There is little question that it was James Ball Naylor’s passion for poetry and writing that brought him the most public acclaim. The true-to-life characters he depicted in his 1901 best-selling novel, Ralph Marlowe, were drawn right out of rural America at the turn of the twentieth century. The atmosphere of the country, the real flavor of the land and the people struck a chord with readers as far away as Great Britain. The characters in his books were gleaned from the real people he rubbed shoulders with daily. His descriptive powers enabled his readers to easily visualize each scene.
Poetry was Naylor’s first love, and he was a prolific poet. His poems are at times word paintings that capture scenes from his beloved Muskingum Valley or touching, heartfelt stories, or humorous vignettes. His poems depict simple, commonplace incidents and events of everyday life. His dialect poems rival those of James Whitcomb Riley for real poetic sentiment and humor in homely garb.
Naylor’s writings have stood the test of time. As his works enter the public domain, they are being reprinted and made available to a whole new generation of readers. Although literary standards have changed, the fact remains that he was one of the best known and most read authors at the turn of the century. It is time that he is acknowledged for his achievements and that his place in literary history as a poet and as a writer is secured.