Rushville Republican

April 30, 2013

Milroy Research Literary Club hear of James Whitcomb Riley love letters

Pat Carrigan
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — Milroy Research Literary Club members met April 9 at the home of Gail Simbro. President JoAnn Brees conducted the opening ritual.

An interesting program on James Whitcomb Riley was given by Pat Carrigan. In 1917, a year after Riley’s death, the existence of 350 love letters written by Riley to Clara Bottsford were revealed in an article in the New York Times. Riley had been romantically involved with Miss Bottsford from 1877 to 1885. After the romance ended Riley returned the letters he had received and requested Miss Bottsford do the same. She chose to keep them and after her death in 1910 they fell into the hands of her brother who attempted to sell them. Riley’s family and friends made many attempts to attain the letters and finally were successful in 1927. A nephew of Riley attempted to have them published but was told that it would be inappropriate to publish such intimate and personal papers. In 1960 they were acquired by a niece of Riley who also attempted to have them published but was told that interest in Riley had waned and there would be little market for such a book. The Clara Bottsford Collection is now housed at the Lilly Library at Indiana University. Riley became acquainted with Miss Bottsford when she moved to Greenfield to teach school and boarded at the Riley home. The letters written during the tempestuous love affair reveal the ambition, talent and passion of a young Hoosier poet who was destined to become one of America’s most popular poets.  

The minutes were given by Pat Carrigan and the treasurer’s report by Carolyn Cleland. Members responded to roll call by showing mementos of meaning to them.

Valerie Wison, program chairman, passed a signup sheet for the Club’s Guest Night which will be on May 14 at the Blue Bird Restaurant in Morristown.

Delicious refreshments were served by the hostess.