven More Poems," by " Benj. F. Johnson, of Boone" (1883); " The Boss Girl, and other Sketches," consisting of stories and poems (Indianapolis, 1886); "Afterwhiles" (1887) ; and " Character Sketches and Poems" (1887).
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