Monday, November 9, 2009

November 13, 1909: Famed Poet

100 Years Ago: From The Rensselaer Eagle [NY 41 Rensselaer 93-32173].


Will Carleton, America's greatest living poet, author of "Over the Hills to the Poor House", will appear at the First Baptist church on Wednesday evening, Nov. 17. This will be Mr. Carleton's third appearance in Rensselaer. He always packs the house.

Home and public entertainments in 1909 included reading aloud, and "pioneer poet" Will Carleton's works were well known. He rose to fame with "Over the Hill to the Poor House", about an old woman abandoned by her married children, and "Betsey and I are Out", about a divorce. He also wrote "Converse With The Slain" to honor the Civil War dead on Decoration Day 1877.

Like many authors, Carleton toured extensively doing lectures. From Will Carleton: a biographical study by A. Elwood Corning:
Like all public lecturers Carleton's experiences were many and varied; some were humorous, some thrilling. Having returned from a Chautauqua trip to Illinois, in August, 1909, he writes of a series of adventures not down on the programme. "Was held up by a railroad wreck just ahead of me," he says, "then started for destination by automobile; gasoline stopped serving when stranded ten miles away from the city in which I was to lecture. Went into a farm-house to telephone ahead. A woman was making large cookies each about as wide as a saucer. I recollected all at once that I had had no dinner, so begged for some of the cookies and was told amiably, but inexorably, that I could have just one, as she was cooking for threshers. I tried hard to get another for the chauffeur, but failed. I divided with him, however, then went on again at about thirty miles per hour when we soon ran against an obstruction that came within an ace of making the machine turn a complete summersault. Finally proceeded again, reflecting how I might have lost my life and a two hundred and fifty dollar fee. Had just time to don a white vest and black coat and face several thousand people."

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