The Rice Collection of letters, scrapbooks and photos at WKU’s Special Collections Library has been extensively used in the research and writing of a new book about Shelbyville native and author Alice Hegan Rice (1870-1942). In Beyond the Cabbage Patch: The Literary World of Alice Hegan Rice (Butler Books, 2010), Mary Boewe chronicles the life and times of Alice and her husband, poet and dramatist Cale Young Rice. As Boewe shows, Alice Hegan Rice’s novel Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch–a 1901 bestseller that became an “industry” in the manner of Harry Potter–was only one achievement in a life that encompassed authorship of more than two dozen books, exotic travel, and acquaintance with a wide circle of public and literary figures such as Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Watson Gilder, Ida Tarbell, Edith Wharton and Henry Watterson.
After a trip to Japan in 1905, Cale Young Rice included his impressions of the country in a poetic collection he published as Plays and Lyrics. In a letter that is part of the Rice Collection, Cale’s fellow poet Madison Cawein praised his Japanese poems as truly representative of “the mystic spirit of the East.” Cale’s travels and partnership with Alice were essential to his work; not only did the couple collaborate professionally, but Alice was unwavering in her support of his solo literary efforts. As Boewe notes, the creator of Mrs. Wiggs–one of the great literary phenomena of the early 20th century–loyally contrasted her “potboilers” with her husband’s “true” artistry.